Kindle, Nook Comparison (December 2010)

Have the Kindle 3 and the Nook, with software upgrade 1.5, in front of me and it’s time for a Kindle, Nook comparison to end off 2010.

Kindle, Nook Comparison – Kindle 3 vs Nook with software upgrade 1.5

The first thing to keep in mind is that Kindle 3 is a third generation eReader and Nook, even with the 1.5 upgrade, is a second generation eReader. While each has its strengths and weaknesses, the Kindle does have all the advantages that come with being a latest generation eReader - newer technology, more polished software, better resale value, and so forth.

A quick 2-sentence Kindle, Nook comparison would be -

  1. Kindle 3 is the better eReader when it comes to screen quality, ebook range, ebook prices, speed of doing things, simplicity, and focus on reading.
  2. Nook’s strengths include support for library books, ePub support, having a memory card slot and a replaceable battery, and having a color touchscreen at the bottom.

If you prefer the Nook’s strengths over the Kindle’s strengths and don’t mind reading on a LCD screen it’s well worth taking a look at Nook Color.

Kindle, Nook Comparison - 4 Critical Nook Advantages

Despite being a second generation eReader the Nook has some critical advantages - 

  1. Support for Library Books. This is a big advantage as you can supplement the books you buy, and the free public domain books available online, with books from your local library. 
  2. Support for ePub. This means that DRM’ed ePub books from other stores, such as Google’s new eBook store and Sony Store, can be read on the Nook. This wasn’t a very significant advantage – but the arrival of Google eBooks threatens to make it one.
  3. It has several things Kindle is missing. Nook comes with a microSD card slot, a replaceable battery, and custom screensavers. It also has a serviceable audio player. Nook has three different fonts while Kindle only has 3 variations of a single font. These are all features missing from the Kindle and one or more might be important to you. 
  4. B&N Store Support and Lending. You can read any ebook for free for up to an hour a day at any B&N Store. You can lend a book once, for up to 14 days, to one other person. The latter is a feature the Kindle is going to add but the former will, for obvious reasons, remain a Nook-only feature. 

Those are the Nook’s critical advantages over the Kindle. The remaining Nook advantages are discussed in the ‘Remaining Kindle, Nook Features’ section below and are worth a look.

Kindle, Nook Comparison - 7 Critical Kindle Advantages

Kindle 3 is a third generation eReader and has some critical advantages over the Nook -

  1. eInk Pearl screen. This is an eInk screen with around 50% more contrast than the Kindle 2 screen and around 35% more contrast than the Nook 1′s eInk screen. If you have them side by side you’ll always pick the Kindle to read from – the screen is just a lot clearer 
  2. Kindle Store. The Kindle Store is the best ebook store. It has more new books than any other ebook store and also the lowest prices. It’s backed up by excellent customer service.
  3. Speed and simplicity. Kindle 3 has slightly faster page turns and everything seems a little faster on it. The Nook’s navigation touchscreen makes things a bit awkward as the LCD screen has to synchronize with the slower eInk screen. Kindle is much more intuitive. 
  4. Text to Speech. The Kindle will read out books to you – provided publishers haven’t disabled the feature. It will also read out your personal documents and all public domain books. 
  5. Free 3G based Internet Browsing and Wikipedia Access. If you’re a Kindle owner in the US you get free Internet browsing from your Kindle 3. You also get free Internet browsing in 100+ countries that have WhisperNet (AT&T network coverage). Nook offers free store browsing and downloads – Kindle offers that plus Free Internet.
  6. Kindle App Store. The Nook App Store will initially be only for Nook Color, which leaves out Nook. The Kindle App Store is already here and is slowly adding apps – there are now 15 or so games. Of course, if you don’t want apps on your eReader then this advantage means nothing.
  7. Lighter, More Portable, Better Battery Life. Kindle 3 is just 8.7 ounces while Nook is 12.1 ounces. That makes a difference when you’re holding it and carrying it. Kindle 3 is also more compact at 7.5″ by 4.8″ by 0.335″ – the Nook is 7.7″ by 4.9″ by 0.5″. Perhaps most importantly, the Kindle has much better battery life (up to 1 month with wireless off, 2 weeks with wireless on) than Nook (up to 10 days with wireless off).

