Well, only hours after my speculation that Amazon might intend to make a huge impact by being the first company to make the next obvious step in eReader innovation by jumping in with a Color Kindle they have leaked some information to the contrary. Instead, according to a recent Reuters report citing an inside source who has direct experience with the prototype, there will be new Kindle models coming this July that include the first front-lit monochrome Kindle eReader.
Naturally the comparison will be made with the Nook Simple Touch w/ GlowLight. We have to expect that Amazon will be making a more significant overhaul of their eReader than Barnes & Noble did, given how well the Kindle Touch has held up in direct Kindle vs Nook comparisons of late. Adding a lighting layer to the existing model would hardly be enough to get people interested.
That said, it will meet demands. Customers have been wishing for a light on their Kindles since the first version was released. While the complaint has not been enough to derail the Kindle, as many initially thought would be the case with so many LCD-based eReaders on the market, the demand has not gone away at any point.
The type of lighting we believe will be used in the new Kindle will allow for adjustable intensity for reading in any situation while not being a major source of eye strain or power depletion. Essentially we get to keep all the benefits of E Ink without making the sort of sacrifices that are usually involved in switching to lit devices.
Chances are good that Amazon will attempt to draw attention to the new Kindle by pricing it below the comparable Nook model. Reuters speculates on a $10 price increase related to the added light and that does seem reasonably in line with previous Kindle pricing, as Amazon loves to demonstrate how affordable they can manage to be. The normal, un-lit Kindle model or models will be priced the same as ever, most likely, with further cuts possible should they have managed to source cheaper parts. Clearly the strategy of selling at or near cost is working to their advantage and will continue.
While it is disappointing to not have a color Kindle on the horizon just yet, it makes sense that this upgrade had to come as soon as possible. The Kindle has not always been the best eReader available, especially in early comparisons with what Sony was offering, but there has rarely been a feature that could be pointed to as overwhelmingly important and only available through the competition.
Look for the newest Kindle eReader to be released before the end of July 2012 and the newest developments in Kindle Fire and color Kindle hardware in the months that follow. It is unlikely that Amazon will fail to pursue color E Ink in the year to come and we know that the Kindle Fire is due for an upgrade before the holiday season. This should be the first of many big Kindle developments.
The biggest complaint about eReaders since Day 1 has been the fact that you can’t read them in the dark. Now, normally I’m the first to call out such complaints as poorly informed since they tend to involve comparisons between E Ink Kindles and LCD alternatives. Apparently that will no longer be an important distinction soon. The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight has begun shipping ahead of schedule and should already be in the hands of many of the earliest preorder customers.
Now that there are actual devices available for review it is possible to make a more informed comparison. We can start with the Nook Simple Touch that we already know and love. The differences between the two models are minimal. The new incarnation has a gray border around the outer edge of the device, but it is otherwise hard to tell them apart. It apparently has an screen protector to reduce glare laminated to the display, but this does not reduce clarity in any significant way even in side by side comparisons. There is no essential loss involved in the addition of the new technology.
What you gain by going with the GlowLight version of the Nook Simple Touch is fairly impressive. Any other additions aside, the lighting feature is the important part. It is not, as some have claimed, an example of back-lit E Ink. The new Nook uses a type of LED-lit front-lighting to spread the illumination evenly without causing any significant increase in eye strain. Unlike the situation for many reading on something like the Nook Tablet or Kindle Fire, there will be no noticeable discomfort due to the light even after hours of extended use. It also does not drain the battery in a shocking fashion. While I have not had a chance to map out the exact side by side comparisons in battery life with the original Nook Simple Touch, the drain from the GlowLight feature seems to pale in comparison to the WiFi connectivity that comes standard in every device.
There are downsides, as always, but in this case they are minimal. The extra forty dollars added to a $99 eReader is a fairly big jump, but the expanded number of potential use environments will likely more than make up for that in the eyes of many. There is currently no option to get this model with 3G connectivity or integrated audio.
The Kindle has a lot of catching up to do. While they still have what is arguably the best eBook selection on the net, this development puts Amazon way behind in terms of hardware features. Nothing that has happened since the release of E Ink Pearl has been more important to the development of the eReader as a product and we can only hope that Amazon gets their front-lit Kindle in production and ready for sale as soon as possible. In the meantime, the Kindle might honestly not be the best option for new users regardless of how much nicer the integrated store is than the Nook’s.
