Have we reached the point of effective equality between all eReaders?

AKA

Is ‘Kindle vs Nook – Which Should I Get?’ now better written as ‘Kindle or Nook – It Doesn’t Matter’.

Seriously, let’s take a look at whether there’s any difference at all between getting a Kindle or a Nook 2. In particular, would you buy one and later regret it? If you wouldn’t regret either purchase – then it effectively implies that the two eReaders are now pretty much equal.

In the past Kindle vs Nook was not an easy choice

In Nov 2009, Kindle vs Nook was a tough decision

When Nook 1 was first announced, it had the following main advantages over the incumbent Kindle 2 - PDF support, ebook lending (even if it was/is just a token feature), library book support, replaceable battery, LCD touch-screen at the bottom, millions of free books from Google (although you could convert these for Kindle), ePub support, Chess and Sudoku, slightly better screen contrast, memory card slot, both WiFi and 3G.

Kindle 2 had significant advantages of its own – lower book prices, text to speech, free 3G Internet, faster speed, ease of use, better battery life (significantly better), second generation device (most of the bugs and issues had been worked out).

There were significant pros and cons to choosing Kindle over Nook (or vice versa).

In July 2010, Kindle 3 vs Nook tilted towards Kindle - but there were still consequences

In early 2010 the Agency Model eroded one of the Kindle’s biggest advantages. This made the Kindle vs Nook decision even tougher. But then Kindle 3 tilted things in favor of the Kindle.

When Kindle 3 was first announced it had the following main advantages over the Nook 1 – eInk Pearl screen, text to speech, free 3G internet browsing, slightly better PDF support, better browser, ease of use, light weight, compactness, battery life of a month, social features, being the third version of the Kindle (most issues were worked out). 

Because it was a third generation eReader, Kindle 3 easily outpaced Nook 1. However, you made significant sacrifices – no pretend-lending, no support for library books, no memory card, no replaceable battery, no ePub support, no color touchscreen at the bottom. 

In 2010, it was quite possible to pick one out of Kindle or Nook and later regret it.

In 2011, Nook 2 has made Kindle vs Nook a non-question

The features are so similar that, in combination with the Agency Model, it’s almost impossible to go wrong. All the biggest things – library book lending, pretend-lending (not a big feature but perceived as such, especially if you don’t have it), book prices, eInk Pearl screen, ease of use, speed, compactness, long battery life, light weight, availability of free books - are almost perfectly balanced.

Are you really going to regret it if you get a Kindle?

Let’s say you get a Kindle 3. The things you might possibly regret are now gone.

  1. Library Book Support – Arriving this year. 
  2. Pretend-Lending – Available. 
  3. WiFi support – Kindle 3 has it. 
  4. Replaceable battery - Nook 3 doesn’t have one. 
  5. Color touch-screen – Nook 3 doesn’t have it. It does have a touch screen, but seeing book covers in color is gone.

It’s hard to get upset about not having ePub support when the biggest reason for needing ePub support (library book support) is gone. Additionally, the Agency Model means that Amazon will have the same price as every other store for most books.

Are you really going to regret it if you get a Nook 2?

Nook 2 has closed the gap so well it’s in danger of becoming a clone.

  1. eInk Pearl screen – check.
  2. Great battery life – check.
  3. No color screen – check.
  4. Focus on ease of use – check.
  5. Light and Compact – check.
  6. Social features – check.
  7. Black Casing + WiFi – check.
  8. Faster processor so sluggishness is gone – check.

Kindle 3 and Nook 2 both have the same screen and a focus on reading. They both have the same books at the same prices. Kindle vs Nook is no longer a difficult decision. It isn’t even much of a decision any more.

Whether you get Kindle and get x months of battery life at x’ hours per day, or you get the Nook 2 and get y months of battery life at y’ hours per day – It’s still incredible battery life and it’s not really different.

That’s how ridiculous the contest has become – the companies are competing on something (battery life) that isn’t really a differentiator any more. Amazon can’t claim eInk Pearl, and B&N can’t claim support for library books, so it devolves into an argument over which device’s battery life is longer when measured in peculiar ways.

When it comes to reading on eReaders, we might be running out of genuine differentiators

Few of the participants in the eBook ecosystem have any interest in favoring Amazon over B&N or B&N over Amazon.

  1. eInk/PVI, the eInk Pearl screen maker, will sell both the same technology.
  2. Foxconn will make both Kindles and Nooks.
  3. Publishers will sell both the same books, and at the same prices, and with the Agency Model restrictions – effectively killing the biggest possible differentiator.
  4. Stores like WalMart and BestBuy will sell both.
  5. Google will offer up free books to both, as will Internet Archive and Gutenberg and Many Books. Not to mention – all public domain books are free for anyone to use, and hence can’t really be a differentiator.
  6. Indie Authors and Authors will, for the most part, sell to both. Example: Amanda Hocking declining a deal from Amazon because Amazon wanted a Kindle exclusive.
  7. Even some Kindle owners are buying Nook Colors (out of curiosity) and Nook 2s (because they want an ePub reader).

There is very, very little opportunity to differentiate. Amazon is left with its website and its Cloud. B&N is left with its stores and the fact that everyone is scared of Amazon. Those just don’t seem enough to get a clear lead.

Kindle vs Nook 2011

With Nook 2, B&N has left the Kindle behind and temporarily won the Kindle vs Nook contest.

