Kindle vs Nook: how Amazon's e-book reader can win the battle

How Amazon's Kindle e-book reader can change to beat the Barnes & Noble Nook Colour

The Amazon Kindle 3.

The Amazon Kindle 3.

The latest Barnes &Noble Nook e-reader is getting a lot of positive buzz, and for good reason. It's thin and light, has a touchscreen interface that's easy to navigate, and is priced the same (US$139, Wi-Fi) as Amazon's industry-leading Kindle.

Not sure which e-reader to buy? Read our comparison of the Amazon Kindle vs. The Barnes & Noble Nook Colour.

Read our reviews of the Nook Colour and Kindle 3G to make a decision on which is best.

PCWorld's Melissa Perenson gave the second-generation Nook (the new one) four out of five stars in her recent review, and Consumer Reports says Barnes & Noble's e-reader is even better than the Kindle.

What's Amazon to do? Well, in my role as armchair pontificator, I feel compelled to offer Amazon a bit of unsolicited advice. Here are five ways that Amazon can regain the competitive edge in the e-reader race.

1) Optional backlight: Barnes and Noble already offers a Nook with a color screen (US$249), and recent reports suggest Amazon will launch an iPad-style color tablet later this year.

But how about an e-Ink reader with a backlight that you can turn on or off? Kindle's E-paper screen is easier to read outdoors than a glossy backlit display--a fact Amazon stressed in a TV ad last year--but it's nearly impossible to read in low-light environments. An optional backlight would be a competitive advantage, even if it makes the Kindle a bit pricier than its competitors.

2) US$99 price: Yes, Kobo is already selling its Wireless eReader for $99.99, but that's a "while supplies last" deal for a closeout model.

Tags nooke-booksamazon kindlekindlee-readers

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Jeff Bertolucci

PC World (US online)

27 Comments

Everett Morris

1

As I write this comment on my Nook, I would like to see B&N take up the backlit e-ink display. Other than that, I feel Amazon has alot to do to compete. I tried a Kindle at a store once. For everything both offer, the Nook does more. The only benefit I saw with the Kindle was faster page turns. Not worth it. Good luck, Amazon.

Andrys

2

Re the backlighting - I also wish it were a feature on e-Ink devices but most who know the technology say it's not possible due to e-ink screen properies.

Re the Kindle Lending from Public Libraries, The Kindle Chronicles Podcast by Len Edgerly had an interview with Jay Marine, Kindle Director, a couple of months ago, and he did give some details about unique ease of use, including no need for additional software or downloads and the delivery will be to the Kindle over WiFi.

He also said that they'd not be using the Adobe DRM (which is cumbersome with the library borrowing). Their emphasis, he said in the interview, is to make the borrowing seamless.

He also said they'd do annotations backup for the borrowed books (seeable only by that Amazon borrower), kept on the Kindle-user's Amazon server area and which would be downloadable with the book to that user if the borrower decided to RE-borrow the book (if there wasn't enough time to finish the book during the loan period) or if the person decided to buy the e-book from Amazon later.

Kindle book annotations are also kept for Kindle-owners if (server backups are not disabled) on a private, paswoord-protected page of annotations made for each Amazon book the user has. These can be highlighted, copied and printed, but because of publisher concerns, there's a limit to how much of a book's content can highlighted. Those vary by publisher. Some are unlimited.

Lynne Connolly

3

You can't backlight eink screens such as the Kindle and Kobo use. Sony tried frontlighting one of their readers a while back, but it made the print blurry and harder to read. It also increased the weight and bulk of the device.

The big thing that you're missing is that the Nook is only available in the USA. Kindle is available almost worldwide.

I have a Nook Color, and I've gone back to my Kindle for reading. It's lighter, the battery lasts much longer, and it's more comfortable on the eyes. And I don't like fingermarks on the screen. I was constantly cleaning the Nook Color. It makes a sweet tablet, though.

The Kindle physical keyboard is fine. I'd be unhappy if they got rid of it, though I'd be okay with a slideout keyboard. The page turn button could be a little larger, and the D pad is too fiddly as it is right now.
It would also be nice if the Kindle could take epub format as well as mobi (the base format of the proprietary locked Amazon file).

