Kindle, Amazon might be in danger – Nook Color is mighty impressive

The Kindle 3 might be getting all the focus but Amazon feels its Kindle Apps for various platforms are important enough to have a devoted ad of their own.

Yes, seriously. There’s now a Kindle ad that shows Ms. Sitting-By-The-Pool switching from Android to iPhone and taking all her books along with her. The ad ends with -

             Kindle Books.
Buy Once. Read Everywhere.

Why would Amazon be running ads showing people reading on a device other than the Kindle?

Well, after a couple hours with the Nook Color, its abundantly clear exactly what Amazon is afraid of.

Nook Color – first impressions

The first few steps

  1. It’s packed very well and the cover is very smartly done. Nook Color is very, very well packed in terms of avoiding damage.
  2. There’s an interesting split open type box and the first view you get of the Nook Color is from the bottom and then you pull it out.
  3. First, you have to charge it ‘fully’ which takes just 1 to 2 hours the first time. The charger indicator light turns from orange to green (it’s in the shape of an ‘n’).
  4. The very first step asks if you want to see a Help Video – skipped that. The girl in the video is annoyingly happy – as if it’s her who just got a Nook Color and not you. That would be a good idea – A welcome video where the person is all upset because they have to welcome everyone and never get a cool, shiny device of their own.
  5. You go through a 4 step process – including selecting your time zone, choosing a WiFi network, and registering the device. Everything’s fast.

Instantly like it more than the iPad – It’s very comfortable to hold and the typing is very easy. The iPad always make me feel like Gulliver in Brobdingnag.

It’s in Color

  1. Color might not make a spot of difference when reading a book. However, it sure makes everything look pretty.
  2. Nook Color instantly reveals how limited Nook 1’s little browser screen is. In most things other than actual reading the Nook Color has an advantage over pure eInk readers.
  3. The Internet is so much better in color and with touch. The browser blows Kindle 3’s WebKit browser out of the water – mostly due to not having to use the 5-way to inch through webpages.  

At this point – I’m sold. 100%.

Don’t know if it’ll be as fast or responsive as iPad or have magic pixie dust and don’t care. It just looks good and feels good in your hand and it’s time for Amazon to start worrying about casual readers and Apple to start worrying about people not looking for a status indicator.

It’s not iPad/iPhone smooth

You can just imagine all the Apple people beginning to smile -

  1.  It’s not Apple level UI. It looks great but it’s not as fast and not as smooth. When you scroll through a list it doesn’t glide. 
  2. It’s a bit of a different approach – The focus is on making things good and not on making them perfect.
  3. If little details bother you then Nook Color might not be a good choice – If, on the other hand, you don’t care that ‘+’ in the Create New Shelf button isn’t animated and isn’t the right size then you’ll probably love Nook Color.

If you get irrationally excited about Apple products then stay far, far away – you’ll be very disappointed because it doesn’t have animated page turns or wooden shelves or any of the aesthetic bows and ribbons Apple loves.

Reading on the Nook Color

Using Touch the Right Way

As opposed to Sony, which thinks touch is an excuse to torture readers, B&N uses touch well.

  1. You can tap on an edge or swipe to turn pages.
  2. You can tap on the top left corner to add a bookmark.
  3. Tap on the middle to open the menu.
  4. You can tap on a word to start a highlight, share, add a note, or to look up the word. This is so much better than Sony Reader’s ‘special mode’ (which you have to go into to add notes or highlights) you can’t help but feel sorry for Sony.

Nook Color uses touch very intelligently and makes the most of having a LCD touchscreen. It’s not an Apple-type perfect touch experience but it’s good enough.

Nook Color’s Book Reading Software is great

The core software that lets you read books is great -

  1. It displays text crisply.
  2. There are 6 font sizes. The largest is about as big as the second largest font setting on the Kindle. The smallest is a tiny bit larger than the Kindle 3’s smallest size.
  3. There are 6 font options – Century Schoolbook, Dutch, Georgia, Ascendar Sans, Trebuchet MS, and Gill Sans. Didn’t like any as much as the Kindle’s Caecilia but a few are decent.
  4. There are 6 themes – Normal, Night, Gray, Butter, Mocha, and Sepia. Sepia, Night, and Normal are pretty impressive. Sepia isn’t as good as Kindle for iPad’s Sepia but it’s good.
  5. There are 3 choices for line spacing and 3 choices for margin size (which dictates column width).

You can also choose ‘Publisher defaults’ for a book – something that should excite Publishers a lot.

Take all the good eReader apps on iPhone and mix them up and you have the Nook Color’s book interface. It’s very well done – enough options to allow flexibility but not so many that you get overwhelmed.

Whoever designed the reading software put enough thought into it to make it easy and intuitive. The last thing you’d expect given what the Nook 1’s software is like.

It’s LCD, not eInk

The grey lining to the multi-color cloud is that it’s LCD with all the accompanying negatives (positives if you’re LCD-compatible) -

  1. It’s not easy on the eyes like eInk. 
  2. The light coming right at you is a bother. You can adjust the brightness right from the book itself which helps a bit.  
  3. It’s more like a reading app than an eReader. You can’t fight off the feeling that it’s a tablet with a good reading app rather than a reading tablet.  

Contrary to all of B&N’s protests this isn’t a reading tablet – it’s a Tablet that’s making a good attempt at being a reader but failing to reach the level of the dedicated eReaders (Kindle 3 and Nook 1).

If you read more than 1 book a month and are not LCD-compatible then the Nook Color is not recommended. Kindle 3 will be much easier on your eyes and won’t be hurting your sleep patterns.

Basically, if you’re a serious or serious-casual reader then Nook Color isn’t the right choice. Interestingly, you might still enjoy owning one – especially if you’re looking for something that frees you from Apple.

The LendMe App

The thing about this that got me excited was not so much being able to lend books to friends (which is cool) but being able to make new friends. If we have the same choice in books that’s like Facebook with a filter that rules out all the Friend-collectors and the stalkers.

The fact that the focus is books rather than you (and how many friends you have) makes it easier to actually connect. Just the way that you usually meet the right person when you aren’t really looking – you usually make good friends when your focus isn’t adding friends or social popularity.

