For the first time ever, the Kindle is not quite in the lead among eReaders, according to Consumer Reports. Even though it is only a very closely held lead, it’s definitely a good sign for Barnes & Noble’s Nook line. They’ve released a new product and come out on top, just a bit.
The Consumer Reports article makes the point that for the most part the new Nook succeeds by emulating the Kindle so well. Rather than throwing everything possible at the reader in hopes that some feature will make it stand out, the Nook Simple Touch is all about the books. No official web browser, no games, no second screen, just a means to read your book. This is exactly what the Kindle has always tried rather successfully pushed for, of course, but with all of the fuss over potential competition with the iPad, it’s easy to see why companies like B&N felt the need to emphasize their diverse potential in the previous generation of devices.
Not surprisingly, the excitement over differing battery life claims between the two devices failed to catch on for this scoring. Consumer Reports gives anything over 5 days the same score. The screens also seem to have come in at a tie, being the same E Ink Pearl displays. Price obviously wasn’t an issue either. Really, the factor that pushed the Nook into the lead was completely separate from the hardware considerations.
The big advantage for the Nook, or at least what seems to have pushed it over the edge, is the library eBook compatibility. It’s clearly a valued and desirable feature among consumers that will give the Nook the advantage until the Kindle gains Overdrive Library support later this year. According to the reviewer, this alone could put the Kindle back on top if it is properly implemented. Given that we know Amazon is pushing for a bit more by allowing in-book annotation on borrowed texts, there might be slightly more to consider than even the ease of use.
The takeaway from this is not, in my opinion, that the Nook is the better eReader or that it is just now belatedly rejoining the Kindle vs Nook competition in a serious way. It isn’t even about Kindle vs Nook anymore. We have at least two great eReaders on the market again, between which there is no clear and obvious advantage. Where the first generation Nook was starting to look rather antiquated by comparison to the Kindle 3, we now have active competition again. Competition is good. Choices are even better.
If you’re in the market, this is a great time to grab an eReader. Check them both out, either on the web or in person at one of the many stores they’re sold at, and figure out which one feels better. If you have a distinct preference, great, because there aren’t really any downsides to either left. If not, give some thought to which company you’d rather be working with. Thanks to the Agency Model of eBook pricing, you’re not going to get a noticeably better price on the Nook than the Kindle or the other way around for most of your purchases. The customer service experience is slightly better with Amazon, in my opinion, but at the same time B&N offers perks if you happen to be able to get to their stores in person. It kinda evens out, I think. Isn’t it great when these are the biggest things we have to worry about when choosing our next eReader?