While the Nook Tablet has done moderately well, especially compared to many other budget tablets in the same price range, it has not proven to be the substantial threat to the Kindle Fire that many hoped it would be. There was never a chance that the new market would make this Nook a Kindle killer, but the fact that competition has been so one-sided thus far is almost disappointing. While it may not be enough to turn things around entirely, however, Barnes & Noble has done a couple things lately to keep their product line in the game.
Most interesting of these, especially for existing and prospective Nook owners, is the memory reallocation program they have begun. If somebody has a Nook Tablet with 16GB of storage space, they are now able to go into any Barnes & Noble location and get their internal storage settings changed to allow for 8GB of usable space. While it is hardly the freedom to use all of the hardware you paid for that many would prefer, 8GB of free space is more than the Kindle Fire offers and definitely more in line with what customers were expecting when they picked up the tablet in the first place. Including all that storage space and locking customers out of using it was simply a dumb move.
To overcome the price disparity between their own line and Amazon’s, B&N has released an 8GB model that matches the $200 Kindle Fire price. We’ve been over this a bit in previous posts, but the significance cannot be overlooked since the Nook’s hardware does have several advantages over the Kindle.
Even more important, though less immediately available for analysis, there is reason to believe that the Nook Tablet will beat the Kindle Fire to the UK. There has been a great deal of anger directed at Amazon over the impressive amount of time they are taking to get their device anywhere outside of the US. For a company like Barnes & Noble, which has already gained a reputation for having minimal interest in international markets based on eReader sales, this would be quite a coup. Having the market essentially to itself would be nice for the Nook’s popularity, but the potential for fast-track progress to customer loyalty is even more important.
In the end, the thing that the Kindle Fire has going for it is the same thing it has always had going for it. Amazon as a backer and the ecosystem they provide. Barnes & Noble can change their prices, fix their mistakes, and jump ahead in distribution all they want, but they can’t hope to come out on top without matching the Amazon back end. Whether they are willing to invest the time and effort into doing so, or even have the capability at this point, remains to be seen. It is always good news for customers when the competition heats up, though, so we can all hope that B&N will follow up these positive efforts with something that will require Amazon to step up their Kindle Fire game a bit in response.
In an interesting, but not exactly surprising announcement through Engadget, we have learned that the Nook 3G is on its way out. At this point in time, what 3G models are left are pretty much all there will ever be, so now’s the time to pick one up if you’re interested in the more expensive, if somewhat more accommodating, version of this successful Kindle competitor.
There are a few theories being thrown around to try and figure out the logic behind this move. One of the more popular ones, though in my opinion the least believable of the bunch, is that this is a prelude to the release of a 3G model for the Nook Color. Were this to be the case (according to the supporting rationale behind this), the classic Nook model would then be moved to the category of “budget Nook”, given a price cut, and there would subsequently be no room for a higher priced model. Why do I think this unlikely? Mostly, there is no chance that Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) is going to do something as silly as putting unrestricted free 3G access onto one such an easily rooted, but highly versatile, device. Their costs would explode. Even the existing 3G Nooks have less 3G functionality than the equivalent Kindle models, being completely restricted to accessing the B&N book store.
Another possibility being tossed around, slightly more likely but still not quite making sense to me personally, is that this is a sign that B&N is getting ready to release a new version of the Nook with the improved E Ink Pearl screen, like that of the Kindle. If this were the case, the assumption is that in order to sell the more expensive model in greater quantity, production of the 3G device would begin earlier than the WiFi model so that early adopters would be left without the option. This one, however, relies on the assumption that the $50 price increase between the two models represents a significant per-unit profit increase for Barnes & Noble, and I just don’t buy that. Between the extra hardware and the additional cost incurred in making the 3G coverage contract-free, there simply can’t be that much margin left for profit in such a small price hike. Much as I hope we see a Nook with a better screen at some point soon, this one is far fetched.
No, this is probably something simpler. Not the heralding of a new launch or update to the Nook line, but a streamlining of production and a removal of some of the complications of upkeep. There have already been some reports of people having their Nook’s coverage temporarily denied by AT&T for whatever reason, which has to be one of any number of headaches B&N is enduring. Since they’re pretty much pinning their hopes on a more tablet-like future for eReaders, there’s not as much need for 3G coverage, especially when it is as highly restricted as the early Nook’s was. WiFi isn’t all that hard to come by anymore. This shouldn’t hurt people all that much. If all else fails, there’s always the Kindle with its unrestricted 3G coverage. If you’re completely set on a Nook 3G, however, there’s still time! Right now they may be turning down bulk orders, but the product hasn’t been pulled from shelves. Grab one while you can.