Please Note: This Kindle vs Nook review will be updated when the Nook 2 actually ships and I get my hands on it.

There are basically two Kindle vs Nook comparisons now -

  1. Kindle 3 vs Nook 1 in the Dedicated eReader with 3G category. Kindle 3 wins this easily. Please check my Kindle vs Nook Review for a Kindle 3 vs Nook 1 comparison.
  2. Kindle WiFi vs Nook 2 in the $139 Dedicated eReader category. Nook 2 easily beats Kindle WiFi here. This post looks at Kindle WiFi vs Nook 2.

Kindle vs Nook in 2011 – Areas Nook Clearly Wins

  1. Value for Money – For the same $139 price, you get nearly all the features of the Kindle WiFi plus a touch screen.
  2. Touchscreen – While Sony made a hash of how it used touchscreen in an eReader, B&N has focused on making things simple. It seems to have worked.
  3. Compactness – Nook 2 is just 6.5″ by 5″ by 0.47″ which makes it small enough to fit in your pocket. Kindle WiFi is 7.5″ x 4.8″ x 0.335″ which makes it less compact (it’ll fit a jacket pocket but not a pant pocket).
  4. Better Battery Life – Battery life for Nook 2 is supposedly two months with WiFi off. Kindle WiFi has 1 month battery life with WiFi off. B&N uses the criteria of half an hour of reading per day - not sure what criteria Amazon uses. Note: With wireless on, both have the same battery life of 3 weeks.
  5. Memory Expansion – Memory Card Slot that takes up to 32 GB memory cards.
  6. Smoothness & Less Flashing - Screen flashing happens only every 5th or 6th page when turning pages. If the screen flash bothers you then this is a definite plus. B&N also claims smoother page turns. Note: This might be all software and Amazon might be able to match this quite quickly.
  7. Faster Page Turns – Waiting to see how it is in person. It sounds very promising.
  8. Library Book Support - Amazon has promised to add this later in 2011. For now, B&N’s Nook 2 has a clear advantage as it supports library books.
  9. Personalized Screensavers – A nice personalization touch.

Kindle vs Nook – Areas Nook is slightly ahead

  1. Weight – Nook 2 at 7.48 ounces is slightly lighter than Kindle WiFi at 8.5 ounces.
  2. In-Store Extras – Free WiFi and some special offers when you go to B&N Stores. You can also browse through books for free (for up to an hour per day per book). B&N staff to help answer questions.
  3. ePub support – Lets you read books bought at other stores that use ePub with Adobe DRM.
  4. Possibly Better PDF Support – The scrolling in PDFs is really quite good. Waiting to try it out in person and see what else is supported. This might end up being a big Nook 2 advantage.
  5. Social Aspect – Nook Friends in-built social network with ‘Liking’, recommendations, contact lists, and more. Kindle WiFi is limited to Facebook and Twitter updates.
  6. FastPage – Apparently this feature lets you hold down the page turn button and quickly get to anywhere in the book. Will have to test this – it sounds really good.
  7. Simplicity – The touchscreen makes things like highlighting easier on Nook 2. Never thought Nook would become simpler to use than Kindle.
  8. Cover View – Organize your books into shelves that show book covers, browse using cover view.

Kindle vs Nook – Areas Kindle WiFi & Nook 2 are in a tie

  1. Screen – eInk Pearl screen optimized for reading. 50% better screen contrast than previous generation eReaders (Kindle 2, Nook 1). Black/Graphite casing to further enrich contrast.
  2. WiFi – Both ship with WiFi connectivity. Both have free WiFi at AT&T hotspots.
  3. Focus on Reading – Both are dedicated reading devices (Thankfully).
  4. Font options – Kindle has 8 font sizes and 3 font types while Nook 2 has 7 font sizes and 6 font styles.
  5. Retail availability – Both are available at numerous retail chains including Best Buy, Target, and Wal-Mart.
  6. Price – Both are $139.
  7. Reading Apps – Reading Apps are available for both Kindle and Nook owners for a variety of platforms including iPad, iPhone, PC, and Mac.
  8. Accessories – Kindle has a lot more accessory choices but Nook has some pretty interesting options like Nook Totes.
  9. Easy to Hold – B&N touts its contoured back but the Kindle WiFi’s back is easy to hold too.

Kindle vs Nook – Areas Kindle is slightly ahead

  1. Software Dependability – Both Nook 1 and Nook Color have suffered massively from glitches. Until Nook 2 is in readers’ hands and working well (without lots of bugs) the Kindle is a safer bet.
  2. AdKindle Option - You can get AdKindle for $25 less. It’s a version of Kindle WiFi with sponsored screensavers and an ad on the Home Page. 
  3. Landscape Mode – Kindle WiFi offers reading in landscape mode which is very useful for web browsing and for PDFs.
  4. Physical Keyboard – While it increases the size, it also makes it easier to type notes.
  5. Looks – While Kindle WiFi looks sharp and svelte the Nook 2 looks a little boxy and chunky.
  6. WhisperNet – Kindle comes with lots of Cloud based services like seeing popular highlights for a book you’re reading and accessing your notes and highlights online. B&N has begun to catch up and has promised a MyNook portal.
  7. Amazon.com Site – Easier to navigate and use than B&N’s website.

