A little worried about writing a Nook Color Review

The Kindle has always been the #1 eReader in my opinion. There was a tie between Kindle and Nook, before Nook came out, but then Nook turned out to be slow and buggy. There have been eReaders that have been close and there still are (Sony Reader Pocket Edition).

However, the Nook Color threatens to upend that.

Why the Nook Color has a shot at being a better ‘eReader’ than the Kindle

Have played around a lot with Nook Color, have finished Alice in Wonderland, and am about to finish Kraken by China ‘Agency Model’ Mieville.

Those two books have highlighted a few things -

  1. When a book is good – It’s not as big a difference in reading experience as you might imagine. There is a difference – But it’s easy to rationalize it away, because you have great Internet surfing, and color photos.
  2. For reading stretches of 30 to 60 minutes – The Nook Color is almost as good. It isn’t eInk, but there aren’t a million distractions, and it is, despite protests to the contrary, a reading tablet.
  3. The size is perfect. It’s a better screen size than Kindle, and the weight, while not ideal, is manageable. If you have weak hands – stick to the Kindle.
  4. Touch makes a difference. It makes a big difference when browsing the Internet, and it makes a bit of a difference when searching for books. Zero difference when reading books.
  5. Color makes a difference. Not for books – for everything else. It’s also a nice bonus to have your photos look marvellous on the Nook Color.
  6. Longer stretches of reading, especially at night, are a pain. Got a bit of a headache after spending 3 hours reading at night. The strange thing is that it’s OK. It’s still not like iPhone or iPad where it makes you want to stop reading on them completely. It’s almost like Nook Color is in between Kindle (zero headache) and iPad (noticeable headache).
  7. The loss of sleep part is true too – Just the act of reading at night means you’re not sleeping. Additionally, the backlight, even at 20% brightness, keeps you awake. However, even that is fine for some reason.
  8. It comes back to the quality of the book. All the 3-star books you read will be painful on Nook Color. On Kindle they’ll be fine. The 5-star books will be fine on either.

It’s a strange situation.

You’d never pick Nook Color over Kindle for reading, but you might pick it when buying

There’s this HUGE paradox.

If you owned both, and there was adequate lighting (or a Kindle Lighted Cover) you’d ALWAYS pick the Kindle for reading books.

At the same time, there’s just no way you could tell, when looking at them side by side for the first time, that the Kindle is better for reading, lets you focus on reading, and will get you to read more.

Nook Color is a salesman’s dream – Whether going up against Kindle or iPad.

For Kindle, it’s color, touch, memory card slots, and Android’s infinite promise of infinite something. For iPad, it’s half the price, easier to hold and carry, and more open.

No one is going to spend a month with each, and take the time to realize that Kindle is better for readers.

Nook Color is what the iPad was trying to be – when it comes to reading

You might argue that everything stated in favor of Nook Color, holds true for iPad. It doesn’t. Nook Color is a much better size, it’s slightly better for glare than iPad, it’s half the price, and it has MUCH better screen resolution.

It narrows the quality of reading experience gap between Kindle and Tablets. The ‘Reading Tablet’ really is a reading tablet.

It’s cognitive dissonance for me. Because the most straight-forward answer I could give would be -

  1. You’re going to look at Kindle and Nook Color side by side.
  2. You won’t know Kindle is better for reading.
  3. You’re likelier to buy Nook Color. You still won’t know Kindle is better for reading.
  4. You know what, the difference isn’t large enough for it to be a big deal.
  5. There won’t be much regret.

That last part, 4 and 5, is the one that should scare Amazon into action. With the iPad, people were soon running into regret – It’s too big, I’m not really reading on it, there are too many distractions, it’s not worth $500, reading is better on the Kindle.

A lot of that is gone with Nook Color. The only thing that remains is – Kindle is better for reading. The other sources of regret (price, size, weight, distractions) are gone.

Nook Color probably passes Mr. Bezos’ Regret Minimization Framework

Here are the things you might regret if you buy a Nook Color as a reading tablet -

  1. Can’t read it in bright sunlight. There’s some glare in bright lighting situations. 
  2. The reading experience isn’t as good as on the Kindle. 
  3. It’s on the heavy side.
  4. Your eyes get tired after an hour or so of reading on Nook Color - when there is noticeably less light around you, than coming from the screen.

Here are things you won’t regret, but would with an iPad -

  1. The price.
  2. The fact that you’re reading even less than you did earlier.
  3. None of the features are tailored to people who read.
  4. It’s too awkward to hold.
  5. It’s too heavy to hold. Nook is a bit heavy but manageable. Again, if you have weak hands – stay away.
  6. You have to use another company’s ebook store, and do the song and dance that entails i.e. shop in the browser, then read in the app.
  7. It’s just too big to carry everywhere with you. Not to mention it’s a huge security issue as everyone knows it’s $500.

To further minimize your regret we have a LOT of the benefits the iPad was touting -

  1. You can do more than just read. If you’re so inclined, and tech savvy, you can root it, and use it as an Android tablet.
  2. You can use ePub with it i.e. other eBook stores.
  3. You can use library books with it.
  4. Color. In fact, the screen resolution is much better than iPad. 
  5. Touch.

Missing out on the Kindle Store really sucks. However,

  1. If you root it, you have access to Kindle for Android.
  2. Nook Store is not bad – It’s quite close behind Kindle Store when it comes to selection and price.
  3. You don’t get Kindle Apps – But there’s a Nook App Store in the works.

That leaves us with our last big source of regret – The free 3G Internet, and store browsing, that Kindle provides. Nook Color only has WiFi. Add on international 3G store browsing, and free Internet (for US Kindle owners), and we have a big, real source of regret.

Consider the two things-you-will-regret lists. They total up to a considerably smaller list than the regret list if you choose iPad over Kindle. The fact that you can root Nook Color means you can have your cake and eat it too – A Reading Tablet with Kindle for Android.

Lab 126, we have a problem

This is what my assumption was on Day 1 with Nook Color -

  • If you read, get a Kindle. If you read rarely, get a Nook Color.

