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 3 under threat due to poor retail availability, rival eReader offers

The Kindle 3 might be in for a very interesting holiday season.

On paper the holiday season seems like it should be a cakewalk for the Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi -

  1. B&N has gone with a color-screen Nook Color instead of releasing an eInk Pearl based Nook 2. 
  2. Sony has hidden behind its claim that its focusing on quality and not competing on price.
  3. There are hardly any worthy Android tablets.
  4. iPad hasn’t killed eReader sales.
  5. No strong, new eReader rivals have emerged and no eReaders with Pixel Qi or Mirasol or Color eInk screens have emerged.

Given these data points you have to wonder what could stop the Kindle 3 from taking an even more dominant market position.

Well, there are actually a few serious threats to the Kindle 3′s take-over of the eReader market this holiday season. Let’s take a look at a couple of the more worrying ones.

Kindle Retail Availability is still poor

Here’s a comment from a user who bought a Nook because he couldn’t find a Kindle -

… this made me decide to go with Kindle 3.  But they seem to treat this thing like tickets to a Hot Rock concert!  I would have to just about camp in front of the store to get one.

Well guess what.  I am not a teenager anymore and if you want me to buy your product, and you announce on the news that it is now sold at Target, Best Buy, Staples, etc. One of those stores better have it in All of Houston.

So I bought the Nook, even though I love to have the latest technology. 

The problem is actually much deeper than ‘being sold out’ in all of Houston -

  1. Firstly, Amazon is available at far less stores – Nook is now available at WalMart and lots of other places Kindle isn’t retailed.
  2. Secondly, Amazon doesn’t have its own physical stores – Both B&N and Sony have their own stores from which they can sell Nooks and Sony Readers directly to customers.
  3. Thirdly, Amazon doesn’t send out enough stock. There are numerous cases of people talking about not being able to find a Kindle 3 at their nearest Target.
  4. Fourthly, Amazon severely limits the demo units so you can’t test out wireless and a lot of the other Kindle 3 features.

So we’ve gone from ‘Kindle isn’t available in brick and mortar stores’ to ‘Kindle puts in a guest appearance at a few stores but is usually impossible to find’.   

Nook and Sony Reader continue to have a big advantage in retail availability - very few people are going to keep trying to find a Kindle in stores when they can test out a Nook or Sony Reader in person and get it instantly.

Rival eReader makers are cutting prices mercilessly

Thanks to Lucy S we know Best Buy will have Nook WiFi available for $100 for Black Friday. It’s just 10 units per store but it’ll still sell a lot of Nooks and give Nook a lot of free publicity.

Now, courtesy MobileRead, we find out about some very good deals on the latest Sony Readers.

Nov 15th Update: B&H Photo changed prices from $170 to $200 and $120 to $150 a day after this post first went out.

B&H Photo now has the Sony Reader PRS-650 for $200 and the Sony Reader PRS-350 for $150. It’s also offering free shipping. The offers last till the 27th of November and make the PRS-650 close to the price of a Kindle 3 and the PRS-350 close to the price of a Kindle WiFi.

Sony Readers are going to be on sale at the Sony Store from November 15th to November 27th - 

  1. Sony Reader Pocket Edition PRS-350 will be $30 cheaper at $150 – that’s within shooting distance of the $139 Kindle WiFi.
  2. Sony Reader Touch Edition PRS-650 will be $30 cheaper at $200 – which brings it very close to the $189 Kindle 3.
  3. Sony Reader Daily Edition PR-950 will be $50 cheaper at $250. That’s the same price as Nook Color and not bad for a 7″ eInk Pearl screen.

Like Nook 1 the Sony Readers support library books and ePub and unlike Nook 1 they sport eInk Pearl screens. They also have touch. The PRS-650 suddenly seems very tempting. For most of November Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi will no longer be the obvious eReader choice.

For the first time since Kindle 3 was released users will have to think twice about what eReader to get. At $170 and with library book support and touch support the Sony PRS-650 is suddenly a very dangerous Kindle 3 opponent.

What does Amazon need to do to make Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi the clear #1 choices again?

Well, it’s quite simple -

  1. Drop Kindle 3 to $170.
  2. Drop Kindle WiFi to $110.
  3. Expand retail availability. WalMart is probably not going to embrace Amazon but other stores might.
  4. Make sure there is enough retail availability.
  5. Let users try out Kindles properly – make sure demo units allow users to explore full Kindle functionality.

