Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kindle vs. Nook Smackdown

Short version - I prefer the new WiFi-only Kindle. The nook's benefits of pretty cover art in the navigation panel, that it can be bought at a local store instead of being shipped, and that one can read books for free while actually in the Barnes & Noble aren't good enough to make up for the bad battery life, slow and imprecise interface, bad thru-device shopping, and it's general "also ran"-ness. I suspect I would have liked the nook more if I actually spent any time at my local B&N, but I really don't.

For long version

keep reading

On a surprise afternoon off last spring, I went looking for the second book of a series. It turned out that it wasn't anywhere reasonable. Not at the stores (new and used) in my valley or one valley in either direction; not at the library either. It was, however, available as an eBook. Wanting something in my hand right then, and something that used eInk instead of a backlit computer screen, I went with a "nook" from Barnes & Noble. The B&N in my town is fine, but I liked the Borders better (until it closed last week) and I didn't go there very often, so I had some reservations.

I had more reservations when I hurt myself a little opening the packaging. The packaging made me kind of angry, minus the kind of, seeing that it was pure punishment. Not too long after that, I read about how Apple makes their packaging complex but friendly, so it's like an easy puzzle on your way to opening a gift, the puzzle part invests the new owner (and discourages quick theft), and the friendliness leaves good feelings. I only had to glance up from the article to my old iPod mini packaging that's sitting on the shelf to this day to realize how true it was that the packaging mattered more than it ought to. (I have also since bought the offset shears from BB&B for opening clamshell packages without cutting myself on the clipped edges and they have already made my life nicer.)

But I got the nook charged up, bought my book, sat in my lounge chair (patio recliner, yep, super white trash day) and read it. I liked it. The flash between pages took a little getting used to, but I got used to it. Then I went to get the 3rd book in the series and it's the only one in the series not in eBook form. I bought it from Border's in a fit of pique.

I have since bought and downloaded some free books for the nook and read them. It mostly goes fine, except that my battery drains at an alarming rate. I returned the first nook the first week and got a new one. I had to go through the dread packaging again, but this one at least had the instruction sticker on it so I knew how to avoid injury. The replacement nook sucked down battery a little less fast, but not by much. Any paperback over about 300 pages would, in nook form, run out of battery about 7/8 into the story. Yes, the wireless was off - it took several menu keys to do it, but it was almost always off. Even in airline+sleep mode, the battery runs out in a matter of a couple of days.

I didn't take the nook out much, so before I got the WiFi hookup for my cable, it didn't get timely updates. One update took me by surprise and gave me sudoku! Hey, a game! Unfortunately, the game has a flaw that if you hit the back button at the wrong time, it will void your game and this is easy enough to do that 1 in 3 games ended in me just exiting by accident. Not very satisfying, and should be easy enough to fix because if one exited with the home key, the game got saved.

Then I started avoiding buying things for the nook because I was feeling non-committal, and the platform specificity required commitment. And I wasn't particularly thrilled with the "shop from nook" feature (too hard to find most recent book in the series if I didn't already know it) and the B&N website isn't my favorite either. Meanwhile, Amazon continued to roll out update after upgrade for the Kindle. Finally, over Christmas, my friends gave me the WiFi box and talked up the Kindle again (as have other friends) and I decided to make the jump.

I bought a WiFi-only Kindle for $139 (a MUCH more reasonable price than the early $300 price point). It arrived in 2 days, took one satisfying rip of a zip strip to open, charged in about half the time of my nook, and in the meantime I went to Amazon via their recommendation page and bought 3 recent releases I wanted to read. And for the heck of it, a few games that were cheap, and a couple books I'd been thinking about for a while.

The nook has a fancy color touchscreen that shows a pretty picture of the books' covers as you scroll through, if you choose that mode. That's about the only thing I like better about the nook experience than the Amazon is that I get a thumbnail pic of the cover. I like to see the cover art.

But everything else? Better on the Kindle. So much better that I'm going to look into how I can get rid of the nook. I just don't want to deal with it anymore. The touchscreen is slow and the scrolling can be quite annoying (it often snaps back to the starting point or whizzes past the middle to the end). Most of the books I got left all the copyright and advertising crapola at the beginning. I skip that when I read real books and go straight to the acknowledgments which I also sometimes skip. Amazon eBooks put that in the back and give the story up front. (I haven't tried the non-fic chapter books yet to see their format, but I was dreading navigating one on the nook.) I didn't think I'd like the fixed keyboard better, but I do. It allows for faster response time and it's an interface I don't have to think about much.

