As I read the article about the new Kindle upgrades coming up in October, I started to feel really overwhelmed. There is so much to choose from these days. So, I thought I’d break it down a bit. It is all a matter of what type of operating system you prefer (Android or Apple iOS) and what uses you have for your devices.
The Amazon Kindle has been out since 2007 and has evolved a great deal over the last four years to compete with the growing e-reader market: Nook, Kobo, Sony, and most recently, Google’s iriver Story. It has been interesting to watch how obvious the competition is which all of the companies dropping prices and mocking each others’ style. Note the latest touchscreen craze.
Then we have the NookColor, a mixed tablet and e-reader that has succeeded in knocking the Kindle off of it its pedestal.
In terms of e-readers, to me, the Kindle wins hands down. I’ve really enjoyed my Kindle and am looking forward to a new touchscreen version. Amazon has excellent customer service, and shows no sign of crashing and burning anytime soon, unlike Barnes & Noble and Borders. If prices keep dropping the way they have, they’ll be pretty cheap here soon. Now, if only we can stop the rising e-book prices. But, library lending and all of the free and reduced priced e-books available out there might just take care of that.
The iPad wins here. I am not an Apple fiend by any means, but like the Kindle, the iPad has been around for over a year and offers a lot of different apps for various purposes. I use mine as a laptop basically. I also love that I can enlarge the text so easily. Give me a year and I might be saying something different, but for now, I go for the iPad. Other tablets to watch: Acer Iconia, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and of course the Kindle Tablet.
Why have a tablet AND an e-reader? I don’t think of my Kindle as a computer. iBooks does not have nearly the book collection that Amazon does, and reading on the iPad Kindle app does not feel the same. I can still curl up with the Kindle in bed or on the couch, and it isn’t hard on the eyes. I love how both Kindle and iPad can fit easily into a tote bag. Plus, e-readers are getting to be cheap enough that it wouldn’t be a huge setback to have both.
And then there are smartphones…but that market is a whole niche of its own.
Just when I thought Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) owned everything with their new Google+ social network site launched last week, I found out that they hadn’t gone after the Kindle yet…until now.
Google’s new e-reader is called iriver Story HD, and is the same price at Kindle Wi-Fi at $139. The device will be available in at Target starting July 17. It looks a lot like the Kindle with the keyboard and is about the same size. The Google e-reader will have access to books in the cloud. Many are free and public domain books, but users can purchase books online as well.
The good part about the books being in the cloud is that they can be accessed from any smartphone or PC without having to move the file itself. Cloud computing is really taking off, with Amazon’s unlimited cloud storage and Apple’s iCloud coming with iOS5.
I really think that Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) is way ahead of the game here because the Kindle has been out for four years. Story HD also needs to be available in other places besides Target. The Kindle is available in several retail stores in addition to Amazon’s store. The only real competition for the Kindle so far is the NookColor, which just recently bypassed the Kindle in sales. The Nook and Sony Reader touch are picking up steam, however. But, who knows, the rumored Kindle Tablet might just blow that competition away.
Speaking of tablets, I will say the iPad is a whole different ballgame. It is more like a computer than an e-reader. I just got one, and plan to keep my Kindle for awhile yet.
The other thing is, Amazon’s niche is books, magazines, and other media. So, they have a long running relationship with authors and publishers. Google seems to want to be an umbrella of things. I think that it is better to excel in one area than try to venture into a lot of different markets.
But, Google is doing a good job so far with acknowledging user feedback on its products during their beta stage, particularly for Google+. So, I’m sure they will do the same for the iriver Story HD.
Here’s a video of the iriver Story HD if you want to see it in action.
Yep, you are reading this right. It’s actually quite easy now to get Kindle books on Nook color and have both eBook stores available to you on a single device. This is possible because Nook Color is more of an entry level Android tablet than a dedicated eReader. As it comes out of the box it just happens to start the Nook application by default and not let users run anything else.
However that can easily be fixed by rooting the device and enabling the Android Market. With Andoid market you can install all kinds of applications, including Kindle, Kobo reader. You would also be able to play Angry Birds and watch Youtube videos. Installing the Kindle application for Android will let you read Amazon Kindle books on your Nook Color device.
The downside however is that as with all hacks, you risk bricking the device and voiding the warranty. You may also lock yourself out of future updates from Barnes and Noble. So it’s a trade off but in my opinion a profitable one.
It took me less than 5 minutes to execute all rooting instructions from NookDevs.com to root the device, enable Android Market, download Kindle for Android and have WhisperSync open the book I was reading on the same place I left it off on my Kindle device.
Here’s what you will need in terms of hardware:
- NookColor device with USB cable
- microSD card that is larger than 128MB (if you are in a rush and have Amazon Prime, amazon will overnight it to you for additional $3.99)
- SD card reader if your computer doesn’t have one.