There are also two cases where Kindle might be a clearly better choice – If you live outside the US (only Kindle ships outside the US and only Kindle offers 3G wireless support outside US), if you need an “accessible” eReader (Kindle has a Voice Guide feature for menus and book listings that goes very well with the text to speech feature).

Kindle being a 3rd generation eReader makes a difference

There’s a reason why Kindle has 7 critical advantages and Nook has only 4 – Kindle is a newer-generation device.

Unless you need Library Book Support or ePub support or a memory card slot it’s a very good idea to get the Kindle.

For around the same price you get a lot more value for money and you get a latest-generation device. Amazon will probably add new software updates to take advantage of Kindle 3′s faster speed and various capabilities such as the currently disabled microphone. There is also a chance the Kindle App Store takes off and starts adding valuable apps in addition to games.

If Kindle vs Nook still isn’t clear, the next section should help you decide. My recommendation is to either get a Kindle or take a look at the Nook Color – There’s no point in buying a second generation Nook when third generation Kindles and Sony Readers with the new eInk Pearl screen are available.

Kindle, Nook comparison - Remaining Kindle, Nook Features

Areas where Kindle, Nook cancel each other out

First, let’s take a quick look at features which both eReaders have – areas where they effectively cancel each other out.

  1. Both have an eInk screen, which is better suited to reading than LCD screens. 
  2. Folders feature to organize books. B&N calls it Shelves while Amazon calls it Collections. Both allow for single level folders and are closer to tagging than actual folders. 
  3. Decentish PDF support. Note that a 6″ screen isn’t ideal for PDFs and there’ll be a lot of zooming and panning involved. Kindle 3′s PDF note-taking support is very spotty while Nook doesn’t allow notes for PDFs.
  4. Free Store Browsing over 3G and 60 second ebook downloads. Kindle, Nook both support this.
  5. eBook Lending – Amazon has said it will add ebook lending to Kindle by the end of 2010 so both Kindle, Nook will have lending by year-end.
  6. Password protection for Kindle, Nook – You can lock them so no one else can access them.
  7. Price – They’re close enough in price for it to be a non-issue.
  8. 3G and WiFi – Both offer 3G and WiFi support.
  9. Reading Apps for your other devices – Kindle and Nook are both supported by reading apps for PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android.
  10. Free AT&T WiFi Hotspot Access – Both use AT&T’s network and thus get the bonus of being able to use AT&T WiFi hotspots for free.
  11. Decent Browsers. Nook probably has a slightly better browser but the gap isn’t big.
  12. Lots of font options. The font the Kindle uses, Caecilia, is better in my opinion. You might, however, prefer the Nook’s fonts – Amasis, Helvetica Neue, Light Classic.
  13. Multiple devices on one account – You can add any number of devices to one account.
  14. One Book shared across 5 to 6 devices – You can read a single book across 5 to 6 devices.
  15. Screen Rotation – Both Kindle and Nook have screen rotation.

It should be clear from this long list that Kindle, Nook have closed the gap between their feature sets over time.

Next, let’s take a quick look at Nook’s remaining advantages.

Areas where Nook wins over the Kindle

This is in addition to the Nook’s 4 critical advantages over the Kindle – Library Books, ePub support,  B&N Stores, absence of several Kindle weaknesses.

