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.

How B&N could sell 10 million Nook Colors in 2011

AKA Nook Color = Cinderella.

This post will basically make two arguments -

  1. Nook Color is an amazingly impressive Android Tablet plus at $250 it’s far better value for money than iPad. 
  2. Nook Devs (the site, via rooting) and Nook App Developers could be the Fairy Godmother and the Prince (not necessarily in that order). If B&N lets them.

That’s basically the entire post – the rest is details which you really don’t have to read if you agree already.

1. is pretty much a given if you’re open to buying an Android tablet.

2. is what will result in 10 million Nook Color sales in 2011. Unless B&N gets in the way.

Let’s go through why 1. is probably true and then explore whether B&N will recognize 2. and not interfere with Nook Devs and the developers developing apps for the Nook.

Nook Color is Cinderella

There are a lot of things about the Nook Color that are cool. They aren’t all super marketable things or things you can put in bullet points (not going to let that stop me) – they’re just cool.

  • You can put your own screensaver on the home screens and arrange items as you like and resize them. Your favorite book can literally take center-stage.
  • It’s screen is closer to the size of a paperback and it’s still quite compact in size.
  • The touch screen works. B&N has managed to avoid the user-experience massacre the Nook suffered from. It’s probably because the LCD screen doesn’t have to synchronize with an eInk one.
  • Color adds a lot for magazines and Web surfing. Touch also comes in very useful when surfing. The browser works very well – a 7″ screen is very usable and it’s even better in landscape.
  • It looks good and B&N again manages to do its little contrast trick i.e. Greyish casing and then a black border and then the screen. Amazon really needs to figure out why that looks better and replicate it. No one will ever mention it – but it’s there and it makes a difference.
  • It’s very easy to think of it as yours. Don’t know how to explain it better. Nook Color and Kindles are the only ones that have felt mine. Perhaps the iPhone too though it being a phone plays a huge part.
  • It’s just a great touch that they have a LendMe social network in there. It seems stupid to encourage users to lend books right from Nook Color instead of letting them struggle and then buy the book instead – But it’s very good for users. It replaces the bookstore experience a little bit.

There are also technical things – it’s fast and has enough memory, you get QuickOffice on it so PDFs and Word work well. Suffice to say you won’t be missing Kindle or iPad for ease of use and speed.

Why Nook Color is as good an option as the iPad

Well, it’s a long list -

  1. It’s $250.
  2. Total Cost of Ownership is low as apps will probably be cheaper or you can go free with Android. Everything is cheaper – cases, insurance, protectors.
  3. It can be rooted to be an Android tablet.
  4. It has a memory card slot so you can keep adding memory. You can add 32GB to the on-board 8GB and can also exchange out the 32 GB memory card.
  5. It’s lighter and easier to hold and carry.
  6. The default book store is a good one.
  7. You get benefits by walking into any B&N store.

There are negatives too – it’s not a status indicator, it has less battery life, it isn’t polished to perfection, it doesn’t have 3G, there’s no back button, other disadvantages.

The biggest negative is that it doesn’t have a plethora of apps. Cinderella is stuck if she doesn’t have a way to show the world how talented and beautiful and charming she is. 

Will Cinderella find her Fairy Godmother?

Actually, she already has.

If B&N had any amount of vision it’d hire the people at NookDevs and let them run riot with the Nook Color. Perhaps even provide a software update pack to anyone who wants to convert Nook Color into a full-fledged Android Tablet.

Nook Devs have taken Nook Color from a limited reading tablet to a device that is -

  1. A Reading Tablet for those who want a reading tablet.
  2. An Android tablet for everyone else.

At this point B&N needs to embrace this group of developers and hackers who’re going to help it sell millions of Nook Colors.

Of course – we shouldn’t underestimate the capability of a corporate organization to not recognize what’s good for it.

Is there a Prince Charming?

There might be. It depends on how much talent B&N can attract to its Nook App Store.

One of the 6 main buttons/tabs in the Nook’s main menu is one called Extras. All apps live in the Extras tab.

That Extras button is going to be the difference between 1.5 million Nook Colors sold in 2011 and 10 million Nook Colors sold in 2011.

We’ve seen it with Facebook and we’ve seen it with the iPhone. We can go back and see it with SalesForce.com and Microsoft and so many other companies. Platforms that let hackers and developers add value destroy their rivals.