Kindle vs Nook – Areas Kindle is clearly better

  1. Kindle has Text to Speech. While some Publishers disable this feature it’s still present in 40% to 60% of books. Plus you get text to speech for all documents and public domain books you add yourself. 
  2. Web Browser. A big feature especially as the browser is relatively decent.
  3. Book Range and Prices. Kindle Store has more books available. For books other than Agency Model books (which are the same price everywhere) Kindle Store tends to have slightly better prices. Note: B&N counts Google’s free public domain books and claims it has more books – That’s patently false as public domain books are available for Kindle too (Google Books PDFs work, as do Internet Archive’s 1.8 million free texts).
  4. Kindle App Store – You now have 70+ Kindle Apps for Kindle WiFi. Nook 2 does not have apps (they are only available on Nook Color).
  5. Kindle WiFi comes with 4 GB of memory of which approximately 3 GB is available to the Kindle owner. Nook 2 only has 2 GB memory of which only 1 GB is available to the Nook owner.
  6. Customer Service – Amazon really puts effort into providing great customer service.

Overall Conclusion – Kindle vs Nook goes to …

Nook 2.

  1. Nook 2 wins several key areas – value for money, touch screen, compactness, battery life, memory expansion, less flashing, faster page turning, personalized screensavers, and library book support.
  2. Nook also edges Kindle slightly in the following areas – weight, in-store extras, ePub support, possibly better PDF support, simplicity, Nook Friends social network, and Cover View.
  3. Kindle edges Nook 2 slightly in some areas – software dependability (might turn into a big advantage), cheaper AdKindle option, physical keyboard, landscape mode, looks, WhisperNet, and website.
  4. Kindle clearly wins some key areas – Text to Speech, web browser, Range and Price of books, Apps, more in-built memory, and customer service.

Nook 2′s touch screen, its compactness, its library book support, and its faster and smoother page turns are probably the four key differentiators. Amazon has to find a way to match or counter these. It has promised library book support but it only means something when it arrives.

Engadget has a Nook 2 video and some photos that very clearly show the Nook 2′s strengths.

Unless Amazon drops the price of the Kindle WiFi by $39, and adds some big software improvements, B&N is going to increase its market share in eReaders significantly. Nook 2 is the clear winner in the Kindle vs Nook comparison.

Kindle vs Nook in 2011

Please Note: This is a Kindle vs Nook strategy review + predictions post. For a device comparison, check out my Kindle vs Nook Review.

The Kindle dominated most of 2010 due to Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi being an entire generation ahead of the Nook 1. It also helped that Kindle WiFi was at a ridiculously low $139.

Nook Color dominated two emerging markets in 2010 – Reading Tablets, low-price and high-quality non-iPad Tablets. It had no competitors – it still doesn’t.

2011 promises to be different.

Kindle vs Nook in 2011 – Context & Thoughts

With Nook 2 and Nook 2 WiFi probably arriving on May 24th, and with Kindle Tablet rumored to be arriving in the second half of 2011, we suddenly have Kindle vs Nook take on a very different complexion.

  • Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi will finally get a worthy competitor. If Nook 2 is as good at attacking Kindle weak-points as Nook 1, we’ll have a really exciting 2011.
  • Kindle Tablet will challenge Nook Color. It’s probably not lost on Amazon that if B&N keeps selling 800,000 Nook Colors a month the Nook Color might single-handedly resuscitate B&N.
  • Nook Color’s status as the absolute best reading device for reading at night will probably be threatened.
  • The iPad will become far less relevant for people looking for a reading device. A $249 Nook Color was compelling. Add on a decently priced Kindle Tablet and we might find that noticeably fewer people are buying iPad for reading.
  • A good rivalry will reinvigorate eReaders. Kindle 3 came out a year ago – There haven’t been any hugely significant advances since then. Nook 2 will force Amazon to evolve.
  • Prices will get cut further – increasing the number of people buying reading devices, increasing the percentage share of ebooks.
  • Kindle vs Nook (as opposed to Kindle vs iPad or Nook Color vs iPad) will become the major storyline for readers in 2011.

May 24th might mark the beginning of the Age of Reading Devices. A time when eReaders and Reading Tablets start selling tens of millions of units a year and begin to dominate all of Publishing. 

Kindle vs Nook in 2011 – Kindle Tablet vs Nook Color

Kindle Tablet vs Nook Color will be the battle for casual readers. Not an ‘empty as a Politician’s Speech’ + ‘make animated page turns and forget to get books in the store’ pretend-battle. This will be a real battle.

The most amusing part of it is that both sides will probably be using closed ecosystems built on Google’s ‘open’ Android ecosystem. B&N already uses Android. Amazon’s focus on building its own Android App Store suggests it’s thinking of using Android for its Kindle Tablet.

Here are some things that will define this battle -

  1. Will Amazon release a Tablet or a Reading Tablet? My guess is that Amazon will try an Apple-style ‘it’s great for reading and for 1,000 other things’ strategy. A general Tablet from Amazon would fail to effectively counter Nook Color.
  2. What price will the Kindle Tablet be at? Nook Color’s $249 price is a big part of its appeal and competitive power.
  3. What does B&N have planned for the Nook Color? It already has email, a social network, and an App Store. If B&N keeps adding more high-value features, or if the Nook App Store takes off, then the Nook Color might become the story of 2011. 
  4. The Nook App Store has got off to an interesting start. There’s no way it can compete with Amazon’s Android App Store in a broad sense – However, it might be able to compete effectively when it comes to ‘Apps for Reading Tablets’ and Apps built to help readers.
  5. Can Amazon channel Android Apps into a powerful App Store? In some ways it seems almost too easy – Just take all the good apps from the Android Market and make your own store. Will it work?
  6. What will casual readers think of the Kindle Tablet?
  7. Will Nook Color end up being a Reading Tablet for readers, a cheap and hackable General Tablet for techies, or a mix of both?

