A little worried about writing a Nook Color Review

The Kindle has always been the #1 eReader in my opinion. There was a tie between Kindle and Nook, before Nook came out, but then Nook turned out to be slow and buggy. There have been eReaders that have been close and there still are (Sony Reader Pocket Edition).

However, the Nook Color threatens to upend that.

Why the Nook Color has a shot at being a better ‘eReader’ than the Kindle

Have played around a lot with Nook Color, have finished Alice in Wonderland, and am about to finish Kraken by China ‘Agency Model’ Mieville.

Those two books have highlighted a few things -

  1. When a book is good – It’s not as big a difference in reading experience as you might imagine. There is a difference – But it’s easy to rationalize it away, because you have great Internet surfing, and color photos.
  2. For reading stretches of 30 to 60 minutes – The Nook Color is almost as good. It isn’t eInk, but there aren’t a million distractions, and it is, despite protests to the contrary, a reading tablet.
  3. The size is perfect. It’s a better screen size than Kindle, and the weight, while not ideal, is manageable. If you have weak hands – stick to the Kindle.
  4. Touch makes a difference. It makes a big difference when browsing the Internet, and it makes a bit of a difference when searching for books. Zero difference when reading books.
  5. Color makes a difference. Not for books – for everything else. It’s also a nice bonus to have your photos look marvellous on the Nook Color.
  6. Longer stretches of reading, especially at night, are a pain. Got a bit of a headache after spending 3 hours reading at night. The strange thing is that it’s OK. It’s still not like iPhone or iPad where it makes you want to stop reading on them completely. It’s almost like Nook Color is in between Kindle (zero headache) and iPad (noticeable headache).
  7. The loss of sleep part is true too – Just the act of reading at night means you’re not sleeping. Additionally, the backlight, even at 20% brightness, keeps you awake. However, even that is fine for some reason.
  8. It comes back to the quality of the book. All the 3-star books you read will be painful on Nook Color. On Kindle they’ll be fine. The 5-star books will be fine on either.

It’s a strange situation.

You’d never pick Nook Color over Kindle for reading, but you might pick it when buying

There’s this HUGE paradox.

If you owned both, and there was adequate lighting (or a Kindle Lighted Cover) you’d ALWAYS pick the Kindle for reading books.

At the same time, there’s just no way you could tell, when looking at them side by side for the first time, that the Kindle is better for reading, lets you focus on reading, and will get you to read more.

Nook Color is a salesman’s dream – Whether going up against Kindle or iPad.

For Kindle, it’s color, touch, memory card slots, and Android’s infinite promise of infinite something. For iPad, it’s half the price, easier to hold and carry, and more open.

No one is going to spend a month with each, and take the time to realize that Kindle is better for readers.

Nook Color is what the iPad was trying to be – when it comes to reading

You might argue that everything stated in favor of Nook Color, holds true for iPad. It doesn’t. Nook Color is a much better size, it’s slightly better for glare than iPad, it’s half the price, and it has MUCH better screen resolution.

It narrows the quality of reading experience gap between Kindle and Tablets. The ‘Reading Tablet’ really is a reading tablet.

It’s cognitive dissonance for me. Because the most straight-forward answer I could give would be -

  1. You’re going to look at Kindle and Nook Color side by side.
  2. You won’t know Kindle is better for reading.
  3. You’re likelier to buy Nook Color. You still won’t know Kindle is better for reading.
  4. You know what, the difference isn’t large enough for it to be a big deal.
  5. There won’t be much regret.

That last part, 4 and 5, is the one that should scare Amazon into action. With the iPad, people were soon running into regret – It’s too big, I’m not really reading on it, there are too many distractions, it’s not worth $500, reading is better on the Kindle.

A lot of that is gone with Nook Color. The only thing that remains is – Kindle is better for reading. The other sources of regret (price, size, weight, distractions) are gone.

Nook Color probably passes Mr. Bezos’ Regret Minimization Framework

Here are the things you might regret if you buy a Nook Color as a reading tablet -

  1. Can’t read it in bright sunlight. There’s some glare in bright lighting situations. 
  2. The reading experience isn’t as good as on the Kindle. 
  3. It’s on the heavy side.
  4. Your eyes get tired after an hour or so of reading on Nook Color – when there is noticeably less light around you, than coming from the screen.

Here are things you won’t regret, but would with an iPad -

  1. The price.
  2. The fact that you’re reading even less than you did earlier.
  3. None of the features are tailored to people who read.
  4. It’s too awkward to hold.
  5. It’s too heavy to hold. Nook is a bit heavy but manageable. Again, if you have weak hands – stay away.
  6. You have to use another company’s ebook store, and do the song and dance that entails i.e. shop in the browser, then read in the app.
  7. It’s just too big to carry everywhere with you. Not to mention it’s a huge security issue as everyone knows it’s $500.