This is what it seemed to be after a week or two with Nook Color -

  • If you read 2 or more books a month, get a Kindle. If you read 1 or fewer books a month, get a Nook Color.

After 3 weeks, and actual reading in a variety of situations, this is what it might end up at -

  • It doesn’t really matter which one you get. You could get Kindle and have zero regret because of the free 3G, great eInk screen, great store, and great infrastructure. You could get Nook Color and have zero regret because of color, touch, the promise of Android, the fact that it is a reading tablet focused on reading, and ePub.

There’s a HUGE difference in the first and third assumptions/feelings. We’re effectively saying  – You could toss a coin and not go wrong.

Kindle vs Nook Color = Pick either. It’s not going to matter very much.

When two fight, a third wins

Add to the previous section, the fact that Apple’s Internal and External Marketing Departments have endlessly attacked the value proposition of dedicated eReaders. It means that most of the Kindle’s huge strengths (eInk, freedom from distractions, focus on reading) are undervalued.

We have people thinking Kindle is not that different from Tablets. The ones who buy an iPad realize it’s not as good for reading, and then they get a Kindle.

With Nook Color, at the time of buying it, people will still be under the impression that Kindle isn’t that much better than a reading tablet. Except, this time, it’s true – They won’t really have any reason to get a Kindle in addition to Nook Color.

Nook Color has managed to fill that imaginary void Apple’s marketing departments created – A Tablet that isn’t that much worse than Kindle for reading.

What can Amazon do to counter Nook Color?

At the moment – Nothing.

It does have a few big advantages -

  1. It’s going to take 3-6 months for people to realize Nook Color really is a big deal.
  2. iPad 2, or one of the Android Tablets, might compete in Nook Color’s reading tablet niche. Fragmentation might mean that the Kindle vs Nook Color debate disappears.
  3. Nook App Store doesn’t exist. It’s barely out of the conception shell. Kindle App Store already has 20 or so apps out.
  4. Amazon has their ultra-secret Android Store in the works.
  5. Amazon has the ‘Kindle = reading’ association.
  6. It has the best eBook store.
  7. It has the lead in eReaders, eBooks, and Reading Apps.
  8. There are a lot of Kindles out, and lots of people are seeing it everywhere.
  9. It’s doing very well in the UK, and is available worldwide.

The big threat of the Nook Color is, if there isn’t a Kindle Tablet out within 6 months, the Nook Color is going to eat through the eReader market like Kobayashi.

The second big threat of the Nook Color is, if the Nook App Store takes off, it could mean that Nook Color + Reading Related Nook Apps make for a better overall experience than Kindle + Kindle Apps (none of the latter, at the moment, are reading related).

There are a lot of Android developers – So, it’s not out of the question that Nook Apps could add more value than Kindle Apps. However, it’s something Amazon must find a way to avoid. And it can’t avoid it unless it embraces Android, and gets Android developers to develop for it, rather than for Nook Color.

The only solution is an Android based Kindle Tablet. There’s no other option – Either Amazon releases an actual Android based Kindle Tablet, or it hopes and prays B&N runs out of money before Nook Color has totally over-run the eReader market.

Nook Color vs Kindle vs iPad – comparison of the reading experience

This Nook Color vs Kindle vs iPad comparison will only look at the reading experience – what it’s like to read books on each.

The Kindle has an eInk Pearl screen and is built solely for reading – So it has a natural advantage, and is expected to have the best reading experience. 

We simply want to see what the trade-offs in the reading experience are, when you pick a multi-purpose device – whether it’s a ‘Reading Tablet’ like Nook Color or an ‘Everything Tablet’ like the iPad.

The Reading Experience on Kindle, Nook Color, and iPad

What’s it like to read a book on each of these three?

Reading on the Kindle is like reading a book

Kindle provides the best reading experience. A solid 9 stars out of 10. It’s a lot of fun and it’s ideally suited for reading books.

Reading on the Kindle offers a few solid advantages – eInk looks like print on paper, there’s no backlight shining into your eyes, you can read in bright light and direct sunlight, it doesn’t hurt or bother your eyes, amazing battery life, compactness, low weight.

Since the Kindle is built for reading from the ground-up, it also offers other advantages – a lack of distractions, free Internet reference via free 3G, in-built dictionary, a text to speech feature that works quite well, a great Kindle Book Store, reading across all your devices.

The two things Kindle specializes in are – reading books, buying books. Those are the only two things it specializes in.

Main advantages of choosing the Kindle will be that you will get the absolute best reading experience, you’ll read more than you used to, and you’ll have to spend less on the Kindle itself.

There are also several disadvantages – there’s no touch-screen so it’s a bit awkward to move around and enter notes and highlights, there’s no color so illustrations don’t stand out, the 6″ screen isn’t ideal as it’s a bit smaller than a paperback page, the support for PDFs is spotty.

Reading on Nook Color is like reading a book-sized LCD

Nook Color offers a decent reading experience – 7.5 stars out of 10. It’s quite fun and is adequate for reading books, surfing websites, and for some PDFs. It can be a bit tiring on your eyes.

By creating a ‘Reading Tablet’ B&N does a few great things - keeps the focus on reading, keeps the weight reasonable, delivers a decent sized device with a good 7″ screen, delivers color and touch, delivers a screen with a back-light, delivers a $249 Reading Tablet that is great value for money.

It also creates a few problems – it’s a LCD screen and despite the anti-glare layer it can’t be used in bright light or direct sunlight, battery life is low at 8 hours with wireless off, it’s not easy on the eyes, it’s not suited for long-form reading, at night the bright glow will keep you awake longer.

At the moment Nook Color specializes in – reading (to quite an extent), buying books, web surfing (to an extent),  being a tablet (to a limited extent). Nook Color doesn’t specialize in doing movies and games. The Nook App Store might cause Nook Color to evolve into a full-fledged Tablet - However, it’s far likelier that the focus will remain on reading.