The recent announcement of the details for the NOOKcolor has some people cheering it as the future of eReaders and others groaning at it as a premature gimmick doomed to flop. Obviously, as with most things, where you place it will be based on your needs, desires, and priorities in an eReader. For a long while, the competition was Kindle vs Nook, but the Kindle had an advantage lately that many were hoping would be done away with in the anticipated upgrade this holiday season. Instead, we get a variation that changes the dynamic of the comparison entirely. Still, since the product is here, the comparison must be made! Here’s a preliminary look at how the features stack up between the two most recent incarnations of the competing eReader lines.
This point goes to the NOOKcolor.
When you think about it, that was rather inevitable. If you have a full color Tablet-PC kind of thing with its own app store, eventually people are going to find a way to open pretty much anything you choose to put on there. I doubt it will do everything well, but eventually everything will be possible at least. That aside, it also comes out of the box as more openly compatible than the Kindle for two reasons. First, and most obviously, you do get a color LCD. That means that the sort of media integration that the Kindle apps boast on other platforms is possible right on the new eReader. Especially good for kids books and travel guides, I would imagine. Second, it will come with the same range of supported standard eBook formats that the previous nook offered, which were already superior to the Kindle’s.
No contest, the Kindle gets it.
This is one of the most telling points for those skeptical of the new Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) device. In order to power their screen, they lost the ability to go days or weeks at a time without a charge. The Kindle‘s always had a slight edge over the nook when it comes to battery life, but when you’re talking about seven days without charging instead of ten you’re really just nitpicking. It doesn’t matter anymore beyond saying that you don’t charge much. Now, though, the new Nook will require pretty much daily charging if you put it to any sort of regular use. This could be a pain, and will definitely make the device less fun on vacations and such.
The Kindle has this one too, at least potentially.
One of the more surprising exclusions from the NOOKcolor announcement is 3G compatibility. This is probably one of the most over-talked and under-used features of either the Kindle or the nook, especially since WiFi coverage is so easily accessible these days, but I’ve found that it can be a real pain to not have it when you need it. I wouldn’t say it’s an essential feature. It’s definitely nice to not be paying for it on every new eReader I grab. To not even have the option, however, is a bit disappointing.
This one’s a draw.
There are too many factors in this consideration to make it a straight Kindle vs nook comparison. Much as it would be great to say that yes, the NOOKcolor has 8gb of internal storage to the Kindle‘s 4gb and has an expansion slot for more memory, there is the unavoidable fact that with the NOOKcolor you will be concerned with a lot more than how many plain text eBooks you can store. Color documents, applications, potentially even embedded video, they all come with a much greater cost in terms of storage space that might well mean your average user gets far less out of their Nook’s hard drive than they would out of a Kindle‘s unless they are careful. You’re left with considering maximum storage space on the one hand against efficient use of said space on the other. Too close to call.
Giving it to the Kindle.
This point will cause some debate, but I’m definitely partial to the Kindle‘s eInk display when it comes to reading considerations. That’s got to be the main focus when you evaluate eReaders, in my opinion. The fact that the eInk provides amazing contrast, great readability in any situation you could read a normal book in, requires no backlight, and contributes to the impressive battery life all give it the edge. It might be nice to have access to all the little extras and perks that the color LCD provides, but to get it by sacrificing general readability and accepting eye strain isn’t worth it to me.
Clearly the Kindle.
Not much to say about this. If we decide to set aside matters of 3G connectivity, we end up with over a hundred dollars saved on the $139 Kindle.
Point for point, I’ve got to give any Kindle vs NOOKcolor comparison to the Kindle at the moment. It just seems better suited to do the job as an eReader than any pseudo-tablet will be able to for a while yet. I have more respect for something that will do its one job extremely well than a compromise that leaves the essential function wanting in favor of extraneous additions. Maybe what you want is something small to use as a cheap iPad replacement and this is exactly what you were hoping for, but as an eReader, the Kindle is by far the better choice.
Picture is worth a thousand words so rather than writing one more Kindle 3 Review (which I encourage you to read if you haven’t already), today I decided to publish several Kindle 3 photos.
eReader Comparison: Kindle 2, Nook, iPad, Kindle 1, Kindle 3, Kindle DX, Sony PRS-600
Personally I’m a huge eReader fan and gadget geek as you can see from my pile of eInk hardware. Out of all devices Kindles get the most use: 6″ devices to read books and Kindle DX to read newspapers and magazines. iPad is also used quite a bit but mostly not as eBook reader.