Nook Color isn’t exactly a full Tablet

Here’s how my description of the Nook Color would go -

  1. Nook Color is very well suited for reading magazines, reading children’s books, reading books with illustrations and photos, and for browsing sites. 
  2. Nook Color is quite good for reading books and playing music.
  3. Nook Color struggles with video, battery life, and long stretches of reading (it seems that way – will confirm it in a later review).

Nook Color isn’t as good an eReader as the Kindle 3. It definitely isn’t a full-fledged Tablet either. So people who claim it’s the worst of both worlds have a bit of truth to their argument.

However, it’s fundamentally a fun little device on which you can do some things very well and some things decently and it’s just $250. It’s much easier to use and carry than an iPad and the 7″ screen is actually a sweet spot. 7″ is good for websites and books and is MUCH better than 10″, 3.5″, and even 6″.

The Wild Card – Games and Apps

There’s enough here (color, touch, screen size, processor speed of 800 MHz, 512 MB RAM) to create some very impressive apps. 

If B&N plays its cards right and adds the best 10,000 Android Apps it’ll blow away all the expensive tablets.

The semi-openness of Nook Color adds a lot of flexibility

There are three things worth noting -

  1. You can root Nook Color and get a full-fledged Android mini-tablet. Zero restrictions.  
  2. Being able to add a micro-SD Card is awesome – You can go up to 40 total GB and carry tons of music or use Nook Color as a flash drive. Also, you can rotate cards so there’s no limit.
  3. You get support for library books and you can read DRMed ePub. It’s important for some people and useful for everyone else.

Without being very open Nook Color still manages to add some much-needed flexibility.

Thoughts on Nook Color’s impact

With Casual Readers Kindle doesn’t have a chance

Please note that casual readers = 1 book or less a month.

  1. First, there’s color. It’s used intelligently. 
  2. Next, there’s touch – touch done right.
  3. Third, there’s a conscious effort to do things right. Yes, they fail a lot of the time but they succeed often enough that you don’t care about the failures. 

It’s pretty impressive for a first try. It’s also going to get a lot of casual readers. We’re talking perhaps 25% of the casual reader market – which is millions and millions of people. 

It might also get a lot of the people looking for an Android Tablet – perhaps even 25%. This adds an entire new headache for Amazon since those people will no longer be using Kindle for Android.   

Kindle 3 and Nook Color will each dominate their segments

We’re talking about -

  1. Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi getting 70% or more of the dedicated eReader market with Nook 1 stalling at around 10 to 15%.
  2. Nook Color getting 25% of the casual reader market. That’s sales stolen from iPad (enough to make a dent), Kindle (a little wedge), Android Tablets (a huge chunk), and even iPhone.
  3. Nook Color getting 25% or more of the Android tablet market. Seriously, it’s very good. If you owned it and stopped by an Apple Store and used an iPad – You would have enough reasons to feel there’s nothing missing. Nook Color is easier to hold and use, it’s less pretentious, it’s cheaper, it’s got an SD Card so you can plug-in 32 extra GB yourself, and you can always root it and get a fully open Android Tablet.

The potential strong future for Nook Color should worry Amazon a lot -

  1. It means B&N locks up every single one of the 25% of casual readers and 25% of Android Tablet lovers that buy Nook Color.
  2. It gives B&N a larger share of the ebooks market.
  3. It gives B&N resources and encouragement to bring out a killer Nook 2.

B&N has suddenly become a bigger threat than Apple and might even morph into a bigger threat than Google. These are giants but B&N is focused on books which could make it far more dangerous.

After all my criticism of B&N’s strategies have to admit that Nook Color is very impressive both as a device and as a strategy. I was wrong – B&N is not dying or going away and if it keeps releasing products like Nook Color it’s going to give Amazon a run for its money.

Conclusion – Amazon needs to get really, really worried about its tenuous grip on casual readers

It’s now clear why Amazon is running TV advertisements featuring Kindle for iPhone and Kindle for Android. Nook Color is going to carve out a big portion of the casual reader market for itself. As opposed to the Kindle Apps, which don’t have lock-in other than kindle book purchases, the Nook Color gives B&N very strong lock-in – It’s simply not going to allow other eReader apps into the Nook App Store.

This is the first time there’s been a device focused on reading that Amazon has no answer for. Nook Color is not a dedicated reading device – But it is a reading-focused device.

Was ready to joke about how CNet is hedging its bets by naming the new Kindles (Kindle 3, Kindle WiFi) and the Nook Color to its CNet Editor’s Choice list. However, there’s nothing to joke about. Nook Color hits it out of the ballpark – It’s not an iPad. For people not in love with Apple it’s better.  

The Kindle 3 retains its crown as the best dedicated eReader and Nook Color wrests the crown of ‘best device for reading and more’ from the iPad/iPhone.

Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad

How does the Kindle 3 compare with the Nook Color and the iPad – Who wins Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad?

The Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad question was brought up by Vicki and here’s my answer -

  1. The Kindle is perfect for anyone who reads more than 1 book a month or wants a device dedicated to reading. It’s also great for anyone who wants to read more than they currently do.
  2. Nook Color seems to be perfect for someone who reads 1 or 2 books a month and wants a device that’s focused on reading and can also do other things. If the Kindle is a superstar slugger who’s a liability in the field the Nook Color is a pretty solid hitter who can also field quite well.
  3. The iPad is great for someone who wants a device specialized for TV and games and movies and that can also be used for reading. Basically, an above replacement level hitter who isn’t going to put up the numbers the solid hitter will (Nook Color) and definitely not the numbers the star slugger will (Kindle 3) – However, he’s a spectacular fielder and can play almost any position. Plus quite a few people think he looks like Cole Hamels and has Ken Griffey Junior’s personality.

Let’s flesh it out a bit and drop the baseball analogy.

Disclaimer: My experience with Nook Color is limited to reading reviews. Kindle and iPad, on the other hand, am very familiar with.

Kindle is a reading superstar device that does little else

The Kindle is basically a reading superstar – It sacrifices everything else for reading.