B&N is placed perfectly -

  1. Apple iPhone and iPad App Stores are too competitive.
  2. Additionally, Apple is drunk on its power and treats developers poorly. Basically, it’s now gotten a huge market lead and it can afford to be mean – However, the best developers don’t take nonsense from anyone. They just move on to other platforms.
  3. Android has too many ‘free’ apps. Plus ‘returns’ and piracy make life difficult for developers. B&N should still let Nook Devs enable rooting of Nook Color – However, there’s little point trying to make money from rooted Nook Colors. B&N should just get the money from device sales and then write off the rest – seriously, claim it as a tax credit.
  4. Finding Good Android Apps is hard for users – there’s no quality control and it’s impossible to find anything.
  5. Windows 7 Phone/Tablet is just starting.
  6. B&N is the only viable Android Tablet. There isn’t a single viable alternative under $500.
  7. It’s just $250 – That’s an incredible price when iPad is $500 and Galaxy Tab is even more expensive.
  8. It has developers’ and hackers’ attention. That’s a very transitory and ethereal thing – B&N has to take advantage of it now.

B&N has the device. It has developers’ attention. It has the entire Android Tablet market all to itself.

All it needs to do is open up to the best and brightest developers and get in 10,000 really high quality apps. If it does that it’ll become the #1 Tablet.

It’ll be a combination of course -

  1. 2 to 4 million Nook Colors will be rooted versions that are being used as ultra-cheap Android Tablets.
  2. 6 to 8 million Nook Colors will be the B&N controlled but developer powered ‘curated’ Tablets.

That’s 8 to 12 million Nook Colors in 2011. B&N has that option – it doesn’t even have to do anything other than attract the best developers and do a good job of quality control without getting in the way of developers.

Will B&N limit Nook Color to being a servant girl?

B&N is aiming for the reading market. Yet, the Nook Color is a device much better suited to being a superstar Tablet.

You know what’s better than stealing a few million sales from the Kindle?

Stealing 10 million sales from the iPad.

Getting a few million book readers might seem important – However, B&N needs to stop thinking like a bookstore and start thinking like a company that has a super-valuable Tablet with limitless potential.

Why go for a market that doesn’t suit the Nook Color and is smaller in size and has a competitor with some innate advantages i.e. better ebook store, lower price, eInk screens.

If, instead, B&N lets Nook Color take on the iPad it can use its $250 price, the option to transform into a rooted Android Nook Color, and a curated but developer-centric app store to steal away a HUGE chunk of the Tablet market.

Nook Color is full of so much potential – it’s ridiculous to be locking it up in the ‘Reading Tablet’ box.

2011 is the year of Nook Color – If B&N doesn’t get in the way

The stars are aligned perfectly – The Nook Color is the only Android Tablet available to a large, hungry market. It’s the only $250 Tablet available to an even larger and hungrier market.

B&N needs to step away from both the eReader market and the Kindle vs Nook rivalry and look around it.

The world outside is bright and multi-colored and surprisingly devoid of serious competition. There’s an army of developers and hackers waiting to help B&N. It has the perfect device in Nook Color. There’s absolutely zero reason to spurn such a beautiful opportunity.

With just a few thousand of the right apps Nook Color would instantly be the best Tablet available – it’s time for B&N to recognize that reality and execute on it.

Kindle, Amazon might be in danger – Nook Color is mighty impressive

The Kindle 3 might be getting all the focus but Amazon feels its Kindle Apps for various platforms are important enough to have a devoted ad of their own.

Yes, seriously. There’s now a Kindle ad that shows Ms. Sitting-By-The-Pool switching from Android to iPhone and taking all her books along with her. The ad ends with -

             Kindle Books.
Buy Once. Read Everywhere.

Why would Amazon be running ads showing people reading on a device other than the Kindle?

Well, after a couple hours with the Nook Color, its abundantly clear exactly what Amazon is afraid of.

Nook Color – first impressions

The first few steps

  1. It’s packed very well and the cover is very smartly done. Nook Color is very, very well packed in terms of avoiding damage.
  2. There’s an interesting split open type box and the first view you get of the Nook Color is from the bottom and then you pull it out.
  3. First, you have to charge it ‘fully’ which takes just 1 to 2 hours the first time. The charger indicator light turns from orange to green (it’s in the shape of an ‘n’).
  4. The very first step asks if you want to see a Help Video – skipped that. The girl in the video is annoyingly happy – as if it’s her who just got a Nook Color and not you. That would be a good idea – A welcome video where the person is all upset because they have to welcome everyone and never get a cool, shiny device of their own.
  5. You go through a 4 step process – including selecting your time zone, choosing a WiFi network, and registering the device. Everything’s fast.