Amazon Kindle 3
Kindle 3 frontal shot. Kindle has a picture viewer easter egg. In order to use it: create “pictures” folder in the root directory of the Kindle USB drive, create some sub-directory there and fill it with pictures. Once in home screen, press Alt-Z to make Kindle 3 rescan picture folders. Subfolders of “pictures” folder that have JPEG, GIF, PNG or BMP files in them will be visible as books and images will become pages. It may be a nice way to enjoy manga on your Kindle 3.
Kindle 3 Back Cover
Kindle 3 back cover has a nice rubbery feel to it that makes the device very comfortable to hold. I has Amazon Kindle logo embossed in it. If you look closely at the slit between front and back covers you will be able to see screwdriver marks from my Kindle 3 disassembly attempt.
Kindle 3 Weight
For some reason Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has overstated Kindle 3 weight. It really weights around 8.2 ounces as opposed to the official spec of 8.7 as confirmed by multiple sources.
Kindle 3 in Lighted Leather Cover
Kindle 3 Light
One of the standard Kindle 3 accessories that Amazon sells separately is Kindle 3 Leather Lighted Cover. It is intended to protect your Kindle from scratches and falls. Although I’ve never field-tested it, judging by it’s solid construction it should do a good job. It also has a built-in LED light for night reading that draws power from Kindle battery via conductive cover hinges. The downside is that the cover doubles the weight of the device.
As you can see, page lighting is not completely even. However from my personal experience I can tell that the cover is completely usable for reading at night. DSLR cameras tend to exaggerate contrast.
Kindle 3 in Leather Cover
When not in use the light slides into the cover and stays completely hidden. There is also leather cover without built in light that costs less and is couple of ounces lighter.
Kindle 3 Power Light
Amazon designers have moved all buttons (except for paging) and connectors to the bottom edge of the device. From left to right you see volume control (for two built-in 1W stereo speaker or headphones used for “Read To Me” text-to-speech feature, listening audiobooks or DRM-free MP3 files), stereo mini-jack headphone connector, microphone (that is not used for anything right now according to the user’s guide), standard micro-USB PC/charging connector, power switch with integrated large charging LED light. The light blinks green when Kindle 3 is turned on or off, glows orange when Kindle is charging and glows green when the device is completely charged.
Kindle 1,2 and 3 side by side
Witness 3 years of Kindle evolution. Kindle 1 released on the 19th of November 2007, Kindle 2 releaed on the 9th of February 2009 and finally Kindle 3 Graphite released recently. Notice the improving progression of screen contrast as eInk displays evolved over time.
Kindle 3 and Kindle 1 side by side
Kindle 3 vs Kindle 1 - thickness comparison
Although Kindle 3 and Kindle 1 have very similar footprint in the terms of thickness, Kindle 3 is almost 3 times thinner than the original first generation Kindle.
Kindle 3 and Kindle 2 size comparison
Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2 - thickness comparison
Although K3 and K2 are almost indistinguishable by thickness (the difference is 1/50 inch), difference by footprint is considerable.
Kindle 3 and Kindle DX
As you can see Kindle 3 completely fits inside Kindle DX screen with still some room to spare. These are two different classes of devices.
Kindle 3 vs Nook - Size overlay
Kindle 3 vs Nook : Thickness comparison
Kindle 3 vs Barnes and Noble Nook side by side
Kindle 3 is slightly smaller than Barnes & Noble Nook. It is also almost twice at thin and significantly lighter while packing same 3G + WiFi connectivity. In case of Kindle 3 however you can use free 3G Internet to browse any website rather than just download books.
Kindle 3 and Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition side-by-side
Kindle and Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition - Thickness
Kindle 3 has slightly larger footprint than Sony PRS-600 because of keyboard but is slightly thinner and considerably lighter. However the main difference is in display contrast. Kindle 3 Pearl eInk display contrast is almost 5 times higher than that of Sony. This difference has mostly to do with the touchscreen layer in PRS-600.
Kindle 3 vs Apple iPad
Although these are completely different kinds of products I still photographed Kindle 3 and Apple iPad side-by-side just for the fun of it.
I’ll wrap up this Kindle photo review with a daily Amazon.com user review and shipping date check-up:
Right now there are 220 customer reviews for Kindle 3. Of these 155 are completely positive five star reviews, 35 – positive four star reviews, 6 – neutral 3 star reviews, 7 – negative two star reviews and finally 17 – completely negative one star reviews. For the last several days ship date for Kindle 3 remained unchanged as “on or before September 17th”.
BTW: I have plenty of hosting bandwidth so you are welcome to hotlink these pictures.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.