Could the Nook topple the Kindle in the e-reader wars? That’s the question posed by Kit Eaton in a recent Fast Company article wondering if the Nook Color’s spiffy color screen could dethrone the Kindle’s poor tired old black-and-white. The article draws on some of the things that have been reported about the Nook Color lately, such as the rumored 3 million unit manufacturing figure and the announced tablet-style upgrades, to suggest that it might just be catching up.

Meanwhile, I’m kind of scratching my head and wondering what what Eaton is smoking. Yes, the color Nook looks very nice, and a lot of people use the similarly-colorful iPad for e-reading. But after comparing the Kobo’s e-ink screen to the iPad, I have to admit that for sheer sharp readability, the Kobo’s e-ink is unmatched by color LCD (though granted I haven’t had the chance to examine the iPhone/iPod Touch 4’s “retina display” in detail). And it brings with it a lot better battery life, too.

I have a hard time believing that consumers who just want to read e-books could be so easily swayed by pretty colors. There’s a lot more to the e-reading experience than that. What would someone care about tablet-style upgrades if he just wanted to turn pages?


  1. “LCDs are OK as complement, but never as substitute for e-ink.” I agree, can people just stop comparing apples and pears please? Why is e.g the Ipad even mentioned when talking about reading e-books? I guess my thick old TV from the eighties is relevant too then? There is a reason why e-ink and similar technology i developing; LCD screens are tiring to read and makes your eyes sore, it is not only the back light; the MHz / Hz frequency is tiring as well although we don’t see it. E-ink is none of that, it is like a book and that’s why we should stop even mentioning Ipads, Nooks or whatever, when it comes to the future of book-reading!

  2. I think it depends on reading habits. I read for hours every day and I read 1 to 3 books a week, every week. For me, nothing will beat my Sony 950’s eInk screen for reading comfort (and I judge this by comparing it to my workday which is spent reading manuscript on high-quality LCD screens). But for the person who may read 1 book (as opposed to magazines, comics, and highly illustrated books) a month — or more usually less — that is, the average reader, color may make all the difference in moving them from the print to the electronic book world. Such people are also less likely to be bothered by an LCD screen because they are spending significantly less time staring at it. I can see the Nook Color outselling the Kindle.

    Something else to consider. Speaking about the United States only: Has Amazon already sold its built-in market? That is, have those who want to buy ebooks from Amazon already purchased their Kindles so that future Kindle sales are mainly to upgraders and not to new buyers?

  3. Looks like tech writers love killer headlines. Of course the Nook Color will not ‘kill’ the Kindle, the idea is absurd. The customer base of B&N and Amazon is largely seperate, the price difference is substantial, and eink is fine for most fiction readers. In a fast growing market like this the game is to grow faster than the market by converting heavy print buyers to your ebookstore. Trying to poach ebook readers from competitors is a mug’s game at present.

    The seemingly good sales of the Nook Color does suggest that there is a substantial demand for color at this price point though. Of course If someone was a regular B&N customer and wanted eink they can just buy a Nook Classic.

  4. Re: has Amazon already saturated the potential Kindle market.

    I don’t think so. $140 is still rather steep of a price for many consumers. I think if Amazon were to put out a $99 model of the Kindle wifi, they’d see a drastic increase in sales. Even $99 is still high for some as well; I think the market would only be truly saturated if the Kindle were about $50-$60.

  5. It’s time to put that “e-ink is easier on the eyes” myth to bed. I own a Nook Color and I read several hours each day on it. I’m tired of people saying that e-ink is a superior technology. I chose the Nook Color LCD screen over e-ink because of its clarity – it makes reading much, much easier for me without any eye strain, all without the annoying negative flash at every page turn. Trust me, there are many satisfied customers out there who enjoy reading on a color tablet who also read as voraciously as I do. Reading on a computer’s LCD screen and the NC’s enhanced LCD screen are two different experiences. Unless you’ve personally done both, you really can’t say that one is a better reading platform than the other. Having said all this, I do believe that there are people out there who get headaches and eye strain from reading on an LCD screen, NC’s included, but not to the extent that it’s acceptable to say that everyone will do so.

