Compare eReaders: Kindle 3 vs NOOK vs NOOK Color vs Sony Reader vs Kobo eReader vs Kobo WiFi
E-book readers, simply known as "eReaders", are becoming very popular. E-book readers appeal to those that wish to consolidate all of the physical books into a single portable device. The idea is great. Thousands of books could be stored on these eReaders. If you have a full bookshelf, this may sound better by the moment. The main eReaders on the market today are Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, Sony's Reader, and the Kobo Reader. Each of these e-book readers attempt to offer you the best reading experience while also showcasing its own unique character. What are the benefits of buying an eReader? And what eReader is right for you? Let's compare them.
First, let's look at why you might want an eReader. E-book readers are like digital books. Unlike a computer, smart phone, or tablet, eReaders are not back-lit. This means they do not use powered LCD screens to display the text. How exactly does it work?
Most e-book readers use a technology called E Ink. This electronic ink technology allows you to view text without a back-lit screen. E Ink has many advantages over LCD. For the application of reading long books and novels, LCD back-lit screens can strain the eyes. Much like real paper, E Ink puts very little strain on the eyes allowing you to read comfortably for hours. Most eReaders also credit the E Ink technology by boasting extremely low glare while using their devices. A positive side effect of this technology is the extended battery life. While most can run for about a week before charging, the Kindle 3 claims that it can go 1 full month before needing to be charged. When I think of the E Ink technology, the old solar powered classroom calculators always seem to come in mind.
Besides, e-ink, a new technology is looking to be a promising alternative. It's called Pixel Qi. While the results look very similar to e-ink, Pixel Qi offers the same low glare, low eye stress viewing as e-ink, but with color capabilities. This technology looks great for e-magazines.
Another color e-ink display is currently being developed. Made by Hanvon (a Chinese company), this new display is setting the pace for future color eReaders. Most manufacturers are aware of this technology but are waiting to see how if performs in China and possibly for the technology to mature. Expect future eReaders to use this or a competing technology for their color displays.
Amazon's Kindle 3
While we wait for technology to improve, let's take a look at Amazon's
third generation eReader, the Kindle 3. Officially, it's simply called
"Kindle" by Amazon. However, users, customers, and the mainstream recognize this device as the "Kindle 3". The Kindle 3 is smaller
when compared to the Kindle 2. Amazon claims that the Kindle 3 has 50%
improved contrast over the last model. This claim appears to be true.
There are 2 version of the Kindle 3. One with only Wifi($139) and a
more expensive version with Wifi and free 3G for life($189) supplied
by Amazon's "Whispernet" data network. Like the previous Kindle,
the Kindle 3 features a full qwerty keyboard and ambidextrous page turn
buttons. The Kindle 3 weighs in at 8.7 oz and is light enough to hold
in one hand comfortably. The experimental webkit browser is fair. You
won't be surfing the web like a pro but it is nice to use in a pinch.
The added addition of free Internet become a more apparent bargain if
you decide to purchase the version with 3G. The Kindle 3 does play music
with its mp3 player but don't expect this 4 GB eReader to replace your
PMP or smart phone. A cool feature on Kindle is its text to speech software.
This feature allows you to put on headphones and let Kindle read to you. While it is somewhat unnatural hearing a robotic voice read to you, it's a nice touch. This feature is only available on some e-books.
Amazon claims the Kindle 3 can go a full month without recharging but you have to turn off wifi and 3G. Expect it to last a week in real work conditions. The Kindle 3 is not perfect. Many people have been widely critical of Amazon with some of the design of the Kindle 2. The Kindle 3 was criticized for a lack of added memory slot, and no removable battery. In response, Amazon upgraded the Kindle 3 to 4 GB of internal memory from 2 GB. Still there is no memory slots for upgrading. Others have also complained about the battery. Like the Kindle 2, the Kindle 3 does not have a removable battery. After a long period of use, the battery tends to lose it's ability to hold a charge. In order to remedy this problem, you must send your Kindle back to Amazon and they will send you a new Kindle 3. While this allows you to get another Kindle faster, it is not the same device. This means you have to re-download your books from your Amazon account. It is much more convenient for the user to just buy a separate battery and replace it themselves. Even if Amazon pays for the shipping, it is still a hassle most people would rather do without.
The last issue with Kindle 3 is it closed nature. Epub is the new standard in e-books and Amazon have been very vocal that they will not support this format. If you are looking to buy an eReader is something to consider.
The Kindle 3 is the standard in eReaders. For that, the Kindle 3 is a "safe" buy. You should buy the Kindle 3 if you like the lists if Amazon books and periodicals. Personally, I would not recommend the Kindle 3. My friend purchased it and could not get his books loaded. The closed nature of Kindle 3 made it impossible for him to use it. Another thing to note is the lag. There is a noticeable lag when typing due to the e-ink display refreshing. If you plan to purchase lots of ebooks from Amazon, the Kindle 3 is a perfect choice.