The two App Stores really are the wild cards. It’s a tough exercise – both Amazon and B&N are trying to ensure quality and quantity.

Prediction: Amazon misses the mark and releases a general Tablet. It has little impact on the Reading Tablet market and very little impact on reading in general.

Kindle vs Nook in 2011 – Kindle 3 vs Nook 2

Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 is the battle of the full-featured eReaders.

A battle for hardcore readers willing and able to pay for a full-featured eReader. This is the single most important battle. The lower priced versions might get more device sales - but it’s these main-line eReaders that will capture far more book sales.

Nook 2′s ability to compete with, and perhaps even beat, Kindle 3 depends on 5 factors -

  1. Will Nook 2 leap-frog Kindle 3 technologically? Adding in Mirasol displays would qualify. Adding in just touch would not.
  2. What price will Nook 2 be at? If B&N can come in at $150 for Nook 2, with a feature-set that matches Kindle 3, it’ll put Amazon in a tough spot. 
  3. Does B&N have some hidden trump card? At various times, and for varying lengths of time, Nook has had various advantages over the Kindle – PDF support (it wasn’t there in the Kindle when Nook 1 was announced), Library Book Support (Amazon has promised this will arrive in 2011), Lending (until end 2010, only Nook had Pretend-Lending), and so forth. If B&N can create a new advantage that is as significant as any of these, it will have a powerful new weapon.
  4. Can B&N distribute and sell Nook 2 as well as Amazon distributes and sells Kindle 3? B&N still doesn’t sell Nook internationally, and its advantage in retail has been whittled down as Amazon is now available at WalMart, Best Buy, Staples, and several other retail chains. If B&N can find a way to distribute Nook internationally, or if it can find some retail distribution advantages in the US, it can tilt the contest in its favor.
  5. Could B&N use Amazon’s enemies against it? The list of Amazon’s enemies seems to grow by the day – Google, WalMart, State Governments, Publishers. If B&N can get help from one or more of these parties it stands a better chance. By the way, it’s inexplicable that WalMart is selling Kindles – Isn’t Amazon the company that shot WalMart’s dog when it killed Amazon’s pet rabbit?

Nook 1 was a surprisingly strong contender to the Kindle when it came out. Nook Color was even more impressive (though not a direct Kindle competitor). If B&N meets the bar it has set with Nook 1 and Nook Color, Nook 2 will give Kindle 3 a real run for its money.

Kindle vs Nook in 2011 – Kindle WiFi vs Nook 2 WiFi

Kindle WiFi vs Nook 2 WiFi is the battle of the low-priced eReaders.

A battle for readers at the intersection of casual and hard-core. A battle for readers at the intersection of ‘able to spend $189 on an eReader’ and ‘able to spend only $99 on an eReader’.

The main-stream media is fixated on this. But it isn’t really the battle that will define who wins the Publishing War. It’s more of a contest of who gets higher total eReader sales. Winning this and losing the Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 battle would be pretty painful.

A lot of the factors here are similar to what we discussed in the Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 section – technological advantages, price, hidden trump cards, distribution, using Amazon’s enemies as friends.

Price sensitivity is the main factor and B&N has a lot of places it can cut costs – the LCD being one obvious area. If Nook 2 WiFi can hit $99, B&N will win the lower end of the market. Given that the Nook Color comes in at $249, there’s no reason B&N can’t release a $99 Nook 2 WiFi. 

The other main factor is a strange one – promising more value for money by offering things that aren’t necessarily reading related. If B&N can bundle in a free email client, a few basic free tools, and one or two other value-add features – It will win. WiFi isn’t costing B&N anything. Neither are Apps.

Users would prefer a $99 eReader+eWriter+Email Device over a $99 eReader.

B&N could turn the ‘readers won’t pay more than $99 for an eReader’ theory on its head by providing a device for $99 that isn’t just a great eReader – It’s also a great email client and a great productivity tool and a great eWriter.

Kindle vs Nook Closing Thoughts

The success of the Nook Color has re-energized B&N. You see it in the moves it’s making – Adding an email client to Nook Color is a big deal. As is the Nook App Store. Flash support is pretty impressive too.

We’re dealing with a company that has suddenly discovered it can keep up with the technology big boys - perhaps even beat some of them. Nook Color proving itself to be the best Android Tablet (in terms of value for money and usefulness and perhaps even looks) has to have had some effect on B&N. An effect that ought to be evident in the feature-set for Nook 2.

2011 is going to be the Year of Kindle vs Nook and the beginning of the Age of Reading Devices. Not a year when iPad makes eReaders redundant but a year in which eReaders and Reading Tablets use technology to revitalize reading and further hasten the destruction of the existing Publishing hierarchy. The winner of Kindle vs Nook will be in prime position to take over all of Publishing. The loser will have to settle for billions of dollars a year in revenue from eBooks and eReaders.