Main advantage of choosing Nook Color will be that you’ll get a device with a focus on reading, which provides a decent reading experience, and still lets you do things other than reading. It’s more of a Tablet than an eReader – Yet, it provides a decent reading experience.

Reading on iPad is like reading from a rather large, hardcover-sized LCD

iPad delivers a reading experience that is somewhere between 6 and 7.5 stars out of 10. It’s well suited for PDFs, magazines, newspapers, and websites. It’s decentish for reading books. It’s a bit tiring on your hands and eyes.

There are two main drawbacks – the awkward size and the LCD. Depending on what you think of the size you’ll either hate it (6 stars) or find it quite enjoyable (7.5 stars).

iPad does some things very well – it provides color and touch, it provides a large 10″ screen, it provides lots of apps so you’ll find an app no matter what type of reading you’re looking for, it provides both Kindle for iPad and Nook for iPad, it handles things well (great usability), it provides a backlight.

iPad also has some disadvantages – LCDs tend to tire the eyes, there are tens of thousands of distractions, there isn’t really anything in the iPad to encourage reading, the size and weight are huge problems, it’s unreadable in bright light and sunlight, it’s expensive.

iPad specializes in – doing everything, letting you read from any store, letting you get a decentish reading experience, letting you read PDFs and other documents that benefit from the large 10″ screen.

Main advantages of choosing iPad will be that you’ll be able to read without losing the ability to do 10,000 other things, the screen size will be big enough for most types of reading, and you’ll get a decent reading experience.

Nook Color vs Kindle vs iPad – Which would you choose if they were side by side?

Usually, the Kindle. If you had all three side-by-side, and had to choose one to read on, you’d always choose the Kindle for books and long form reading.

The Nook Color would be your choice if you wanted to read at night, and didn’t have the Kindle’s neat ‘cover with built-in reading light’. It would also be your choice for books in color, illustrated books, and perhaps even magazines. Nook Color is also quite good for browsing websites.

iPad would be your choice for anything that requires a larger screen – PDFs, newspapers, magazines. iPad might be a slightly better choice than Nook Color for websites.

It’s quite an easy decision. Kindle for books. Nook Color if you’d like color, or can’t handle the large size of the iPad. iPad if you end up reading a lot of PDFs and magazines, and don’t mind the awkward size.

Areas Nook Color, Kindle, and iPad win – The long, complicated list

Let’s go through all the areas of comparison we can think of beyond reading experience -

  1. Screen Size – iPad is better than Nook Color, which is slightly better than Kindle.
  2. Color – iPad and Nook Color tie. Kindle doesn’t have color. 
  3. Pixel Density – Kindle and Nook Color are close at around 167 pixel per inch. iPad is quite a bit behind.
  4. Battery Life – Kindle wins by a mile. iPad beats Nook Color.
  5. Weight and Size - Kindle wins. Nook is within striking distance. iPad fails as it’s heavy and awkward.
  6. Memory and Memory Expansion – Nook is best with a memory card slot. iPad is next as it has a lot of memory. Kindle is last as it only has 4 GB memory.
  7. Store – Kindle Store is best but iPad wins because it has both Kindle Store and Nook Store.
  8. Reading Software – Kindle is best. Nook Color’s reading software is very well done. iPad has both Kindle and Nook reading apps – However, they aren’t as good as the real thing.
  9. ePub – Kindle fails.
  10. Library Books – Kindle fails.
  11. PDF support – iPad has the best PDF support. iPad’s screen size also helps. Kindle and Nook are quite a bit behind.
  12. Lack of distractions – Kindle wins. The other two aren’t suited for focusing on reading though Nook Color is much better.
  13. Surfing – iPad is best, Nook Color is close, and Kindle is last.
  14. Value for Money – Kindle WiFi and Nook Color are probably tied. Kindle and iPad are next. Also depends on what you value – If you don’t value reading, you might not value the Kindle at all.
  15. Price – Kindle WiFi is just $139, Kindle 3 is $189, Nook Color is $249, and iPad is $499.
  16. Customer Service – Amazon, without a doubt. Apple and B&N are decent too.
  17. Infrastructure and Support – All three do a decent job.
  18. Apps – iPad easily wins. Kindle has a fledgling App Store. Nook App Store isn’t even open yet.
  19. Physical Keyboard – Kindle wins. The other two only have virtual keyboards.
  20. Ease of Use – Kindle wins.
  21. Openness – Neither of the three is open. Nook Color probably wins as it’s based on Android and you can easily root it.

As you can clearly see – Each of Kindle, Nook Color, and iPad has its strengths and weaknesses.

Nook Color vs Kindle vs iPad – Who this Nook Color vs Kindle vs iPad comparison is not for

There are three groups this review is not for.

People who think reading isn’t worth a separate device

If you feel that reading isn’t worth a dedicated device, or that reading doesn’t add value, then you should definitely get a Tablet. If a device has to be usable for more than just reading, then an Android Tablet or the iPad would be a good choice.

The LCD compatibles

There are some people who are naturally suited to LCD screens. If your eyes don’t get tired reading a book from a LCD screen, if bright light at night doesn’t affect you, or if you can’t ever imagine any screen being better for reading than a LCD screen - pick a Reading Tablet or a Tablet. An eReader would be a waste for you.

Apple people

If you feel Apple products match your aesthetic sensibilities, and are the best products ever made - get the iPad. The iPad is a decent enough reading device.

Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad – Regret Minimization

Will you regret buying a $139 Kindle WiFi or a $189 Kindle 3?

If you love to read, or like to read, or want to read more – Never.

In every other case – probably.

If you’re buying a Kindle for PDFs or magazines – Probably.

Will you regret buying a $249 Nook Color?

If you want the absolute best reading experience – Yes. The minute you see eInk Pearl on a Kindle 3, or Sony Reader 350, you’ll wish you’d chosen a device with an eInk Pearl screen.

If you are LCD incompatible i.e. you can’t read for long stretches on LCD screens – Yes.

If you want a device focused on reading that can also do other things – Never.