Instantly like it more than the iPad – It’s very comfortable to hold and the typing is very easy. The iPad always make me feel like Gulliver in Brobdingnag.

It’s in Color

  1. Color might not make a spot of difference when reading a book. However, it sure makes everything look pretty.
  2. Nook Color instantly reveals how limited Nook 1’s little browser screen is. In most things other than actual reading the Nook Color has an advantage over pure eInk readers.
  3. The Internet is so much better in color and with touch. The browser blows Kindle 3’s WebKit browser out of the water – mostly due to not having to use the 5-way to inch through webpages.  

At this point – I’m sold. 100%.

Don’t know if it’ll be as fast or responsive as iPad or have magic pixie dust and don’t care. It just looks good and feels good in your hand and it’s time for Amazon to start worrying about casual readers and Apple to start worrying about people not looking for a status indicator.

It’s not iPad/iPhone smooth

You can just imagine all the Apple people beginning to smile -

  1.  It’s not Apple level UI. It looks great but it’s not as fast and not as smooth. When you scroll through a list it doesn’t glide. 
  2. It’s a bit of a different approach – The focus is on making things good and not on making them perfect.
  3. If little details bother you then Nook Color might not be a good choice – If, on the other hand, you don’t care that ‘+’ in the Create New Shelf button isn’t animated and isn’t the right size then you’ll probably love Nook Color.

If you get irrationally excited about Apple products then stay far, far away – you’ll be very disappointed because it doesn’t have animated page turns or wooden shelves or any of the aesthetic bows and ribbons Apple loves.

Reading on the Nook Color

Using Touch the Right Way

As opposed to Sony, which thinks touch is an excuse to torture readers, B&N uses touch well.

  1. You can tap on an edge or swipe to turn pages.
  2. You can tap on the top left corner to add a bookmark.
  3. Tap on the middle to open the menu.
  4. You can tap on a word to start a highlight, share, add a note, or to look up the word. This is so much better than Sony Reader’s ‘special mode’ (which you have to go into to add notes or highlights) you can’t help but feel sorry for Sony.

Nook Color uses touch very intelligently and makes the most of having a LCD touchscreen. It’s not an Apple-type perfect touch experience but it’s good enough.

Nook Color’s Book Reading Software is great

The core software that lets you read books is great -

  1. It displays text crisply.
  2. There are 6 font sizes. The largest is about as big as the second largest font setting on the Kindle. The smallest is a tiny bit larger than the Kindle 3’s smallest size.
  3. There are 6 font options – Century Schoolbook, Dutch, Georgia, Ascendar Sans, Trebuchet MS, and Gill Sans. Didn’t like any as much as the Kindle’s Caecilia but a few are decent.
  4. There are 6 themes – Normal, Night, Gray, Butter, Mocha, and Sepia. Sepia, Night, and Normal are pretty impressive. Sepia isn’t as good as Kindle for iPad’s Sepia but it’s good.
  5. There are 3 choices for line spacing and 3 choices for margin size (which dictates column width).

You can also choose ‘Publisher defaults’ for a book – something that should excite Publishers a lot.

Take all the good eReader apps on iPhone and mix them up and you have the Nook Color’s book interface. It’s very well done – enough options to allow flexibility but not so many that you get overwhelmed.

Whoever designed the reading software put enough thought into it to make it easy and intuitive. The last thing you’d expect given what the Nook 1’s software is like.

It’s LCD, not eInk

The grey lining to the multi-color cloud is that it’s LCD with all the accompanying negatives (positives if you’re LCD-compatible) -

  1. It’s not easy on the eyes like eInk. 
  2. The light coming right at you is a bother. You can adjust the brightness right from the book itself which helps a bit.  
  3. It’s more like a reading app than an eReader. You can’t fight off the feeling that it’s a tablet with a good reading app rather than a reading tablet.  

Contrary to all of B&N’s protests this isn’t a reading tablet – it’s a Tablet that’s making a good attempt at being a reader but failing to reach the level of the dedicated eReaders (Kindle 3 and Nook 1).

If you read more than 1 book a month and are not LCD-compatible then the Nook Color is not recommended. Kindle 3 will be much easier on your eyes and won’t be hurting your sleep patterns.

