Nook – Another New eReader Machine, This Time From Barnes & Noble

OK, I’ve had my grubby hands on the Kindle since it came out and I’m a fan. Which is not to say that a, I think it’s utterly perfect; or b, I think that competition is bad.

In the interests of cutting through the marketing hype, here are my thoughts on the comparison of (the so far unseen by the public) Nook and my Kindle.
What’s The Same | Nook Exclusives | Kindle Exclusives | Who ‘Wins’ | My Final Judgement |
What they have in common

  • You can read full texts of books on an eInk screen that mimics the printed page well: no backlighting, no glare, great in sunlight.
  • 6″ (diagonal) screen
  • Roughly the same size overall
  • Download ebooks for quickly, wirelessly and for free, wherever you are (mostly*). I’ve heard some confusion about this but there is NO fee and no need to have a contract with the cell phone companies. The bookseller does that part. Amazon and Barnes and Noble have deals with Sprint and AT&T respectively (in the US. In the UK it’s with a different company and I think there may be a download fee of just over a pound, but haven’t confirmed that).
  • Have lots of memory (2GB internal)
  • Have good battery life (esp when you turn the wireless off, if you remember)
  • Show grayscale pictures nicely
  • Synchronize your books between multiple devices
  • Highlight and bookmark sections of books
  • MP3 support — listen to mp3s even while you’re reading (if you like that sort of thing). Lord of the Rings book, Lord of the Rings soundtrack? Could be nice.
  • Multiple font sizes
  • “Keep Reading” function (lets you resume reading where you left off, even over multiple devices)

[*They both work on the 3G network so you have to be in range of 3G signal. BN’s Nook also has a wi-fi option, which could help if you’re out in the boondocks but near a wi-fi signal]

They both have some other features the other one doesn’t have, and here’s where it gets tricky to get to the truth if you haven’t used one or the other. So here goes.

What Nook Has That Kindle Doesn’t (and my thoughts)

(using their own Product Comparison page as a source)