If you want a cheap Android Tablet, and are comfortable rooting your Nook Color – Never.

Will you regret buying a $499 iPad?

It’s very hard to say. The iPad is very hit or miss - my recommendation would be to try it out first. If you’re planning on reading books on it – actually read a book on it before buying it.

If you want the best reading experience, or if you’re LCD incompatible – Yes, you’ll regret buying the iPad.

If you’re more of a creator than a consumer – Yes.

If you want a device that does more than just read – No, you’ll love the iPad.

In almost every other case – No. You may or may not get your money’s worth, as iPad is a very hit or miss device – However, it’s unlikely you’ll regret it.

Kindle has the absolute best reading experience, Nook Color has the most potential

The Kindle and Nook Color are both focused on reading, and will help you read more. Kindle sacrifices everything else to bring you a 9/10 reading experience. Nook Color accommodates your other interests/pursuits while bringing you a 7.5/10 reading experience.

Kindle and Nook Color are probably the best devices to go with if reading is your first priority, or even if it’s a top 3 priority. If reading isn’t a top 3 priority, or isn’t a priority at all, then it’s best to go with the iPad.

Nook vs Kindle vs Nook Color, incremental Nook improvements

The Kindle now faces off against both the eInk based Nook 1 and the LCD based Nook Color. Not only does Amazon have to worry about Nook vs Kindle vs Nook Color, it has to worry about the fact that B&N is stealing Amazon’s incremental improvement concept (kaizen).

In this post we’ll look at different facets of Nook vs Kindle vs Nook Color and also at the multitude of ways in which Nook Color improves on Nook 1. It’s almost as if B&N sat down for a Kaizen training session with Mr. Bezos and then started working on Nook Color.

Nook vs Kindle – The gap is narrower

A few weeks ago the Nook 1.5 software upgrade was announced. It might not seem like much but it addresses some areas in which Kindle was hammering Nook -

  1. Now you can sync your place in a book across Nooks and Nook reading apps. This adds a lot of convenience and now Nook has a feature that a lot of Kindle owners love. 
  2. The ‘My Shelves’ feature is the equivalent of the Kindle’s Folders feature. This is another big Kindle advantage that B&N has negated.
  3. Password protect your Nook. Yet another Kindle feature that Nook was missing and isn’t any more. 
  4. Faster Page Turns – Still not as fast as Kindle but noticeably less slow than before. 
  5. B&N also mentions Improved Search but it’s still not very good.

While B&N has been doing this Amazon has started sending out games from the Kindle App Store and has announced that it will add the lending feature. The lending feature is a bit of a big deal when it comes to selling Kindles and Nooks.

However, the real impact would be adding ePub support and/or support for library books. That’s still missing and that’s still Nook’s main advantage over the Kindle.

B&N has also added two pluses in the recent months -

  1. It’s done a lot in terms of increasing retail availability and making sure Nooks are actually available – it’s even available at WalMart now. Kindles are available at Target, Staples, and Best Buy but only in theory - multiple stores are claiming they get only 2 Kindles a day and lots of users have complained about not being able to find Kindles in stock.
  2. In the Nook 1.5 upgrade B&N added the ability to password protect your purchases. This is a feature the Kindle is missing.

B&N has improved the Nook more since Kindle 3 came out than Amazon has improved the Kindle 3. That should be very worrying to Amazon because two of its strengths are constant incremental improvements and reacting very quickly to rival’s improvements.

Is Kindle 3 better than Nook 1? Yes, it’s got the eInk screen and lots of improvements and a faster processor and an easier user interface and faster page turns. However, the gap is a lot less than when Kindle 3 first came out and Nook 1′s retail availability is a lot better.

You can’t let a last generation product compete with you – Amazon has the opportunity to blow away Nook 1 and it ought to go all-out.

Where’s the Kindle 3.5 upgrade with better PDF support and support for library books? Where’s the next killer Kindle WhisperNet feature? What is Amazon waiting for – Has it assumed the battle is already won?

Kindle vs Nook Color – Different devices with an intersecting market slice

Just finished a Kindle vs Nook Color Review and comparing the Kindle 3 and the Nook Color head to head was very revealing.

  1. Firstly, there are just as many improvements in Nook Color (over Nook 1) as there are in Kindle 3 (over Kindle 2). Amazon is the software magic company with its lead in Cloud services and its infinitely scalable website and all its optimization algorithms – How on Earth is B&N managing to keep up? Why is Amazon not able to pull away?
  2. Secondly, the Nook Color manages to be a better choice for people who read around a book a month. That’s very, very significant. It means that instead of having a market of 40 million people to itself the Kindle only has a market of 20 million people to itself.

The latter was a very stunning realization. The Kindle is undoubtedly the best option for people who read more than a book a month. However, Nook Color edges out the Kindle when it comes to people who read 1 book a month or less. It also edges out iPad.

If Nook Color takes off, and it might, that’ll give B&N the financial strength and morale boost it needs to make a really good Nook 2 and a really good Nook 3.

A Kindle Color or a Kindle Tablet is sorely needed. The whole Kindle Reading Apps strategy is a trap – It seemed like Amazon was getting something for nothing and then B&N came out with a reading tablet and started eating up the casual reader market. Kindle Reading Apps should be add-ons that go out alongside a Kindle Tablet and a Kindle Phone – not replacements.

Nook vs Nook Color – Kaizen at the level of Amazon

You could argue that B&N made a fundamental mistake by choosing LCD over eInk. However, it ends up with a device perfect for casual readers.

Apart from the LCD choice B&N doesn’t make very many mistakes – In fact it improves things across the board.