Basically, if you’re a serious or serious-casual reader then Nook Color isn’t the right choice. Interestingly, you might still enjoy owning one – especially if you’re looking for something that frees you from Apple.

The LendMe App

The thing about this that got me excited was not so much being able to lend books to friends (which is cool) but being able to make new friends. If we have the same choice in books that’s like Facebook with a filter that rules out all the Friend-collectors and the stalkers.

The fact that the focus is books rather than you (and how many friends you have) makes it easier to actually connect. Just the way that you usually meet the right person when you aren’t really looking – you usually make good friends when your focus isn’t adding friends or social popularity.

Nook Color isn’t exactly a full Tablet

Here’s how my description of the Nook Color would go -

  1. Nook Color is very well suited for reading magazines, reading children’s books, reading books with illustrations and photos, and for browsing sites. 
  2. Nook Color is quite good for reading books and playing music.
  3. Nook Color struggles with video, battery life, and long stretches of reading (it seems that way – will confirm it in a later review).

Nook Color isn’t as good an eReader as the Kindle 3. It definitely isn’t a full-fledged Tablet either. So people who claim it’s the worst of both worlds have a bit of truth to their argument.

However, it’s fundamentally a fun little device on which you can do some things very well and some things decently and it’s just $250. It’s much easier to use and carry than an iPad and the 7″ screen is actually a sweet spot. 7″ is good for websites and books and is MUCH better than 10″, 3.5″, and even 6″.

The Wild Card – Games and Apps

There’s enough here (color, touch, screen size, processor speed of 800 MHz, 512 MB RAM) to create some very impressive apps. 

If B&N plays its cards right and adds the best 10,000 Android Apps it’ll blow away all the expensive tablets.

The semi-openness of Nook Color adds a lot of flexibility

There are three things worth noting -

  1. You can root Nook Color and get a full-fledged Android mini-tablet. Zero restrictions.  
  2. Being able to add a micro-SD Card is awesome – You can go up to 40 total GB and carry tons of music or use Nook Color as a flash drive. Also, you can rotate cards so there’s no limit.
  3. You get support for library books and you can read DRMed ePub. It’s important for some people and useful for everyone else.

Without being very open Nook Color still manages to add some much-needed flexibility.

Thoughts on Nook Color’s impact

With Casual Readers Kindle doesn’t have a chance

Please note that casual readers = 1 book or less a month.

  1. First, there’s color. It’s used intelligently. 
  2. Next, there’s touch – touch done right.
  3. Third, there’s a conscious effort to do things right. Yes, they fail a lot of the time but they succeed often enough that you don’t care about the failures. 

It’s pretty impressive for a first try. It’s also going to get a lot of casual readers. We’re talking perhaps 25% of the casual reader market – which is millions and millions of people. 

It might also get a lot of the people looking for an Android Tablet – perhaps even 25%. This adds an entire new headache for Amazon since those people will no longer be using Kindle for Android.   

Kindle 3 and Nook Color will each dominate their segments

We’re talking about -

  1. Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi getting 70% or more of the dedicated eReader market with Nook 1 stalling at around 10 to 15%.
  2. Nook Color getting 25% of the casual reader market. That’s sales stolen from iPad (enough to make a dent), Kindle (a little wedge), Android Tablets (a huge chunk), and even iPhone.
  3. Nook Color getting 25% or more of the Android tablet market. Seriously, it’s very good. If you owned it and stopped by an Apple Store and used an iPad – You would have enough reasons to feel there’s nothing missing. Nook Color is easier to hold and use, it’s less pretentious, it’s cheaper, it’s got an SD Card so you can plug-in 32 extra GB yourself, and you can always root it and get a fully open Android Tablet.

The potential strong future for Nook Color should worry Amazon a lot -

  1. It means B&N locks up every single one of the 25% of casual readers and 25% of Android Tablet lovers that buy Nook Color.
  2. It gives B&N a larger share of the ebooks market.
  3. It gives B&N resources and encouragement to bring out a killer Nook 2.

B&N has suddenly become a bigger threat than Apple and might even morph into a bigger threat than Google. These are giants but B&N is focused on books which could make it far more dangerous.

After all my criticism of B&N’s strategies have to admit that Nook Color is very impressive both as a device and as a strategy. I was wrong – B&N is not dying or going away and if it keeps releasing products like Nook Color it’s going to give Amazon a run for its money.