  • Colour Touch Screen – This is a strip under the reading screen (where there is a keyboard on the Kindle). It shows five sections: Daily, My Library, Shop, Reading Now, Settings. and lets you navigate your content and the store. It seems like the store is a scrollable ‘shelf’ of book cover images. The online demo doesn’t show how you search for specific titles (if you can). I would get frustrated by not being able to type in a particular title that I’m looking for. Apparently, there is an on-screen keyboard.  Also, this colour screen is a, probably why the battery life is four days shorter than Kindle’s and b, The backlit screen below my reading page would annoy me — you can dim its brightness and perhaps you can turn it off.
  • Quick-View Library by Color Book Cover Image -This might be nice if you’re a visual sort of person (I am). But there still doesn’t seem to be any way to type in your book’s title and find it that way, which would be less annoying (to me) than scrolling through pages and pages of books, passing the one you want, scrolling back, missing it again…ask me and my iPod how I know about this!  Both a scrolling library of book titles AND the ability to type in a title would be the best combination, but it’s either or (Nook or Kindle) for now.
  • Wi-Fi connectivity — Good, I guess, if you get stuck out of a 3G zone and in range of wi-fi. Hasn’t happened to me yet. The books download very quickly over 3G.
  • Free Wi-Fi in Barnes & Noble Stores — OK, well, free Wi-fi everywhere there is free Wi-fi. Not applicable to the wi-fi-less Kindle.
  • Free daily content from Barnes & Noble — well, yes. You don’t get that on Kindle. But neither do you get the free Amazon content on the Nook. So a bit of a draw there.
  • SD card slot — Keep even more books on your Nook (to scroll through). With Kindle, you can archive your library at Amazon and access it again at any time. This one depends on what kind of person you are: do you like to have a hard copy of things that you can keep (on your SD card) because what if something happens to the online store; or are you thrilled to save things online only because you know you’d lose the physical thingy that stores them anyway?
  • Expandable storage — via the SD slot. I can’t imagine needing more room. I have to archive things as it is, because I hate having too many titles to search through. I forget what is current. But that’s just me.
  • More than a million titles available – B&N says they have them and Amazon says they have 350,000. I’m not sure this is a deciding factor for me just now as a, all the best-sellers are bound to be there and b, I’m sure Amazon will expand. However, if you like to look up older titles and if you find that B&N has more of them, it might sway you.
  • More than 500,000 free ebooks — Fine. Having sampled some of the free eBooks available for Kindle I’m going to hazard a guess that a lot of them are scanned out-of-copyright books, self-published books, technical books and not all of them are going to be worth your time. I don’t think a dumptruck of free ebooks is going to be anyone’s deciding factor, but OK.
  • Exclusive content when in B&N stores — this had better be world-class content or it’s going to seem like a ploy to get you into stores.
  • PDF support – this is potentially big. It’s not available on the small-size Kindles, and you have to use a separate piece of software to convert it (or email it to Amazon and have them convert it for a small fee and email it to your Kindle). On the other hand, PDFs are meant to display things in a fixed format, and that format is rarely in the 3.75″ x 5.75″ size of an eInk screen. (in other words, this could get messy. Or small). But people are going to like the idea.
  • EPUB and eReader formats supported — this means that if you’ve been downloading books in these formats to read on another device, you won’t have to buy them again if you want to read them on your Nook. This is nice, and not something the Kindle currently supports. Also, if you want to download a book that is ONLY available in these formats, you’re golden.
  • Read on more devices — you can read your Nook books on your desktop/laptop or a Blackberry as well as on an iPhone/iPod Touch. I confess I love being able to whip out my phone and catch up on a couple of pages wherever I am. Both eReaders are not pocket-sized so it’s nice to have the option to read a few pages on the device I DO have in my pocket. I suspect Amazon will add Blackberry support, but it’s not there just now. Desktop access might be nice for people who work outside the home and don’t want to carry their eReader around with them.
  • Android operating system — OK. I have nothing to say. I’m sure Android is cool and Kindle doesn’t run on it.
  • LendMe — You can lend books to other people. I haven’t seen the conditions on lending, but it’s an appealing feature. Of course, the publishers control whether or not this feature is available on their books, as they do with the Text-To-Speech feature on Kindle, so don’t expect all books to have this option. Publishers are very jealous of their intellectual property and are loathe to give it away even in spite of experiments that suggest it actually increases sales. I like the LendMe feature in principle.
  • Try in store before buying — I firmly believe Amazon needs to partner with someone to get working copies of their machine into stores so people can try them. Who’s going to pay $250 for an unseen product (except for us gadget/book freaks that is?). I’ve seen Sony eReaders in stores, but never in working mode.
  • Replaceable colourful back covers — some will scoff, but it’s kinda nice to be able to customize your gadgets.
  • Ergonomic Back Cover for Optimal Hand Fit — Hmm, can’t judge this from the spinning screen shot, but it looks pretty flat to me. I preferred the original Kindle’s shape, on this note. The current flat one is a bit less comfortable than I think it could be. They must hvae been going for slim-at-all-costs. Still preferable to holding a paper book of the same size in one hand.
  • Personalise your screensavers — nice option. Somebody discovered a hack for this in the original Kindle but I haven’t seen one for Kindle2.
  • Replaceable battery — Amazon doesn’t say much about the Kindle’s battery.

What Kindle Has That Nook Hasn’t (and my thoughts)