It has all the features you would want in a reading device -

  1. Crisp eInk Pearl screen that looks like print on paper.
  2. eInk screen that’s easy on the eyes. Since it has no back-light it doesn’t interfere with your sleep patterns like back-lit screens.
  3. Great battery life – up to a month with wireless off, 2 weeks with wireless on.
  4. It’s built from the ground-up for readers. Almost every decision was made keeping readers in mind.
  5. There’s free Internet access, a decentish browser, free Kindle store browsing, and an in-built dictionary. Note: Kindle WiFi doesn’t have 3G and thus no free Internet Access – you must have WiFi access to get store browsing and Internet browsing.
  6. There are free book downloads in 60 seconds using Amazon’s Whispernet Network.
  7. It’s light and compact and you can read while holding it in one hand.

The litmus test is whether you read 1 or more books a month. If you don’t the Kindle is a bad choice.

If you love to read or would like to read more you should get a Kindle. At $139 for the Kindle WiFi and $189 for the Kindle 3 it’s a great deal.

Kindle caveats

You might fall into the category of people who love LCDs and are completely unbothered by LCD screens – the LCD-compatibles. In that case the Kindle only offers freedom from distraction, lower weight, greater battery life, reading focused features, and other reading related benefits.

The biggest benefit of the Kindle is the eInk screen and if after trying it out you feel LCD is better or just as good then you might be better off with a Nook Color or an iPad.

Kindle also has some other flaws – no ePub support and thus no support for library books, the only DRMed books you can read are ones from Amazon, the Kindle App Store is just starting off so there are very few apps, PDF support isn’t great, and the 6″ screen size isn’t ideal for PDFs or newspapers.

If you don’t want a dedicated reading device then Kindle is not the right choice.

Nook Color is a reading tablet that doubles up as a semi-Android Tablet

Nook Color (and this is all based on Nook Color reviews) is basically an Android based Tablet that B&N is trying to mold into a reading tablet -

  1. It’s focused on reading but not dedicated to it. That means you can read and also stream music (Pandora) and even watch movies (some formats work better than others).  
  2. It has great screen resolution – better than iPad and a tiny bit better than Kindle. 
  3. It uses a special layer above the LCD screen to reduce glare – opinions on the effectiveness are mixed.
  4. It has color and touch so magazines, children’s books, and comics look great.  
  5. It will build its own App Store and limit apps to reading related apps and perhaps some of the more popular apps.

You basically get a focus on reading which iPad lacks. B&N will try and ensure the focus on reading is preserved by limiting what apps are available and by adding touches like the special layer over the screen that is suppoed to reduce glare and enhance readability.

You are free from distractions – to a certain extent. You also, and this is just a guess, probably get a pretty decent reading experience. Not as good as the Kindle but definitely better than the iPad.

The 7″ screen is also much better for reading than the iPad’s awkwardly large 10″ screen and the slightly smaller 6″ Kindle screen.

B&N’s Nook Color offers two very enticing possibilities to two very different groups of customers -

  • If you want a reading tablet then you can stick with B&N’s tightly reviewed app store which will supposedly only allow reading related apps. The device itself is build around reading which also helps a lot.  
  • If you want a cheap Android tablet then you can either hope a decent number of general apps make it in or you can root the Nook Color and get all the apps from the Android app store.

Basically, if you want a reading device that’s focused on reading and can also do other things then the Nook Color is perfect for you. It’s also a great choice if you want a cheap Android tablet.

At $249 the Nook Color appears to be (will confirm this over the next few days) an incredible value proposition. It’s as good a deal as Kindle WiFi and, arguably, delivers more value for money than Kindle and iPad.

Things to Know before you buy the Nook Color

If you are a reading purist or read more than 2 books a month the Kindle 3 is a much better choice.

It’s B&N’s first attempt to make a ‘reading tablet’. The foundation is an Android tablet so there are compromises – it’s not as easy on the eyes as eInk (unless you’re LCD-compatible), it isn’t readable in direct sunlight or in bright light settings, it doesn’t have great battery life (8 hours with wireless off).

The iPad is much better if you’d like one or more of the following – tens of thousands of non-reading related apps, the ability to watch TV and movies, a device specialized for playing games, the option to use your reading device as a status indicator.

If you read just one or two books a year or less, then the Nook Color is probably not the right choice – unless you are tech-savvy enough to root it and use it as a mini-Android Tablet.

iPad as the do-everything device that also lets you read

If reading is not a top 3 passion for you then the iPad probably trumps the Nook Color and Kindle as your ideal reading device.

Here’s what the iPad offers -

  1. A very well polished, good-looking tablet that extends the iOS to a 10″ tablet computer.
  2. A device optimized for games and movies and TV.
  3. A bright color screen with multi-touch support, decent screen resolution, and a powerful back-light. 
  4. Reading Apps from all the major companies – It’s the only device in the Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad comparison that lets you access Kindle books and Nook books.
  5. Apps to add PDF support and ways to add support for library books.
  6. Lots and lots of apps and ways to pass the time. It’s the ultimate time-pass/consumption/entertainment device.
  7. A decent price for an Apple device – $499 for the lowest capacity WiFi version. It is an Apple product and you get some Steve Jobs RDF pixie dust sprinkled over it which works on nearly everyone.

The iPad is impressive. It does nearly everything you ask it to and it can be used as a reading device. If you’re LCD-compatible and not easily distracted you can even argue that it’s the best dedicated reading device on the planet capable of playing Angry Birds.

If you hardly read or if TV and games are more important to you than reading or if you think Steve Jobs walks on water (though in his case it’s purified, crystallized, triple-distilled, revolutionarily pure iWater) then the iPad is a no-brainer.

iPad is the only device in the Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad comparison that is great at everything other than reading. Which brings us to the caveats.

iPad isn’t perfect – especially if you like to read and aren’t LCD-compatible

If you’re looking for a device you can read regularly on there are a few things to watch out for -

  1. If you’re not LCD-compatible you’re not going to like reading on an iPad very much. It hurts the eyes and can mess with sleep patterns and it’s not got the screen contrast that Kindle and Nook Color do.
  2. It’s heavy and large and awkward. One handed reading is out of the question and even two-handed reading gets tiring. 
  3. It’s relatively expensive at $499 and then you have add-ons like screen protectors and cases and docks and special cables.
  4. Battery life is good at 12 hours and better than Nook Color – However, it’s rather low compared to the Kindle’s healthy 2 to 4 weeks battery life.  
  5. You’ll probably read less than you think – there are lots of distractions and it’s better for TV and games than for reading. The path of least resistance will be Not Reading.
  6. It’s the opposite of open. You can only get software from the Apple App Store. There are no USB ports.
  7. It’s a very hit or miss device – For every 2 people who love it there’s 1 who can’t find any use for it.

