Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader

Now that the Kindle 3 is out it’s worth comparing it with the Nook and the Sony Reader.

This isn’t a fair comparison because we ought to wait for Nook 2 and the new Sony Readers and then do Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 and Kindle vs new Sony Reader comparisons. It’s still being written because people have to choose between pre-ordering a Kindle 3 (part of the new generation of eReaders) and buying a Nook or a Sony Reader (part of the 2nd generation of eReaders).

Please note that this is based on just one hour spent with the Kindle 3 and actually owning both Nook and Sony Reader (as well as nearly every Kindle and Nook WiFi). This Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader comparison will be updated after the Kindle 3 actually arrives.

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – Context

We now have –

  1. Kindle 3 for $189. 
  2. Kindle WiFi for $139. 
  3. Nook for $199.
  4. Nook WiFi for $149. 
  5. Sony Reader Touch Edition for $169. You also get a free $25 ebook gift card.
  6. Sony Reader Pocket Edition for $149. You again get a free $25 gift card.  

Until recently Kindle vs Nook, Sony Reader was mostly a two-horse race between Kindle and Nook due to Sony being allergic to wireless downloads. Now, with the Kindle 3, Amazon has changed the game as Kindle 3 has the new eInk Pearl screen with 50% better contrast.

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – Screen

Nook used to have the best screen contrast amongst 6″ eReaders until the Kindle 2.5 upgrade arrived and probably even after that.

With the eInk Pearl Screen Kindle 3 blows away Nook and Sony Reader. It’s an obvious and significant difference – check out my Kindle DX 2 video page for a DX 2 vs Nook video (DX 2 has the eInk Pearl screen). Kindle 3’s Pearl eInk screen looks even better due to software tweaks.

You basically get three improvements with the new Kindle 3 – the new eInk Pearl screen with 50% better screen contrast, the graphite casing on the graphite Kindle 3 (recommended over the white one), Amazon’s software tweaks to display shaper fonts and darker darks.  

If screen contrast and readability is a top 2 criteria for you get the Kindle 3.

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – Importance of not getting an older model

If, after reading this post, you decide on a Nook or Sony Reader – please keep in mind that Nook 2 and the new generation of Sony Readers are around the corner. They might arrive in August itself. So please don’t buy a Nook or Sony Reader now – they’re likely to become dated in a few weeks.

Have spent the last few weeks recommending that people wait for a rumored August Kindle 3 and it turned out well. The same applies now – If you decide on a non-Kindle purchase or aren’t 100% sure then wait and see what the Nook 2 is like and what Sony has to offer.

Each eReader’s advantages – Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader

Here’s how I’d describe each eReader’s 10 best qualities and 10 weaknesses –

  1. Kindle 3 strengths – latest eInk technology and best screen, free 3G Internet + WiFi, Kindle Store has most and cheapest books, Text to Speech (when not disabled), very light, very compact, always improving, very fast page turns, Voice activated menus, Kindle App Store that might arrive this year, Kindle Apps for PC, Mac, etc.  
  2. Kindle 3 weaknesses – No ePub, no touch, no color, no library books, no books from other stores that have DRM, keyboard doesn’t have number keys, not flashy, might be too small.
  3. Nook strengths – good screen, WiFi+3G, free book store browsing at B&N for up to 1 hour, ePub, library books, quite pretty, Sudoku and Chess built-in, some good font options, very good browser, SD card slot, replaceable battery.  
  4. Nook weaknesses – older generation of screen technology, heavy and slightly awkward, terrible user interface – LCD helper screen is a pain, still has bugs, not as many improvements as Kindle, no Collections.
  5. Sony Reader strengths – compact, pretty, very light, fast page turns, touchscreen. free-hand drawing, collections, good zooming options for fonts. It hasn’t improved much since launch so can’t find 10 big strengths.  
  6. Sony Reader weaknesses – glare and reflection due to touchscreen, old generation screen, awkward and contrived user interface, no wireless, Sony Reader software to transfer books is not simple and is a pain, no add-on services like WhisperNet, no apps for other platforms.

For Kindle WiFi and Nook WiFi just remove 3G and add-in cheap/good value for money to the Kindle 3 and Nook’s qualities.

In my opinion Kindle 3 is significantly better than Nook and Nook is significantly better than Sony Reader.

If you’re limited to sub $150 eReaders then Kindle WiFi or Nook WiFi are both decent. The Kindle WiFi does have the new generation screen – don’t see why you would want to get screen technology from February 2009 when screen technology from July 2010 is available.

Kindle 3 Vs Nook, Sony Reader – Value for Money

Amazon’s price points for the Kindle 3 ($189) and Kindle WiFi ($139) clearly undercut the Nook and the Nook WiFi.

Add-on that Amazon offers Whispernet and Free Internet browsing with the Kindle 3 and the fact that both Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi have the newer eInk Pearl screens and the Kindles clearly offer better value for money.

