We already know that Amazon intends for the Kindle Paperwhite to set the new standard for eReader hardware in every way they could manage. Some people might still wish for physical page turn buttons (I certainly do) but other than that it is a clear step ahead of all of the competition right now. That’s referring entirely to the US markets, of course, which may be a good reason that they have decided to update the Paperwhite firmware with some specific comic-related improvements in mind.
On a November 8th release, the new software improvements were made available for download. If you have a Paperwhite and haven’t gotten everything automatically delivered to your device at this point, check out the side-loading instructions located here.
Foremost in the advertised improvements is the list of optimized fonts. Palatino, Baskerville, and Futura have all been made sharper and smoother. It’s a small thing in many ways, but the change will stand out for anybody who prefers to use these fonts regularly.
The ability to remove Recommended Content from your Paperwhite’s home screen is now also included. This has become a point of annoyance for many users, but the ability to remove this particular advertising stream was added not long ago to new Kindle Fire models and was inevitable here as well. A more interesting update would have been producing the same stream for older models on demand, honestly.
The settings menu has been brought to the front of things a bit more as well. You can now jump straight into this menu directly from the menu while reading a book with no need to return to the home screen.
Perhaps most importantly, given the recent push into Japan, is the improved manga/comic display capability. A new Fit-to-Screen option will stretch images to fill the entire screen, addressing many situations where small panels were practically unreadable previously.
The Paperwhite is also now able to retain a manga/comic specific setting for page refresh preferences that is completely separate from the same options for book reading. This makes it easier to choose the proper setting to maximize both battery life and reading quality in two areas with distinctly different visual representation needs.
In preparation for a move beyond Japan into China, Simplified Chinese is now included as a font option. It’s a small note now, but could be vital in the long run.
The only other really notable change is in book samples. When picking up the full version of a given book after reading the sample you will now start off at the last position accessed in the sample. The sample itself will be removed from the library. Organization will be greatly improved as a result for anybody who regularly samples their books.
Many of these updates are small things, but added together they make for a great update. There is more than can and likely will be done to improve things, especially with regard to comic-reading. Now that we’re seeing a much bigger effort to get graphic storytelling into the Kindle marketplace, however, it’s safe to assume that a wider audience will demand attention and genre-specific features that will quickly optimize the eReaders as best a black and white display can be optimized.
With the emphasis on portable electronics always tending toward smaller and/or thinner it isn’t surprising that the Kindle DX was never quite as popular as its smaller counterparts. The extent of its failure is a little strange, though. The 9.7” version of Amazon’s Kindle eReader now seems to have been quietly pulled from the virtual shelves and left without a successor. Why did it fail to catch on and is there even a market for a device like this?
As has been demonstrated in both tablets and eReaders, bigger doesn’t always mean better. There have been many eReaders attempted with larger screens and the variety of Android tablets is quite a bit more impressive. The iPad is still going to be the bestselling tablet in the world for years to come, however, and it is quite a bit larger than many options. One would think that screen size would be a valuable enough asset in the reading experience to make something similar possible for the Kindle DX.
There are plenty of reasons why that comparison is lacking. Mostly it comes down to the fact that Apple put out a well-designed product and Amazon screwed up a bit. What did they need to do better to keep the DX a viable option for customers?
When it was released, the Kindle DX cost just about 30% more than the Kindle 2. That made it $489. While I remember spending $300+ on an eReader and being satisfied with each one, whether it was the Sony PRS-500, the Nook, or the Kindle 2, that wasn’t a sustainable sales strategy. The Kindle is now under $70 per unit. The Kindle DX at its lowest never got below $299 new.
The fact that the Kindle DX only had navigation buttons on one side was a major shortcoming. It hampered one-handed reading and landscape-orientation reading in general. The keyboard, while nice to have, was also less usable than it needed to be. The larger screen would have benefitted more from a touchscreen than any current Kindle does by far.