Basically, the iPad is not a good option if you’re looking for a device primarily for reading – unless you’re LCD compatible. It’s probably a very good option if you’re looking for a device that you can read on once in a while. If you’re reading more than a few books a year it’s not a good choice.

Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad – 3 very different devices

The Kindle is your best bet if you read a lot or would like to read more. Nook Color is your best bet if you want a reading device that can also do other things well.

iPad is your best bet if you don’t really read much or are LCD-compatible. Kindle and Nook Color are focused on reading while the iPad treats reading like one out of a dozen side-features – it isn’t really optimized for reading.

Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad comes down to how much you read and how much you would like to read. The Kindle and Nook Color are both good choices if you love/like to read – Kindle if you read more than 2 books a month and Nook Color if you read more than a few books a year but less than 2 a month.

Kindle vs Nook Color – Nook Color Review Compilation

Does the Kindle 3 have to worry about Nook Color?

Well, from the first few Nook Color reviews we get a rather surprising answer – Not at first, but Eventually.

Let’s start by looking at what the various Nook Color Reviews have to say.

Nook Color Review Compilation

CNet Nook Color Review by David Carnoy

David Carnoy likes quite a few things about the Nook Color -

  1. Vibrant 7″ color screen with touch.  
  2. Zippy performance.  
  3. 8 GB memory plus expansion up to 40 GB via microSD card slot.
  4. PDF, Word, and ePub support.
  5. Audio and MP3 support.
  6. Support for some video formats.  
  7. It’s half the price of an iPad.
  8. The look of the Nook Color. Have to agree with him. It does look good.
  9. The weight being much less than the iPad.
  10. Elegant UI and it’s easy to operate and navigate. Good general responsiveness – not as good as the iPad.
  11. Magazines look pretty good on the device.
  12. Very good with PDFs – better than eInk Readers. That should come as no surprise – it couldn’t really be worse.
  13. It’s great shopping in the Nook Store.
  14. Nook Color is a much more polished eReader than Nook 1 was. Well, it would have to try very hard indeed to be less polished than Nook 1 was.
  15. If B&N can improve its app offerings it might not be worth it to move to another, bigger Android Tablet.

Yeah, his Nook Color review is pretty positive.

He doesn’t like a few things -

  1. Only 8 hours battery life. 
  2. No access to Android Market. B&N has said that a Nook App Store will open in early 2011. 
  3. Not enough apps at launch.
  4. Battery is not user replaceable.
  5. The weight is nearly twice that of the Kindle. You have to prop it up against something when reading.

David Carnoy really likes Nook Color and he lays out his argument well. It’s hard not to agree with his review bottom line -

Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color is a very capable color touch-screen e-book reader–and delivers some notable extras–for half the price of an iPad.

He also adds two interesting thoughts -

With a handful of additional apps, such as a dedicated e-mail client, more games, more media apps … the Nook Color could be enough of an Android tablet for most users 

It splits the difference between the iPad and the Kindle pretty well, offering the color touch-screen … at a price and size that’s half that of the iPad.

This is the best Nook Color Review. Having a video review is a bonus – though the video is poor.

ComputerWorld Nook Color Review by Melissa J. Petersen

She reviews Nook Color and finds some things she likes -

  1. A superbly integrated, largely satisfying, and unique (for now) ereading experience.  
  2. Potential to deliver far more. Lots of reviews have this thread of ‘future potential’ running through them.
  3. She feels that NookColor’s display and intuitive interface deliver a solid one-two punch. The display having in-plane switching is pretty impressive.
  4. Letters were very readable and much better than on the iPad – Nook Color has 169 pixels per inch while iPad has only 132 pixels per inch.
  5. Handles light well and is somewhat readable in situations where other LCD screen devices aren’t readable. B&N talks about using a special film to reduce glare and reviewers have differed on how effective it is – This is the only review that feels the special screen makes Nook Color readable in very bright light situations.
  6. A lot of praise for the interface and main screen. Think that’s well deserved.
  7. Great for magazines.

Things she doesn’t like -

  1. Weight of 15.8 ounces which is a lot more than Kindle 3’s 8.7 ounces.
  2. No physical back button and over-dependence on touch screen.
  3. Having to be very particular with touch interface – it’s easy to accidentally do the wrong thing.  
  4. You can only use the special B&N charger to recharge. Any microUSB cable can be used for transfers.
  5. Pixel depth isn’t the same as iPhone 4 Retina display.
  6. No Flash Support.

She’s very positive overall and ends with this -

Barnes & Noble’s NookColor succeeds in combining much of the readability of the E-Ink based e-readers with the speed, customization, and graphical advantages of the LCD-based e-reading apps on competing touch screen devices, phone or tablet.

And at $249, NookColor even has limited viability as a reasonably priced, contract-free tablet …

The full Nook Color review is at ComputerWorld.

A tip of the hat to both these reviewers for reviewing Nook Color as an eReader. It’s really great to see main stream reviewers who don’t have a ‘every device should be a do-everything tablet’ attitude. 

Engadget’s Nook Color Review by Joshua Topolsky

Engadget has some of the clearest photos and the best video quality. It’s interesting – it almost seems as if the other reviewers wanted to show Nook Color is readable even in bad lighting conditions and sacrificed image and video quality for that.

Things Engadget loves -

  1. The design. Engadget thinks it’s an elegant, thoughtfully designed piece of technology. Totally agree with that.
  2. TI OMAP 3621 processor that runs at 800 MHz.
  3. 512 MB of RAM which is super impressive.
  4. They played Angry Birds on a dev unit and it worked just a well as on an iPad or Galaxy Tab. Depending on your perspective that’s either good or bad.
  5. You can move around and prioritize your content as you like. This feature and the bottom corner loop really make me happy – we need eReaders to let us mark them as ours.
  6. There’s a social network for lending. Interesting.
  7. Photos and PDFs work great.
  8. Great price point.