Also, there are lots of little features that the Kindle throws in that are quick and easy- when highlighting, one uses the cursor keypad and it advances word by word. On the nook, highlighting goes letter by letter with a tap on the slooooooow touch screen. That's one example, but rather emblematic of the experience as a whole.

Then there's the battery life. I'm charging the Kindle now for maybe the 2nd time since I got it - after reading 3 books on it, and it wasn't even at the halfway point yet. I had just connected it to my netbook to copy a .pdf to it and figured that recharging would be a good idea since I was already there. This new version of the Kindle is also much thinner and lighter than my nook and the page flash is noticeably faster but that could be just about being 9 months newer. It's not the most perfect thing, but it's more perfect than the nook and that's good enough for me. Plus, I like shopping on Amazon.

Now that I have the Kindle, I feel like the guy who wrote to Dear Prudence saying how he'd quibbled about having kids with his wife for 7 years then got divorced, met someone new and was thrilled that she was pregnant when they'd only known each other for 7 months. This feeling, plus my dislike of updating multiple platforms, and my preference for buying via Amazon makes me think I'll be more successful in using the Kindle than the nook, and my organizer won't glare at me for buying more paper books. In the organizing process, I'm trying to let go of things that I don't really love, damn the sunk costs.

I don't know what happens if I sell the nook. Do my books stay on it? Is there any way to copy the books off and move them to a kindle? Will that work, or am I just out all the money? If someone else buys it, do they wipe out the memory? Actually, I only care about that if the nook goes to someone I know, but after reading this, who would want it? (if you do, email me.) Plus, they now have color screen nook. I'm not sure why - the reason for the eInk is that it's less strain for one's eyes than a backlit screen and if you want the backlit screen, get an iPad or and iTouch or something that can also navigate you to Mars.


farmwifetwo said...

Want the long or the short answer?? :)

No... you cannot move them to the kindle b/c Amazon has their own format.

Yes... you can probably download them to the h/d and view them using Adobe Digital Systems.

I have a kobo. I bought it for my b-day when they first came out b/c they were as you said around the $150 mark and I was willing to pay it.

The App sucks. Everytime I've upgraded I've had to do a system restart - whether the upgrade has been the machine or the kobo itself. Everytime I update my library it updates EVERYTHING even if it's listed as "read"... with the system restarts everything is now listed again as "unread". When you ask it to sync to the machine... ditto. Being I have slow high speed and now over 40 books on it this takes FOREVER... we're into over an hour now. I tend to buy OOP hqn's to finish up some of the series I have enjoyed.

Battery life isn't bad. You can read about 2 to 3 books on it. I have an extension plug that has a UBS port in it and with the last update you can read and charge at the same time... so no issues when it dies and I'm not done... as long as I am at home.

I like the format of the print. The set up of the different files on the machine. I don't have wifi - have never plugged in the router at home it's on the TBD (done) list.

There isn't the freebies that are available elsewhere but if I get a Adobe Digital account I can use it to download books from the library. The nook can do this as well so I wouldn't toss it yet. Kindle cannot.

I haven't gotten annoyed enough yet to toss it or buy a Kindle wifi... I am thinking of getting an iTouch - tax refund wish list - b/c I want one of the communication apps for the 9yr old. So I may just upload the kindle app for now.

Anonymous said...

I bought a Kindle in September (the more expensive wifi and 3G version), and I love it! I even went so far as to accessorize it with an expensive cover ( and a matching skin from Decal Girl.

I originally bought it to take advantage of the Harlequin bundles - $9.99 for six books was too good to pass up. Unfortunately, I was only able to enjoy that for one month before Harlequin discontinued the bundles.

However, there have been so many free or inexpensive ($.99!) books available that I have enough reading material on my Kindle to last me at least six months! Strangely, the bulk of available titles seem to be Christian romances and erotica.

I agree that the battery life of the Kindle is beyond compare. I think I've only charged it three or four times in 3 1/2 months, and even then I never let it go past the 1/4 mark.

I'd highly recommend a Kindle to anyone! This is my first e-reader (I tend to wait until the technology improves and price drops on most electronic devices), and I'm very happy with it.