E Ink screens aren’t known for being the most durable things in the world. The Kindle DX, however, used the only one that I have ever had break on its first fall. Twice. I understand that a combination of the larger size and higher device weight make it more likely to have problems, but this is a big issue in light of the tendency for people to read one-handed.
The Kindle DX never really saw much attention in terms of software updates. It needed to. Many of the issues that users reported, especially with regard to PDF viewing, could have been addressed. Amazon gave the impression of having given up on the device within months of its release.
All told, it’s safe to say that this doesn’t really prove anything about the niche. Yes, the Kindle DX is gone. That could be because customers just don’t like large eReaders, sure. It could also be because customers aren’t interested in incredibly expensive eReaders with design flaws and a lack of software updates.
Don’t misunderstand, I love the Kindle DX. Until giving mine away to a friend, it was used on a regular basis. It just happened to give the impression of being a product that still needed work. A larger version of the Kindle Paperwhite priced at $179 would fly off shelves, in my opinion. As much as I wish that would happen it seems to be time to give up on the idea. The Kindle DX is no longer relevant.
The move away from physical keyboards gave Amazon an easy route into any number of non-Anglophone markets for the first time. They’ve made good use of that since the Kindle Touch was first released. In addition to being able to find a Kindle practically anywhere in the world, localized versions of the popular eReader can now be found for a number of language options. Now, for the first time, Amazon is pushing their efforts into Asia with the first ever Japanese Kindle.
Amazon.co.jp will now have its own Kindle Store and will be offering the Kindle Paperwhite for sale. Preordering is now open for both the WiFi and 3G versions of the device. The prices are currently ￥8,480 and ￥12,980 respectively. They will begin shipping on November 19th.
Japan has proven a hard market for Amazon to move the Kindle into so far. Their site has been operating successfully there for twelve years now, but it has been reported that they had trouble getting Japanese publishers interested in doing business with them after all of the conflict between Amazon and the Big 6 publishing houses in US markets. It seems that terms have now been reached that are considered satisfactory. The press release for this announcement indicates that over 50,000 Japanese-language titles will be available at launch and that these will include the largest selection of Oricon best sellers anywhere.
Naturally all of these titles will be accessible through Amazon’s various distribution channels. Kindle Paperwhite owners will be able to make use of the new store, but so will Kindle Fire owners, Kindle app users, and anybody with a web browser.
Introducing the Kindle line to Japan is a particularly important move for Amazon if they want to keep expanding the customer base. While geographically small, Japan is home to one of the most literate cultures in the world. It also enjoys the widest newspaper circulation anywhere and may prove a useful place to renew interest in digitally distributed newspapers and magazines.
There is also a large market for graphic literature to be exploited. This launch will include over 15,000 manga selections. Kindle Format 8’s Panel View will come in handy for this and the high contrast Kindle Paperwhite display could prove an ideal medium for these books.
The Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD are also now available in Japan and should be shipping on December 19th, one month after the Paperwhite goes out. While this caters to a different market, having options is never a bad idea. The Kindle Fire HD might not be quite as good for reading as its single-purpose eReader counterpart, but it does provide a greater versatility and convenience for the money.
People have generally assumed that Amazon was subsidizing the Kindle Fire to some degree. Analysts have estimated that the cost of materials and manufacturing was roughly equal to the asking price and when the first Kindle Fire was launched it was suspected that Amazon could be losing as much as $15 per device to keep the costs down.
When the first Kindle eReader was released, Amazon’s position was that the hardware had to justify its existence by providing profits separate from the digital content sales it encouraged. With the frequent price drops that have occurred in the past few years, that’s obviously harder to stick to. The Kindle was first priced at $399 and sold out in a matter of hours. Now you can get a basic Kindle for just $69, so it’s hard to imagine the money coming in at the same rate.
The new position makes more sense given Amazon’s digital content ecosystem. Bezos has come out and said, for the first time, “We sell the hardware at our cost, so it is break-even on the hardware.” It isn’t a surprise and it certainly isn’t going to upset the status quo, but the confirmation of even fairly obvious suppositions breaks the secretive pattern that generally surrounds Amazon’s hardware business.