Could Nook sales be within striking distance of Kindle sales?

The Kindle is alleged to have sold 8 million units in 2010. That’s a HUGE number.

It makes you wonder whether Amazon has destroyed the competition, and accounted for 80% of eReader sales in 2010, or whether the Nook and Sony Reader have done quite well too.

Let’s look at 3 scenarios, and the data points that support each. To simplify things, we’ll only consider Kindle and Nook sales.

8 million Kindle Sales, 2 million Nook Sales

This is the ‘Kindle dominating 2010′ scenario.

Here are the data points, and factors, that support this -

  1. [Rumor] ‘Insider sources’ claiming they saw Kindle sales projections of 8 million units sold in 2010.
  2. [Vagueness Overload] Amazon saying it sold ‘millions of Kindles’ in the first 73 days of Q4, 2010. Also, that sales exceeded Kindle sales in all of 2009 – which were also stated to be ‘millions of Kindles’.
  3. [Vagueness Overload Part 2] Amazon saying it sold more Kindles around the time of Kindle 3 launch, than it sold in December 2009. 
  4. Kindle was the markedly better eReader, once Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi came out.
  5. Kindle WiFi at $139 was a steal.
  6. Kindle is available internationally. Nook isn’t available outside the US. Sony Reader is only available in some countries.
  7. Kindle was finally available in stores – Target, BestBuy and Staples. 
  8. Kindle 3 won over some of the main stream press.
  9. Amazon did a lot of advertising.
  10. Kindle 3 reviews were very good.

It seems 8 million Kindles might be a possibility. Does that mean Amazon dominated Nook thoroughly, and only 2 million Nooks were sold?

Here are some things that make it unlikely that Nook accounted for only 20% of eReader sales in 2010 -

  1. There wasn’t a very clear cut winner between Nook and Kindle 2 at the beginning of 2010. It’s not until the end of July, when Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi came out, that Kindle became the no-doubt-about-it #1 eReader choice.
  2. Then in October end, Nook Color was announced, and it again muddied up the waters. Kindle was still the best eReader – However, there was doubt over which was the better reading device.
  3. Kindle doesn’t support ePub and library books – That causes a significant number of people to choose Nook or Sony Reader instead.
  4. Kindle doesn’t have lending and the Nook’s LendMe feature must have made a difference, until October, when Amazon announced it would be adding lending.
  5. Nook Color has done very well in the last few months. B&N’s CEO claimed he was seeing 540,000 Nook Color sales per month – which probably means Nook Color alone sold around a million units in 2010.
  6. Nook is available in more stores than Kindle, including WalMart. It was available at BestBuy earlier than the Kindle was. Plus, it’s available at all B&N stores.
  7. Kindle was not available internationally for the last two months of the year. 
  8. Kindle was often out of stock at retailers – which meant people chose Nook or iPad instead. 
  9. B&N has had Nook in stock throughout.
  10. There was a brief period, perhaps 2 to 4 weeks, where Nook WiFi was available, and Kindle WiFi hadn’t been announced.
  11. Authors have been talking about the impact Nook ebook sales are having.

Looking at this list, it seems extremely unlikely that Amazon managed to sell 8 million Kindles while B&N got stuck at 2 million Nooks. The gap couldn’t have been 6 million units.

8 million Kindle Sales, 5 million Nook Sales

Let’s assume, and it’s a big assumption, that Amazon did sell 8 million Kindles in 2010. Then we could extrapolate Nook sales by comparing the two eReaders’ relative appeal, their value for money, and their availability.

What do we know about Kindle vs Nook -

  1. Until Kindle 3 came out the two were neck to neck. After Nook Color came out, you can argue they were again close.
  2. DigiTimes claimed that Nook was doing better than Kindle in April and May of 2010.
  3. B&N’s Nook has had better retail availability throughout 2010.
  4. Amazon has been available internationally in 2010 – until the last two months, when it was sold out.
  5. Amazon has the Kindle DX. B&N doesn’t have a competitor for the DX.
  6. B&N has a ‘Reading Tablet’ (the Nook Color), while Amazon doesn’t.
  7. Nook WiFi was the cheapest eReader for a few weeks. For the rest of the year Amazon has had the cheaper eReader.
  8. Kindle is the ‘default’ eReader associated with reading.
  9. Kindle has a slightly better store.
  10. Kindle has better infrastructure and provides free Internet.
  11. B&N’s Nook supports library books and lending.
  12. B&N has its book store and book store based features.

If you look at all the factors, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Nook sales could have been less than 50% of Kindle sales.

Kindle 3 is clearly better than Nook – However, Nook has some strengths Kindle can’t match (library books, ePub, lending) and better retail availability. Kindle WiFi beats Nook WiFi – However, the Nook WiFi has much better availability and some clear advantages. It’s unlikely that Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi were outselling Nook and Nook WiFi 4:1 or 3:1.

Combine that with the fact that Nook Color probably sold 1 million units, and that for the first 6 months of the year, Kindle and Nook were neck to neck.

If Amazon sold 8 million units - B&N must have sold 4 to 6 million units.

Amazon selling 8 million Kindles in 2010, and B&N selling 5 million Nooks in 2010, is pretty optimistic – However, it’s not impossible. If true, it would be great for readers, eBooks, and eReaders.

