Kindle vs nook: What Do You Get?

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.

Input Method

  • 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.

Major Features

  • 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.

The Overview

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.

14 thoughts on “Kindle vs nook: What Do You Get?”

  1. One thing that no one seems to mention is that Amazon keeps an archive of all the books you have purchased. IMHO the ramifications of this are huge. I’ve only had the Kindle around 3 weeks and I’ve already dowloaded over 100 books. Some on impulse, including ‘samples’ and ‘purchased’. If I see a book that looks interesting and can’t remember if I’ve already downloaded it, Amazon will tell me, not charge me again for it. At B&N, they don’t keep a record of your purchases so you could easily buy the same book twice. And if you delete a book from your Nook without backing it up to your PC or DVD, etc.; if you want to read it or reference it again you have to buy it again. At Amazon you can re-download any book you have purchased at any time and they will not charge you again for that book. Am I the only one who thinks this is a really big deal?

  2. I have a Nook and Gail’s comment is so not true. Barnes & Noble has the very same process. All purchases are kept on file, (you can see all your purchases on the website or on your Nook) you can chose to keep or delete or archive, which eliminates purchasing same book twice, little warning tells you and you are unable to downloadfor purchase again, you can also preview, sample and loan.
    Not sure about not having to re-purchase once you have deleted. Why delete if you wish to keep? There is also a wish list to keep track of books you have not quite decided on, which simplifies searching for the same book once found.

  3. Gail,
    In case you didn’t know, Barnes and Noble keeps a record of your purchases as well. You can choose to archive a book in your account at, and re-download it at any time at no charge.
    Also, we could not find a simple way to check out library books on the kindle, where that is very easy thing on the nook. I don’t know about anyone else, but I cannot afford, to buy books every week (I read 2-3 a week); so this to me makes nook the better product by far.

  4. Yes, that’s one of the great things about going with Kindle. Their system is multi-platform and synchronized across all. If you purchase your book on the Kindle, you can just as easily load it up again by using the Kindle App on an iPad. It’s a great feature that I think every eReader out there should adopt.
    As for the Kindle vs Nook argument, the author is right. There is no one device that will suit everybody. It all depends on your needs, which could actually fluctuate on a day-to-day basis. So your best bet is to actually get MORE THAN 1 device if you are serious about reading. My personal favorite is Kindle, but that’s just because it does a really good job at what it’s meant to do, display ebooks. I also prefer the longer battery life because I move around a lot.

  5. quote: 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.

    I keep hearing people say this, but I haven’t found any store (other than possibly where I can buy e-books and can only get them in EPUB format

    who exactly is defining that this is ‘industry standard’?

  6. Like Susan said …
    I think it’s important to mention that the nook can “check-out” books from e-book supporting libraries! The epub format (which is used by OverDrive and NetLibrary, the two most common e-book public library programs) is not supported on the kindle or ipad. Sony devices also support epub, but why pay $300 when the nook is so much cheaper? I’m all for e-readers, but not if you can’t check out books the old fashioned way. I know that b&n probably doesn’t publicize this more because it means lost revenue in the form of e-book sales, but for me, its a huge selling point on buying the nook over the kindle (or ipad, for that matter). People who want app-driven devices like the ipad will get it no matter what. But for an e-reader, give me something that can check out books for free. That is a huge incentive. Huge.

  7. I don’t own a Nook, but I do own a Kindle. One of the annoying features of the Kindle is that it goes to sleep in 10 minutes. I don’t like this feature. I understand that the Nook goes to sleep in one hour. Much better. Since these devices don’t use any more power asleep or awake, why do they go to sleep automatically at all. I would like to see that as an option. I put mine to sleep when I want it asleep and I wake it up a lot when I didn’t want it to go to sleep. One point for the Nook on this one.

  8. @Al, these devices use a LOT more power when awake then when asleep. it’s the display that doesn’t use any more power.

    what Amazon needs to do is to figure a way to make it go to sleep and wake up much faster (and give you the option of not changing the screen when it goes to sleep so you can keep reading)

  9. @bluish5
    well, doing a search for overdrive I find a software company that sells software for libraries, the first featured library has the books in both epub and mobi format

    searching for netlibrary I find that it at least has pdf as well as epub (although it’s hard to track this down). In their ‘about us’ page they say they make the books available in a variety of formats.


    Go Portable!
    Check out our new collections for readers on the go. NetLibrary currently offers more than 146,000 PDF titles that are compatible with the nook from Barnes & Noble, Sony Daily Edition™ and other devices, including Sony Digital Readers (PRS-300, 505, 600 and 700BC), as well as the COOL-ER.

    given that PDF is supported on the kindle, the fact that they would list all these other devices and not the kindle seems more likely to be deliberate then accidental.

    so I’m still looking for an example where something is only availabe in epub format. It may be a ‘standard’, but it doesn’t seem to be an exclusive standard

  10. an important feature i am waiting for before purchasing an e-reader is a screen that is back-lit. this would enable me to read on a dark airplane or in bed without disturbing my wife.

  11. I do hope that, with a software upgrade, Kindle will eventually be able to handle EPUB. Having it handle more formats can only be a good thing.

  12. @David Lang

    David, PDFs in public libraries are DRM-protected so you can borrow them for, say, 21 days and they expire after that time is up. Kindle does not support DRM on PDFs. That’s why it’s not listed.

  13. I have not purchased either. I am researching Kindle & Nook. Because I have small children, I would like to have the ability to BORROW childrens books (and others) when possible rather than buy. My library uses OVERDRIVE which is EPUB format. Since I really don’t want to buy every Fancy Nancy and Judy Moody book for my 8 year old, the Nook has the advantage. OTHERWISE, it seems the Kindle is an easier product.

  14. michelle,

    Can you really rent eBook like Fancy Nancy from your local library. I’ve tried mine a while back (I also have a Nook and Sony reader) and was very disappointed by the scarce selection of eBooks I could borrow. Perhaps the situation changed since then.

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