This is a convenient way to highlight the differences in sales philosophy between major competitors at a time when Android tablets are drawing roughly equivalent in both price and performance while Apple is rumored to be releasing a smaller version of the iPad before the holidays.
Apple, for example, is not known for releasing any hardware they can’t make at least a 40% profit from. This is the biggest point against the constant rumors of iPad Mini development. The only reason it’s becoming likely that Apple will release a smaller iPad at this point is the possibility of being shut out of a growing market. Even then we can expect them to be getting significant return on each sale. They’re not a company that’s willing to settle for the 30% cut they get from every sale of associated content.
Google, on the other hand, sells their Nexus 7 at cost with the expectation of a different return. Yes they have a return from their Google Play sales, but the real money is in information acquisition. Android is available for free to anybody who wants to use it because unless significant effort is made to avoid it, Android ties people into the Google system. That means more marketing data and more potential for advertising revenue.
Amazon’s course, hoping that cheap devices will result in such a significant increase in sales that it will be worth the initial investment so long as no money is actually being lost on the hardware itself, may be the least obviously profitable of these. Their experience and expertise when it comes to suggested sales and media serving make it totally believable that the Kindle encourages people to read four times as much as they normally would, but it’s not something that many other companies could hope to pull off.
One of the questions I’ve been asked frequently lately is what the point of a Kindle eReader could possibly be now that it’s lit up. Obviously this has been addressed before, but maybe it’s worth going over again now that the Kindle Paperwhite finally pulls off a positive reading experience that includes a light.
First off, the main attraction of the Paperwhite is that it retains the E Ink display’s advantages while still allowing the user to read in the dark. Unlike the LCD you’re likely to find on a tablet, including the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, the lighting used in the new eReader is not coming from behind the screen. Instead it is reflected through a layer on top of the print which spreads illumination evenly from the lights on the bottom of the screen. Many people, perhaps even most, find that this causes significantly less eye strain during extended periods of reading because the light is not being directed outward at the eyes.
The E Ink screen underlying this lighting layer is not your typical display either. E Ink has been around for a while, but since I still get some questions it is worth explaining.
The premise is simple enough. Each pixel on your Kindle’s monochrome screen has two settings. It can be either dark or light. This state is only changed when there is reason to change it. This means that unlike constantly refreshing displays like the monitor you are likely reading this on, the Kindle’s E Ink uses practically no power. It also reflects light much like paper does, which helps provide a pleasant reading experience.
There are downsides to just about anything, of course. E Ink eReaders in general are known for showing a flicker each time a page is turned. This relates to the same behavior that provides these devices with such amazing battery life.
Remember that the screen only refreshed when needed, so it clears the current selection this way before putting up the next page. The flicker has gone from a 1-2 second annoyance in early eReaders to a barely noticeable flicker that takes a fraction of the time turning a physical page would on the Kindle Paperwhite, but it does still exist.
Specific to the Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Simple Touch w/ Glowlight is the problem of uneven lighting. While not nearly as obvious as the Nook’s, the Kindle Paperwhite’s lights are visible at the bottom of the display in some situations. This is especially easy to spot when holding the Kindle at extreme angles or when reading with the light turned up particularly high in a poorly lit room. Few people seem to be troubled enough for this to be a major problem, but it is common enough to be worth noting. In certain situations the lighting will not be 100% evenly distributed.
Overall, the advantages of the Kindle Paperwhite are basically the same as those the Kindle has enjoyed over tablets all along. It costs less than a tablet, doesn’t use a light source that is hard on the eyes, runs for weeks at a time without charging even when being used regularly, and provides a better overall reading experience. While it isn’t nearly as bad to read on a tablet as it used to be, the Kindle Paperwhite is highly recommended for anybody who reads frequently or for extended periods of time.
It took a while for Amazon to get the Kindle Paperwhite ready for production. The months since the Nook Simple Touch w/ Glowlight was released have been problematic for the Kindle line, as customers had to consider the fact that there was no comparable Amazon offering. A lit screen with none of the shortcomings of the backlit LCD is a huge factor in creating the best possible reading experience and Barnes & Noble managed to get it to their customers first.
