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December 12, 2009

Holiday gift guide: Kindle vs. nook reviews

kindle vs. nook

There's been a spate of recent reviews on the Barnes & Noble nook, available for its first holiday season. It's a serious challenger to Amazon's Kindle, as well as the other e-readers on the market. The Kindle and nook have many similarities, including price ($259), screen size, E Ink display and wireless connections. But reviewers found plenty of differences. Generally, the nook seems like a 19-year-old fireballing pitcher rushed into a major league debut -- it has lots of promise, but triggers frustration with rookie mistakes. Some highlights:

-- New York Times: Every one of the Nook’s vaunted distinctions comes fraught with buzz kill footnotes. That “color touch screen,” for example, ... is exclusively for navigation and controls. Sometimes it makes sense; when you’re viewing inch-tall book covers, for example, you can tap to open one. At other times, the color strip feels completely, awkwardly disconnected from what it’s supposed to control on the big screen above. Worse, the touch screen is balky and nonresponsive ... .

-- USA Today: Barnes & Noble says you can read up to 10 days without charging the battery when wireless is turned off, compared with two weeks for the Kindle. But at least a user can replace the battery on the Nook, which you can't do on the Kindle. ... You can also virtually lend e-books to friends with a Nook (as well as to those who download free Barnes & Noble software onto a PC, Mac, iPhone, iPod Touch and, soon, select BlackBerrys).

-- Wall Street Journal: During my tests, I found the Nook slower, more cumbersome to use and less polished than the Kindle. I ran into various crashes and bugs. And, while the Kindle's navigation system isn't exactly world class, it ran circles around the Nook's, despite the great possibilities offered by the latter's use of the touch screen. The Nook may be wonderful one day, but, as of today, it's no match for the Kindle, despite advantages such as lending, because it's more annoying to use.

Gizmodo: When it comes to shopping for books (and reading them), the Nook is the Kindle's equal, and may soon leverage Barnes & Noble's 800 physical locations to knock it out of first place. I was not able to test these features, because they are only starting to roll out this week, but when you take a Nook to a B&N, it will automatically jump on the store's Wi-Fi network, and offer you free goodies—not just downloads but cookies from the café and other treats. 

Engadget: In many ways the Nook has a leg up on the competition -- not just by its presence in Barnes & Noble stores (though that helps), but by providing an attractive package and feature set, offering personalization (via add ons and accessories), a huge selection of books, perks like the LendMe feature, that color screen, and the excellent buying experience. On the other hand, when it came to day to day use, we felt let down in a big way.



Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 10:15 AM | | Comments (8)


One advantage for the Nook is that you can easily read epub files, something not available on the Kindle. I've been very surprised that most reviews have not given much weight to this feature. In Baltimore, the Enoch Pratt Free Library allows users to borrow epub books for free through their eLibrary:
Full disclosure: I work at a local university library, so you know I love libraries and greater access to free information!

After doing a little research, it looks like the files from the eLibrary may have DRM restrictions attached that will prevent them from loading onto the Nook. So nevermind. Another roadblock for open access.

According to several nook users, you can actually use Overdrive library files with Adobe's DRM on the nook. You have to sideload them into the nook. Several people on the forums have tried this with success.

Well, I am still holding on to the hope that firmware updates will solve all the problems I am experiencing with my Nook! I am a Kindle lover, but just couldn't resist the Nook! It is such a nice size, love the wireless feature (when it works), and like that full color strip. But boy is this SLOW! And couldn't open my Washington Post either! Sorry, not available?!

I got my own kindle using the service at It watched the Amazon inventory and the moment Amazon received fresh inventory at the regular retail price this obnoxious alarm went off.

While I do believe that some books are not meant to be electronically delivered (i.e. textbooks), I feel like a great injustice would be made by those of you on the fence about getting a Kindle. Just do it! You'll be reading more than ever because of the ease and portability. And for those of you who own iPhones, Amazon has made it almost impossible to escape your Kindle. Forget your Kindle at home? Pull out your iPhone and read from your last page read - it syncs automatically (with the wireless feature on) to the last page you've read.

My first charge out of the box lasted 3 weeks, with minimal wireless usage. The more you search for books, the more you use your battery. But if you surf online for your purchases and only turn it on to download the books, you can easily get 2 or 3 weeks on a charge.

A definite purchase for the gadget-freak/bibliophile.

Interesting! If you want to look at kindle + other e-readers and summaries(the good and bad) of what other users think of them, look at

I bought my wife a Kindle 2 and today after what Ive read of Nook it was the right choice. The worst thiong you can do in marketing is over promise and under deliver....folks I bring you the Nook.

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About the blogger
Dave Rosenthal came to The Baltimore Sun as a business reporter in 1987 and now is the Maryland Editor. He reads a wide range of books (but never as many as he'd like), usually alternating between non-fiction and fiction. Some all-time favorites: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and anything by Calvin Trillin or John McPhee. He belongs to a book club with a Jewish theme.
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