OK, I admit it…I can’t keep my hands off new tech toys. I picked up a new e-reader the other day with the intention of wrapping it and giving it to my son for his 8th grade graduation present Thursday. Needless to say, the wrapping never happened. I will say, unequivocally, that he WILL receive it for his graduation gift…but I just had to play around with it. And I came away so impressed (and jealous) I decided to do a quick write-up, side-by-side comparison with my Nook 1st gen.
The first thing I saw in the Barnes & Noble (after happily hearing that a pre-order customer had never picked it up, so they had one in stock) was the size. I own both a Nook 1st generation (e-ink, not Color) and a Kobo, and a friend has a Kindle, so I’ve experienced all three of the ‘majors’ (no offense to Sony, et al.) The new Nook takes convenience, size, and portability to a whole new level.
It is flat-out tiny. Because it’s a touch screen (quite revolutionary in an e-ink package), it doesn’t need the extra inch or so at the bottom for navigation keys/screens. It’s just the screen with a frame around it. It’s close to the same thickness as the original Nook, which is slightly thicker than the Kindle 3, but other dimensions are significantly different. It measures 6.5″ in height, 5″ in width, and .47″ in depth. It also jumps ahead of Kindle on weight – now 7.48 ounces vs Kindle’s 8.5 ounces. It’s 35% lighter than the original Nook, and 21% more compact. It’s almost small enough to tuck into a (large) shirt pocket, or back pocket if you want to risk sitting on it.
Battery life? Huge shot across Kindle’s bow. With typical usage and wifi off, the Nook Simple Touch will last up to two months reading an hour per day, wifi off. As in, charge your Nook six times per year. There has been an argument between BN and Amazon about how they test the life – see more here – but in a nutshell, BN called Amazon out on faulty test conditions (originally the Kindle was listed at one month battery life reading an hour per day; magically overnight when the Nook was announced, they changed their stats to say two months at a half hour each day….). In side-by-side tests conducted by BN (caveat emptor), same reading conditions, the Nook lasted 150 hours, Kindle 56 hours. Having not used it more than an hour or so, I can’t speak to it, but most data I’ve read is calling the new Nook battery life at least twice that of Kindle.
Performance? Absolutely excellent. As you can see from this video I shot:
Page turning is noticeably quicker compared to the old Nook (which in my side-by-side tests previously, the 1st gen Nook was about the same as a Kindle 3). The page flicker everyone has probably gotten used to on any e-reader is minimized (it flickers every 6th page turn…apparently due to better buffering). Very quick when changing menus, flicking up through bookshelves…wait, did I say flicking? Yep, touch screen scrolling…
The touch screen sells this device above any other feature. With the Kobo Touch not having shipped yet I can’t compare it, but as an iPhone user for over three years now, I can’t tell you how much I miss touching a screen to do something when that feature isn’t available. In today’s smartphone era, it’s just natural to point and touch to make something happen (no double enténdre intended, I swear). The Nook delivers. Menus, book selections, highlighting a word or phrase for notes or definitions…no more clicking and moving a cursor. And the on screen keyboard is exactly what one expects in 2011 for a device, not the chiclets of a circa-2004 cellphone. (However, I know the millions of Kindle users out there swear by the keyboard – feel free to flame me, but once you try an onscreen keyboard…come back to me and put the flame out please.)
Notifications from friends, integration with Twitter and Facebook, 6 inch 800DPI e-ink Pearl screen, all the standard features a new generation e-reader should have. The smaller Nook dropped the headphone port, which can be a significant loss for those who like to (a) hear audiobooks or (b) listen to MP3s while reading. Also, Nook does not offer a 3G version (then again, it has in-store free reading with their wifi, and AT&T free wifi hotspots everywhere).
Pricing is a difference if you look at it one way; the Nook Simple Touch is $139, as is the Kindle 3, but Amazon does have the ad-supported Kindle at $114. Honestly (opinion ahead, watch out) I feel that Amazon, if they wanted to go ad-supported, should have gone for the magic $100 barrier. I don’t know if seeing ads from time to time, while probably unobtrusive, is worth only a $25 savings.
Bookstores? Yes, this is an argument I’ve heard (“I don’t want to buy a device that won’t have a store behind it, and all bookstores are going bankrupt.”) But Barnes & Noble isn’t going anywhere. Unlike Borders, they embraced the e-book revolution, and they are currently mulling a $1 billion bid for purchase by a company who is interested in them almost solely for the Nook and Nook bookstore. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I feel, have really done it right in their e-book plan; Borders missed the boat, contracted a third party company, and barely supported it in-store. Technically Barnes & Noble actually has a larger selection of e-books than Amazon does (last data was 2 million vs. 950,000), but really any popular book will be in both.
Conclusion? Barnes & Noble has out-Kindled the Kindle hardware-wise, and has left the market leader an entire generation behind. Rumor has it that Amazon is readying a touch screen, Android-powered Kindle 4 for later this year, with the ability to possibly install apps (although having surfed the web on an e-ink device, that experience left a lot to be desired…you want apps, go iPad or Nook Color). So we’ll see. But right now, what’s available in the market? Maybe what Dad wants for Father’s Day? Take a close look at the Nook Simple Touch. Very exciting time to be both an author AND a reader!
Quick shameless plug (independent author’s bread and butter) – Gabriel’s Redemption scifi-adventure ebook is available for just $2.99 on the aforementioned Nook and Kindle. Book 2 of the trilogy is hitting in July!
P.S. MacWorld just posted a review of the Kobo eReader Touch Edition, which comes in slightly smaller than the new Nook.