In terms of software you’ll need:
- On Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 32 or 64 bit – Win32DiskImager.exe
- On Mac or Linux you can get by with tools that ship with the operating system.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Before rooting make sure that you’ve registered the device with B&N as it might not work after rooting.
- Download nooter that corresponds to you Nook version. You can check your Nook version by pressing Nook button, selecting “Settings” >> “Device Info” >> “About your NOOKcolor” >> Software version:
- for 1.0.0 – GabrialDestruir’s auto nooter 2.12.15 file 15 Dec 2010
- for 1.0.1 – GabrialDestruir’s auto nooter 2.12.25 file 25 Dec 2010
- Unpack the file
- On Windows use Win32DiskImager to write the image to microSD card (please note that all data on the card will be lost). For Linux or Mac, check out NookDevs.com for detailed microSD imaging instructions.
- Completely power off NOOKcolor by holding the power button until the screen blurs and “Power off NOOKColor” dialog appears. Select “Power Off” and wait for the device to shut down completely.
- Turn device face down and open the microSD card container in the lower right corner. Push the card in with metal contacts facing down.
- Connect the device to your computer via USB cable. The device will power up and book from the SD card but the screen will not turn on. This is normal.
- After about a minute your computer show detect the new device. This means that the rooting is complete. Your Windows computer will complain about missing drivers. This is normal.
- Disconnect the USB cable and remove the card from the reader.
- Power cycle it by holding the power button for 20 seconds and then releasing it. The press the power button briefly to power the reader on.
- As the reader boots you will see a red splash screen.
- Once the reader boots, you will be prompted for you Gmail account (as usually with Android) and some initial settings. This will only happen once.
- As you open the extras folder you will see that it now contains Android market icon and some extras (Youtube, Gmail, etc)
- You can now start the market app and download other apps that you like. You will need to reboot the device for apps to appear on the extras page. The apps themselves can be used right away just as with usual Android apps.
After that the sky is the limit.
First thing that I did was to download Kindle application and verify that it works – it did. See – for yourself.
While this works, it’s not 100%. Initially I had some problems with apps not downloading via the market app. Reboot fixed that. Kobo app for android logs in and displays the list of books but then all books get stuck in “Waiting for download” state. Kindle app didn’t have such problems.
I also tried Youtube, remote desktop, Gmail and Angry Birds and that worked well.
All-in-all, I’m quite happy with this experiment as it shows once again that Kindle books can cross device boundaries and run even on competing devices. Does it add value to Kindle or NOOKcolor? I think both. If you have Barnes&Noble LCD eReader you can now get books from either store. Kindle opponents meanwhile have one less reason to complain about device-restricting DRM system.
I wanted to do Kindle vs. NOOKcolor review first, but this post turned out more about how these two devices cooperate rather than compete. The comparison review will be posted sometime early next year. I promise.
Unrooting and updating
Some people claim that using NOOKcolor can be “unrooted” by “Settings” >> “Device Info” >> “Erase & Deregister Device” but I haven’t tested it yet. I’m quite happy with my rooted NOOKcolor. Another method is to hold power, nook and Volume+ buttons pressed until you are prompted for device reset.
I’ve tried both methods and both reset the nook but apps were still present on the “extras” screen.
The official 1.0.1 update got installed without problems and after rebooting all rooting extras were completely gone.
I then went ahead to re-rooted the device and installed the Kindle reader apps back.
The much awaited release of the Nook Color’s SDK has finally hit and it could mean big things for Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS). While I will admit that for reading I strongly prefer the Kindle‘s eInk screen, there’s a lot of potential to work with on the cheap tablet side of the popular new device. Now that we have the first step toward a potentially interesting dedicated app marketplace, there can’t be much doubt that Nook Color sales are going to take off a bit. So, what exactly is the effect going to be?
There are a couple different ways of looking at things here. For the majority of users, the app marketplace, in spite of being a closed system segregated from the majority of Android apps, will be a great thing. Tablets, as with smart phones, thrive on optional applications to optimize existing abilities and introduce new functionality. There can’t be much doubt in anybody’s mind that we’ll be looking at streaming video, comic reading, tabbed web browsing, and word processing, at the very least, as B&N makes the effort to catch every potential use they can find from the complaints people have made about eInk device shortcomings.
Barnes & Noble has already stated, however, that they plan to moderate the app marketplace to make sure that apps that pass through will “enhance the reading experience”, which could very well mean that a great deal of the functionality one might expect if this were just another tablet will be blocked off. While the Android Market review process is mostly just a quick check to make sure a given app is legal, this sounds likely to more closely approximate Apple’s rather more restrictive iPad app marketplace. To what extent the vision of the Nook Color as an eReader will be clung to is a question that only time can answer for us.