  1. In the main menu B&N gets rid of ‘The Daily’ and ‘Reading Now’ tabs and rolls the ‘Games’ and ‘Audio’ tabs into a section called Extras. It also puts the ‘WiFi’ tab into the Settings Tab. The result is that there are now 6 main tabs in the Nook Color Main Menu and it fits on the screen. It makes the most important menu on the Nook Color a lot easier to use.
  2. B&N went from having almost no search to devoting an entire tab to search and making the Search an ‘instant’ search. It’s really very good and uses the touchscreen very well.
  3. Instead of a ‘LCD-eInk marriage from hell’ we now have a very well done Touch Interface. It’s not silky smooth – it’s just easy to use.
  4. The keyboard is so much better it’s a pleasure to use compared to the Nook 1′s ‘type the wrong keys constantly’ keyboard.
  5. Nook Color replaces whatever super slow processor and buggy code the Nook 1 had with a 800 MHz processor and code that’s reasonably fast.
  6. Nook Color uses an IPS LCD screen. That’s ridiculously good for a $250 device. Using LCD instead of eInk hurts reading but not as much if it’s a very high quality LCD screen. It also has much better pixel density than the iPad and about the same pixel density as Kindle.
  7. The Design is a big improvement. It could have used a few more buttons but it does a lot of things right design-wise including getting rid of the all-white casing of the Nook 1.
  8. The browser is really very good and uses the touch screen well – It’s instantly much better than the original Nook’s decentish browser.
  9. It makes the home page customizable and gives users 3 home screens they can set-up any way they like. That’s a great touch because who wants a boring list of hard to arrange book titles like the Nook 1 had.
  10. Nook Color makes lending very easy by including a LendMe Network App. Nook 1 owners had to use Internet forums and keep track of things themselves. Now users can just use their Nook Color’s LendMe App - though they still have to find other Nook owners on the Internet.
  11. Sluggish page turns on Nook 1 versus instant page turns on Nook Color.
  12. Need for a reading light on Nook 1 versus back-lit screen on Nook Color.

Perhaps Kindle 3 had a similar or larger number of improvements – However, Nook Color was working from such a poor base (Nook 1′s software and usability were both terrible) that its improvements seem more impactful.

Please Note that someone who hasn’t used Nook 1 might find the Nook Color less impressive. It’s not as smooth as iPad and that’s actually OK as it’s half the price. Whether or not you’ve used Nook 1 you’ll find Nook Color impressive for the price. If you love reading, the Kindle is still the right choice – However, Nook Color is a better choice for people who ‘read once in a while’.

Nook vs Kindle vs Nook Color – Amazon needs to move quickly and make BIG changes

Amazon is faced with a unique and unexpected challenge. Nook Color represents a threat that wasn’t supposed to materialize until the 7″ iPad 2 arrived in early 2011. It’s a 7″ LCD screen device that’s actually focused on reading and does a decent job. It also comes in at $250.

At the same time the Nook 1 has improved enough that the Kindle 3′s complete domination of the dedicated eReader market no longer seems guaranteed.

Here are 5 completely unsolicited suggestions Amazon should consider -

  1. Stop being complacent. A lot of people stopped thinking about the Nook once the Kindle 3 came out – think that extends to Amazon. In customers’ eyes things like support for library books and support for other book stores makes the Nook 1 a legitimate contender.
  2. Be proactive instead of reactive – Why isn’t Amazon the one coming out with a ‘reading tablet’? Why isn’t it bundling physical books with ebooks? Why is it not sending out software updates every 2 months?
  3. Focus on winning the eReader battle rather than winning the ‘who sells more ebooks’ battle. Ultimately, the company that wins the eReader battle will have the eBooks market to itself.
  4. Stop depending on Kindle Reading Apps. It’s lunacy to promote another device in TV ads and to start depending on devices that other companies control. Amazon should think about how tightly it runs its own platform and whether it would sell a B&N reading app and then wonder why it’s assuming other companies will keep giving it a free ride.
  5. Beat Nook and Sony Reader on device and software as thoroughly as Amazon beats them on book store and services. Sony Reader 350 is lighter, more compact, has touch, and looks better than Kindle WiFi - that should be unacceptable to Amazon. Kindle needs to be a better eReader than the Sony even when you strip away the book store and infrastructure supporting it.
  6. Make sure no one beats Amazon at its core strength i.e. incremental improvement. If Nook 1 manages to improve in 4 key areas Amazon should have a software update out within a month that improves Kindle 3 in 10 key areas.
  7. Add Revolutionary to its evolutionary (incremental improvements) greatness. B&N is taking a big chance with a ‘reading tablet’ that might end up in a big empty pit between Tablets and Dedicated eReaders – or it might create a new market. Amazon really should be taking chances like this. Sooner or later a reading device that has a fresh new approach is going to beat dedicated eReaders or carve up the market – might as well be a device from the Kindle family.

All of this brings to mind 2009 when Amazon sat on its Kindle lead and did nothing until Nook 1 arrived with PDF support and the fancy navigation touchscreen and jolted Amazon out of its slumber.

With rapid improvements to Kindle 2 (like adding PDF support within weeks of the Nook announcement) and by releasing a ‘better across the board’ Kindle 3 Amazon showed it can fight back. However, it’s gone back to sleep. This time, instead of being aware of the danger Nook Color and Nook 1.5 pose and waking up, it’s taking the easy way out and assuming that B&N has killed itself.

Nook Color is eating away at the casual reader market and Nook 1 is clipping at the Kindle 3′s heels. Both are very real threats and no amount of ‘We’re No. 1 and B&N is probably financially insolvent’ sentiment is going to change that. Add on the Press’ non-stop love-fest for a certain Tablet and you have a very hard next 9 months for the Kindle.

Nook vs Kindle vs Nook Color is not a fight Amazon can win over the long term – It needs a Kindle Tablet, it needs a lot of software improvements, and it needs a color eInk Kindle 4. It also needs them yesterday – though within the next 6 months would probably work. The Kindle is under threat on all fronts and it’s time Amazon started acting like it.

Kindle vs Nook Color Review

The Kindle is an eInk based dedicated reading device and the Nook Color is a LCD based Reading Tablet – This makes a Kindle vs Nook Color Review a very tricky proposition.

If you read 2 or more books a month then the Kindle is the better choice. If you read less than 1 book a month then Nook Color is a better choice.