The next two points (ePub, Library Books) will discuss cases where this might not be true – However, for most readers, Kindle 3 does offer better value.

Sony Reader Touch Edition is very cheap and has a touchscreen – However, it isn’t good value for money because its screen is terrible compared to Nook and even worse compared to the Kindle 3. The touchscreen layer adds glare and reflects objects and detracts from your reading experience.

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – ePub and Openness

Perhaps the biggest criticism against the Kindle 3 will be its ‘lack of openness’ and ‘lack of support for ePub’.  Let’s dig into exactly what it means in terms of books and reading –

  1. Kindle does not support ePub. This means no library books (next section discusses this in detail). This also means that any book in ePub format is not supported.  
  2. The lack of ePub support is important because nearly every non-Amazon ebook store sells books in DRMed ePub format and Kindle 3 will not read these. In fact, Kindle 3 will not read DRMed books other than those sold at the Kindle Store. It does support password protected PDFs. Since Big Publishers don’t really sell their ebooks without DRM it means the Kindle Store is your only source for books which have DRM.  
  3. Kindle Store has more new books than anyone else (630,000) and there are 1.8 million public domain books available free in Kindle format (at free book sites). Which means that not being able to get books from other stores isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. It is, however, a drawback.

There are lots of ways of looking at it.

The best way to think of it is – If the Kindle Store stops being the best ebook store with the lowest prices and the most books you’ll feel the lack of ePub support is a significant negative.

At the moment it’s mostly a made-up disadvantage. The real negative is not being able to read library books.

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – Library eBooks

Sony Reader and Nook support DRMed ePub books and thus support books lent out by Libraries that use OverDrive (a particular software for lending ebooks).

It’s a significant Kindle disadvantage and it’s also overhyped – Most libraries don’t have a lot of ebooks and ebooks work just like physical books i.e. you have to wait to get your turn.

This is definitely a big Kindle disadvantage if library ebooks are important to you.

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – Lending

Nook has this feature which is cool and useful but limited – If Publishers have enabled ‘LendMe’ on their books (a decent number do enable it – perhaps 40%) then you can lend your ebook to one friend one time for 14 days.

It’s not much but it’s better than not being able to lend.

What Kindle and Nook (and perhaps Sony too) do allow is family sharing – Multiple Kindles can link to one account and read the same book at the same time. There is a limit on the number of devices that can download and read the same book (usually 5 or 6).

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – Wireless Capabilities

Sony Reader has neither WiFi nor 3G and is out of the conversation.

Nook used to be the only eReader with WiFi and it’s a good feature to have – You may not get 3G coverage, WiFi is faster, 3G modems are more expensive. B&N also introduced the Nook WiFi that had only WiFi and no 3G and retailed at a lower price point of $149.

Now Kindle 3 has both 3G and WiFi and Kindle WiFi, not surprisingly, has WiFi.

When it comes to wireless related features Amazon offers a lot more as it gives you free Internet access over 3G and has 3G access in 100+ countries. If your home country is the US you get free Internet Access in all these countries.

Within the US Amazon’s only advantage is the free Internet. Both Kindle and Nook use AT&T’s network and both offer free access to AT&T hotspots for browsing books and downloading books (not for Internet browsing).

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader – Looks

This is straightforward – Sony Readers look pretty and are available in lots of colors, the Nook looks quite nice, and the Kindle is a matter of personal choice. The Kindle 3 looks quite good but it’s designed to fade into the background so it’s not got the Sony Reader’s prettiness or the Nook’s flashy LCD helper screen.

Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader Conclusion – Get the Kindle 3 or Wait

My recommendation would be to compare Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader on the features important to you and if the Kindle 3 or the Kindle WiFi is the winner – Get it Now. The new Kindles have a lot of improvements and the new eInk Pearl screen and it’s pretty unlikely you’ll find a better option anytime soon.

If you’re tending towards a Nook please wait for Nook 2 and if the Sony Reader has caught your eye definitely wait for the new Sony Readers that might arrive as soon as this month.

At the moment Kindle 3 vs Nook, Sony Reader is a pretty unfair comparison and hopefully Nook 2 and the new Sony Readers show up in August and we can do a proper, fair comparison.

Is Touch Worth It? Sony Vs Kindle

This is a really difficult question and this post doesn’t really answer it. There’s a ton of evidence though and you can make up your own mind.

First, the video of Sony’s implementation of the touch feature – [wpvideo ChHMYL9o]

Reasons Touch is a good feature

The areas where the Sony Touch’s touch feature really shines –

  1. Hitting a spot or an item is quicker. You don’t have to move the cursor to a spot or an item.
  2. Home Page, Book List Pages and Menus are easier to use.  
  3. You can add freehand notes and scribbles in the margins and in the book itself (although can’t seem to figure out how to enter longer notes).
  4. There’s a notes view where you can add notes, highlight text, erase notes and highlights, set bookmarks and look at all the existing notes. 
  5. In Notes mode highlighting is really easy.
  6. The Freehand drawing (in the Handwriting app) is useful as it lets you do freehand scribbling, notes and drawings.   
  7. On screen keyboard is easy to use (in the Memo app).