Nook and Sony Reader have gone from disinterested competitors that had little chance to threaten the Kindle 3 to surprise contenders that threaten to steal away eReader sales from the Kindle. Perhaps they have finally realized that if they let the Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi run rampant this holiday season it might be the end of the eReader Wars.

Kindle vs Nook or Nook vs iPad? + 4 Kindle book deals

First, here are some kindle book deals -

  1. The Dark Divine by Bree Despain. Price: $2.39. Genre: Children, Family, Horror. Rated 4 stars on 129 reviews.

    Despain roots her story firmly in the faith of her protagonist’s family. Sixteen-year-old Grace Divine is a pastor’s daughter and has heard every joke possible about her name.

    But her family practices what her father preaches: community, caring, and forgiveness, including taking in a neighbor’s abused child and raising him as their own. That boy, Daniel, and Grace fall in love, and when Daniel reveals that he is a werewolf, Pastor Divine searches for remedies while trying to keep his family safe.  

  2. Works of Walt Whitman by Walt Whitman. Price: $0.95. Genre: Classics, Fiction, Poetry. Includes Leaves of Grass, Specimen Days, and Drum Taps.

    Navigate from Table of Contents or search for words and phrases.

    Complete Prose Works
    Drum Taps
    Leaves of Grass

  3. Waiting for SUPERMAN: How We Can Save America’s Failing Public Schools by Participant Media. Price: $6.64. Genre: Education, Children.

    The American public school system is in crisis, failing millions of students, producing as many drop-outs as graduates, and threatening our economic future. By 2020, the United States will have 123 million high-skill jobs to fill—and fewer than 50 million Americans qualified to fill them.

    Educators, parents, political leaders, business people, and concerned citizens are determined to save our educational system. Waiting for “Superman” offers powerful insights from some of those at the leading edge of educational innovation, including Bill and Melinda Gates, Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada, and more.

  4. Foreclosed: A Mitzy Neuhaus Mystery by Traci Tyne Hilton. Price: $0.99. Genre: Mystery, Woman Sleuths. Rated 5 stars on 3 reviews.

    One woman against the forces of the down turning economy, the real-estate crash, the unscrupulous foreclosures practices of bitter builders, and devilishly handsome Italian men.

Next, let’s look at the new Nook Color and the emerging consensus.

Nook Color more of an iPad challenger than a Kindle challenger

There are a few conclusions people are arriving at when it comes to the Nook Color -

  1. B&N has, in effect, left the dedicated eReader space to Kindle (and to a lesser extent to Sony Reader).
  2. Nook Color is, arguably, the best sub $400 Android Tablet released so far.
  3. It’s the best Android Tablet released so far.
  4. Nook Color is more of a threat to the iPad than to the Kindle.
  5. B&N restricting users to Apps from its own App Store is a big negative. Quite a few complaints about Kindle for Android being unavailable.
  6. eInk based eReaders are dead. Would argue against this but there’s no doubting that lots of people believe this.
  7. That they can’t decide whether it’s the best thing since sliced bread or absolutely unnecessary.

The last one is interesting – There’s the ‘best Android Tablet, bound to be a huge hit’ camp and there’s the ‘too expensive for an eReader, too few features for a tablet’ camp.

It’s illogical to use a $499 iPad as evidence that the $249 Nook Color is a failure. However, that is exactly what all the people attacking the Nook Color are doing. It’s a rather strange argument and it’s made even stranger by the fact that a lot of them are promptly turning around and claiming the $139 Kindle destroys the $249 Nook Color because it’s nearly half the price.

The strong buzz is very reminiscent of the strong buzz around the Nook 1. It’ll be interesting to see whether Nook Color meets expectations – Perhaps, just like Nook 1, it will be let down by slow, buggy software and will fail to have an impact (Nook did have a pretty big impact though – it’s just that it didn’t match the initial buzz).

The one thing that’s firmly established is that for people who want a dedicated reading device the Kindle is quickly becoming the only viable option. Sony has a terrible ebook store and there might never be another Nook with an eInk screen. Last year, B&N’s Christmas gift to Amazon was running out of Nook stock. This year, its Christmas Gift for Amazon is even better – it’s left the dedicated eReader space completely.

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