Conclusion – Amazon needs to get really, really worried about its tenuous grip on casual readers

It’s now clear why Amazon is running TV advertisements featuring Kindle for iPhone and Kindle for Android. Nook Color is going to carve out a big portion of the casual reader market for itself. As opposed to the Kindle Apps, which don’t have lock-in other than kindle book purchases, the Nook Color gives B&N very strong lock-in – It’s simply not going to allow other eReader apps into the Nook App Store.

This is the first time there’s been a device focused on reading that Amazon has no answer for. Nook Color is not a dedicated reading device – But it is a reading-focused device.

Was ready to joke about how CNet is hedging its bets by naming the new Kindles (Kindle 3, Kindle WiFi) and the Nook Color to its CNet Editor’s Choice list. However, there’s nothing to joke about. Nook Color hits it out of the ballpark – It’s not an iPad. For people not in love with Apple it’s better.  

The Kindle 3 retains its crown as the best dedicated eReader and Nook Color wrests the crown of ‘best device for reading and more’ from the iPad/iPhone.

Kindle vs Nook Color – Nook Color Review Compilation

Does the Kindle 3 have to worry about Nook Color?

Well, from the first few Nook Color reviews we get a rather surprising answer – Not at first, but Eventually.

Let’s start by looking at what the various Nook Color Reviews have to say.

Nook Color Review Compilation

CNet Nook Color Review by David Carnoy

David Carnoy likes quite a few things about the Nook Color -

  1. Vibrant 7″ color screen with touch.  
  2. Zippy performance.  
  3. 8 GB memory plus expansion up to 40 GB via microSD card slot.
  4. PDF, Word, and ePub support.
  5. Audio and MP3 support.
  6. Support for some video formats.  
  7. It’s half the price of an iPad.
  8. The look of the Nook Color. Have to agree with him. It does look good.
  9. The weight being much less than the iPad.
  10. Elegant UI and it’s easy to operate and navigate. Good general responsiveness – not as good as the iPad.
  11. Magazines look pretty good on the device.
  12. Very good with PDFs – better than eInk Readers. That should come as no surprise – it couldn’t really be worse.
  13. It’s great shopping in the Nook Store.
  14. Nook Color is a much more polished eReader than Nook 1 was. Well, it would have to try very hard indeed to be less polished than Nook 1 was.
  15. If B&N can improve its app offerings it might not be worth it to move to another, bigger Android Tablet.

Yeah, his Nook Color review is pretty positive.

He doesn’t like a few things -

  1. Only 8 hours battery life. 
  2. No access to Android Market. B&N has said that a Nook App Store will open in early 2011. 
  3. Not enough apps at launch.
  4. Battery is not user replaceable.
  5. The weight is nearly twice that of the Kindle. You have to prop it up against something when reading.

David Carnoy really likes Nook Color and he lays out his argument well. It’s hard not to agree with his review bottom line -

Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color is a very capable color touch-screen e-book reader–and delivers some notable extras–for half the price of an iPad.

He also adds two interesting thoughts -

With a handful of additional apps, such as a dedicated e-mail client, more games, more media apps … the Nook Color could be enough of an Android tablet for most users 

It splits the difference between the iPad and the Kindle pretty well, offering the color touch-screen … at a price and size that’s half that of the iPad.

This is the best Nook Color Review. Having a video review is a bonus – though the video is poor.

ComputerWorld Nook Color Review by Melissa J. Petersen

She reviews Nook Color and finds some things she likes -

  1. A superbly integrated, largely satisfying, and unique (for now) ereading experience.  
  2. Potential to deliver far more. Lots of reviews have this thread of ‘future potential’ running through them.
  3. She feels that NookColor’s display and intuitive interface deliver a solid one-two punch. The display having in-plane switching is pretty impressive.
  4. Letters were very readable and much better than on the iPad – Nook Color has 169 pixels per inch while iPad has only 132 pixels per inch.
  5. Handles light well and is somewhat readable in situations where other LCD screen devices aren’t readable. B&N talks about using a special film to reduce glare and reviewers have differed on how effective it is – This is the only review that feels the special screen makes Nook Color readable in very bright light situations.
  6. A lot of praise for the interface and main screen. Think that’s well deserved.
  7. Great for magazines.

Things she doesn’t like -

  1. Weight of 15.8 ounces which is a lot more than Kindle 3’s 8.7 ounces.
  2. No physical back button and over-dependence on touch screen.
  3. Having to be very particular with touch interface – it’s easy to accidentally do the wrong thing.  
  4. You can only use the special B&N charger to recharge. Any microUSB cable can be used for transfers.
  5. Pixel depth isn’t the same as iPhone 4 Retina display.
  6. No Flash Support.