  1. 3.5″ color touchscreen for navigation. This lets you browse your books and the Nook eBook Store using cover view.
  2. You could make a case that it looks better than Kindle 3.
  3. Being able to check out the Nook at a lot of stores – WalMart and B&N Stores are two stores in particular that carry Nook but not Kindle.
  4. You can migrate over your Sony Reader library, your Google eBooks, and any ePub books you might have.
  5. Nook is built on Android and you can hack it to run various apps.
  6. Nook 1.5 upgrade added the ability to password protect your purchases.

There might be a few Nook advantages missing from this list – However, we have the important ones covered.

Let’s end by looking at the Kindle 3′s remaining advantages.

Areas Kindle beats Nook

This is in addition to the 7 critical advantages of the Kindle – eInk Pearl screen, Kindle Store, Free 3G Internet, speed and simplicity, portability and battery life, Kindle App Store, text to speech.

  1. Choice of graphite or white Kindle 3. 
  2. The largest font size on Kindle is bigger.
  3. Support for Audible audiobooks.
  4. You can get a Kindle Lighted Case for $60 that draws power from the Kindle itself to power a reading light built into the case.
  5. Physical keyboard. Unfortunately, the keys are tiny and there is no row for number keys.
  6. Support for .txt files. It’s extremely strange that Nook doesn’t support text files.
  7. Stereo speakers.
  8. Amazon is in much better financial condition than B&N. It is a factor worth considering - you’ll want your eReader company to be around to offer you support and to keep the bookstore and infrastructure intact.

Given that the Kindle 3 is a third generation eReader it should not be a surprise that it has a longer list of advantages.

The Kindle and the Nook each have certain critical and non-critical advantages over the other. The Kindle pulls ahead due to being newer, having better technology, and getting excellent support from Amazon and the Kindle Store. However, you should weigh the relative strengths and weaknesses of Kindle and Nook yourself and figure out which is a better fit for your reading needs.

Nook vs Kindle vs Nook Color, incremental Nook improvements

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

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

Nook vs Kindle – The gap is narrower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nook vs Nook Color – Kaizen at the level of Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are 5 completely unsolicited suggestions Amazon should consider -

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

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

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

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

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

Kindle vs Nook thoughts 2010

It’s interesting that the Kindle now has to take on two different types of Nooks.

Here are some Kindle vs Nook thoughts keeping the whole Kindle vs Nook vs Nook Color context in mind.

Kindle vs Nook Thoughts 2010

  1. Kindle vs Nook is now the defining eReader comparison because Sony Readers are priced too high. Kindle 3 has to take on the Nook 1 which is more than a bit unfair.
  2. Nooks continue to sell because of ePub and library book support, more retail visibility and availability, and lending. Amazon is going to bring lending to Kindles by end 2010 but there’s little it can do about the other two factors.
  3. The theory that Nook might have stretched B&N too thin might have truth to it but it’s not like B&N had another option.
  4. Kindle vs Nook Color is an important comparison for casual and semi-casual readers.
  5. B&N is cutting sales in half (perhaps even by 75%) by painting Nook Color as just a reading tablet. The magicians at Nook Devs might save them by rooting it and allowing people to convert their Nook Color into an Android Tablet.
  6. For people who keep complaining about reading at night and the lack of a backlight on the Kindle the Nook Color is suddenly a great option.
  7. Nook Color’s price is very impressive. If iPad is really worth $499 then Nook Color is easily worth $399. Wonder how much of a loss B&N is taking on each Nook Color.
  8. B&N really needs a Nook 2 and Kindle really needs a Kindle Tablet.
  9. It’s strange that Amazon would add lending (which hardly anyone brings up) and leave out support for library books which always comes up.
  10. It might seem counter-intuitive but B&N would really, really benefit if they let in Kindle for Android. Perhaps they strike a deal with Amazon to get 10% of book revenue. It isn’t necessary though – even if they let Amazon keep the ebook revenue they will sell so many additional Nook Colors by providing an option of ebook readers that it’ll be well worth it.
  11. It’s interesting that the Kindle App has become a selling point for both iPad and Android tablets.

