In light of the recent major price drops on the two most popular devices in the eReader market, there’s every reason to believe that a fresh wave of first time buyers is likely to be hunting for the right fit. New to the eBook situation and wanting some advice on which way to go? Let’s see what we can do for you.
Looking at the major points of interest for these devices, each has its strengths and weaknesses. For the purposes here, we’ll assume that the choices are the $199 nook and the $189 Kindle because 3G coverage is neat and because we don’t know yet what Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) is going to be doing with their WiFi Kindle model(assuming those rumors are true).
Size, Weight, and Feel
- Kindle: 6″ screen, 1/3″ thick, 10.2 ounces
- nook: 6″ screen, 1/2″ thick, 12.1 ounces
Subjective Evaluation: The screen is slightly better on the nook due to a better contrast ratio. On the other hand, the extra thickness and weight of the nook, slight as it is, makes it a very small bit harder to read for long periods of time than the Kindle. It’s pretty much a tie in this category.
A Note On The Screens: You’ll see many people complain about the screen flicker and page turn delay. In general, I advise ignoring these people. In both cases there is a delay in screen refresh that is so slight that turning the page in a paper book at the same speed with any regularity will likely leave you with a ruined book. These aren’t your average computer LCDs. Different technology, different uses.
- Kindle: QWERTY keyboard, 5-way controller stick
- nook: LCD touchscreen
Subjective Evaluation: As far as moving through the stores, library, and things in general goes I’ve got to give it hands-down to Amazon. The on-screen navigation is intuitive and has only the rarest of hiccups. The nook’s touchscreen, while flashy, leaves something to be desired in terms of responsiveness on the eInk screen.
Selection and File Support
- Kindle: 600,000+ titles, supports: AZW, TXT, PDF, MOBI, PRC, converts: HTML, DOC
- nook: 1,000,000+ titles, supports: EPUB, PDF, PDB
Subjective Evaluation: At first glance, Amazon has the edge in terms of file formats, especially when you take into account that many of the nook’s million titles are simply freely available Google Books downloads. The nook, however, supports EPUB files. EPUB is the industry standard format at the moment and tends to be the easiest to get your hands on, assuming you’re the type who prefers to shop for the best deal rather than simply grabbing everything from one store. The nook comes out well ahead in this comparison for just that reason. You’re not jumping through nearly as many hoops if you want to shop around as the Kindle makes you.
Storage space, in both cases, is generally a non-issue. In several years of using these devices heavily, including during the completion of a degree in English Literature, I have never found a situation where there was any advantage to holding 1,500+ books in my hand at once. If you really need to walk around with your entire library at once, then Amazon’s recent addition of a feature called Collections that makes it possible to organize your books according to your own specifications might make the Kindle your preferred eReader. At present the nook does not have this ability and a list that long might get unwieldy for casual aimless browsing.
Battery Life(Entirely Subjective Evaluation)
- Kindle: 30hr active, 20 days standby
- nook: 24hr active, 7 days standby
Now, these measurements are not in any way when is being advertised by the makers of the devices, nor am I claiming that everybody will see the same performance. I have had both and used both for some time now, however, and this is what I’ve seen. It is, quite literally, impossible to run down the charge on either device in a single day by reading at a normal pace. Simply put, if you want a device that you charge overnight and otherwise don’t have to worry about then either is fine. If you want something you can throw in a briefcase and carry around all week, then charge on the weekends, the Kindle has a slight, and I want to emphasize slight, advantage in battery life. Probably the lack of LCD screen. Neither of these takes into account the power draw of leaving your wireless connectivity going constantly, since this is generally not needed. You connect, download your book, then disconnect. Leaving it open is almost always just a waste.
- Kindle: Read to Me, Facebook/Twitter integration, web browser, password protection
- nook: games, web browser, WiFi capability, in-store B&N perks, interchangeable back plates
Subjective Evaluation: I’ll start by saying that the Facebook/Twitter thing is not something I’ll comment on. If these features are valuable to you, there are plenty of places to do the research. I cannot comment. As for the rest, the Kindle’s main selling point here is the password protection. Since you will generally have a credit card linked to the account that is linked to your device, to make store purchasing quicker and easier, this bit of safety is a must-have. The Read to Me feature is nothing to sneeze at either, as it opens the door to use of the Kindle as a learning tool or simply a way to enjoy your favorite books even after the eyes get tired. It’s not perfect, but it does a good job and is not at all unpleasant to listen to.
The nook, on the other hand, comes up with mostly fun and superficial changes. You get a couple of games to play, with the hope of more to come of course, some incentive to visit the B&N store for free access to books and free coffee, and the ability to customize the appearance of your device in a way that goes beyond the usual cover choice. The web browser on the nook is slightly easier to use than the Kindle’s due to the touchscreen, but this also seems to result in faster battery depletion, so it’s something of a double-edged sword.
The Kindle wins for functionality, but don’t rule out the nook in terms of fun. Also make note of the fact that because the nook runs Android and therefore a much wider potential developer base in the long term, should an app store become available.
I can’t tell you one device is better than the other because they’re both simply great products. It’s all about what you like and what you want your eReader to do for you. I use my Kindle when I want bestsellers, a device to travel with, independent authors, and the ability to annotate my books. I use my nook when I’m looking for the best price on a book, when there’s some question regarding 3G coverage wherever I’m staying, and when sudoku or browsing the web seem like good uses of my time. The best way to be sure of what you want is to try them out in the store. Check them out, do your research, and know what you want for your money. You would be hard-pressed to be disappointed either way.