This Kindle vs Nook Color Review is relevant only to people who read around 1 book a month or those who don’t know whether they should get a device dedicated to reading (Kindle) or a device focused on reading (Nook Color).

Kindle vs Nook Color Review – Reviewing Nook Color’s advantages

Nook Color comes in with a huge list of advantages over the Kindle (some of which don’t necessarily apply to reading) -

  1. It has a beautiful 7″ color screen which makes little difference for books but a lot of difference for children’s books and magazines. The screen also has slightly higher pixel density (169 ppi) than the Kindle’s screen (167 ppi). The screen is an IPS screen so it’s really good.
  2. Nook Color has touch which is a good feature to have for usability and for games and surfing. Web surfing in particular really benefits from the touchscreen.
  3. At $249 it provides better value for money than Kindle 3 ($189) – though not better value than Kindle WiFi ($139).
  4. Nook Color supports library books and ePub. A pretty significant advantage if you depend on Library books.
  5. It has a microSD card slot which lets you expand the memory (you can switch memory cards so in theory there’s unlimited memory). It also has larger on-board memory (8 GB) compared to the Kindle (4 GB).
  6. It has password protection on purchases. Kindle really needs this feature.
  7. Nook Color supports Word and Office files. This includes the old and new formats of Word (doc, docx), Powerpoint (ppt, pps, pptx, ppsx), and Excel.
  8. Nook Color has better PDF support.
  9. Nook Color has limited video format support – only MP4 video.
  10. It looks better than Kindle – a part of it is having a color screen, another part is a streamlined and unique design.
  11. Once B&N lets apps in there will be a lot to do – Apps will be able to use the color, touch, sound, accelerometer, and other features to great effect.
  12. Nook Color has an accelerometer so you can choose to have the orientation switch automatically.
  13. It lets you set up your own home screen and arrange objects on it and change their size. It also lets you set up your own custom wallpaper.
  14. There’s lending (one time only per book, for at most 14 days) if Publishers have enabled it for the book. It’s a limited feature but it does add value – Kindle will add it later this year.
  15. You can root the Nook Color i.e. strip away the B&N controls and layer. That means you can go to the underlying Android OS and use Nook Color as an Android Tablet with Android Apps. This does require technical savvy and voids your warranty so it’s not for everyone.
  16. Nook Color supports AAC and MP3 format music files while Kindle only supports MP3 format. Nook actually has a complete music player with support for playlists, shuffling, repeat, and more. Nook Color also has the Pandora music streaming app.
  17. B&N Store related features. You get free WiFi in B&N stores and can read any book for free for up to an hour a day. This is a feature that Publishers can disable.
  18. It has a back-light so you can read it in low-light conditions without needing a clip-on reading light. Please note that this affects some people’s sleep patterns so if you feel you aren’t sleeping as well once you start reading books on LCD screens at night it might a good idea to stop.
  19. Nook Color’s document organization section gives you more options in terms of separating books you buy from your own documents and in terms of letting you view books and magazines and newspapers separately. If you like book shelves the Nook Color has a Shelves feature that lets you arrange your books into shelves. 
  20. Nook Color has a choice of 6 different fonts and 6 different themes (night view, Sepia, etc.). Kindle only has 3 variants of Caecilia font and doesn’t really have themes.
  21. Nook Color just lets you do a lot more things – Touch and Color make Web surfing much better than on Kindle, the DRM’ed ePub support lets you buy books from other stores and get books from libraries, the games look better with color and are easier to play because of touch, photos obviously looks better, some video formats are supported.

The Nook Color is a very impressive Tablet and it does a decent job of focusing on reading.

Kindle vs Nook Color Review – Reviewing Kindle’s advantages

Kindle focuses on providing an uncompromised reading experience and it does a great job of it. It has lots of advantages over the Nook Color -

  1. The eInk screen is great for reading. It’s just like reading print on paper and doesn’t hurt your eyes and works in bright sunlight. If you are LCD-incompatible then there’s little doubt – You should get a Kindle.
  2. There’s a focus on reading and distractions are minimized. Kindle is terrible at everything other than reading – So the path of least resistance is to read books.
  3. It’s much easier to get lost in a book on the Kindle – This goes beyond the distractions aspect. In 2 weeks with Nook Color have only read Alice in Wonderland and that’s a small book.
  4. The Kindle Store is the best ebook store with the widest selection of new books and the best ebook prices. 
  5. Kindle WhisperNet provides a lot of great add-on services like synchronizing your place in a book and synchronizing notes and highlights.
  6. Kindle has incredible battery life (10 days with wireless on, a month with wireless off) while Nook Color battery life is just 8 hours with wireless off.
  7. Kindle is very light and compact. At 8.7 ounces it’s much lighter than Nook Color (15.8 ounces).
  8. Kindle 3 has both 3G and WiFi while Nook Color only has WiFi. 3G wireless is free in areas with AT&T network coverage and includes store browsing and Internet browsing.
  9. Kindle is available internationally and there are over 100 countries with Kindle WhisperNet coverage – For US Kindle owners this means free store browsing and free Internet over 3G in all these countries.
  10. Kindle has Text to Speech – this is a great feature. Publishers can turn it off and some do (40% to 50%) – However, the rest don’t. It also works on documents you add yourself but not on PDFs.
  11. Kindle supports Audible format for audiobooks – Nook Color doesn’t.
  12. Kindle has stereo speakers while Nook has a mono speaker.
  13. Kindle, thanks to the Kindle App store, has more games than Nook Color. Nook Color comes with Chess, Sudoku, and Crosswords while Kindle has Scrabble, Solitaire, Sudoku, Mahjong Solitaire, Texas Hold’em Poker, and a few more.
  14. Kindle is cheaper. You can get the Kindle WiFi for just $139 while Kindle 3 is $189.
  15. Kindle has a largest font size that is much larger than Nook Color’s largest font size. It also has more font size options (8 vs 6 for Nook Color).
  16. Kindle is simpler to use - things like searching the Kindle Store and purchasing Kindle books are very straightforward. Nook Color does have a nifty ‘instant’ search feature for on-Nook searches.
  17. Kindle works in bright sunlight and bright lighting conditions. Despite the ‘glare reducing layer’ the Nook Color isn’t readable in bright sunlight or under bright lights.