It’s so strange and at the same time it’s very true that adding Kindle for Android would increase Nook Color sales 50%. Open it up to be a Tablet and sales would double. Have to do a separate post about this. B&N is sitting on the largest reserve of tablet gold and instead it wants to mine for eReader silver.

Will the App Stores play a role?

Both the Kindle App Store and the Nook App Store (initially only for Nook Color) could play a vital role.

Indications are that neither will.

For Nook Color the App Store is the lifeline. Right now the Nook Color is the perfect tablet but it’s missing apps. You can read – However, having Netflix and some of the better apps would add so much to it.

For the Kindle there are two camps – Apps aren’t needed, Apps are needed. It seems the former camp is winning out so all we get are apps for in-between reading. Which is perfectly OK. People bought Kindles to read – not to see marvellous transformations – and they won’t mind if they miss out on some amazing things.

For the Nook Color – it’s not. There’s so much there that screams the device isn’t an eReader and B&N is curbing the device’s natural tendencies.

Here’s a snippet from Paul Graham’s essay on Tablets -

It has turned out to be a great thing that Apple tablets have accelerometers in them. Developers have used the accelerometer in ways Apple could never have imagined.

That’s the nature of platforms. The more versatile the tool, the less you can predict how people will use it. So tablet makers should be thinking: what else can we put in there? Not merely hardware, but software too. What else can we give developers access to? Give hackers an inch and they’ll take you a mile.

A perfect example of using the accelerometer in an amazingly impressive way is SleepCycle which uses the accelerometer to monitor your sleep cycles and wakes you up when you are in your light sleep phase.

It works – if you have an iPhone or iPad you really, really should try it. It’s actually magical – not marketing-magical.

There’s no way on earth Apple could have imagined that an app like SleepCycle could be conceived – let alone executed almost perfectly.

You have to give hackers that inch so they can create their masterpieces.

Kindle vs Nook – What will 2011 bring?

  1. If B&N can survive the burden its financial investments in Nook 1 and Nook Color have put on it, and make it through end 2011, it’ll be very well placed.
  2. Nook Color has the potential to sell 10 million units in 2011. It’s easily better value for money than iPad and if you are a casual reader it’s better value for money than Kindle 3 (though not Kindle WiFi).
  3. Amazon desperately needs a Color Kindle or a Kindle Tablet. This probably won’t be clear until B&N announces 3 million Nook Colors sold in mid 2011. At that point it might be too late.
  4. Nook Store continues to struggle – it’s just not as easy to use as the Kindle Store. B&N has done a decent job of reducing the book price difference between the two stores but the selection still needs to improve and the service and usability really, really needs to improve.
  5. Amazon has been complacent. It’s really hard to believe that if you look at all the improvements in Kindle 3. However, it’s 3 years since the Kindle 1 and we don’t have color or for that matter unbreakable screens or touchscreens. In its mastery of kaizen and incremental improvements it’s missing the big technological breakthrough that will transform Kindle into a must-have for every single person.
  6. Amazon’s dependency on eInk is probably its biggest weakness. If it doesn’t develop a Kindle using another technology soon it’ll be stuck.
  7. Amazon should try to buy B&N. It’s going to be a lot cheaper now – If Nook Color takes off the option might be gone.
  8. Is there something about almost-death that makes a company stronger? Is it just survivorship bias?

This post is getting too long and what I really want to write about is Nook Color. So that’s it for now.

Kindle 2.5 vs Nook 1.5, odious eReader comparisons

As the Kindle 3 and its eInk Pearl screen march onwards B&N and Sony aren’t sitting still.

B&N has released the Nook Color and yesterday released the Nook 1.5 software upgrade. Sony has cut the prices on its ‘we compete on quality, not price’ Sony Readers and is adding apps to iPhone and Android in December.

What significance do these moves have?

Let’s start by reviewing Nook’s multi-faceted moves attacking the Kindle.