Things Engadget doesn’t like -

  1. It weighs nearly a pound.
  2. Despite the special screen coating B&N has added reading in bright locations is sometimes difficult.
  3. Pandora and Music Player can play over each other.
  4. Video support is spotty.
  5. Lag issues. Engadget feels the touch response and refresh rates were ‘way behind the curve’.

You can read Engadget’s Nook Color Review at Engadget.

It’s hard not to get the feeling that Engadget is reviewing Nook Color as a Tablet and throwing in a few bits based on what it thinks people who read care about. It’s pretty clear from the review’s ending paragraph -

 if B&N delivers on its desire to create a marketplace for Nook Color apps, you could be spending $249 not just for a great reading experience, but for something far bigger.

For the price, you’re getting a lot of product here — now it’s just a question of whether or not Barnes & Noble knows how to take advantage of that product.

Trust Engadget to end an eReader review by wishing that the eReader soon changes into a do-everything Tablet.

PC Mag Nook Color Review by Dan Costa, David Pierce

Things they like -

  1. Bright, 7″ LCD screen with 16 million colors.
  2. Intuitive touch based navigation.
  3. Runs third-party apps. To be more precise – a few. It will add more when the Nook App Store opens.
  4. Lots of periodicals available. 
  5. Color and contrast that blows eInk away.
  6. You can read it without a light.
  7. Can read comfortably with one hand. Find this really hard to believe – it’s 15.8 ounces.

They give it their Editor’s Choice for color ebook readers which is infinitely amusing – Nook Color is the only color eReader available.

Things they don’t like -

  1. Only WiFi – no 3G.
  2. Proprietary AC adapter. It can’t be charged by a standard micro-USB charger. Who do they think they are – Apple?
  3. Battery life is short for an eReader.
  4. Bigger and heavier than Kindle 3 and Nook 1.  
  5. Daily charging needed if you read for more than a few hours a day.  

Their bottomline -

More than an ebook reader, less than a full-blown tablet, the Nook Color’s artful compromises make for a compelling, color reading experience that is ideal for both books and magazines.

You can read PC Mag’s Nook Color Review at its site.

CrunchGear Nook Color Review by John Biggs

The highs -

  1. It is a reading device. John Biggs points out that the focus is on reading and the Nook Developer program also makes it clear that B&N wants reading related apps.
  2. Great for children’s books.  
  3. Lend Me and how it’s a big advantage for Nook Color over Kindle. Guess people aren’t aware Amazon will be adding lending soon (in 2010 itself).  

He’s mostly negative – It’s like he’s upset B&N made a dedicated reading device instead of making an Android Tablet.

The lows -

  1. Newspapers are a dud.  
  2. CrunchGear thinks Nook Color is physically unimpressive and the hook on the bottom left is ‘wacky’.
  3. Browser is average at best.  
  4. No back button and most pages are missing a Back button.
  5. Calls it – ‘a more expensive Kindle with a color screen’. He means it in a bad way but don’t think being a more expensive Kindle with a color screen is necessarily a bad thing.  
  6. WiFi only. Again, don’t see why this is so bad.
  7. No good in direct sunlight. Apparently, when iPad has it then it’s not an issue – “Who reads in direct sunlight anyways?” Nook Color has it and suddenly it’s Nook Color’s biggest drawback.

You can read the entire CrunchGear Nook Color Review at CrunchGear. The commenters tear apart the review and quite frankly the review is a bit of a dud.

Gizmodo Nook Color Review

Things Gizmodo likes -

  1. About as good as reading can be on a backlit glass screen.  
  2. Exactly what a 7″ tablet should look and feel like. Notice the tablet-fascination – it’s a thread running through the entire Gizmodo Nook Color review.  
  3. 7″ size is ideal for reading books.
  4. ePub support.
  5. Free access to any book for up to an hour per day when in B&N Stores. Read as many books as you like out of the entire B&N eBook collection for an hour each when in a B&N store.
  6. LendMe feature.
  7. Great price.  

Things Gizmodo doesn’t like -

  1. Deceptively heavy at 15.8 ounces.
  2. Gizmodo doesn’t like the magazine and newspaper reading experience.
  3. Interaction is chunky.
  4. Animations, touch, and transitions are slow and occasionally laggy.
  5. No animated page turns. Seriously – both Gizmodo and Engadget are upset that they can’t amuse themselves with animated page turns.
  6. No pinch to zoom in the web browser.
  7. A lot more negatives about how it isn’t a Tablet and how it isn’t an iPad.  

Gizmodo makes a good point that Nook Color needs more reading oriented apps -

I kept thinking how great Nook Color would be with a few apps to really round it out as a do-it-all reader:

something like Instapaper to save web articles for offline reading; Flipboard to pull in articles people are sharing on Facebook and Twitter; a good RSS reader.

It ends with this -

Caught between two worlds, the Nook Color is an undeniably interesting, if somewhat conflicted device. It’s not quite a tablet, but it’s more than a simple ebook reader.

It can do things that an e-ink reader simply can’t—even if it doesn’t always excel at them—but it’s nearly as cheap at $250.

By this stage had gone through CrunchGear and Engadget’s ‘We wish this was a Tablet’ diatribes and Gizmodo’s ‘Lament for My Tablet’ was torture. The music choice for their 45 second video was laughably bad – not to mention that the video showed none of the Nook Color’s features.

How about a Nook Color video review? Surely, you didn’t bring together your hand, a video camera, a music player, and the Nook Color to create abstract art.

Gizmodo’s laughably bad Lament for My Tablet review.

Kindle vs Nook Color – thoughts on Nook Color

My main thought after reading these reviews is that it would be nice to know how many, if any, full books each of these reviewers read before writing their Nook color review. B&N should hand out review copies to the devs at NookDevs and to a few of the regulars at the official Nook Blog. They would provide a much better perspective than Engadget and CrunchGear.

Thankfully, CNet and Computer World do a pretty good job and those two reviews should be enough for most people to make a decision.

Here are some of my thoughts on the Nook Color.  