  6. Preference for dedicated e-ink or multi-function LCD may relate to touch-screen navigation. Here the noon classic is a brave hybrid. The more persuasive mimic of the print experience would be touch-screen e-ink. I imagine this would require a laminate, double screen too expensive now, but it could be a possibility in a more matured e-book environment.

  7. I actually think the report is right on the money as a trend, though of course the next Kindle generation will have its own Kindle Color 7″ tablet version and that may outsell the Nook Color, so Kindle may still be the leading brand name in 2-3 years, but it just won’t be eink.

    The fact that despite the huge in-built advantage Amazon has in convenience/#titles and generally being all around leading ebook seller, the NC is selling so well – and any visit at your local BN will show you clear signs of that in a way you never saw before with the eink Nook – shows the huge appeal of its features.

    And the Ipad comparisons are beside the point, in the same way people looking at the Ipad before its launch predicted it will fail since “it is neither horse, nor camel” so to speak, neither a “real” computer, not a media player and of course people found out that a 10″ tablet done well and priced reasonably covers a lot of needs as well as creating a huge new market

    The 7″ color tablet – of which NC is the first incarnation – is the much awaited by many “infopad” – the form is perfect for books and generally text based information, the way the Ipad form is perfect for graphic media, movies… – while on the pocket level the personal communicator is a 4-5″ tablet that has been hugely successful on launch too – iPhone

  8. It would take a lot to kill the Kindle and I don’t think it’s going to happen. But I agree with karen wester newton that Amazon seems to be looking toward a small tablet. You know this would be a hot seller because quite likely it would solve the big Kindle whine about not being able to read library books on it. An Android tablet with both the Kindle and Overdrive apps on it would take care of the problem.

    That said, I must admit that I adore both my Kindle 3 and Nook Color. If I had to choose only one, it would have to be the Kindle. Will I buy an Amazon tablet? Probably. I am an electronics junkie.

  9. I had a nook and upgraded to the NOOKcolor, and it’s the perfect reading device for me (and yes, I have an iPad and an iPod Touch).

    Color has nothing to do with it, at least for me–it’s the touchscreen (like an iPad) and the convenient size (large enough to read comfortably, small enough to take anywhere).

    I’ve tried the Kindle several times and just never could get used to it. It’s not just the slow updates of e-ink screens, but the frustrating navigation and the tiny keyboard. I love being able to tap directly on a word to look it up, and highlighting is so much easier too. And since those tiny little keys take up so much space that the display is smaller than it could be, I’d rather just tap on a virtual touchscreen keyboard.

    I get tired of all this talk of “killers” and am glad to have a choice. The NOOKcolor is perfect for me, the Kindle is perfect for others, and that’s plenty good enough for me.

  10. PocketGoddess is correct about the annoying tiny keys on the Kindle, especially if you have the graphite model where the low contrast of the printing on the keys makes them difficult to use except in strong light. I do love the highlighting and lookup features on the Nook Color as well as its page turns. However, the dictionary is inferior to that used on the Kindle. So many things to love about both the Kindle and the Nook Color, though. I had an original Kindle bought over 3 years ago and it took me about 3 minutes to get used to page turns on it, so for me that is not an issue, even though I like page turns BETTER on the Nook Color. This is why I have both of them. And making notes is LOTS easier on the NC.

  11. I want to agree with porourke on the readability of LCD screens. I read for hours on my Nook Color, and before I had my Nook, I read for hours on my iPhone. I used to have a Sony 505, so I’ve used both, and I do like e-ink screens. But LCD screens are perfectly readable for long periods of time. I read on average 2-3 hours per day, and I’m quite comfortable doing that on my Nook.

    I understand that some people have problems with them, but it’s too much a blanket statement to say that LCD screens are only for the casual reader. I’m anything but casual!

  12. “It’s time to put that “e-ink is easier on the eyes” myth to bed”

    Some people have no problem reading on an LCD screen. Some people have lots of eye strain. It isn’t a myth…it’s a personal and physical ability issue. I used a friend’s iPad a few weeks ago while we were out of town together, just to see what it was like. My eyes were watery and the text was blurry after about an hour; so, for me, it just isn’t a myth. (Also: That faux page turning thing got old real quick.)

