E-Readers: Kindle vs Nook, let the battle begin

The wife and I both decided that what we really wanted for Xmas this year, both of us being in full possession of our front teeth, were e-readers. We were mulling over which reader was the best for a couple of days, until we just decided to split the difference. She’ll get a Kindle, I’ll get a Nook. Then we could have all kinds of fun comparing and contrasting the two devices. Ok, we’re a bit strange. But, if you’re reading this, you’re probably glad we did it.

Shipping Time:

We ordered both our Nook and our Kindle on a Thursday evening, after normal business hours. Midday Monday, I got notice that both our readers had already arrived at our house. I chose basic shipping on both the items.

Winner: Tie.

Packaging:

The Kindle came in a basic brown box, The Nook came in very nice looking packaging.

Winner: style goes to Nook, environmental friendliness goes to Kindle.


Screen:

Both readers have nice e-ink screens that are easy on the eyes and look quite a bit like paper. The Kindle screen does seem to look a bit more like paper (results of a little less gloss, perhaps?).

Winner: Kindle

Use:

Both are easy to use and set up. The Kindle uses hard buttons, so typing can be a bit awkward, though most navigation is done with the 5 way controller, which is easy and intuitive. The Nook uses a touch screen, and the menus are set up to allow the user to easily tap with a thumb. Non-ebook use, such as the web browser, is awkward. Both devices are comfortable to hold while reading.

Result: Toss up.

Book Purchasing and Availability:

Getting books onto either device is about as easy as you can imagine. Anyone waking up from a 10 year coma would be able to figure it out without a glance at the manual.

Result: Tie

Title selection for both are pretty good, though neither is fully comprehensive. I made a list of every book on my book wish list and checked for price and availability for both formats: both hovered around the 50% availability range, the Kindle being a few points higher, the Nook a few points lower (though, honestly, a lot of my selections are odd books from small presses that aren’t really available in paper either). If you are a reader of popular titles (New York Times Best Sellers, then you’ll have nothing to worry about with either. In addition, both Amazon and B&N have a “tell the publisher you want this book” button on their web pages. Go to the books you want, and ping the publishers to get up with the times. There won’t be any immediate gratification, of course. But, it’ll let the publishers know that their readers will throw some cash their way if they make the jump.

Result: Slight advantage to Kindle

There also seems to be a lot of talk about book price going around the web; people seem to think that the Kindle has cheaper pricing than the Nook. But, as far as I can tell this isn’t true. Any popular titles (NYTBS list) seem to be matched to the penny. I have found some books from small presses that are cheaper on the Kindle by a couple of dollars, and one book that was way cheaper on the Nook.

Winner: Tie

Social Features:

The Nook has the ability to lend books to friends for a limited period of time. The Kindle has the ability to send quotes from the book you are currently reading to Facebook and Twitter. Originally the Facebook Quote feature didn’t interest me, but, now that the wife’s using it, I’m a bit jealous.

Winner: User dependent. I feel a lot of users will like Kindle’s Facebook app.

Adaptability:

On the Nook, the user can easily install their own screen savers and wallpapers by simply dragging and dropping jpgs into a folder. MP3 files can also be installed this way. For the computer hobbyists out there, the Nook runs on the Android operating system so … it can be hacked; I’ll wait until the newness of the device wears off before I try this.

Winner: Nook

Accessories:

The Kindle has a wider selection of attractive covers and skins. The Nook does to, but the selection seems to be wider with the Kindle.

Winner: Kindle

Non E-book use:

Both feature web browsers that are usable (barely). To be fair, they are ‘extra’ features, and not either of the devices primary use.

Result: Tie

Other:

Both devices must be charged first before use, for a good three hours or more. Initially, I thought my Nook was defective because I attempted to use it before it was fully charged, and it simply would not boot. After plugging it back in for another 30 minutes, it booted up fine and has worked great since. Both have great battery life, though the Kindle is better: I got the “time to charge” message after a week, while the Kindle was still going strong (the 1.5 firmware update for the Nook, which was released today, promises extended battery life).

The Nook comes with a few preloaded books which … I hate. For some reason, having a copy of Little Women on my Nook just gets under my skin (they are easy to delete from your B&N account page). There are also Freebook Fridays with the Nook but …  I’m a really picky reader so I just don’t care. There’s not enough time to read the books that I want to read let alone promotional giveaways. Both of us have downloaded and use the Calibre e-book management software, and it is quite nice for side loading content onto just about any e-reader out there. The guy that wrote that software has my utmost respect.

The Nook could stand for better organizing ability when I got it, but the new 1.5 firmware update allows the user to organize by “Shelves” that are user definable. The Kindle allows users to organize your books by “Collections” that are user definable, as well.

So, it looks like the Kindle does hold a bit of an advantage. Not really surprising, since they’ve been in the game a bit longer. But, the Nook is catching up real fast. And, with the Android OS and periodic fw updates (very easy, the pretty much install themselves), future advantages might lie in that products ability to adapt. Oh, have I mentioned, you can root hack the Nook? I thought so.

*Update* (4.26.2011)

After 6 months of using our devices, I thought I would give an update.

As far as reading books go, they both work well. But, I have noticed plenty of books have been released for the Kindle that have not been released for the Nook. So, Amazon is really keeping up on new title aquisistion, B&N doesn’t appear to be too concerned (neither the wife nor I are much interested in romance, light fiction, or other recent fiction ‘best sellers’, but I would assume that both would acquire those money making titles as soon as they can).