She’s very positive overall and ends with this -

Barnes & Noble’s NookColor succeeds in combining much of the readability of the E-Ink based e-readers with the speed, customization, and graphical advantages of the LCD-based e-reading apps on competing touch screen devices, phone or tablet.

And at $249, NookColor even has limited viability as a reasonably priced, contract-free tablet …

The full Nook Color review is at ComputerWorld.

A tip of the hat to both these reviewers for reviewing Nook Color as an eReader. It’s really great to see main stream reviewers who don’t have a ‘every device should be a do-everything tablet’ attitude. 

Engadget’s Nook Color Review by Joshua Topolsky

Engadget has some of the clearest photos and the best video quality. It’s interesting – it almost seems as if the other reviewers wanted to show Nook Color is readable even in bad lighting conditions and sacrificed image and video quality for that.

Things Engadget loves -

  1. The design. Engadget thinks it’s an elegant, thoughtfully designed piece of technology. Totally agree with that.
  2. TI OMAP 3621 processor that runs at 800 MHz.
  3. 512 MB of RAM which is super impressive.
  4. They played Angry Birds on a dev unit and it worked just a well as on an iPad or Galaxy Tab. Depending on your perspective that’s either good or bad.
  5. You can move around and prioritize your content as you like. This feature and the bottom corner loop really make me happy – we need eReaders to let us mark them as ours.
  6. There’s a social network for lending. Interesting.
  7. Photos and PDFs work great.
  8. Great price point.

Things Engadget doesn’t like -

  1. It weighs nearly a pound.
  2. Despite the special screen coating B&N has added reading in bright locations is sometimes difficult.
  3. Pandora and Music Player can play over each other.
  4. Video support is spotty.
  5. Lag issues. Engadget feels the touch response and refresh rates were ‘way behind the curve’.

You can read Engadget’s Nook Color Review at Engadget.

It’s hard not to get the feeling that Engadget is reviewing Nook Color as a Tablet and throwing in a few bits based on what it thinks people who read care about. It’s pretty clear from the review’s ending paragraph -

 if B&N delivers on its desire to create a marketplace for Nook Color apps, you could be spending $249 not just for a great reading experience, but for something far bigger.

For the price, you’re getting a lot of product here — now it’s just a question of whether or not Barnes & Noble knows how to take advantage of that product.

Trust Engadget to end an eReader review by wishing that the eReader soon changes into a do-everything Tablet.

PC Mag Nook Color Review by Dan Costa, David Pierce

Things they like -

  1. Bright, 7″ LCD screen with 16 million colors.
  2. Intuitive touch based navigation.
  3. Runs third-party apps. To be more precise – a few. It will add more when the Nook App Store opens.
  4. Lots of periodicals available. 
  5. Color and contrast that blows eInk away.
  6. You can read it without a light.
  7. Can read comfortably with one hand. Find this really hard to believe – it’s 15.8 ounces.

They give it their Editor’s Choice for color ebook readers which is infinitely amusing – Nook Color is the only color eReader available.

Things they don’t like -

  1. Only WiFi – no 3G.
  2. Proprietary AC adapter. It can’t be charged by a standard micro-USB charger. Who do they think they are – Apple?
  3. Battery life is short for an eReader.
  4. Bigger and heavier than Kindle 3 and Nook 1.  
  5. Daily charging needed if you read for more than a few hours a day.  

Their bottomline -

More than an ebook reader, less than a full-blown tablet, the Nook Color’s artful compromises make for a compelling, color reading experience that is ideal for both books and magazines.

You can read PC Mag’s Nook Color Review at its site.

CrunchGear Nook Color Review by John Biggs

The highs -

  1. It is a reading device. John Biggs points out that the focus is on reading and the Nook Developer program also makes it clear that B&N wants reading related apps.
  2. Great for children’s books.  
  3. Lend Me and how it’s a big advantage for Nook Color over Kindle. Guess people aren’t aware Amazon will be adding lending soon (in 2010 itself).  

He’s mostly negative – It’s like he’s upset B&N made a dedicated reading device instead of making an Android Tablet.