According to both the specs released and any number of reviewers, however, the new Kindle Paperwhite is noticeably superior to the Nook Simple Touch in a number of ways including that lighting. There isn’t much that can be done to recreate features like X-Ray on short notice, or to replace the screen being used on the Nook. That sort of thing will have to wait until at least the next big product release. Even the superior lighting capabilities of the Kindle Paperwhite are Amazon exclusives at the moment. The best that can be done to keep the competition alive is a price drop.
The Nook Simple Touch w/ Glowlight is now available for $119 both in stores and on the Barnes & Noble website. This matches the price of the cheaper, ad-supported Kindle Paperwhite. The timing of the price drop makes it clear that this was a reactionary move, though probably one that was planned in advance and merely waiting on the final price set by Amazon.
That new price will at least keep the superficial comparison about even, especially for customers who don’t care much about getting the absolute best hardware and for those who like having access to the advantages provided to Nook owners in local brick and mortar outlets. The associated product line, filled out as it is with a new set of low cost tablets, certainly won’t hurt reactions either.
While the Nook Tablet has been looking a bit dated, the new Nook HD tablet is a huge improvement. They did essentially the same thing that was accomplished with the original Nook Tablet vs Kindle Fire competition. Amazon has the superior content ecosystem and a decent device, but B&N trumped a number of hardware features while matching the price. Oddly enough, while the screen on the Nook HD is slightly high resolution it does lack cameras and comes with significantly less storage space then the Kindle Fire HD (when comparing base models). The lack of ad support and therefore a need to opt-out of on-device advertising is not a small advantage to offset that.
Realistically, a point by point comparison of the products leaves Amazon firmly ahead in the Kindle vs Nook competition again whether we’re talking tablets or eReaders. It isn’t enough of a lead to make the Nook unable to compete and it certainly won’t end the competitor’s prospects, but this latest price drop does highlight the fact that Barnes & Noble knows they will need to stretch a bit if they want to continue gaining market share this holiday season despite the Paperwhite‘s strong showing.
Amazon has arranged for a September 6th press conference that leaves a lot to the imagination. The text of the invitation apparently reads, in its entirety, “Please join us for an Amazon Press Conference.” It will take place at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica. That’s really not much to go on. Still, it is all but a given that the event will show off the latest generation of Kindle products.
About a year ago Amazon released an entirely new set of Kindles. The Kindle Fire was the centerpiece, of course, but the then-renamed Kindle Keyboard was joined by a new basic Kindle and the Kindle Touch. The Kindle Fire shook up the entire Android tablet world and changed the game entirely there. It’s thanks to Amazon that we’re seeing truly useful tablets in the $200 range.
The newer Kindle eReaders did not enjoy as much success. The basic Kindle is indeed the cheapest and most widely purchased eReader on the market today, being the first to get under the previously impressive $100 mark. That is about all that has managed to impress people about it, however. The Kindle Touch is an interesting device and brought a touch interface to the line, but that’s not been enough to really demand attention for a while now.
The speculation about what September 6th will bring for the Kindle is still rather varied despite the event being close at hand. Based on the information available, however, we can make some fairly safe predictions.
Using a front company, Amazon seems to have managed approval for new versions of both the Kindle Fire and the Kindle eReader. This is not unprecedented and the last update to the product line involved three devices registered through three separate front companies in an effort to keep details under wraps.
On August 15th The Digital Reader reported a tip that led them to the new Kindle Fire. It is less than informative, and certainly not as detailed as many would prefer, but some useful info can be gathered. Judging from the dimensions, for example, we’re looking at a 4:3 device as opposed to the 16:9 aspect ratio used by most tablet builders. It’s an interesting choice that may point to this being a larger tablet meant to compete directly with the iPad, since that is the same aspect ratio Apple uses in their own design.