6 million Kindle Sales, 4.5 million Nook Sales  

What if we play devil’s advocate, and assume one of the following -

  1. Kindle Sales Projections of 8 million Kindles sold were for lifetime sales. Which would mean 2010 Kindle sales projections were around 5 million.
  2. Kindle Sales Projections for 2010 were 8 million, but they weren’t hit. That we ended up with around 5 million or so sales instead.
  3. The ’8 million Kindles sold’ rumor is not based on fact. Bloomberg is basing its article on kindle sales projections that two people saw at some unspecified point of time in 2010. It’s pretty sketchy – even for a rumor.

We’re saying the ’8 million Kindles sold’ rumor/projection/estimate is nonsense.

Let’s build our own rough estimates of what Kindle sales and Nook sales were like in 2010.

First 6 to 7 months (before Kindle 3 came out)

Let’s assume that true sales lay somewhere between what DigiTimes claimed (Nook outselling Kindle, 1.3 million eReaders in Q1, 2010), and what a 8 million Kindle sales figure would suggest (2 to 3 million Kindle sales in the first 6 months of 2010).

Let’s say Kindle saw US and International combined sales of around 1.25 million Kindles. Nook saw US sales of around 1 million Nooks.

Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi golden run

For the first 3 to 4 months the Kindle 3 was out, it was the best option. Let’s assume that it captured the majority of eReader sales during that stretch.

In July through September, Kindle saw US and international combined sales of around 1.75 million Kindles. Nook was hit by the Kindle being so good, and only saw sales of 1 million Nooks.

Holiday Season

Here we’ll assume that Amazon was correct – that it did sell more Kindles in the first 73 days of the Holiday season, than it did in all of 2009. We’ll also assume that 2009 saw 2 million Kindle sales.

Add to that – Kindle wasn’t being sold outside US and UK for most of the Holiday season. Nook Color was doing very well, and iPad was again getting a lot of buzz.

It would suggest 3 million Kindle sales during the Holiday Season. Nook probably saw 1.5 million units sold, and Nook Color probably saw 1 million units sold.

Putting it all together

For Kindle we get: 1.25 + 1.75 + 3 = 6 million Kindle sales.

For Nook we get: 1 + 1 + 2.5 = 4.5 million Nook sales.

For some reason, even these seem a bit optimistic. However, ’6 million Kindles sold and 4.5 million Nooks sold’ sounds a lot more believable than ’8 million Kindles sold and 2 million Nooks sold’.

Kindle = new iPod, or ’8 million Kindle sales’ is an anchor

The rest of this post is a wild, wild guess. Based on zero facts.

There seem to be only two plausible explanations for the 8 million Kindles sold rumor – Either Kindle is the new iPod, or Amazon is using amazingly good anchoring.

If it’s the first, then there’s nothing to discuss - Amazon has won the eReader wars, eReaders are going to sell tens of millions of units a year, and the eBook wars are effectively over.

The second possibility is very interesting. The 8 million Kindles sold rumor seems like anchoring.

Could Amazon be leaking inflated sales figures to establish social proof, and anchor Kindle as the winner?

Consider what we have -

  1. Nook Color doing well, and selling half a million units a month.
  2. iPad doing very well, and having sold 7.3 million units between launch and Holiday Season. 
  3. Nook and iPad being available in a lot more stores.

Amazon needs to take back the momentum. It needs to re-establish ‘Kindle = Reading’. The best way to do that would be to leak a very impressive figure for Kindle sales which makes the Nook Color’s sales seem trivial, which shows Kindle is doing nearly as well as the iPad, and which makes it seem that Nook has lost the eReader wars.

8 million Kindles does that. It makes everyone assume that Kindle is the new iPod, and that Nook is dead and buried. It makes every potential eReader owner feel she must join the 8 million people who have chosen a Kindle.

Why doesn’t Amazon make the killer announcement?

If Amazon wants it can drive a stake through the heart of every other eReader by announcing 10 million total Kindle sales. If Amazon has sold 8 million Kindles this year, it has the opportunity to tell every potential Kindle owner – Choose our team of 10 million Kindle owners, and not that team of 1 million Nook owners.

Yet, it would rather let people ponder Kindle vs Nook and Kindle vs Nook Color. That makes no sense.

At this point everyone knows the market for eReaders is huge. They just don’t know whether it’s 5 million eReaders sold this year, or 10 million. Amazon can’t fly under the radar any more. What reason is there to hide actual Kindle sales figures?

Every single Amazon rumor seems to have amazingly good timing – the Kindle DX rumors, the Kindle WiFi rumors, this 8 million Kindles sold rumor. Amazon seems to be doing its best to either make good sales figures seem great, or to hide great sales figures from competitors. Yet, the second seems more doubtful by the day.

If Kindle sales figures really are absolutely amazing, and Amazon wants to hide them, why are there constant strategic announcements (millions of Kindles sold) and strategic leaks (8 million Kindles sold)?

If Kindle sales are so great that Amazon doesn’t want anyone to know, the most effective move would be to say nothing. The fact that Amazon isn’t choosing that option might be more revealing than all the rumors and estimates.

Kindle vs Nook vs Sony (December 2010)

The Kindle, the Nook, and the Sony Reader are the Big 3 eReaders. If you want a dedicated reading device with an eInk screen you’ll probably end up having to make a Kindle vs Nook vs Sony decision.