The lows -

  1. Newspapers are a dud.  
  2. CrunchGear thinks Nook Color is physically unimpressive and the hook on the bottom left is ‘wacky’.
  3. Browser is average at best.  
  4. No back button and most pages are missing a Back button.
  5. Calls it – ‘a more expensive Kindle with a color screen’. He means it in a bad way but don’t think being a more expensive Kindle with a color screen is necessarily a bad thing.  
  6. WiFi only. Again, don’t see why this is so bad.
  7. No good in direct sunlight. Apparently, when iPad has it then it’s not an issue – “Who reads in direct sunlight anyways?” Nook Color has it and suddenly it’s Nook Color’s biggest drawback.

You can read the entire CrunchGear Nook Color Review at CrunchGear. The commenters tear apart the review and quite frankly the review is a bit of a dud.

Gizmodo Nook Color Review

Things Gizmodo likes -

  1. About as good as reading can be on a backlit glass screen.  
  2. Exactly what a 7″ tablet should look and feel like. Notice the tablet-fascination – it’s a thread running through the entire Gizmodo Nook Color review.  
  3. 7″ size is ideal for reading books.
  4. ePub support.
  5. Free access to any book for up to an hour per day when in B&N Stores. Read as many books as you like out of the entire B&N eBook collection for an hour each when in a B&N store.
  6. LendMe feature.
  7. Great price.  

Things Gizmodo doesn’t like -

  1. Deceptively heavy at 15.8 ounces.
  2. Gizmodo doesn’t like the magazine and newspaper reading experience.
  3. Interaction is chunky.
  4. Animations, touch, and transitions are slow and occasionally laggy.
  5. No animated page turns. Seriously – both Gizmodo and Engadget are upset that they can’t amuse themselves with animated page turns.
  6. No pinch to zoom in the web browser.
  7. A lot more negatives about how it isn’t a Tablet and how it isn’t an iPad.  

Gizmodo makes a good point that Nook Color needs more reading oriented apps -

I kept thinking how great Nook Color would be with a few apps to really round it out as a do-it-all reader:

something like Instapaper to save web articles for offline reading; Flipboard to pull in articles people are sharing on Facebook and Twitter; a good RSS reader.

It ends with this -

Caught between two worlds, the Nook Color is an undeniably interesting, if somewhat conflicted device. It’s not quite a tablet, but it’s more than a simple ebook reader.

It can do things that an e-ink reader simply can’t—even if it doesn’t always excel at them—but it’s nearly as cheap at $250.

By this stage had gone through CrunchGear and Engadget’s ‘We wish this was a Tablet’ diatribes and Gizmodo’s ‘Lament for My Tablet’ was torture. The music choice for their 45 second video was laughably bad – not to mention that the video showed none of the Nook Color’s features.

How about a Nook Color video review? Surely, you didn’t bring together your hand, a video camera, a music player, and the Nook Color to create abstract art.

Gizmodo’s laughably bad Lament for My Tablet review.

Kindle vs Nook Color – thoughts on Nook Color

My main thought after reading these reviews is that it would be nice to know how many, if any, full books each of these reviewers read before writing their Nook color review. B&N should hand out review copies to the devs at NookDevs and to a few of the regulars at the official Nook Blog. They would provide a much better perspective than Engadget and CrunchGear.

Thankfully, CNet and Computer World do a pretty good job and those two reviews should be enough for most people to make a decision.

Here are some of my thoughts on the Nook Color.  

The Good Things about Nook Color

  1. The display is solid – a LED-backlit display with 1024 by 600 pixels resolution and 169 pixels per inch.
  2. You have to give B&N credit for trying to reduce glare by adding a special screen. It doesn’t seem to have worked though.
  3. The main home screen looks very impressive. It needs to be faster/smoother but the idea of letting users put anything on there and letting them resize things is very cool.
  4. The 7″ size is very good. It’s 8.1″ by 5″ by 0.48″.
  5. Almost all reviewers think the interface is easy and intuitive.
  6. 8 GB is a lot of books. Being able to expand to 40 GB is even better.  
  7. B&N is pitching it perfectly for children’s books and magazines.
  8. The way you can navigate through magazines is great. As is Article Mode that lets you focus on the text part of magazines articles.
  9. From the Engadget video it looks like it might have full-fledged folders. There are also a ton of options – it’s nice to have six different fonts and the option to use Publisher defaults.
  10. It’s a bona-fide contender for the title of ‘Best Android Tablet. Period.’  – provided B&N does a good job of adding apps.
  11. It’ll steal sales from iPad. Not many people are pointing this out – but it will. It’ll also sell a lot to people who don’t ever intend to read a book on it. It’s surprising that B&N isn’t catering to these people.
  12. Decent music player and excellent store.