The Good Things about Nook Color

  1. The display is solid – a LED-backlit display with 1024 by 600 pixels resolution and 169 pixels per inch.
  2. You have to give B&N credit for trying to reduce glare by adding a special screen. It doesn’t seem to have worked though.
  3. The main home screen looks very impressive. It needs to be faster/smoother but the idea of letting users put anything on there and letting them resize things is very cool.
  4. The 7″ size is very good. It’s 8.1″ by 5″ by 0.48″.
  5. Almost all reviewers think the interface is easy and intuitive.
  6. 8 GB is a lot of books. Being able to expand to 40 GB is even better.  
  7. B&N is pitching it perfectly for children’s books and magazines.
  8. The way you can navigate through magazines is great. As is Article Mode that lets you focus on the text part of magazines articles.
  9. From the Engadget video it looks like it might have full-fledged folders. There are also a ton of options – it’s nice to have six different fonts and the option to use Publisher defaults.
  10. It’s a bona-fide contender for the title of ‘Best Android Tablet. Period.’  – provided B&N does a good job of adding apps.
  11. It’ll steal sales from iPad. Not many people are pointing this out – but it will. It’ll also sell a lot to people who don’t ever intend to read a book on it. It’s surprising that B&N isn’t catering to these people.
  12. Decent music player and excellent store.

B&N doesn’t realize that people who don’t read books might play a part in making its supposed ‘dedicated reading device’ a success.

In fact, it’s quite probable that people looking for a cheap Android Tablet and not people looking for a dedicated eReader will make Nook Color a success.  

Questionable Choices and Nook Color Negatives

  1. Weight. 15.8 ounces is a lot.
  2. The price seems a bit high if you’re thinking of buying it as an eReader. 
  3. 8 GB is not enough for what is, in effect, a 7″ Tablet.  
  4. A lot depends on what B&N does – What apps will it add? How many apps will it add? What book range and book price improvements will it make? What extra features will it add?  
  5. Most reviewers are assuming it will fulfil most of its potential. That’s a dangerous assumption and a very big one.
  6. From the Nook Color videos it’s clear that it’s not as good as eInk for reading.
  7. Newspapers are terrible.  
  8. Android 2.1 is a bit ancient and a strange choice.

Truthfully, there isn’t much to complain about. It’s a pretty good eReader.

The reviewers are split over whether it’s ‘zippy’ or ‘laggy’. Which probably means it’s fast enough and lag is not a deal-breaker. 

B&N is making a very strong attempt to paint Nook Color as a ‘dedicated reading device’ – some reviewers are buying it and some aren’t.  

If Apple or another ‘Beloved of the Press’ company had released this it would be considered revolutionary and Engadget would think it had created an entire new segment. If Amazon had released it everyone would claim it shows there’s no future for eReaders and would then attack it for not having animated page turns and wooden shelves. Since it’s B&N people don’t know whether to oversell it or attack it. They are surprised by it being good and confused by it being focused on reading.

Well, that brings us to our main question.

Is Nook Color a Kindle Threat?

Not at first, but Eventually.

What no one is talking about is that, at $249, Nook Color is going to get all the casual readers who want ‘an eReader that does more than just read’. It might surprise some Apple people but a lot of people go out of their way to not own any Apple products and a lot of people can’t afford $500 for a Tablet/eReader.

What do you think they are going to buy?

The potential market for Nook Color will be determined by two conflicting things -

  1. How quickly it adds high quality apps. How well the Nook App Store develops.
  2. How focused on reading B&N remains.

The first will determine the number of people who buy Nook Color as a cheap tablet. The second will determine the number of people looking for an eReader that choose Nook Color.

B&N could focus on adding lots of apps and round-up a ton of the people looking for tablets. It could also stay focused on reading and try to win a larger share of the eReader market.

Whichever direction it chooses it’s a threat to Kindle – If it stays focused on reading it’ll get a lot of the ‘1 to 3 books a month’ readers. If it expands the App Store quickly and freely it’ll become the #1 Android Tablet and be in position to make Nook Store the only available ebook store.

B&N has managed to do the unthinkable – It has created a Nook Color that is a major threat to both Kindle and iPad.

Nook Color sales are going to hurt both Kindle sales and iPad sales. If B&N expands its app store quickly it is going to hurt iPad sales a lot.

Kindle vs Nook Color – Much more interesting

The focus on reading means that Kindle vs Nook Color comparisons might be far more relevant than everyone had thought. My Kindle vs Nook Color post had concluded they were completely different devices and to a certain extent they are.

However, B&N is approaching three segments of the reader market – semi-casual readers (a few books a year), casual readers (a book a month), borderline serious readers (a couple of books a month) and offering them an incredible value proposition.

Kindle 3 targets one of these three segments (borderline serious readers) and Kindle Apps for various platforms target the other two segments. The latter strategy is working exceptionally well as illustrated by the recent iPad survey (500 people only) which showed that more people read on Kindle for iPad than on iBooks.

Nook Color is very tempting to people in all three of these categories and if Amazon doesn’t move quickly to address the threat (price cuts, Color Kindle, etc.) it will start losing all three segments to B&N. It’s doubtful that B&N thought through things in this way – it probably just wanted to replace eInk readers with color ereaders. However, it’s put itself into prime position to go from 15% market share in eReaders and eBooks to 30% or more.

In a week or so will have a Nook Color Review ready – my intuition says B&N has a big hit on its hands. It might try its best to avoid being the best-selling Android Tablet but in the end its users who decide.

Kindle expands its reach, 2 free kindle books

First, for your Kindle 3 or Kindle 2 or 1 or Kindle DX here are two free kindle books -

  1. Kaplan New GRE: An Introduction to the GRE Revised General Test by Kaplan Test Prep. Price: Free. Genre: Education, College, Children.

    The GRE is changing in August 2011!

    What can you expect from the GRE revised General Test? Should you take the test now or wait? These questions and more are answered in this introduction to the new exam.

  2. Shatter (The Children of Man) by Elizabeth C. Mock. Genre: Epic, Fantasy, Genre Fiction. Price: Free. Rated 4.5 stars on 17 reviews. This is free again and seems worth acquiring.