This Kindle vs Nook vs Sony post will cover the strengths and weaknesses of each and help you decide which eReader suits you best.

Kindle vs Nook vs Sony – What Sony brings to the table

There are two new Sony Readers - the ultra-compact Sony Reader Pocket Edition (Sony 350) and the Sony Reader Touch Edition (Sony 650). Sony killed sales by introducing them at $180 and $230. However, these are now sporadically available for $150 and $200, sometimes even lower, and this makes them a lot more competitive with Kindle and Nook.

Sony Reader Strengths

Sony 350 and Sony 650 pack in some solid features -

  1. They both have touch. It’s touch enabled by using IR rays and in no way impedes readability.
  2. They have the new eInk Pearl screen.
  3. They support library books. 
  4. They support DRM’ed ePub which means ebooks from any store that sells books in DRM’ed ePub format can be read on the Sony Readers (except B&N as it adds its own proprietary DRM on top of Adobe’s DRM). In addition, Sony Store sells ebooks which can be read on any eReader that supports DRM’ed ePub – so you can switch to another eReader later without losing your books.
  5. Decent battery life of 2 weeks.
  6. The smaller Sony Reader (Pocket Edition) is incredibly light at 5.47 ounces and very compact at 5.71″ by 4.11″ by 0.33″. The Pocket Edition is also quite light at 7.58 ounces.
  7. They come with 10 built-in language translation dictionaries in addition to the standard English dictionary.
  8. They come with the ability to do freehand drawing in addition to scribbling notes.
  9. They have slightly better PDF support than Kindle and Nook.
  10. They are available in a variety of colors and are the best looking eReaders by far. Sony Reader Pocket Edition is available in silver and pink and Sony Reader Touch Edition is available in black and red.
  11. The Pocket Edition has a SD Card slot and a Memory Stick slot.
  12. The Pocket Edition lets you play MP3 and AAC files (Apple iTunes format).

The new Sony Reader Touch Edition is, arguably, the best eReader if you consider just the eReader itself. It’s let down by a poor ebook store and by poor infrastructure.

Sony Reader Weaknesses

The Sony Readers share a few weaknesses -

  1. The eBook store is painfully bad.
  2. There is very little in terms of infrastructure. For example: Sony reading apps for iPhone and Android are slated to arrive in December 2010 - That’s a long, long time after Kindle for iPhone and Nook for iPhone arrived.
  3. They don’t have wireless support – neither WiFi nor 3G.
  4. The user interface for taking notes and making highlights is awkward and wastes the touch capability.
  5. There’s no text to speech feature like the one Kindle has.
  6. There’s no ebook lending like Nook.
  7. No in-built browser.
  8. There’s no App Store on the horizon and no games.

Sony has, rather strangely, decided to forsake wireless support for the 350 and 650.

The Pocket Edition has some additional limitations -

  1. The Sony Reader Pocket Edition has a slightly smaller screen (5″).
  2. It’s also pretty fragile – more so than the other eReaders, which are quite fragile themselves.
  3. There is no SD card slot on the Pocket Edition.
  4. It doesn’t have audio support.

It’s a bit sad to see Sony limit the Sony Reader Pocket Edition so much. There really was no need to remove audio support and to get rid of the SD Card Slot.

Kindle vs Nook vs Sony – What Nook brings to the table

Nook is the only second generation eReader in the Kindle vs Nook vs Sony discussion. That means it doesn’t have the benefit of the eInk Pearl screen and is missing some of the newer technologies (such as Sony Reader’s touch screen and Kindle’s Voice Guide feature). It still manages to put up quite a fight.

We’ll consider only the Nook for our comparison since Nook and Nook WiFi are almost identical. The only difference is that Nook WiFi doesn’t have the 3G support the Nook has.

Nook Strengths

B&N has done a good job of supporting Nook with software updates, a good ebook store, and good wireless features.

  1. Nook is supported by a very good eBook store.
  2. Nook is also supported by good infrastructure - free Nook store browsing and free ebook downloads via AT&T wireless, lots of Nook reading apps for other platforms, and features like syncing your place in a book, and your notes and highlights, across devices.
  3. Nook has a LendMe feature that lets you lend a book once, to one person, for up to 14 days. Kindle is supposed to add this feature in 2010 but hasn’t yet.
  4. Nook gets some bonuses when you go into B&N stores – you can read any book for up to an hour per day, there are sometimes offers, and there’s B&N support staff to answer questions in person. 
  5. Nook supports library books.
  6. Nook supports DRM’ed ePub. We’ve already discussed how this means ePub books from any store can be read on Nook. Note that Nook’s own books aren’t readable on other eReaders – more on that in the Nook weaknesses section below.
  7. Nook comes with a microSD card slot.
  8. Nook has a pretty decent audio player. Kindle only lets you skip to the next track and pause.
  9. The Nook comes with a small 3.5″ color touchscreen that is used for navigation and flipping through book covers.
  10. Nook looks quite good. Not very pretty like the Sony Readers but passable.
  11. You can password protect your purchases.
  12. Nook is built on Android and there are hacks available for it.

Overall, the Nook has a lot of strengths and, despite being a second generation eReader, it stays within striking distance of the Kindle and the new Sony Readers.