Color Nook, Nook 1.5, and $100 Nook 1 as Nook takes on Kindle

The three big moves are Nook Color, Nook 1.5 upgrade, and the $100 Black Friday Nook Deal.

Is Nook 1.5 a worthy competitor to Kindle 3 and Kindle 2.5?

Sort of. Here are the updates in the Nook 1.5 software upgrade with my comments in italics -

  1. Automatically sync last page read across Nooks and Nook Apps. Kindle has had this for a long time.   
  2. Create and organize ‘shelves’. Matches the Kindle’s Folders feature.  
  3. Password protect your Nook and password protect purchases. The former matches a Kindle 3 feature which is also present in Kindle 2.5. The latter isn’t available for any Kindle and is a great feature.
  4. Faster page turns. It’s about time – will have to check if page turns are as fast as on Kindle 2.5.  
  5. Search books and documents easily. Again, it’s about time.

So 5 out of the 6 additions (counting the two different password protection features as separate additions) translate into Nook adding features already present in Kindle 2.5 and Kindle 3 and closing the gap a bit. The 6th feature (password protecting purchases) is a very good feature and something Kindle needs desperately.

Nook 1.5 update doesn’t make Nook better than Kindle 3 or even Kindle 2 – However, it closes the gap a bit.

Kindle 2.5 vs Nook 1.5 – Not Much has Changed

Nook adds Folders, makes page turns faster, and improves search. That’s probably balanced by Amazon adding Lending by end 2010 and beginning to trickle out Kindle Apps.

Nook adds syncing for last page read but WhisperNet syncs highlights and notes.

Nook does close the gap with its password protect feature for purchases. Amazon’s probably just happy to not impede the purchase process in any way.

The net result of B&N’s big, huge 1.5 upgrade is that it’s managed to reduce the gap between Nook 1 and Kindle marginally.

People are still going to pick B&N’s Nook for ePub support, library book support, in-store browsing at B&N stores, and for the mini-screen at the bottom. People are still going to pick the Kindle for text to speech, Kindle Store book prices, free Internet, great customer service, and the other Kindle advantages. Kindle 3 has the eInk Pearl screen and is much faster and much lighter and has better battery life and is going to get picked a lot more often than Nook 1 or Kindle 2.

$100 Nook 1 trumped by $89 Kindle 2

Not much to say here. Amazon always does this – spoils B&N’s November and December parties.

Nook Color – Odious Comparisons and B&N’s surprise star Tablet

Nook Color is an entirely different and surprising beast – B&N has either managed to combine the worst of the eReader and Tablet worlds or it has managed to craft something that straddles these worlds perfectly.

The Nook Color reviews so far are split – The more tech-savvy the person the more they feel Nook Color won’t work out. Which matches almost exactly the reaction to the first Kindle - book purists and tech experts hated it. It should give B&N hope that Nook Color has polarized opinions so strongly - Apple people and the tech intelligentsia are attacking it only because they feel threatened.

Kindle and Nook Color aren’t really competing except for a tiny intersection/overlap between regular readers and casual readers. In the narrow intersection of those two groups is a thin slice of readers who can’t decide whether an Android Tablet with a LCD screen is better for them or a dedicated eReader with an eInk Pearl screen.

Nook Color vs (Kindle Reading Apps + iPad/iPhone/Android smartphones)

The real competition is between Nook Color and the device that casual readers currently read on. To be more precise Nook Color is primarily competing with the iPhone+Kindle for iPhone combination and the Android Smartphone+ Kindle for Android combination.

Kindle’s advantage is that it is leading on nearly every platform. Nook Color’s advantage is that every casual reader who picks Nook Color gets locked into the Nook ecosystem.

It’s the strangest sort of war because it’s hard to pin down exactly who/which device is competing with what/which device.