  • Keyboard – This is big for me. Simply start typing to search for text (reading a huge Russian tome and want to look up the first time “Anatoli” appeared so you can remember who he was? Just start typing and find every instance of his name). I’ve always wanted this feature, even before ebooks existed. “What was that line about…” update: not sure this is as big a deal, as long as the on-screen keyboard on the Nook is decent.
  • Annotation – -I don’t see a way in the keyboardless Nook, to make margin notes. I don’t use this very much myself but I imagine a lot of people do. update: unclear if you can annotate books, but imagine you can.
  • 5-Way Navigation Button — yes, it’s a little laggy , but you can move your little cursor around the screen and highlight text, select links, select a word for a dictionary definition (which pops up at the bottom fo the screen)and press to click. (I liked the scroll bar in the original Kindle, even though it didn’t do as much). I’m not sure how you navigate in the Nook to highlight text.
  • Text-To-Speech — it’s no audio-book level speech, and some publishers have turned it off for their books, but it still works for many. (I tend to use it to keep listening to a non-fiction book while I do dishes or something. It’s pretty laughable for novels, but still, if you want to keep reading while you take a short drive, it’s nice to have).
  • Word document support — The B&N site says “fee for wirelessly emailing” but that’s disingenuous: you can convert them for free yourself by using something like MobiPocket or Calibre
  • Basic Web access – you can check your email, access Wikipedia and IMDB, look stuff up on the web all over the free 3G service. It’s a bit clunky and slow, but before I had my (vastly expensive iPhone with its vastly expensive data service) this was great for answering all those nagging questions that pop up while you’re out and about. It’s not full web access, and it’s not as powerful as something like an iPhone but it’s a nice alternative if you have nothing or don’t want to pay data service and would just like to be able to pop online and check something.
  • Auto-page turn — this isn’t something that is in the manual, but there is documentation for it somewhere.  A combination of keystrokes will have the Kindle turn pages at 9 second intervals. If I boost the font size to the max and prop the book up, I can read my novel, hands-free while knitting or eating lunch alone (chance’d be a fine thing). Kind of nice. Nook may have it too, though.
  • Back button — This takes you back to the previous screen, not just to the previous page (I know, that’s confusing, but imagine you’re looking up a footnote. You don’t want to page back one page, you want to jump back to your previous section. The Back button does that. It also helps in the store, and in the web browser and in your ‘index’ or ‘bookshelf’)
  • Home and Menu Buttons — the touch screen on the Nook replaces some of these function. On the Kindle you use a combination of the Home/Menu buttons and the five-way-pointer to select where you want to be.

Who Wins?

  • Cost: The same ($259 — unless you want the International version of the Kindle, which is an extra $20)
  • International Wireless Coverage: I think the Kindle is the only one with this. B&N makes no mention of it.
  • Battery life: Kindle
  • Replaceable Battery: Nook
  • Connectivity: Nook (I think. Adding wi-fi seems like it must be a good thing, but I haven’t yet run into a situation where I could have used wi-fi and not 3G. Might be great, might be a red-herring). The Kindle has a basic web browser though, so it’s a close call.
  • Reading Features: Kindle  because of the note-making ability and ability to search text. This might be a draw, if the Nook has the same ability as Kindle.
  • Browsing Your Library: Hard to say. Nook’s colour covers are nice; Kindle’s text-based version is easy, plus you can input text to search.
  • Storage Capacity: Maybe Nook if you care about removable storage vs. online storage.
  • Look & Feel: Nook, by a nose. It looks like a Kindle but a little bit customizable. People will like the colour touch screen even if I think it’s a battery draining painted hussy that would be a complete fouter to use and have a distracting backlight.
  • Name: Nook. (Kindle has connotations of book-burning. Nook sounds like you curl up in a big armchair with a good reading light and a cup of hot chocolate…)

In Short…

  • Nook has some more features, some fewer. The reading experience and the shopping experience will be almost identical with a few exceptions:
  • No ability to search the text or the bookshelf (that I can see, I could be wrong).
  • No way to make ‘margin’ notes on the text.
  • Ability to lend books to friends (who have a compatible device) with some restrictions, at the publishers’ discretion.
  • Native PDF and other ebook format support.

The only compelling feature for me there is the lending one, and I think that’s going to be a bit of a light feature for some time to come (not many people have the devices, big publishers probably won’t enable it much … yet.

I would hate to give up the ability to input text.

It’s very close and may simply come down to whether you prefer to deal mostly with Amazon or B&N.

But, hopefully this rund0wn will help you make your own choice based on your preferences not the manufacturer’s gilded claims.

Let me know what you decide.

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2 responses to “Nook – Another New eReader Machine, This Time From Barnes & Noble

  1. great post… helpful for those pppl like me who are thinking to get Nook

    HOpe they will sell out of US soon..

  2. Thanks!

    What part of the world do you need them to sell in?