Nook Weaknesses

Nook has quite a few weaknesses -

  1. It doesn’t have the new eInk Pearl screen. If you were to place Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader side by side you would always pick one of the other two for reading. 
  2. It’s quite unwieldy as it weighs 12.1 ounces and measures 7.7″ by 4.9″ by 0.5″. 
  3. The color touchscreen for navigation doesn’t gel with the much slower eInk screen for reading. This problem is compounded by a user interface that is rather complicated.
  4. Nook has the slowest page turns out of the Big 3 eReaders (Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader).
  5. There’s no text to speech feature. 
  6. The Nook App Store is only going to be for Nook Color in the beginning. Given that only a million or so Nooks have been sold, Apps for the eInk Nook might never really take off.
  7. It doesn’t have touch for the main reading screen.
  8. Battery life is relatively low when wireless is on. Total battery life is also a bit low at 10 days.
  9. It doesn’t support Audible audiobooks and only supports MP3s for music.
  10. It’s only available in one color.
  11. It doesn’t support text files.

Nook suffers, in comparison to Kindle and Sony, and my recommendation would be to pick one of those if you’re looking for a dedicated eReader. Buying a second generation eInk based eReader makes little sense when multiple third generation eInk based eReaders are available.

Kindle vs Nook vs Sony – What Kindle brings to the table

The Kindle is a third generation eReader and also has a good ebook store and good infrastructure to support it. Amazon’s desire to preserve its eBook revenue stream means the Kindle imposes some limitations which end up being its major disadvantages.

Kindle Strengths

The Kindle is solid across the board -

  1. It has the new eInk Pearl screen which is great for reading. It’s the exact same screen as the new Sony Readers. It’s also a much better eInk screen than the one the Nook has.
  2. Kindle has the best eBook Store, with the best range and the best ebook prices. Nook Store is close, while Sony Store is a distant third.
  3. Kindle is the simplest eReader to use. You don’t need a computer. You don’t have to figure out complicated menus. It just works.
  4. Kindle has amazing infrastructure to back it up. Not only does it have 3G for free store browsing and free downloads - It also offers free internet browsing to US Kindle owners.
  5. Kindle has the best international support – It’s available to be shipped to over 150 countries, WhisperNet is available in 100+ countries, and it’s begun to add books in non-English languages to the Kindle Store.
  6. Kindle is great for travel for US Kindle owners as they get free Internet Browsing and free store browsing in over 100 countries.
  7. Kindle has the best battery life – It’s up to a month with wireless off, 3 weeks when using WiFi for wireless, and 10 days when using 3G wireless.
  8. Kindle’s text to speech feature is great – It lets Kindle owners listen to books, and also makes the Kindle more “accessible” to blind and low vision readers.
  9. To enable full “accessibility” the Kindle has a Voice Guide feature that reads out menus and book listings.
  10. Kindle has a physical keyboard – While Amazon has tried its best to nullify this advantage by removing the number keys and making the keys tiny, it’s still good to have a physical keyboard.
  11. Kindle has an App Store that’s begun to churn out games. There haven’t really been any life-changing apps released but there’s a chance killer apps start appearing eventually.
  12. Excellent customer service from Amazon.

If you factor in the entire ‘eReader + eBook Store + Infrastructure’ ecosystem the Kindle comfortably edges Nook and Sony Reader.

The Kindle is clearly the best dedicated eReader available.

It does, however, have a few significant weaknesses because Amazon wants to make sure that it keeps the eBook revenue stream intact. This leads to strange decisions, such as not adding PDF support until a competitor adds it, and staying away from ePub.

Kindle Weaknesses

Here are some Kindle weaknesses -

  1. No support for library books.
  2. No support for ePub.
  3. No support for DRM’ed books other than ones from the Kindle Store. This means that the only stores from which you can get eBooks for the Kindle are the Kindle Store and stores that sell DRM-free ebooks.
  4. It doesn’t have a touch screen. 
  5. It doesn’t support Apple iTunes format music. Also, the music player is hilariously rudimentary – the only options are Next Track and Pause.
  6. It doesn’t allow custom screensavers – Nook does.
  7. Kindle isn’t the prettiest eReader around.
  8. There’s no SD card slot.
  9. The battery isn’t replaceable.
  10. There is no ebook lending yet – though it’s supposed to arrive by the end of 2010.
  11. It isn’t as compact and light as the Sony Reader Pocket Edition.

The significant disadvantages are the first 4, with the first 3 being a direct result of Amazon’s attempts to keep its ebook revenue stream intact.

The Kindle vs Nook vs Sony Decision

At the moment it’s a pretty clear-cut decision -

  1. Kindle wins Kindle vs Nook vs Sony unless you really need one or more of – library book support, ePub support, a touch screen, lending, a SD Card Slot. If you don’t need these then get the Kindle.
  2. If you need one or more of these features then the new Sony Reader Touch Edition is the best option. It’s a latest generation eReader with the new eInk Pearl screen, a touch screen, support for ePub, and library book support. It’s a better choice than Nook.
  3. Nook is the third choice. It’s still a decent option due to the Nook Store being quite good, and because B&N provides good infrastructure and frequent software updates.

Kindle is clearly the best eReader available, and Sony Reader Touch Edition is a very clear second. Nook loses out in the Kindle vs Nook vs Sony comparison. Depending on which features are most important to you, my recommendation would be to pick either Kindle or Sony.

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