    Growing up during the chaos of the Nabosian War, Faela Durante and her entire generation never knew what it meant to live in a time of peace. Though the war ended years ago, the devastation has not. Every decision, no matter how seemingly insignificant, has a consequence and some consequences can never be predicted. But some are foretold.

    Less than a year ago, Faela, the first Tereskan mind healer in generations, disappeared from her family home in Finalaran scared and pregnant. Hunted and living as an outcast, Faela searches for a legend that might be her only hope of gaining atonement and returning to her son. When her journey collides with two strangers and a prophecy, she must choose between trusting those around her or endangering her mission.

It seems we’ll have to wait until November to get our 30-free-books-a-day fix again.

Next, let’s look at the Kindle’s relentless expansion.

Kindle for Windows Phone 7 to arrive in 2010

We’d analyzed Kindle job openings a few days ago and had figured out that Kindle would soon be coming to Windows Mobile and WebOS. The first is now officially confirmed as Amazon has announced that by end of the year we’ll see Kindle for Windows Phone 7.

The main details on Kindle for Windows Phone 7 -

  1. Shop without leaving the app.
  2. 725,000 books from the Kindle Store.
  3. WhisperSync integration to save your place in a book as you read across devices.
  4. Email a friend with a link to any book in your library from the Kindle for Windows Phone 7 app itself.
  5. 5 different font sizes and three page colors.

It seems like a decent Version 1.

Tim Carmody at Wired makes a very good point about how quickly Kindle Apps and other eReader apps have spread -

Think about it: just a year ago, there were only a few e-book apps, some by companies that are dwindling if not long gone. Now nearly every e-bookstore has a reading app on every screen you can carry.

He also points out that Wattpad is the only eReading app available for Windows Phone 7 at launch. The usual suspects – Nook, Kobo, Stanza – are missing.

Nook Color has a pretty powerful processor – ARM Cortex A8-based OMAP3621

Thanks to Joe Siegler and Engadget we find out that Nook Color isn’t just a pretty face -

Texas Instruments has now come out and confirmed that the Nook Color uses its ARM Cortex A8-based, 45nm OMAP3621 processor (still no word on the speed). What’s more, the processor is actually part of TI’s eBook Development Platform, which the Nook Color also relies on.

This is pretty significant for a few reasons -

  1. The OMAP3621 runs at 800 MHz – As a comparison the iPad uses its own A4 chip running at 1 GHz which combines an ARM based CPU with a PowerVR GPU and 256 MB DRAM. 
  2. The above, in effect, means that the difference between Nook Color and iPad isn’t as high as the Apple people would like us to believe and provided B&N hasn’t messed up the software things like video should work just fine. Here are three comments from Engadget that sum up my sentiments precisely -

    $250 for a cortex A8 + 1024×600 IPS screen is pretty damn aggressive pricing.

    Agreed, this could be the “ultimate” android tablet for high power for low price.

    Just wait till this thing gets rooted and we’ll finally have a really affordable Android tablet

  3. The use of Texas Instruments’ eBook Development Platform makes for some very interesting future possibilities including things B&N could unlock. For example – There’s support for 3G connectivity so Nook Color 2 could add 3G support.
  4. There’s also the possibility of adding support for things like a keyboard and an EPD Panel (EPD = electrophoretic display i.e. eInk). In theory that allows B&N to switch to color eInk or to provide an add-on keyboard down the line. B&N might never take advantage – yet it’s good to know there’s so much flexibility and that Nook Color is built on a dedicated eBook Development Platform. 
  5. Perhaps most importantly the use of TI’s eBook Dev Platform means that B&N can easily switch back to eInk anytime.

Texas Instruments writes about Nook Color on its site -

NOOKcolor runs on TI’s OMAP3621 (ARM Cortex™-A8 processor-based) applications processor.

OMAP3621 delivers a robust, multitasking environment required to simultaneously run the eReader’s new feature-rich applications, which exercise the CPU, multimedia and graphics engines. 

NOOKcolor represents the very first commercial launch of a reading-centric product using TI’s OMAP hardware and Android software architecture that we announced at CES 2010.

Texas Instruments also talks about the tuning that had to be done to support video and multimedia -

Video playback in reading applications posed some technical challenges, particularly with integration. The TI team helped tune the Android multimedia framework and TI OMX components to improve multimedia performance.

rich 2D & 3D graphics rendering combined with simultaneous video playback of embedded video clips drove new complex multimedia use cases with intense power demands. We met those demands

Texas Instruments is a very solid company and its participation belies the claims that Nook Color will be incapable of handling video or performing well. Unless B&N messes up its part of the software the Nook Color should do just fine.

The unthinkable has happened – B&N has released the best Android tablet out so far. A nice bonus is that it is much better value for money than the iPad. It’s quite interesting that multiple Apple blogs have attacked the Nook Color viciously.

Of course, Nook Color is missing aircraft grade aluminium so the iPad’s core market is probably safe.

We officially have a new Reading Device segment

We now have 5 main reading device segments -

  1. The really cheap, eInk based, dedicated eReader. The $139 Kindle WiFi is the prime example. 
  2. The reasonably priced, eInk based, dedicated eReader.  Here we have the $189 Kindle 3 and the $179 and $229 Sony Readers.
  3. The very cheap, multi-purpose device that is also a decent reading option. The Nook Color with its $249 price has carved out this segment – At the moment it has zero competition. The powerful processor and impressive screen prove it isn’t just a jumbled together Android monstrosity.
  4. The expensive multi-purpose device that is also a decent reading option. That would be the iPad. The iPad doesn’t really have any competition at the moment. That might change in the next 4 to 9 months.
  5. The expensive, large screen, dedicated reading device. An example would be the Kindle DX at $379. This is a pretty small segment due to the comparatively low value for money offered.

It would be dangerous for Apple and Amazon to underestimate B&N. It’s looking like Nook Color strikes a reasonable compromise between the Kindle and the iPad and will carve out a decent sized market segment for itself.

