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 -
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
- It’s packed very well and the cover is very smartly done. Nook Color is very, very well packed in terms of avoiding damage.
- 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.
- 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’).
- 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.
- 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
- Color might not make a spot of difference when reading a book. However, it sure makes everything look pretty.
- 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.
- 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 -
- 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.
- It’s a bit of a different approach – The focus is on making things good and not on making them perfect.
- 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.
- You can tap on an edge or swipe to turn pages.
- You can tap on the top left corner to add a bookmark.
- Tap on the middle to open the menu.
- 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 -
- It displays text crisply.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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) -
- It’s not easy on the eyes like eInk.
- The light coming right at you is a bother. You can adjust the brightness right from the book itself which helps a bit.
- 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 -
- Nook Color is very well suited for reading magazines, reading children’s books, reading books with illustrations and photos, and for browsing sites.
- Nook Color is quite good for reading books and playing music.
- 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 -
- You can root Nook Color and get a full-fledged Android mini-tablet. Zero restrictions.
- 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.
- 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.
- First, there’s color. It’s used intelligently.
- Next, there’s touch – touch done right.
- 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 -
- Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi getting 70% or more of the dedicated eReader market with Nook 1 stalling at around 10 to 15%.
- 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.
- 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 -
- 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.
- It gives B&N a larger share of the ebooks market.
- 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.