The Kindle is clearly better for reading and for focusing on reading. It is definitely not a Tablet and is not suited for anything other than reading.

Kindle vs Nook Color Review – the Kindle is dedicated to reading

The most crucial thing about the Kindle is that it’s completely dedicated to reading – If you want to read more or if you read a lot already and want a device that’s completely dedicated to reading then Kindle is the right choice.

Here are a few key things about the Kindle -

  1. Everything revolves around reading. The eInk screen is perfect for reading. The free 3G Internet access and Wikipedia access is more tailored to reference than to browsing. All the add-on features are add-ons to reading.
  2. Amazon focuses on providing an excellent eBook Store which you can access over 3G. It provides reading related features like syncing your place in a book across Kindles and Kindle apps. There are Kindle Reading Apps for other platforms so you can read even when your Kindle is not with you.
  3. Amazon has stuck with eInk and stayed dedicated to reading.

If you like to read or would like to read more Kindle is a good choice. If you love to read it’s a great choice.

Kindle vs Nook Color Review – Nook Color is a Tablet focused on reading

The Nook Color is a reading Tablet – to be more precise it’s a Tablet that does a few things to keep the focus on reading.

  1. It uses Android as the underlying OS but has built a layer over Android which is focused on reading. The main focus is on your books and your Documents Library and on the B&N Nook Store.
  2. There’s a LCD screen but it has a special layer over it to reduce glare. It doesn’t really make much of a difference but it’s nice that B&N tried.
  3. There will be a Nook App Store but it seems that only reading focused apps will be allowed in.

B&N have kept a tight focus on the reading capability of the Nook Color. This, however, doesn’t change a few facts -

  1. Nook Color is fundamentally a Tablet and a very capable one.
  2. Things like browsing are great because you have a 7″ touchscreen in color.
  3. It’s just as good for games and photos and surfing as it is for reading.

In a sense B&N is taking a multi-purpose Tablet and doing minor hardware changes (special anti-glare layer) and some sizeable software and policy changes (reading oriented top software layer, focus on reading apps) to create a device that is focused on reading and better than iPad and Tablets for readers.

The $250 price is also a key part of this ‘reading tablet’ strategy.

If you think a device should do more than just read while also providing a decent reading experience the Nook Color is the perfect device for you.

Kindle vs Nook Color Review – Conclusion

The grey area was – Which is the better device for readers who read 1 book a month?

After doing this Kindle vs Nook Color review it seems that the Nook Color is.

Kindle is clearly the better choice if you read more than 1 book a month, if you want to read more, or if you want an uncompromised reading experience. It’s a device dedicated to reading and provides the absolute best reading experience.

Nook Color is perfect for casual readers. If you read 1 book or less a month or if you want a device that is good for reading and can also do other things well then Nook Color is a great choice.

If you have the Kindle and Nook Color side by side you’ll almost always prefer to read on the Kindle. The worrying thing for Amazon is that Nook Color is better or much better for pretty much everything other than reading books and buying books.

The Kindle wins out in this Kindle vs Nook Color Review when it comes to pure reading experience and suitability for reading. The minute you expand into reading plus anything else the Nook Color pulls ahead.

Analyzing Kindle vs Nook Color for developers and apps

The Kindle is supported by a fledgling Kindle App Store. There are 10 or so apps so far and they’re all games.

Today, B&N released the Nook Color SDK. This will let developers build apps for Nook Color (not for Nook) and also port over Android Apps.

Kindle vs Nook Color suddenly gets a whole new dimension. We’ve already reviewed Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad and established they’re three different devices aimed at three different markets.

Let’s see what things developers should keep in mind when considering the Kindle and Nook Color as platforms. After that, let’s try to guess which will get better apps.

Kindle vs Nook Color – The opportunity for Apps

Pros and Cons of making Kindle Apps

Here are the reasons making Kindle Apps makes sense -

  1. There’s a captive audience of somewhere between 3 and 6 million. Perhaps another 1 million Kindles get added after Oprah’s Kindle recommendation on Monday.
  2. There’s little competition – Amazon is letting in apps slowly so you have few competitors.
  3. Amazon knows how to sell. You have to assume that if you make a good app it’ll sell well.
  4. Some of the apps released so far have done very well – Scrabble and Solitaire both spent a lot of time at the top of the charts.
  5. Electronic Arts must have found something for it to keep developing apps. It has now released 4 apps – If it wasn’t making money you’d think it’d stop after the first 1 or 2.

There definitely is an opportunity – We just don’t know exactly what it is and exactly how big it is.

Here are some of the things to keep in mind -

  1. Kindle owners are buying the device primarily for reading books. Apps are an add-on.
  2. Kindles use eInk and don’t support color or animation.
  3. You have to test on 4 devices – Kindle 3, Kindle 2, Kindle DX, Kindle DX 2. Kindle WiFi and Kindle 3 are similar enough that you can leave one out. Basically, you’ll be limited by the speed and processing power of the 1st Kindle DX and the Kindle 2 US version.
  4. No one knows any of the numbers involved – We don’t know how many Kindles have been sold and we don’t know how many Kindle Apps have been sold.
  5. It’s a completely separate SDK. It’s based on Java and it’s quite easy to learn – However, it’s still a completely new SDK.

It’d be good to hear some details from Amazon – Revealing sales figures for the successful apps would encourage more developers to jump in.

Pros and Cons of developing apps for the Nook Color

Here are the reasons making apps for Nook Color makes sense -

  1. Nook Color is meant for apps. B&N might say no – However, after playing around with it for a couple of weeks, let me assure you this thing needs apps like England needs the World Cup.
  2. There are estimates that Nook Color might sell 1 million units by end 2010. Sales are definitely good – as are reviews.
  3. At the start it’ll be a less competitive market.
  4. There’s just one device to develop for. This is hugely significant when you consider testing time and cost.
  5. Existing Android Apps can be ported over.