Barnes & Noble's NOOK
The "NOOK" is Barnes & Noble's own take on eReaders. From a design standpoint, the NOOK is very different compared to the Kindle 3. The NOOK is an Android based eReader. Those familiar with Android can find a host of smart phones running this platform. The NOOK features a 6 inch E Ink display and a small color touchscreen under it. The touchscreen is used for primary input as there is no qwerty keypad. Like the Kindle 3, the NOOK comes in 2 different models. Barnes & Noble sells a wifi only model for $149 and a version which includes both wifi and 3G for $199. Right away, the NOOK picks up where the Kindle falls short. The NOOK has support for ePub as well as other DRM publishing formats. The NOOK also has a replaceable battery as well as a microSD expansion slot for added storage.
If you head down to Barnes & Noble, you can test out a working model yourself. The NOOK has received many complaints on its lag and deservingly so. The touch screen is unresponsive and the page flips take a good second longer than Kindle and Sony's Reader. In response, there have been a few firmware updates released which has helped improve the NOOK's performance. The touch screen is a bit more responsive and the page flip is just a split second slower than Kindle's since firmware updates.
A shining feature that separates NOOK from its competitors is its "Lend Me" feature. Like real books, you can lend some e-books to others providing they have the Barnes & Noble's reader application installed on their devices. The e-book also must have a special license in order to be shared. A compatible e-book can be shared for up to 2 weeks.
Update: Amazon has recently announce that the Kindle 3 will have this feature as well. Same exact thing. 2 weeks to 1 person only once. That's to other Kindle 3 owners.
Another neat easter egg for NOOK owners is exclusive access to specials when bringing your Nook into the Barnes & Noble book store. Nook detects when you are in a Barnes & Noble store and gives you access to select books for up to an hour. Come in and occasionally, you may even get a free book. This is really a cool feature that makes the NOOK a bit more exclusive.
The NOOK has its faults. Alongside the initial sluggish performance, people have criticized Nook for its Lend Me feature. While it is nice to share, you are only allowed to share a compatible book once and for a period of 2 weeks. During this period, you are not allowed access to the book. The case could be made that just like a real book, when you lend it to a friend, you can't access it either. I can understand that. I suppose when you purchase an e-book online, you pay for a single license so copying it is out of the picture. Its the one time lending policy that people are not happy about. You paid for the e-book so would it matter if you lend it to someone indefinitely? The 2 week expiration is understandable since friends often forget to return things, including real books. It's the one time lending rule that bugs me. I suppose its purpose is to entice friends to spend their own money on the lent e-book and the "lending" feature is just a fun spin off of the word "trial". Whatever the case may be, Barnes & Noble might have to change this policy in the future. A million people buying a million "leased" e-books could mean a big class action lawsuit.
The NOOK does feel nicer in the hand compared to the Kindle 3, although the touch screen seems a bit out of place. I like the curved back that hugs your hands. You can head to your local Barnes & Noble store for hands on impression. Frequent Barnes & Noble shoppers may be temped to choose the NOOK over other eReader. If not for the eReader itself, the exclusive perks are nice touches.
You should buy the NOOK if you are a frequent Barnes & Noble customer. The free perks are nice. I like how Barnes & Noble encourage NOOK owners to bring their NOOKs into the store. These free perks add value that other eReaders overlook. NOOK owners will look at the eReader as an investment rather than "the next" gadget.
Barnes & Noble's announced the Nook Color(offcially written NOOKcolor). This new eReader will have a 7" VividView color LED backlit screen powered by Android 2.1 and upgradeable to 2.2. This new eReader will sell for $249. and will be shipping November 19th, 2010. It will include a web browser, Pandora radio, WiFi and image support. There have been some concerns about the battery life. The NOOKcolor will have an internally sealed battery that will last 8 hours. This may be good for a portable netbook or tablet but for an eReader? Most dedicated eReaders lasts for weeks before needing to be plugged in. Barnes & Noble may have to market the NOOKcolor differently. I will say this. It does look nice.
One of the nice things about the NOOKcolor is periodicals. Barnes & Noble will feature popular magazines such as Elle, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, USA Today, Car And Driver, and more. Magazines are best viewed in color so they should focus on pushing as many magazines as they can when the 19th comes.
It seems that the NOOKcolor is geared more towards entertainment and media consumption. You can load in you mp3's or listen to Pandora Radio while you read. That's a cool feature. Social media is not left out of the picture. You can share reading materials through Facebook and Twitter with NOOKfriends.