The new Kindle eReader cleared in much the same way on August 21st. A different front company run through the same corporate services provider registered an “electronic display device”. While the testing doesn’t indicate a front-lit screen, which would be in keeping with certain delay rumors that have been floating around, it does point to something with both WiFi and 3G access as well as audio capabilities.
This does not mean that there will be no front-lit Kindle. The three filings mentioned above from last year were all made the day before their official public announcements. All that this indicates is that there will definitely be a version of the next generation that doesn’t have front-lighting. Not really a surprise given that the inclusion of such a feature is sure to bump the price compared to unlit alternatives at least slightly.
State Dept Contract Cancellation Reinforces Front-Lighting Rumors?
There will definitely be a front-lit Kindle at some point, regardless of delays and pricing differences. We know that Amazon is working on producing them thanks to leaks, property acquisitions, and basic reasoning (the light on the Nook Simple Touch is really useful and Amazon would be silly not to make one).
The fact that they have failed to land a proposed $16.5 million no-bid contract with the US State Dept might point to delayed releases. The initial proposal required 2,500 Kindles with preloaded content and front-lit displays. Since the document included the indication that the “Amazon Kindle [is] the only e-Reader on the market that meets the Government’s needs”, something came up in the meantime. Production delays that would result in an inability to meet deadlines are not at all out of the question.
In what will probably turn out to be another preparation for this event, Amazon has managed to grab the trademark for the word Firedock. That was originally the name for a fairly impressive Kindle Fire accessory concept from Grade Digital Audio that is now going by the name Matchstick.
The Kindle Fire, despite its emphasis on media, is badly in need of affordable accessories. An official charging station/speaker dock would sell amazingly well and clearly Amazon is aware of that. The big question is “why didn’t they put something out sooner”, but with luck the wait will have been worth it. Combined with a potentially larger display, this could completely change the level of utility for the next generation of Kindle Fire.
Nexus 7 and Nook Competition
With all the talk of a Kindle Fire meant to compete with the iPad, it’s easy to forget that the existing model is already enjoying some fairly stiff competition. Google’s Nexus 7 is quite possibly the best tablet available for $200 right now; no matter what metric you are using.
Despite some supply issues, Google’s 7” tablet is enjoying a deserved surge in popularity. Between allowing access to the wider world of Android content (including that offered by Amazon) and the more up to date hardware/software combination it ships with, there is little to recommend the existing Kindle Fire by comparison unless Amazon’s home-grown interface is a deeply desired feature.
On the eReader side of things, the Nook is still going fairly strong as well. While device sales are down according to their most recent quarterly reports, content sales are up and the Nook Simple Touch is still setting the hardware standard. Given that Barnes & Noble is about to begin extending sales of the Nook to Britain, opening the door to new and as-yet untapped customers, we can’t discount the potential for a sales boom in the Nook’s future.
Sources seem to indicate that there will also be a refresh of the Nook Tablet in the next month or two. Given how forgettable the Nook Tablet has been in the current generation, despite its superior hardware specs compared to the Kindle Fire, this would initially seem to be a minor issue. At the same time, though, there was nothing to really complain about with the existing device. It just didn’t impress by comparison. Barnes & Noble has invested the time and money necessary to improve things in the meantime and will almost certainly surprise to some degree. Right now about all we know is that the intention is to have the new model improve the reading experience and show off a revolutionary new display technology of unknown capabilities.
iPad Mini Competition
The long-rumored iPad Mini seems to finally be on the horizon. While I’m personally still quite skeptical about the existence of such a device, increasingly reliable sources seem to agree that Apple has finally caved in and decided to join the 7” tablet market. The Kindle Fire, despite being updated, might have trouble competing in that segment should Apple really put serious effort into things.
At the same time, however, the objections that many have cited in the past remain applicable. Apple is not known for their ability to sell things cheaply. The least expensive iPad they have sold to date has made the company around a 50% profit at launch. They will have to accept much smaller margins or furnish far less modern hardware if they are to get device prices down to the $250-300 range that they would need to achieve. This doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, but take the rumors with a grain of salt.
