In the past several weeks, especially as the Kindle Fire’s release date drew near, many people have been touting the new media tablet as a higher end, more advanced Kindle. While it is definitely true that it opens up new doors for Amazon in terms of content distribution, I don’t necessarily think that it is fair to assume that the Fire is a direct evolution of the line it takes its name from. As such, I figured I might as well do a small comparison on the relative virtues of Amazon’s two newest Kindles.
This is the clear winner in terms of general usefulness. We don’t need a breakdown to prove that, it simply is. The dedicated eReader didn’t rise to popularity because of its exclusive access to the text contained inside eBook files, though. The question is how this device stacks up specifically as an eReader.
- More Responsive Interface
- Larger Storage Capacity
- More Intuitive Sorting/Storage Library Interface
- LCD Display
- Short battery Life
It really is a good system in general besides the back-lit LCD, offering the full functionality of any Kindle or Kindle App prior to the Touch model. When you swap to the white on black color scheme it isn’t even terribly uncomfortable to read for hours at a time, though the fact that you are reading on a screen is never forgotten.
- E Ink Screen
- Long Battery Life
- Slightly slower than Fire
- More Basic Menu System
- Limited PDF Functionality
The biggest things that the new Kindle Touch eReader has going for it revolve around the strengths that the Kindle line has always played to: a reading experience analogous to that of a paper book. This includes no eye strain, page turns faster than physically possible with paper, seemingly endless battery life, and the best selection of books on the market. That last is obviously not restricted to this model, but it helps.
On the downside, the responsiveness of the Kindle Fire when doing things besides plain old reading is far superior. Both the color display and the simple ability to rotate your document also make it the superior device for PDF viewing. While the zooming and scrolling on the Kindle Touch is superior to any previous Kindle due to the touchscreen implementation, for some reason this resulted in the loss of landscape mode. That can be a pain when you’re unable to reflow your document.
When in comes to extended reading, the Kindle eReader is still king. The E Ink screen isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for everybody, but the loss of battery life that comes along with the move to LCD is likely to be. X-Ray is a nice feature and will add some great tools for students and reading groups, but I have yet to find it more than a perk.
On the other hand, for active reference and note taking I would definitely recommend the Kindle Fire. The reading experience shows no lag for me in about 15 hours of use so far, the page turns, highlighting, and note taking are nice and quick, and it can be useful to have the full web browser handy.
The experiences are indeed distinct, and probably will remain so until some form of Color E Ink or an equivalent comes along.
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?
Let’s assume for a moment that you’re not a Kindle owner. Moreover, let’s assume that you want to be one! Have I got your attention? Chances are you’re in the right place for making the next important purchase decision, then. You know you want an eReader, clearly the selection of books, pleasant form factor, or some other neat aspect of the Kindle in particular stands out for you, but which Kindle is right? Sometimes it’s worth the extra money to spring for the 3G model, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everybody. Let’s break down the relative merits a bit.
This is obviously the more affordable option at just $139. Choosing this one gives you the full feature set as far as reading goes, of course. It also has the same browsing capabilities as the 3G model, as well as an infinitesimally decreased weight, and an improved battery life while connected wirelessly (verified by the the author or this blog personally). Basically, besides connectivity, you lose absolutely nothing in grabbing the cheaper model.
The most important concern, obviously, is the restricted mobile options that it presents. To get the best possible use out of your browsing, to say nothing of the best possible option for getting books onto your Kindle and browsing the store in general, you’ll need regular access to a wireless network. While there are always exceptions to the rule, it is pretty safe to assume that your home network will be fine. Where you can run into problems will be hotels, airports, and all the usual WiFi hotspots that you might expect to be easily accessible in day to day life. I’m not going to make the claim that you’ll never be able to connect in these places, but I’ve run into problems in the past and as such I can’t tell you that they’ll be 100% for you either. If you read at home for the most part, or plan to do your shopping at home and otherwise not bother with the internet connectivity, then you’re all good.
If, on the other hand, you think you’d like to be a bit more flexible with your internet usage, you will likely find the extra $50 a very worthwhile investment. The 3G connection is a permanent feature, not a monthly fee, so you’ll be ok in pretty much any situation where a cell phone would work. If you happen to be in a bind and can’t get cell reception, as I know happens in a few places locally, you will still be able to connect to WiFi. In fact, being able to connect to such a local network will increase your connection speed, reliability, and just general quality of experience. When you need to be able to get some info, or that book on the go, the 3G comes in very, very handy.
90% of the time, nobody is going to feel the lack of 3G on the WiFi model, but if you travel a lot then there’s not much more valuable than having the whole Amazon library at your disposal to make those train trips or long flights bearable. Something to keep in mind as holiday travel comes upon us!