A combination screen would be a disaster. The M Edge, which featured two screens, one LCD one eink, has recently been phazed out. The Kindle is a reading device, nothing more, and if it tries to be something else, it will lose that beautiful focus.

NedNedson

4

I think there are better options than a back lit display. When I bought my Nook (original) I also bought a clip on led light designed for it which worked nicely for reading in the dark. I keep it by my bedside and bring it with me when I travel.
After I bought a Nook Color and it became a constant companion being so portible, any low light concerns were gone. I still have a light weight nook in case my arms get tired.

Rich Weiss

5

I love my kindle as well as the leather case with built in light. The light is hidden in the back part of the case until ready to use, and it runs off power from the kindle, so no need to purchase separate batteries. I find that the light makes the kindle quite readable, even when it's completely dark, and it doesn't take much power from the kindle.

Denise

6

Just bought the Nook Color & took on vacation. Incredible glare makes it impossible to read in sunlight; very disappointing since I did not bring any "real" books, so I was without reading material while at the pool & the beach - totally unacceptable!

Mano Bakh

7

True story.
I have two great books on Kindle and I am very happy.

mano bakh

8

True story.
I have two great books on Kindle and I am very happy.
From Terror to Freedom
Escaping Islam

Jack K. Wilborn

9

My wife has a Nook, it was chosen for it flexibility and hardware surpassed the Kindle. I don't remember how many formats the Nook can use, but it far out-ran the Kindle, unless you buy everything from Amazon. Another annoying item was that you had to send you device in to some place to have the battery replaced. So down time and added expense played into it. I see little mention of formats, but if you can display it, it's useless. Also the Battery (of all things) can't be changed by the user. Granted they last a while, but compare that to shipping to wherever and back plus the cost of the battery was twice that of a Nook. With these in mind, I can't pick up a battery at any B&N and other places and in a few minutes change it out. So you are looking at not only a expensive procedure, but timely, how long will you be without your device, even assuming all shipping and change work? The Kindle was just not justified. My only gripe about about the Nook, is when you have to enter something in Hex, instead of having a 16 pad entry, you have to switch from alpha to numeric, what a dumb move.

Sarah Davison

10

I have a Kindle and I love it. I've held both and I just think that the Kindle is a superior product. It doesn't try to be all things to all people. I wanted an e-reader, not a tablet, or an e-reader trying to be a tablet or a tablet trying to be an e-reader.

Re: Jack K Wilborn

I'm not sure what you are talking about with the battery concerning the Kindle. You don't have to replace the battery every time it runs out. You just plug it in using the charger that comes with it. The battery shouldn't need to be replaced at all or at the most once over the entire lifetime of the device.

chris

11

I'd think providing better discounted books would be a huge advantage. Especially for future gen. IMHO kids nowadays have no idea and no interest in the classics. Which is why when you have all those free books to download, they don't because its nothing that interests them. But if you had like a 50$ credit for purchasing a eReader, I'd definitely choose that eReader.

To me, 100+ for eReaders is expensive enough, and I still have to purchase the books, I'm not a book fanatic which means it would take an outrageous time to finally balance the total cost : money saved with disc. books

Having an eReader come with some sort of store credit for books would definitely be my top reasons for choosing that eReader

Al Camus

12

I see no sense in buying the Nook Color.For the price you would be better served shelling out a few bucks more for an WI-Fi I Pad.

The Kindle and Nook both work great ,but I bought the Kindle because Amazon offers a much better assortment of obscure new literature. I had a list of 11 recently published books which I was looking for . Amazon had 8 of them B&N 2. The real winner was Borders.They had all 11, but in hard copy only.

I've never been a B&N fan due to their predictable assortments, and the stores are especially bad.

Amazon appears to carry more diverse titles ; both new and old.

teej

13

I have a Kindle and am very happy with it. As many people mentioned above, it is excellent for it's purpose, reading books. There is almost no glare even in bright/outdoor lighting conditions and it is easy on the eyes. I bought it solely as a reader. Although I am able to access the Internet with it, the Kindle is pretty clumsy at navigating. I am impressed with the Nook feature of sharing books with friends. Hopefully that will come to the Kindle soon.