    The STRENGTH of the Kindle is the price, (which will undoubtedly continue to go down) and its ease of use. No color tablet reader can match both those qualities… for now. Next year–who knows?

    Right now, the best thing about the e-reader market is the variety available. There is something to make everyone happy. Now if only we could make our choice without denigrating someone else’s.

  13. The competition between Kindle and Nook has nothing to do with E-Ink vs LCD… it’s all about color, and the content that needs to be in color for people to buy it: Magazines. It surprises me the article’s writer hadn’t figured that much out.

    Nook Color is doing so well, not just because it does books, but because it gives access to magazine content that no one wants in black and white. It’s the one type of content the Kindle can’t match. Of course, all Amazon has to do is provide magazines that can be read on their various Kindle apps, allowing anyone with a color device to read magazines, and the NC’s advantage is pretty much lost.

    In the end, it always comes down to content, who wants it, and who provides it.

  14. Re: Gary Frost says:
    “Preference for dedicated e-ink or multi-function LCD may relate to touch-screen navigation. Here the noon classic is a brave hybrid. The more persuasive mimic of the print experience would be touch-screen e-ink.”

    Sony’s done this well with the 350, 650, and 950 models that are out now.

  15. Imho the eReader market will become a lot like the mobile phone market. There will smart models, high function reader models and simple reader models.
    The core of serious readers may have no interest in making notes, just reading. Some will want to make notes and interact with social sites and such. Some will want all the bells and whistles. Some will prefer the iPad.

  16. As long as there is a significant price difference between a capable b&w e-ink ereader such as Kindle 3 WiFi, and a color models such as Nook Color or tablets such as Galaxy Tab or iPad 2 … the Kindle (and the Kobo) are assured of a strong future.

    Thanks to the savings to book buyers of e-books over print books, it doesn’t take long to recoup the $150 or less for the e-reader as you buy books you want to read. The difference between buying paperbacks (and most especially recent fiction in hardcover) at my local store vs a 60 second download to an e-reader is several dollars per purchase. In effect: b&w e-readers can net out as “free” within a year.

  17. My Kindle is perfect for me, the books I read are in black and white anyway, who needs color? Before I got my Kindle, I tried reading ebooks on my laptop without success, it just wasn’t comfortable. I stare at a computer screen all day, my eyes need a break.

    I do read short blog posts on my smart phone, but that’s not too comfortable either, the screen is just too small.

    I can see the popularity of color devices for children’s books or magazines, and would consider an Amazon Android tablet if the price was right.

    The other big difference between the Nook and the Kindle is the companies behind them. Amazon has the best ebook store and the best customer service, by far. I’ve been an Amazon customer for years, why would I trade that away?

  18. I’ve pretty much switched to the Nook Color for my reading. I like the bigger reading display area (because none of the space is wasted by keyboard or other navigation. The Kindle is a lot lighter, though, and of course it’s easier to read in the sunlight. Still, I’ve found the C-Nook is fully readable on the train which is where I do most of my outdoor reading. I do miss the cellular connectivity, though. WiFi is nice, but it’s great to be able to hear about a book and download it instantly without having to find a hotspot.

    Rob Preece

  19. Magazines and newspapers (if they ever get their production and marketing strategy right) will tip the scales. But that is a separate topic.

    Those who love color and touch screens will continue moving toward the Nook Color and iPad/iTouch. People who prefer a more book-like experience tend to not like touch-screens and find e-ink readers to be lighter weight, less expensive, and (yes) easier on the eyes.

    Using the Kindle app I can read a book in color on my phone but I prefer to read on the Kindle 3. With the addition of some of the Kindle apps for simple games and finally a good Notepad for Kindle app (by 7 Dragons – thank you!) the Kindle is a great companion for picking up for a few minutes or for hours.

  20. I read eBooks on my iPhone. I don’t want coloured ink or coloured backgrounds. I just want to read my book. If people want a colour technology then they are not interested in reading – they are interested in a tablet.

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