Nook Color is an App-Bereft Tablet and not a Reading Tablet. Additionally, it’s very well suited for apps due to having an IPS LCD touchscreen.

Things to keep in mind -

  1. There might just be 1 or 2 million Nooks at the time the store opens.
  2. At least 25% of users are going to root their Nook and get Android Apps for free. They are ruled out as customers.
  3. B&N wants to limit apps to reading related apps.
  4. There might be very strong Android tablet competitors arriving in 2011 which might slow down Nook Color sales.
  5. B&N is selling this as a reading tablet so 25% or so of the audience might not be interested in apps. That’s another 25% of customers lost on top of the 25% that root it.

Basically you’re looking at only 50% of Nook Color owners being potential customers for your apps. If Nook Color sells at a good pace it won’t matter – However, if sales are slow then the market is just too small.

The biggest challenge for B&N is that users are needed for developers to get interested but apps are needed for users to get interested in Nook Color. How are they going to get over this chicken and egg problem?

The Crux

Kindles are a huge market (relatively) but with the limitations of eInk and with users that might not be interested in apps. Nook Color, at the moment, is a small market but with users that will probably be interested in apps (at least 50% ought to be) and a device that has a LCD color touchscreen.

It’s a trade-off. It might not be a bad idea to make 1 or 2 apps for each and then pick the market that’s more fun to work in.

My Recommendation: If you’re an Android developer – make Nook Apps. If not, then start with Kindle App Store and then later try Nook App Store. Read all the terms carefully – There are things like bandwidth costs and a focus on reading related apps which you MUST keep in mind. Both stores are very clear about what kinds of apps they want and the market is, in both cases, full of people who are reading-oriented.

Kindle vs Nook Color – Which will get better Apps?

This might seem like a trick question. Isn’t the Nook Color going to get far better apps – It has color and a touchscreen.

However, the motivations for developers are varied -

  1. The market opportunity.
  2. How well they get treated.
  3. The challenge.
  4. The freedom they’re given.
  5. How good the Development Kit is and how easy it makes things.
  6. What the review process is like.
  7. What the users are like.
  8. A match between developers and users’ interests.
  9. The ethos and values of the App Store and the App Store company.
  10. How much fun it is. This is probably the key determinant.

So a developer is factoring in all these aspects and picking one or both app stores. And all along the way he’s fighting reality i.e. money, rules and regulations, deadlines, the need to eat food, etc.

Reasons Kindle might get better apps

There are actually a lot of reasons why Kindle might get the better apps -

  1. There’s probably going to be more money in Kindle Apps for at least the first 1 year.
  2. Kindle Apps have a head-start. The number of apps out might be small but developers have been working on apps since January and some partners like Electronic Arts from before January.
  3. Kindle users are buying apps.
  4. Kindle users don’t have a fall-back like Nook Color users do (the latter can root their Nook and use Android Apps).
  5. Amazon seems to have a good quality bar – None of the apps released so far have been terrible.
  6. There’s a pretty big challenge – Any developer who can make a good app on eInk is going to get a lot more satisfaction than on LCD. The challenge also forces developers to be a bit more creative.
  7. Developers are very invested. By making it a limited Beta, and making developers wait to get in, Amazon’s made it a bit of a prize to be developing Kindle apps. 

The biggest two things working in the Kindle’s favor are definitely the possibility of more money and the head start the Kindle App Store has.

Reasons Nook Color might get better apps

The first problem here is that there might not be that many developers willing to work on Nook apps. That’s B&N’s biggest challenge.

That being said there are still a lot of reasons Nook Color might have the better apps by end 2011 -

  1. There’s just one device. As a developer can’t explain to you how significant this is.
  2. You have color and animation and video and a pretty powerful processor and a decent amount of memory. Nook Color is good, solid hardware to work with. 
  3. B&N is not doing a limited beta. The benefits of a limited Beta are that developers who get in, especially those who wait and then get in, are very invested. The downside is that you can’t predict the winners so you might be keeping out hundreds of rock star apps.
  4. Android apps can be ported over easily. There’s a big, huge supply of apps available. All the Nook Color needs is one big hit and then hundreds of companies will start porting over their apps.
  5. Nook SDK is based on Android. There are a ton of developers who are very familiar with Android, and more importantly, love it.  
  6. Nook Color only has WiFi. This means developers never have to worry about wireless charges like they have to with the Kindle.
  7. B&N is fighting for its life. It’s going to give developers more leeway and it’s going to take bigger risks and that increases the chances of both great apps and great failures. 

Android Apps are the biggest potential wildcard – If one developer makes $500,000 in the Nook Color app store there will suddenly be 10,000 Android Apps being ported over.

The second huge wildcard for Nook Apps is that everyone gets a shot – Developers that no company in their right mind would pick for a ‘limited beta’ might be the one to make the ‘Angry Birds’ of the Nook App Store. Plus you need really bad apps to better highlight the really good apps.

My prediction – The first big hit on Nook Color will open the floodgates

There are tens of thousands of Android App Developers waiting to see how apps for the Nook Color do. The first big hit and they jump in. At that point two things happen -

  1. Nook Color pretty much bows out of the Reading Tablet category. The Apps will take over.
  2. Kindle App Store gets left behind but Amazon’s position in the eReader market grows stronger.

Kindle is not under threat from Nook App Store at the moment. The real threat will be if the Nook App Store takes off and then B&N opens it up to Nook 1 and releases a Nook 2 that works well with Apps.

My prediction: Kindle App Store will have better apps until 5 to 6 months after the first Nook App makes more than $250,000 in profit. After that the Nook App Store will become huge and hugely powerful. The Kindle will actually see a relative increase in sales as apps dilute Nook Color as a reading Tablet but eventually the upsurge in Nook Color Apps will trickle down to Nook 2 and Nook 1 and cause huge problems for Amazon.

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