Mary McGuire

14

I wouldn't.t write Kindle off just yet! I have used Kindle since day one, but looked forward to playing with a Nook. I finally got one in my hands last week and was disappointed. I like the physical buttons on Kindle and find them very easy to use. I use "touch"keyboard on my Ipad, and it'smfun, but for more serious typing, I have a leather cover with a wireless keyboard. Often the touch screens are too sensitive. And, yea the color in Nook is nice, but unless you're a kid, who reads pages in color? My Kindle goes absolutely everywhere with me. I am handicapped and wile away many hours reading on my kindle. Its tough and has been on many sandy beaches. Someone made a comment here about gettng a little reading lamp for their Nook. I use one for my Kindle and it solves the night reading problem. Can't imagine why you'd need one for the Nook.

artie

15

Ewwwwwwwwww... I hate kindle. I hope the nook, nook 2, and nook color beats the ugly kindle. I loooooooove Barnes & Noble and hate amazon.com.I wrote this on my nook color!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

artie

16

Ewwwwwwwwww. I hate kindle. I hope nook, nook color, and the all new nook beat the ugly kindle. I hate that eReader. I'm a nook person. P.S. I wrote this on my nook color!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

john

17

B&N has more ebooks. And you can buy ebooks anywhere with nook. Kindle yuou can only buy from amazon......... Nook is better.

John

18

Barnes & Noble® has more ebooks than kindle.... playing it simple nook is better.

Freth

19

I have both apps on my iPod Touch. I buy more books from Kindle, because they are generally cheaper. I just priced Hannah's List ... it is $5.59 from Kindle and Nook, but $6.99 from iBook (Apple). I think a B&W reader would be good for outdoors, while the NookColor is more versatile as a tablet. I can even boot it up in Android without changing the B&N system or voiding the warranty. When people talk about "extra cash" there's a big difference between a $250 NC and an $600 iPad2 (comparable 32GB capability) ... like $350! For that price, the wife and I can each have our own NC (just like we have our own iPods). However iPad2 with the iOS 5 sounds really fantastic!! Don't think that Apple is sitting on their laurels ... they didn't get where they are by being as good as everyone else. So my opinion leaves the issue just as muddied as it was before ... :-))

Amy

20

I love my Kindle, and I have the case with the light in it. I can read in bed in total darkness while my husband sleeps undisturbed. Whenever I am not reading, it is on the charger so that I am never without it though the battery does last a long time. Kudos to Amazon for a great product. Love it!!!

Olga

21

I have a kindle and i love it. I love the fact that it's easy to read no matter where you are. I internet is a little slow but i used my kindle to read not to look online..

Laurelin

22

Hmm. I was able to download books from Gutenburg.com and other publishers to my PC and then copy them to my Kindle (version 1) with a USB cable connection. I just had to specify the file type the Kindle uses. Amazon didn't backup those ebooks, but that's no problem. I just back them up with my pc's regular backup system. I haven't tried this with one of the later Kindle versions, though.

Keep in mind if you get a Nook color for a kid to encourage them to read, he/she will have full and easy access to the Web and social networking with no nanny filter software. Just something to think about.

FCJ

23

I am having a hard time deciding on whether to get the Kindle or the Nook. I travel a lot and I enjoy reading wherever I go, whether it be indoors or outdoors and I would enjoy an e-reader that wouldn't glare outdoors. But I also like surfing the web as well. A tablet would come in handy when I don't have my laptop with me. Both products are good in their own way, but which one is best?

Sally

24

NOOK!NOOK!NOOK!NOOK!NOOK!

Valerie

25

The Kindle backlight device was the biggest bonus as it enabled me to read the Kindle at night (when my partner was sleeping), and so posed no disturbance or distraction.

I really liked the ergonomic design of the kindle. The kindlebacklight.org review of mighty bright xtraflex2 clip-on light is also a good resource point for the Kindle and its accessories.

I highly recommend using the products yourself as each person's experience of trying them is a unique one.

Rosie

26

Thank you all for the info, I haven't bought mine yet but am looking. I'm confused though, does the Kindle have the backlite feature or not? Some of these reviews left me a bit confused on that & how is the glare on the NOOK? I read outside @ while waiting in lobbies for appointments so no glare while outdoors is a must

Horatio Bennett

27

The new eR-Vu is the best thing out there for reading eReaders in the dark It works well with NOOK, Kindle and Kobo. It should be on the retail shelves in February. Saw a demo in Vegas this past summer

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