Right now, Kindles are getting hard to come by. The Kindle Touch is completely out of stock. You can’t get one in any form, with or without Special Offers and/or 3G access. The Kindle Keyboard is similarly hard to come by, though the Kindle Keyboard 3G is still around.
Basically anybody buying one of the current generation devices can choose between the $79 Kindle with no real navigation and annotation capabilities and the Kindle Fire. Unless you think that Amazon is getting people together on the 6th to talk about how they’re cutting back to just two models, it’s fairly obvious where this is going.
We’ll keep you up to date here when solid information as it becomes available. This is the time when Amazon really has to come up with something big to stay in the tablet market and they aren’t known for disappointing customer expectations. It’s going to be an interesting announcement.
The introduction of eReaders into the portable electronics world immediately led to prophetic statements declaring them irrelevant in a world that already had access to tablets. The Kindle vs iPad debate was long and monotonous, but over time people have generally come to accept that there is a distinction between the two types of device. While most tablet functions would be more or less ridiculous to add to a dedicated reading device like the Kindle, however, Microsoft’s upcoming Surface tablet has introduced a useful concept that may have important implications for the future of electronic reading devices.
The Surface will incorporate technology that separates general touch recognition from stylus recognition, making it possible to take notes conveniently on the screen of the tablet without having to worry about where your fingers are positioned. As anybody who tries to write naturally on a tablet for the first time will likely be immediately aware, it can be quite difficult to manage without either setting the device down or letting a thumb wrap around onto the screen.
Amazon has already done something great for Kindle users with Whispernet. Having all of your annotations saved, along with bookmarks, page position, and so on, regardless of where you are loading your content from allows the Kindle platform to be device independent and convenient for just about anybody. Unfortunately, taking notes on an actual Kindle eReader is a huge inconvenience. Even with the keyboard provided by the Kindle Keyboard (or the virtual one on the Kindle Touch), it’s a slow and annoying process that will usually result in there being few such notes taken.
While it would definitely mean a slightly higher production cost, and would probably require a greater expense as far as data transfer and storage in concerned due to the increase in use, Amazon would be wise to adopt a similar option in their next Kindle upgrade.
The last remaining hurdle for eReaders at this point is their inability to match the convenience of paper books when it comes to direct interaction. Annotation is part of that. This would not make it any easier to flip rapidly from place to place in your favorite book, but that is not a sensation that can be replicated on a screen. The pleasure of making one’s own contribution to a personal copy of a book is far simpler to bring to the new medium.
There is no indication that Amazon is going to make this sort of change. This is merely speculation about what could eventually become a major selling point. Until color E Ink style screens advance to the point where they are worth integrating, there isn’t a lot that can be done to make the Kindle a better reading tool. The screen is already offering basically the same reading experience that you get from paper. It’s not easy to find ways to make paper replication an exciting new thing once you reach this level of sophistication. Improved writing inputs could be just what the Kindle needs in that respect.
A recent report through CNET indicates that Barnes & Noble is preparing to combat the anticipated Kindle Fire 2 release with a new and improved model of their Nook Tablet. Very little is known so far when it comes to details about the device, but it seems that the new Nook will still be focused on being an eReader first and a tablet second. There are a couple different ways that this becomes important.
The biggest selling point, according to this admittedly preliminary report, will be a new sort of screen technology never before seen in the tablet market. This could mean any number of things, but seeing as Barnes & Noble is more concerned with the implementation of high quality reading applications there is a good chance that it will be battery efficient, easy on the eyes, and otherwise well suited to extended user focus.
Given their failure to seize a significant portion of the Android tablet market thus far, it would be unrealistic to speculate about a high resolution, high pixel density screen along the lines of what is used in the latest iPads and iPhones. That isn’t the sort of direct competition that would go well for the company no matter how invested they are in the future of the Nook line.