The Nook and the Kindle have both had one firmware update since we acquired them.

The Kindle has added a plethora of active content (chess, NYT crosswords, jumbles, Scrabble, MahJong, trivia, language tutors, etc). Some are free and others can be bought for a small charge (99 cents to a couple of bucks). The Nook still offers only Sudoku and chess.

The web browser on the Nook is so cumbersome that I dread using it (the soft pad is terrible for navigation). My wife has no issues hopping onto the internet to check stuff.

There is a notepad add on for the kindle that you can purchase of 99 cents. It’s simple, but the wife’s been using it effectively for taking notes in the college class she’s taking. The Nook classic does not offer any note taking solution.

The LendMe feature was exclusive to the Nook when we got our e-readers, but since then the Kindle has added a similar feature. The Nook LendMe feature is limited to one “lend” per book, the Kindle does not have a limit on the times a book can be lent.

When I mention to people that we purchased both a Nook classic and a Kindle so we could compare and contrast, people do ask which I would recommend. I’ve been telling them to go with the Kindle. And that they owe me.

Amazon is treating their Kindle as their major flagship product (and right fully so, Kindle books are now outselling paperbacks). B&N still seems to be focusing on their brick and mortar stores (that are rapidly turning into dens of supernatural fiction and board games), and their efforts for e-readers are divided between two completely different products (Nook classic and Nook Color), diluting their efforts.

One other minor irritant (ok, it bothers me much more than it should): the search engine on Barnes and Nobles web site sucks! I can type in the exact title of a book, and the searched for title will often be several selections down. And a misspelled title (I am the king of typos) will not be found at all. Amazon’s search engine is a modern wonder and should be worshiped as a god.

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13 Comments on “E-Readers: Kindle vs Nook, let the battle begin”

  1. Hank Fox Says:

    True nerds will recognize that the web page in the picture is PZ Myers’ Pharyngula. :D

    Cool review. Thanks!

  2. Kassul Says:

    Contemplating getting an e-book reader myself for Christmas/boxing day/someday soon when I see one on sale. Thanks for the commentary on the kindle vs nook. Still undecided what(including other e-readers) I’ll go for, but I’m a bit better informed than I was before.


  3. this ebook stuff is all a passing fad. It will never catch on. Xtians aren’t going to burn expensive electronic devises. :)
    I resisted putting my book on Kindle but finally did back in Oct. It accounts for about 28% of my amazon sales.

  4. Victor Says:

    That’s what I like, a man with statistics!

  5. Peter N Says:

    What about the new Nook Color? It’s not quite out yet — Barnes and Noble say they will be shipping December 3 — and it’s a bit pricier at $249, but the reviews I’ve read make it seem very attractive.

    One thing that I have read is that the Kindle does not support the EPUB e-book standard. I can “borrow” e-books from our local public library ~only~ as EPUB, so that clinches it for me.

  6. Crystal D. Says:

    I really love my Kindle, it ROCKS! I am so happy I got it, and extra happy that we sprung for the more expensive leather cover with the built in book light- it’s great.

    I am not sure I’d be a fan of the Nook Color- I can see it being good if you read a lot of magazines or other things that you needed to see in color, but other than that, not so much. I wanted an ereader so that I’d have an eink screen instead of an lcd, if I didn’t care about that, then I probably would have gotten a tablet or something to read on…

  7. Victor Says:

    The eink does rock. Though, the word does look funny when you write it out.

  8. sunnyskeptic Says:

    Yes- update, the internet on the Kindle works VERY well… I think it works better than they’d like people to know, because it’s free- there’s no monthly service plan or anything. I can easily look stuff up, check email, etc. (It does help if you bookmark your most frequently checked sites, and of course use mobile versions so they fit nicely on the screen.)

    Typing on the Kindle for the internet and for note taking can be a bit cumbersome, but it’s fairly comparable to texting, which most of us are pretty great at… :) I have no problem jotting notes. I probably wouldn’t take notes in a super difficult class, but it’s no problem for short things and quickly sticking something on there.

  9. jeff Says:

    Kindle notetaking and syncing of notes is my favorite feature.

  10. Kassul Says:

    Thanks for the update!
    To my shame, I haven’t quite gotten around to buying an ereader yet >_>
    Money’s been tight and I’ve been reluctant to drop the money on one. Just got a promotion & raise at work though which makes money less of a restriction. Now with the extra money(and having had such a delay) I’m considering waiting a few more months in the hope that a Kindle 4/New Nook will get released this fall :P

    Ah well, we’ll see.

    Have you hacked the Nook yet, or still waiting a bit longer first?

  11. sunnyskeptic Says:

    New calendar app for Kindle recently released, I already have ALL of my May stuff on there… http://www.amazon.com/Calendar-Pro/dp/B004Q7GWYG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=digital-text&qid=1304189033&sr=8-1

    In case you’re wondering, YES, I have a calendar on my phone. The problem is that I have to call and make a ton of appts at work, and it can be difficult at times to look up my calendar while I’m on the phone. So this solves that problem quite nicely, and I always have my calendar with me.

    It also has an awesome “Agenda View” which lists all of my daily stuff in order. Perfect! It is so easy to view, I am excited to be using this… The only beefs I have so far- can’t sync and no feature for recurring events. But other than that, it is pretty grand.

  12. Gabrielle Says:

    Thanks! You helped me decide to go with the kindle :)

  13. kindle Says:

    Great website. I enjoyed reading your content. Keep up the good work. I will definitely come back and check your site out again soon.


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