When it comes right down to it though, this is a mobile device running Android. It has already been rooted once, allowing the installation of unsanctioned third-party apps, and it will likely continue to have such options available, whatever the degree of difficulty involved, for as long as the Nook Color sticks around. If you really want something, and have the tech savvy to work through the process, the ability is there to get it running. I would find it especially amusing to see somebody playing with Kindle for Android on one of these, myself.
People are pretty much already decided one way or another what their opinion of this new Nook is with regard to its eReading options, myself being no exception, but you’ve got to respect the potential and admit that even if it fails as an eReader, the tablet market is booming right now and there’s nothing negative about being one of the first really affordable tablets on the market, whether that was your main focus or not. Barnes & Noble might very well have hit themselves a somewhat accidental home run here when all is said and done.
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.
Well, today Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) has unveiled the newcomer to their nook product line, the NOOKcolor. What has been generally anticipated as the latest round of one-upsmanship in the Kindle vs nook competition has taken an interesting turn, to say the least. People following the news have heard rumors about it for the past week and even seen a prematurely posted accessory sales page that only lasted a short while, but now we have some answers to the questions these rumors raised!
How will they pull off the color?
For the past week or so this has been the big one. Everybody was curious how, if the rumors that there would be a color touchscreen nook were true, B&N would manage things. There was speculation regarding those amazing Mirasol displays that act like eInk in a lot of ways but won’t be out until 2011. Sadly, nothing of the sort was in the works. I don’t think anybody really thought it would be, since it would mean missing the 2010 holiday season and the resultant revenue, but there was some hope at least. Instead, we’re getting an LCD on an eReader. I can only think of two possible reasons that they might have gone this route, ruling out a desire to cash in on the novelty as much as possible before pulling out of the eReader game.
One, their LCD is so altered by the addition of a lamination layer to reduce glare from both the back-light and outside light sources that it will revolutionize portable LCD technology in the short term while better technology becomes available. I honestly wouldn’t mind this much, however unlikely it is. I don’t like the fact that LCD displays eat up battery life so amazingly fast by comparison with eInk, but my main objection has always been eye strain. Reading for hours on a normal LCD hurts, especially when you have reason to do it regularly. That said, this one seems somewhat far-fetched. Until somebody has had some time with a NOOKcolor of their own though, not much can be said for sure.
Two, and far more likely in my opinion, this is intended to cater far more to the tablet fad that’s taking over the market at the moment than to have much to do with reading. I’m not going to deny the potential usefulness in grabbing kids books and cookbooks and the like, but does that really justify the extra expense and inferior reading display? Not really, but an app store just might. This leads into the next line of speculation answered.
What will it be able to do?
This point is in B&N’s favor, I’m sure, in spite of the loss of 3G access. Many nook owners have been somewhat disappointed in the lack of app development for the nook so far, given its Android platform and interesting potential. Short of rooting your eReader, however, the closest we’ve gotten to apps is sudoku and a web browser. Nice, but not really anything to write home about. the new NOOKcolor, though, will ship with Facebook and Twitter integration, a request feature for the popular LendMe setup to let your friends know you want their books, a Pandora Radio app, some degree of Microsoft Office compatibility, and even a new crossword puzzle game! Ok, so the crosswords aren’t a big selling point, the rest is cool. On top of that, there is to be a nook app store that they are now taking developers on for in order to maximize the potential for users. This is very cool, and means a lot in terms of long-term viability of the product.
How will it compare?
This is quite possibly the hardest question to answer. Mostly because B&N has set themselves up in an odd sort of in-between space. Yeah, they still want to be an eReader and are clearly highlighting features that match or exceed the Kindle as a selling point. At the same time, however, they also clearly want the option for some iPad-like functionality and diversity of purpose. So where do we make the (nook vs. iPad) comparison? I’d say we’ll have to wait for a chance at some head-to-head functionality tests after the first units ship before a real evaluation can be made. Right now it feels like a shot in the dark to try to beat Amazon to the punch on color eReaders and address the crowd who still see the iPad as a part of the eReader competition. The features are all there for books, of course, and the potential seems plentiful for app development, but the compromises in terms of price and technology make me wonder.
In short, it’s an odd situation. the NOOKcolor looks cool. It really does. Is it really an eReader anymore though? I’ll admit that color touchscreens seem to be the way of the future, but there seems to be a chance that Barnes & Noble jumped the gun here and put out their entry into the market before the available screen technology was ready for it. eReaders have been characterized by their amazing battery life and easy to read screen. It’s that combination that has set them apart. To throw that off is to take a gamble, in my opinion. I hope it does well as a tablet device, but the Kindle might have lost its biggest competition. I will, as always, caution people to avoid making too much of early speculation before the product even becomes available, but the indications are there and we can only do our best with the information we have available at the moment. Give it some thought. This might fill exactly the niche you’ve been looking forward to, personally, even if it isn’t what we might have expected.