Kindle vs Nook Color

The Kindle 3 faces competition from a Nook Color that is more Android Tablet than Dedicated eReader. Before we jump into Kindle vs Nook Color let’s list a few disclaimers -

  1. Kindle 3 and Nook Color are completely different devices. Kindle 3 is the best dedicated reading device and Nook Color is, unexpectedly, the best Android Tablet under $300 and a passable eReader.  
  2. Nook Color doesn’t come out until November 17th – So this Kindle vs Nook Color review is based on information and photos provided by B&N.
  3. This is a Kindle Blog and a blog focused on dedicated reading devices. Please factor in the unintended but implicit bias against a do-everything, LCD screen, mini-iPad device like the Nook Color.

Let’s start by looking at the Nook Color’s advantages.

Kindle vs Nook Color – Nook Color wins a lot of areas

The Nook Color is pretty impressive and it clearly wins some areas -

  1. You can do more than just read – video, music (Pandora’s preloaded), color photos, games.
  2. 7″ color touch screen with 1025 by 600 pixels. That’s a slightly bigger screen than the Kindle 3 with color and touch.  
  3. If both color and touch are important to you consider the previous benefit as two benefits.
  4. Value for money – If you’re looking for an Android Tablet or an eReader that can do more than just read $250 is a really good price.
  5. Supports ePub and library books.
  6. Android 2.1 so you get the promise of Android.
  7. Android based App Store that might get more apps than Kindle App Store since there are so many Android developers. For the moment Nook comes with Sudoku, Crosswords, and Chess.
  8. Retail – It’s sold through WalMart (which doesn’t sell Kindle) and through other stores that do sell Kindle (such as BestBuy).
  9. 8 GB Memory and a microSD card slot.
  10. It’s a LCD screen tablet so web browsing, games, and apps work much better.  
  11. You can use QuickOffice to create, edit, and view Office files. This is a very impressive feature.
  12. It looks very good. Supposedly Yves Behar or some fancy design company designed it. It has a slot at the bottom left where you can add charms and stuff. Just the sort of thing to let you make it uniquely yours.  
  13. Thanks to color and B&N’s new-found focus on kids and magazines the Nook Color is a very good choice for children’s books and for magazines and newspapers.
  14. Features you can access at B&N’s stores like reading any book for free for up to an hour a day.

B&N has certainly done well with what it had to work with – it’s positioned Nook Color very uniquely and it has created a surprisingly good Android Tablet.  

Kindle vs Nook Color – Apples and Oranges

It’s worth pointing out that Kindle vs Nook Color is an almost pointless comparison.

  • Kindle is a dedicated reading device for people who love to read. It’s an uncompromised approach to reading.
  • Nook Color is B&N’s attempt to reframe what an eReader could and should be. It’s a reading device that is not as good for reading but offers the ability to do a lot more. It’s what the iPad Mini threatened to be – a $249 Tablet that tests the resolve of book lovers and caters to casual readers.
  • It’s very likely that you will clearly prefer one – If you read less than a book a month and can’t afford the iPad then Nook is your dream device. If you love to read books and read often enough to justify a dedicated reading device (a book a month or more) then the Kindle is your dream device.

Depending on how much you read and how much you would like to read Kindle vs Nook Color is a very easy decision. If you would like to read more or if you already read a lot pick the Kindle. If you read once in a while pick the Nook Color.

Kindle vs Nook Color – Areas Kindle wins

The Kindle does very well in some areas -

  1. Kindle is 100% focused on reading.
  2. The eInk screen is great for reading. It’s readable in sunlight and easy on the eyes as it reflects light.
  3. You get the Kindle Store which is better than other stores in both book availability and price. B&N’s store isn’t bad but it’s a clear second.
  4. Great battery life. 10 days with wireless on. 3 weeks with WiFi on. Up to a month with wireless off. The Nook Color lasts a paltry 8 hours.
  5. 3G connectivity in addition to WiFi. This is pretty useful – especially as it bundles in free Internet browsing.
  6. Kindle 3 is $60 cheaper. Kindle WiFi, at $139, is $110 cheaper.  
  7. Much lower weight – Kindle 3 weighs 8.7 ounces while Nook Color weighs a painful 15.8 ounces. The weight of the Color Nook will be a deal breaker for a lot of people.
  8. More compact and thinner – Kindle is 7.5″ by 4.8″ by 0.335″ while Nook Color is 8.1″ by 5″ by 0.48″.
  9. Kindle is available now. You don’t have to wait till the 17th of November.
  10. Kindle App store is further along than Nook App Store. There are 3 free games and 3 paid games and by the time Nook Apps arrive (early 2011) there might be dozens or hundreds of Kindle Apps.
  11. Kindle’s Read to Me feature reads books to you. This can be turned off by Publishers – However 50% or so of books have this enabled and it’s a very useful feature.

Kindle 3 and Nook Color are suddenly competing in completely different markets. B&N has done a great job of reinventing the Nook as a device that will steal casual readers from the Kindle and will also appeal to people who can’t afford the iPad or want an alternative.

It’s a stroke of genius. B&N has decided to create an entirely different market – It’s a market that is much larger than the market for a dedicated reading device and as long as a $300 mini-iPad doesn’t materialize B&N ought to do very well. Quite frankly, if someone had told me the best Android tablet would come from Barnes & Noble it would seem absurd but that’s exactly what Nook Color might be – the best Android Tablet, the best value for money Android Tablet.

Let’s see if the actual device lives up to the promise.

Kindle vs Nook Color – They’re totally different devices

It seems B&N has decided it can’t beat Amazon at its own game so it’s trying to change the game. The Nook Color is a very, very different device from the Kindle -

  1. You should get the Kindle 3 (or the Kindle WiFi) if you want – a dedicated reading device, the best reading experience thanks to eInk, the best range of ebooks at the lowest prices, free Internet browsing, amazing battery life, the text to speech feature, lightness and compactness, immediate availability.
  2. Basically, the Kindle is the best device for people who love to read or want to read more.
  3. You should get the Nook Color if you want – color screen, touch, a device suited to magazines and newspapers, color children’s books, the promise of Android, the ability to do more than just read, ePub and library book support, expandable memory.
  4. The Nook Color is, arguably, the best Android Tablet and much better value for money than something like the iPad.

Kindle 3 is the best device of its type (dedicated reading device) and the Nook Color is, rather surprisingly, the best device of its type (tablet you can also read books on). As long as you prioritize your needs and pick the one that better suits your top needs you can’t go wrong with your Kindle vs Nook Color decision.

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