Despite their inability to make much of a dent in Android, however, the new Nook Tablet will definitely be remaining with the OS. There has been some speculation among analysts that the recent Microsoft investment in the product line would lead to a Windows 8 powered Nook, but that will not be happening just yet.
Microsoft’s announcement of the Surface tablet line was enough of an upset to their OEM partners that it seems unlikely they will enter the budget tablet market any time soon. Without their direct involvement, and the waiver of licensing fees that would have to come with it, the price of running Windows 8 remains too high for any 7” tablet priced to compete.
Obviously the hardware specifications will be closely equated to the Kindle Fire 2. Even if the Kindle Fire sold better by quite a lot, the Nook Tablet was practically a point by point demonstration of one-upmanship on that side of things and there is not likely to be much of a change despite the intrusion of Google’s Nexus 7 into the marketplace.
Where they really have to work is in media services. Both the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7 do far better at getting users the content they want when they want it. There isn’t much point in offering nice hardware if it is hard to find something to use it for. A Microsoft tie-in here would make a lot of sense, especially given the software giant’s recent interest in expanding their Xbox Live media services. Streaming to Nook Tablets would help things along and save Barnes & Noble money on infrastructure development.
The Nook Tablet vs Kindle Fire decision will likely come down to an evaluation of this “revolutionary” new screen. If it is truly amazing and half as unique as claimed then Barnes & Noble will have a major advantage. If not, the Kindle Fire will still offer more content, better integration, and a smoother custom Android interface. They are both said to be coming out for just $200, but the Kindle Fire has far less to prove.
The new Nook Tablet is expected to be released in late September or October of 2012.
As was bound to happen eventually, Barnes & Noble has joined Amazon in offering a browser-based reading solution for their Nook customers. Since last August, the Kindle Cloud Reader has been offering the same capabilities to users of the competing platform. The current promotion set to launch Nook for Web, as the new application has been dubbed, offers users six free best sellers for giving it a try. Both the promo and the features make this worth taking a look at.
To try it out for yourself, simply head over to the Nook for Web site. Currently supported browsers include Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. In the preview, you can choose from any of the six selections available in this promotion. You get the first portion of the book immediately with no need to establish a Barnes & Noble account. This allows you to check out the features of the web app and see for yourself if it meets a need. Should you like what you see, these books are available for download through a link at the end of their sample portion.
In terms of features, Nook for Web is definitely competitive with the Kindle Cloud Reader. You can choose from eight font sizes, eight font styles, and a set of different page layouts. The default layout will take into account the width of your browser window and decide whether or not you need two columns for an optimal reading experience. If you don’t like the choice it makes, you can also choose to go with the publisher’s default layout preference or restrict things to a single page no matter the width of the window. At this time you can’t force a two column view.
Pull-down menus let you access the table of contents on the fly, as well as use the Nook platform’s social networking features and access information about the title you have open. The whole package fits well in Barnes & Noble’s established eBook platform and you can see where they have made efforts to keep the experience consistent for existing users. Obviously any books you already own for your Nook will be available to you as soon as you log in.
In some ways B&N has done a great job of meeting the needs of their community here. The features are sound and compatibility is extensive. They have even made Nook for Web work in Internet Explorer, which the Kindle Cloud Reader still does not do. On the other hand, they are missing compatibility with non-desktop browsers and I think that is going to hurt adoption.
The motivation behind the Kindle Cloud Reader was Amazon’s need to get around Apple’s restrictive terms and conditions for in-app sales. As such, iPad and iPhone owners were the priority in its development. Launching without letting those users take part in the new service immediately costs Barnes & Noble the chance to pull in some potential converts from the Kindle Platform. No matter how many people use Internet Explorer, and that isn’t a small number, the percentage of people who read on their mobile device is far higher.
It doesn’t hurt to take advantage of this promo (available through 7/26) even if you’re otherwise a Kindle customer. A free book is a free book. To gain access to the complete text of each title, you will need to create an account. Other than that, there’s no hoop to jump through. Having tried both, I definitely prefer the Kindle Cloud Reader. This is a good first step in what could eventually be a really impressive web app, though.