Built in WiFi means internet access. It's browser allows you to surf the web but how good of an experience that will be is still unknown. If it runs Android 2.2, it should have some type of Flash support. like the original Nook, you can bring your NOOKcolor into Barnes & Noble and access all of NOOKbooks for free for up to 1 hour per day.
The NOOKcolor looks like it will be a hot gift this holiday season. Yes, it is priced high but as far as eReaders go, this device is at the top of its class. One of the big downsize is the battery life. If you are looking for an eReader designed for magazines, this is the clear choice. For long reading sessions, consider the Previous Nook and other eReaders listed here. Get the NOOKcolor if you are mainly going to subscribe to magazines. Although the list of magazines are growing, be sure to check their website for a complete list of current and upcoming magazines available.
Sony is not new to the eReader game. Their Reader line is probably the most widely available. As generic as the name sounds, the quality of these readers are very high. You can find them in nearly all department stores and electronics retailers. I've seen them in Radioshack, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and even Borders. Their current line includes the PSR-350 "Pocket Edition", PSR-650 "Touch Edition", and PSR-950 "Daily Edition". The Pocket Edition retails for $179, the Touch goes for $299, and the Daily Edition sells for $237. The Reader Pocket Edition is the new entry level eReader offered by Sony. For the sake of this comparison, we will be looking at the Touch and Daily Edition. Like the name implies, the Touch and its older brother the Daily Edition are both touch screen eReaders. The Touch is slightly smaller than the Daily and 6" and 7" respectively. While the Touch offers 8 levels of greyscale, the Daily doubles its little brother at 16. The Reader Touch Edition does not offer wifi nor 3G. In order to get books with the Reader Touch, you must have it transferred through USB. The Reader Daily Edition, on the other hand, offer free 3G through AT&T Mobility, though wifi is not present. The Touch has an internally sealed battery while the Daily has a removable battery. Both devices claim up to 2 weeks of reading on a single charge with the 3G connection turned off on the Daily Edition. Both devices have memory stick pro DUO and SDHC expansion slots.
Although most Sony Readers look strikingly similar, you can tell the difference between the old and the new version but the home button. The older Sony Readers have all rectangular buttons. The newer Sony Readers all have a "half mooned" curved home button. Look at the picture on the right for an example!
These Sony Reader devices have a thin layer of touch screen that
overlays the E Ink Pearl screen. While not as quick as smart phones and tablets,
the touch screen is fairly responsive and do well as an input method.
The Touch and Daily edition support gestures which allows you to swipe
the screen if you want to turn the page. The page turns very quickly with the new generation of Sony Readers.
Out of all the eReaders, the Reader Daily edition out ranks the competition with its dictionary and note taking. For example, if you are in the middle of reading a book and come across a word you don't understand, you can touch the word with your finger or stylus and the dictionary will pop up. With the Kindle 3 for example, you would have to use the D-pad to navigate to the word and then click on it. Note taking is also fairly easy with the Daily Edition. If you want to take a make an annotation, the Daily makes an overlay layer over the page so you can use the stylus and draw underlines and notes over it.
The Reader Daily Edition is not perfect. The most critical flaw of
the Touch and Daily Edition is the glare. E-book readers appeal to the
consumer because of their E Ink displays. The glare seen on the Daily
Edition is caused by the thin touch screen layer. I found the glare to be marginal to even complain about. Yes, there is glare but it is not intolerable. Fortunately, the older Daily
Edition and Touch Edition are on display at Best Buy for you to try
out and decide if that's an issue. Newer PRS-950 Daily Editions will be slimmer and feature a sharper display.
Another feature criticized on the Daily Edition is their 3G. Unlike Kindle 3, the AT&T Mobility network only allows Daily Edition access to the Sony Reader store. Sony has added a browser for the Daily Edition but it will only work over wifi.
The Daily Edition feels good in the hand and is easy to use. Despite its flaws, Sony received praise for opening its products. Learning from past mistakes of using proprietary formats (ATRAC, memory stick pro DUO), Sony has opened up their Reader line in favor of more open formats like microSD and ePub. Standardized connections such as microUSB are also welcomed changes from the company's past. It is also worth mentioning that the new line of Sony eReaders will all have a full touch screen. The selling feature of the Daily Edition is the ability to download and view newspapers right on the device. Some newspapers are formatted much like a modern HTML page where headlines are clickable, sending you straight to the article. This feature is great. Adding the support of subscribing to a publication and you will find the newspaper or magazine delivered straight to your Daily Edition much like subscriptions are delivered to your mailbox.