Sony Reader tries to remind people it’s still around

Sony is making three moves of its own – Sony Reader Daily Edition ships November 26th, there are price cuts on Sony Reader 350 and 650, and Sony Reader apps for iPhone and Android launch in December.

Sony Reader Daily Edition – Did anyone know it was coming out?

There was a comment asking about it. That’s the only mention of the Daily Edition in the last 3-4 weeks.

Did you know it was available for preorder? That there’s a $50 price-cut and it’s $250 now?

Neither did I.

Sony hasn’t been paying attention to the US. It doesn’t take much effort to get the blogs and newspaper sites to write about an eReader – If eReaders that aren’t even in production can get buzz why not an eReader that is 3 days away from launch?

It’s disappointing because instead of forcing Amazon and B&N to innovate faster Sony is doing next to nothing.

Sony sticks to quality over price – Well, Actually

After a long speech on how its going to focus on quality over price Sony has cut the prices of the Sony Reader 650 and 350 by $30 each.

Why didn’t Sony release at these price points?

90% of people considering an eReader would have considered the touch-capable, eInk Pearl screen enriched, rather good-looking 350 and 650 if they had been $150 and $200 at launch.

Instead Sony priced itself out of the Kindle vs Nook vs Sony equation completely.

1 year and 9 months after Kindle for iPhone we get Sony Reader for iPhone

Kindle for iPhone was launched in March 2009 which itself was a bit late to tap into the iPhone casual reader market. Sony is going to launch Sony Reader apps for iPhone and Android in December 2010.

Think about it – We have the eReader Wars going on and Sony took 1 year and 9 months to tap into what is arguably the most important channel to reach casual readers.

It’s down to Kindle vs Nook

Sony can pretend it’s focusing on Europe or Atlantis or whatever market it likes – It’s doing nothing of consequence.

If you’re in love with the Sony Reader – it’s a good choice. It’s a beautiful eReader.

The only problem is that it’s made by a company that doesn’t seem to want to sell books or help people get books. Sony wants to get $150 for the Sony Reader 350 and then wash its hands off – No infrastructure like WhisperNet, no in-store features like B&N, and no reading apps for other platforms. On top of that Sony Reader Store’s book prices are terrible when compared to Kindle Store and Nook Store.

For all practical purposes Kindle vs Nook vs Sony Reader is down to Kindle vs Nook.

The twist is that by introducing Nook Color and not updating Nook 1 B&N has thrust Kindle vs Nook into some sort of strange space-time-eReader continuum where it’s unlikely you’ll ever be seriously considering more than one of Kindle and Nook Color and where the Nook 1 is trapped in the ‘previous generation eReader’ black hole.

Amazon needs a Color Kindle or a Kindle Tablet to compete with Nook Color and B&N needs to compete with the Kindle 3 by releasing a Nook 2 with an eInk Pearl screen.

Will Kindle stick to its reading focus?

Given that the Kindle 3 has, for the most part, focused on reading and stuck with eInk this might seem a strange question to ask.

However, consider the competition – Apple has spent most of the year painting the iPad as a viable eReader, Android Tablets are arriving (hopefully sometime in our lifetimes), technologies like Pixel Qi are looming, and Nook is shifting to a color screen model.

Add on that the Press is always happy to attack dedicated ereaders and the concept of a device dedicated to reading.

Almost everyone is attacking dedicated eReaders from the ‘color/can do more than read’ angle and it’s not out of the question that Amazon reconsiders its focus on reading. In fact, you could argue it’s already beginning to hedge its bets.

The warning signs that Amazon is losing its laser focus on reading

Well, there are actually quite a few -

  1. A full-fledged WebKit browser in the Kindle 3.
  2. Facebook and Twitter integration in the Kindle 2.5 upgrade.  
  3. That microphone must be put in with something in mind and it’s unlikely to be reading related.
  4. All 6 Apps in the Kindle App Store have been games. Nothing about font options or book categorization or book covers as screensavers - yet 6 games make it in.  
  5. TV ads contrasting Kindle WiFi with iPad. Why is Amazon suddenly bringing up the very comparison it has shunned all along?
  6. Amazon’s plans to open up an Android App Store. Perhaps it’s a precursor to a multi-purpose Kindle Tablet.
  7. The arrival of Kindle books with audio and video. Currently they only work through Kindle for PC and Kindle for iPhone but who knows what type of Kindle device is arriving next.