B&N doesn’t realize that people who don’t read books might play a part in making its supposed ‘dedicated reading device’ a success.

In fact, it’s quite probable that people looking for a cheap Android Tablet and not people looking for a dedicated eReader will make Nook Color a success.  

Questionable Choices and Nook Color Negatives

  1. Weight. 15.8 ounces is a lot.
  2. The price seems a bit high if you’re thinking of buying it as an eReader. 
  3. 8 GB is not enough for what is, in effect, a 7″ Tablet.  
  4. A lot depends on what B&N does – What apps will it add? How many apps will it add? What book range and book price improvements will it make? What extra features will it add?  
  5. Most reviewers are assuming it will fulfil most of its potential. That’s a dangerous assumption and a very big one.
  6. From the Nook Color videos it’s clear that it’s not as good as eInk for reading.
  7. Newspapers are terrible.  
  8. Android 2.1 is a bit ancient and a strange choice.

Truthfully, there isn’t much to complain about. It’s a pretty good eReader.

The reviewers are split over whether it’s ‘zippy’ or ‘laggy’. Which probably means it’s fast enough and lag is not a deal-breaker. 

B&N is making a very strong attempt to paint Nook Color as a ‘dedicated reading device’ – some reviewers are buying it and some aren’t.  

If Apple or another ‘Beloved of the Press’ company had released this it would be considered revolutionary and Engadget would think it had created an entire new segment. If Amazon had released it everyone would claim it shows there’s no future for eReaders and would then attack it for not having animated page turns and wooden shelves. Since it’s B&N people don’t know whether to oversell it or attack it. They are surprised by it being good and confused by it being focused on reading.

Well, that brings us to our main question.

Is Nook Color a Kindle Threat?

Not at first, but Eventually.

What no one is talking about is that, at $249, Nook Color is going to get all the casual readers who want ‘an eReader that does more than just read’. It might surprise some Apple people but a lot of people go out of their way to not own any Apple products and a lot of people can’t afford $500 for a Tablet/eReader.

What do you think they are going to buy?

The potential market for Nook Color will be determined by two conflicting things -

  1. How quickly it adds high quality apps. How well the Nook App Store develops.
  2. How focused on reading B&N remains.

The first will determine the number of people who buy Nook Color as a cheap tablet. The second will determine the number of people looking for an eReader that choose Nook Color.

B&N could focus on adding lots of apps and round-up a ton of the people looking for tablets. It could also stay focused on reading and try to win a larger share of the eReader market.

Whichever direction it chooses it’s a threat to Kindle – If it stays focused on reading it’ll get a lot of the ‘1 to 3 books a month’ readers. If it expands the App Store quickly and freely it’ll become the #1 Android Tablet and be in position to make Nook Store the only available ebook store.

B&N has managed to do the unthinkable – It has created a Nook Color that is a major threat to both Kindle and iPad.

Nook Color sales are going to hurt both Kindle sales and iPad sales. If B&N expands its app store quickly it is going to hurt iPad sales a lot.

Kindle vs Nook Color – Much more interesting

The focus on reading means that Kindle vs Nook Color comparisons might be far more relevant than everyone had thought. My Kindle vs Nook Color post had concluded they were completely different devices and to a certain extent they are.

However, B&N is approaching three segments of the reader market – semi-casual readers (a few books a year), casual readers (a book a month), borderline serious readers (a couple of books a month) and offering them an incredible value proposition.

Kindle 3 targets one of these three segments (borderline serious readers) and Kindle Apps for various platforms target the other two segments. The latter strategy is working exceptionally well as illustrated by the recent iPad survey (500 people only) which showed that more people read on Kindle for iPad than on iBooks.

Nook Color is very tempting to people in all three of these categories and if Amazon doesn’t move quickly to address the threat (price cuts, Color Kindle, etc.) it will start losing all three segments to B&N. It’s doubtful that B&N thought through things in this way – it probably just wanted to replace eInk readers with color ereaders. However, it’s put itself into prime position to go from 15% market share in eReaders and eBooks to 30% or more.

In a week or so will have a Nook Color Review ready – my intuition says B&N has a big hit on its hands. It might try its best to avoid being the best-selling Android Tablet but in the end its users who decide.

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