Reasons Touch is a bad feature.

The Touch feature has some disadvantages too –

  1. The biggest by far is loss of readability. The touch layer is reflective and reduces readability and its worse when there are bright lights.
  2. Touching the screen leads to finger prints and smudges.
  3. Writing on the touchscreen is awkward (especially as you can’t rest your hand on it).  
  4. You need to use the stylus a lot of the time so its two handed reading.
  5. eInk means that you have to move the stylus a bit slower.

Disadvantages due to Sony’s implementation of touch –  

  1. The bad placement of the page turn buttons and the drag gesture (instead of a tap page turn) makes page turning awkward. 
  2. No handwriting recognition.
  3. The Notes Mode eats up a lot of screen real estate.
  4. There aren’t enough shortcuts. There are two-step actions instead of shortcuts or one step actions.

An example of the last is that to highlight you have to do Options > Notes > Select Highlight Button > Do the Actual Highlight.  

Even if you read in Notes Mode it’s Choose Highlight Button > Do Highlight.

Closing Thoughts

The current state of eInk technology causes a few of the main disadvantages i.e. loss of readability and having to wait a tiny bit to see the result of your ‘touches’.

The loss in readability is not trivial and a big downside.

Sony’s implementation of Touch adds a lot of disadvantages including the rather inelegant way page turns are handled. 

Which leads us to a rather interesting question –   

Would touch be a good feature for Kindle 3? Well,

  1. Amazon would have to work in a better implementation of Touch.
  2. We would need eInk advances so that the effect of a touch layer on readability was minimal.

That’s two big IFs. It’s hard to say whether the current benefits of touch outweight the downside.

Kindle 3 is unlikely to add touch, unless of course there is a big advance in eInk technology.

Kindle Vs Sony Reader Pocket Edition

Kindle Vs Sony Reader Pocket Edition becomes rather interesting thanks to the Pocket Edition’s excellent screen contrast, lower size and lower price.

Should the Kindle 2 be worried about the $199 Pocket Edition? Let’s find out.

Kindle Vs Sony Reader Pocket Edition Video

Sony has done well to hit a $199 price point and the Pocket Edition looks good – [wpvideo ciuS1VlL]

Have to admit that the contrast on the Pocket Edition blew me away.  

Kindle Vs Sony Reader Pocket Edition – Pocket’s Advantages.

  1. $60 cheaper than Kindle 2. 
  2. Much more portable and much smaller in size.
  3. Excellent Contrast –  Sony have somehow managed to make the background impressively white. There is a difference in normal lighting. However, in bright sunlight the difference is huge. Do note that the ‘Wow’ and other special effects are courtesy a Sony salesgirl – [wpvideo 8kmEBV8k]
  4. Like the buttons on the right side that can be used to jump to pages, and perhaps for other things. 
  5. ePub Support.

The size and portability of the Sony Pocket Edition combines well with its $199 price to create an entry-level eReader that will appeal to a lot of people who can’t afford a $259 Kindle 2.

Here’s a rather haphazard video contrasting size – [wpvideo J98D4GLA]

Kindle Vs Sony Reader Pocket Edition – Kindle’s Advantages.

Once again, WhisperNet and the Kindle Store ride in to the rescue –

  1. 60 second book downloads. 
  2. Better range of books and cheaper prices. 
  3. Free Internet Access.
  4. Whispernet (wireless downloads for books) works in 81 countries. These countries get Free Wikipedia too and Amazon have said they’ll eventually get Free Internet.
  5. A larger 6″ screen – 5″ is too small.
  6. Read To Me is a great feature to have, although some authors turn it off.
  7. Kindle for PC and Kindle for iPhone. Kindle for Mac is slated to arrive in a few months.
  8. Syncing across different devices thanks to WhisperSync.

As in our previous comparison, the Kindle as a service totally overcomes the limitations of Kindle the device.

Thoughts on Kindle Vs Sony Reader Pocket Edition

The Kindle 2 and the Sony Reader Pocket Edition really are different devices.

The Pocket should come in at $150 given its total lack of wireless connectivity, expandability, etc. and at that price it would be a huge hit.

At $200, Sony 300 can’t compare with the features of the Kindle 2, which is definitely worth the extra $60. Just the free Internet, free wikipedia, and larger size are worth more than that.

Conclusion – Kindle 2 wins, Sony Pocket Edition sets a new bar for Screen Contrast and Pricing

The Kindle 2 wins, again relying on the wonder that is WhisperNet and its range of content.

Sony do set a new bar for pricing and screen contrast and put a ton of pressure on Amazon for Kindle 3.

Amazon really ought to figure out what deal Sony struck with the devil to get such excellent screen contrast.