We have a lot of other clues like the gesture recognition Kindle patent that suggest a multi-purpose Kindle might be in the works.

In a sense Amazon has good reason to hedge its bets.

1. Expanding the reach of the Kindle

Amazon is, by all accounts, doing exceptionally well in ebooks and eReaders. At some point it has to start wondering whether to expand into digital movies and music via the Kindle or a Kindle like device.

It is Amazon so it isn’t just wondering - it’s already planning for this. We know from an earlier post on Kindle job openings that the Kindle platform team also handles video on demand and mp3 downloads. Why would the Kindle platform team be handling these unless there were plans for a new Kindle that plays music and video?

If the Kindle really is a huge success then, just as Amazon expanded from physical books into physical everything, it makes sense for Amazon to expand from ebooks into digital music downloads and game downloads and movie streaming. It already has all these product lines. All it needs is a Kindle like device that users can use to consume these digital offerings.

Amazon needs its own iPad equivalent and a Kindle tablet is the logical solution. At that point the Kindle will either become a separate, less important line or be rolled into this magical deliver-everything device.

2. Preparing for a world without dedicated eReaders

The second reason Amazon needs to hedge its bets is that Tablets are going to get cheaper. That might not seem relevant to dedicated reading devices but it is.

We live in a world of mass delusion – where singers and actors and sportsmen are considered more important than teachers and soldiers and doctors. If enough companies buy into the ‘we need a device that does more than reading’ mantra and the Press keep drumming into people’s heads that there is no difference between eInk and LCD we might reach a stage where most people buy into the nonsense that Tablet X is a better eReader than a dedicated eInk-based eReader because you can also play games on it.

The Kindle would be left as the only dedicated reading device. Which would make a lot of people wonder. It’s about sowing doubt and confusion – Yes, you want a dedicated reading device but there’s more value for money if your device does other things that take away from your reading time and make you more amenable to our advertising and influence.

It’s much tougher to compete if every other competitor embraces color LCDs and is harping on ‘color’ as a big differentiator for reading. Not everyone’s immune to peer pressure, advertising, and influence - people will start to believe that they need color to read books they earlier happily enjoyed in black and white print.

Finally, we look at people who do want to read but not enough to buy a dedicated reading device.

3. Reaching the casual readers

Currently, companies like Apple are selling a device that ‘you can also read on’ but which is better suited to everything other than reading. To get casual readers to read more Amazon and B&N have to create a device ‘you can do more than just read on’ – yet it is still optimized for reading.

It’s necessary to cater to the 30% of the population that would read more if they got the chance. They won’t put down money for a dedicated eInk reader but if they had a device that was good for reading and good for other things they’d read more than they currently do.

Perhaps Amazon feels it’s already well on its way to gathering up the 10% of the population that reads a lot. Perhaps it feels that to reach the next 30%, the casual readers, what’s needed is a Kindle tablet. A Kindle Tablet that lets people read more and also get the much-vaunted ‘color’ and ‘value for money’ and ‘multi-purposeness’ – things that will ensure casual readers don’t choose an Android Tablet which provides an awful reading experience and puts them off books altogether.

In Closing

Today, B&N might do immense damage to reading. A Nook Color could undermine the concept of an eReader dedicated to reading, weaken the position of the Kindle, and slow down the resurgence in reading. B&N doesn’t really have an option though – it has shown it’s incapable of taking the Kindle head-on. Transforming the stage and context of the eReader Wars might be its only hope.


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