To further minimize your regret we have a LOT of the benefits the iPad was touting -

  1. You can do more than just read. If you’re so inclined, and tech savvy, you can root it, and use it as an Android tablet.
  2. You can use ePub with it i.e. other eBook stores.
  3. You can use library books with it.
  4. Color. In fact, the screen resolution is much better than iPad. 
  5. Touch.

Missing out on the Kindle Store really sucks. However,

  1. If you root it, you have access to Kindle for Android.
  2. Nook Store is not bad – It’s quite close behind Kindle Store when it comes to selection and price.
  3. You don’t get Kindle Apps – But there’s a Nook App Store in the works.

That leaves us with our last big source of regret – The free 3G Internet, and store browsing, that Kindle provides. Nook Color only has WiFi. Add on international 3G store browsing, and free Internet (for US Kindle owners), and we have a big, real source of regret.

Consider the two things-you-will-regret lists. They total up to a considerably smaller list than the regret list if you choose iPad over Kindle. The fact that you can root Nook Color means you can have your cake and eat it too – A Reading Tablet with Kindle for Android.

Lab 126, we have a problem

This is what my assumption was on Day 1 with Nook Color -

  • If you read, get a Kindle. If you read rarely, get a Nook Color.

This is what it seemed to be after a week or two with Nook Color -

  • If you read 2 or more books a month, get a Kindle. If you read 1 or fewer books a month, get a Nook Color.

After 3 weeks, and actual reading in a variety of situations, this is what it might end up at -

  • It doesn’t really matter which one you get. You could get Kindle and have zero regret because of the free 3G, great eInk screen, great store, and great infrastructure. You could get Nook Color and have zero regret because of color, touch, the promise of Android, the fact that it is a reading tablet focused on reading, and ePub.

There’s a HUGE difference in the first and third assumptions/feelings. We’re effectively saying  – You could toss a coin and not go wrong.

Kindle vs Nook Color = Pick either. It’s not going to matter very much.

When two fight, a third wins

Add to the previous section, the fact that Apple’s Internal and External Marketing Departments have endlessly attacked the value proposition of dedicated eReaders. It means that most of the Kindle’s huge strengths (eInk, freedom from distractions, focus on reading) are undervalued.

We have people thinking Kindle is not that different from Tablets. The ones who buy an iPad realize it’s not as good for reading, and then they get a Kindle.

With Nook Color, at the time of buying it, people will still be under the impression that Kindle isn’t that much better than a reading tablet. Except, this time, it’s true – They won’t really have any reason to get a Kindle in addition to Nook Color.

Nook Color has managed to fill that imaginary void Apple’s marketing departments created – A Tablet that isn’t that much worse than Kindle for reading.

What can Amazon do to counter Nook Color?

At the moment – Nothing.

It does have a few big advantages -

  1. It’s going to take 3-6 months for people to realize Nook Color really is a big deal.
  2. iPad 2, or one of the Android Tablets, might compete in Nook Color’s reading tablet niche. Fragmentation might mean that the Kindle vs Nook Color debate disappears.
  3. Nook App Store doesn’t exist. It’s barely out of the conception shell. Kindle App Store already has 20 or so apps out.
  4. Amazon has their ultra-secret Android Store in the works.
  5. Amazon has the ‘Kindle = reading’ association.
  6. It has the best eBook store.
  7. It has the lead in eReaders, eBooks, and Reading Apps.
  8. There are a lot of Kindles out, and lots of people are seeing it everywhere.
  9. It’s doing very well in the UK, and is available worldwide.

The big threat of the Nook Color is, if there isn’t a Kindle Tablet out within 6 months, the Nook Color is going to eat through the eReader market like Kobayashi.

The second big threat of the Nook Color is, if the Nook App Store takes off, it could mean that Nook Color + Reading Related Nook Apps make for a better overall experience than Kindle + Kindle Apps (none of the latter, at the moment, are reading related).

There are a lot of Android developers – So, it’s not out of the question that Nook Apps could add more value than Kindle Apps. However, it’s something Amazon must find a way to avoid. And it can’t avoid it unless it embraces Android, and gets Android developers to develop for it, rather than for Nook Color.

The only solution is an Android based Kindle Tablet. There’s no other option – Either Amazon releases an actual Android based Kindle Tablet, or it hopes and prays B&N runs out of money before Nook Color has totally over-run the eReader market.

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