The drawback to the Sony Reader eReaders is the price. Starting at $179, this is considerably more expensive compare to the wifi Nook and Kindle 3. The top of the line Sony Reader Daily Edition is suggested to retail at $299. As it appears, the Reader Daily Edition is MSRP $100 over the Kindle 3 and Nook. Another drawback is their smaller store compared to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Their newspaper and magazine list is also small, currently only having one computer related magazine available for subscription. On the newspaper side, you can find the Wall Street Journal, LA Times and various other business oriented periodicals available for purchase. Sony needs to build their Reader store if they want to take advantage of the Daily Edition's strongest feature and possibly, appeal to a wider audience.
Although it seems like there are lots of negatives with the Sony eReader, I personally like it. The touch screen is very responsive. Turning pages is fast for this e-ink display. It also feels much more natural to swipe the pages rather than pressing a button. You don't need to exaggerate either. A short swipe is all it takes to initiate page turning. The Daily Edition has a great 2 page landscape view. After using it for a while, I found it to be much more enjoyable than I had expected. I found the 2 page landscape mode extremely fast for reading. I was able to fly through each line of text. I was also able to keep my place easier in the mode. I didn't think I would like it that much. For this feature, I would recommend the Daily Edition if you are a volume reader. If you need to read lots of text for an extended period of time, the Daily Edition is what you need. This would be perfect for people that want to finish newpapers very quickly. Currently, this 2 page landscape more is only available on the Daily Edition. The other Sony eReaders do not feature this.
The Kobo eReader is last on our list of e-book readers. Selling at Borders for $99, Kobo eReader is also the cheapest of the bunch. Kobo eReader features a 6" E Ink display and weighs in at a light 8 onces. With 1 GB of internal storage and upgradeable SD expansion slot, it beats Kindle 3 in terms of potential storage. As far as features, Kobo eReader is the purest of all our eReaders with support for ePub, PDF, and Adobe DRM. Lacking both wifi and 3G, you must connect with USB or Bluetooth(to select smart phones). Also a generation behind it competitors, Kobo eReader only supports 8 shades of greyscale while others support 16.
As far as looks go, the Kobo looks like plain Jane. Definitely not as sexy as the Sony Daily Edition, Kobo eReader aims for the minimal approach in its design. The front face features a "Home", "Menu", "Display", "Back'", and a 4 way D-pad. On the back of Kobo, you will find a rubberized "quilted" material that makes holding onto Kobo comfortable, even if it looks a bit tacky.
For an eReader the Kobo does the job fine. It's not the top of the line eReader but it gets the job done. It comes pre-loaded with 100 classic books so you can start reading right away. Even though it's the cheapest eReader out of the bunch we've looked at, it doesn't feel like it has the most value. For $10 more, you could get a Kindle 3 wifi and have more features. As it stands, the Kobo eReader needs to be $100 if it wants to compete with the other eReaders.
Update: Borders has dropped the non-WiFi Kobo eReader to $99! Maybe they have been reading this hub.
You should buy the Kobo eReader if you don't want to spend over $99. Although it does not have many features, it can perform the task without serious issues.
Updated: Kobo WiFi $139!
Apparently listening to its customers, Borders and Kobo are releasing a newer version of the Kobo eReader equipped with wifi and other internal upgrades. It will have a faster processor, a better screen, and longer battery life. The screen is not the new Pearl Ink display available on the new Kindle 3 and Sony Readers but it is improved. The faster processor will allow Kobo to turn pages over 2.5X faster than the original and the battery life will equate to 10,000 page turns with wifi turned off. The new Kobo will be available in 3 colors: black, silver, and lavender.
This has been an interesting move from Kobo. Kobo will also include apps for the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Tab and recently announced BlackBerry Playbook. Reading books have always been somewhat of a personal experience. Kobo intends to change that with the launch of their new social reading app for the BlackBerry. With this app, users will be able to chat, ask questions, share recommendations, and go public with your books. You can see what books your friends are currently reading and even read passages together. It's interesting to see the reviews of this new "social reading" app. I credit Kobo for trying something new and trying to bring back book clubs. Interestingly enough, the Kobo WiFi actually feels lighter than the original Kobo. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not. It definitely looks better in black but the lighter weight makes it feel a bit cheaper. The new Kobo WiFi will cost $139 and will be available at the end of October. Expect the original Kobo to drop in price.
If you like the feel of the Kobo eReader, the Kobo WiFi is the natural upgrade. As far as features, there are better options. However, the quilted rubberized backing has a certain charm that can be described as "cute". It is a lovely device. Personally, I don't like the fact that it is lighter than the original but this is a quality for those who value portability. The Kobo and Kobo WiFi comes preloaded with 100 ebooks. That's a nice freebie!
EReaders are growing in popularity. Following the currently trends, expect more and more publishers to support the market. It would be excellent for students in high school and college. Imagine buying all of your e-books online and replacing 35 lbs of textbooks with an 8 once eReader. Shopping around for a good eReader will be top priority this holiday season. Thanks for reading this comparison!