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E-book War Update: Kindle Takes on Nook

Despite some claims that e-

By Howie Fenton
Published: October 27, 2010

Despite some claims that e-book readers like the Amazon Kindle would die after the success of the Apple iPad, Amazon is not giving up and like a chess player is attacking the surrounding players on the battlefield such as the Barnes and Noble Nook e-reader.

Amazon announced on its website Friday that it will start letting Kindle users and people who use its free Kindle apps loan books to others for a two-week period. During the loan, the book's owner will not be able to read the book, Amazon said. The move brings the Kindle up to date with Barnes and Noble’s rival Nook e-reader, which has touted 14-day book lending as a key differentiating feature since it launched last year. It remains to be seen how Amazon will offer this new feature.  Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos last year characterized the Nook’s book lending implementation as being “extremely limited,” so they may try to offer this feature in a different way for the Kindle.

What does book lending on the Kindle mean for the Nook? Eliminating this difference, Amazon has taken away one of the competitive advantages of the Nook, leaving just a few other advantages including the color touch screen and expandable storage. Although I don’t feel that the touch screen is important, I have talked to other people who prefer touch screens on both their cell phones and their e-readers. Nook also offers expandable storage via Micro SD cards, and it also can read DRM-free ePub e-books, including checking out library books (unlike the Kindle) — but those aren’t exactly features that can combat the widespread name recognition of Amazon’s device.

This could be considered Amazon’s second victory against the Nook. Barnes and Noble tried to create a competitive advantage earlier this year by introducing a WiFi-only Nook for $149, and reducing the price of the Nook 3G to $199, but Amazon fired back a month later with its revamped third-generation Kindle at $139 and $189 price points. While Amazon doesn’t divulge Kindle sales numbers, the company noted in its third quarter earnings report that strong sales of the new e-reader model led to significant revenue and profit gains. Barnes and Noble maintain that it has 20 percent of the e-book market and that sales of the Nook have been strong, despite missing analyst estimates in its recent second quarter earnings. But how you measure the data can be controversial. For example, is the Apple iPad considered an e-reader?

Some people might point to an advantage that Barnes and Noble has by leveraging its retail stores to push the Nook, but Amazon matched that as well by bringing Kindles to Best Buy and Target stores in September. And those same people could argue that the sales staff in the Barnes and Noble stores is better than those found in Best Buy and Target stores. I don’t agree. I have talked to the Barnes and Noble staff promoting the Nook many times and find they don’t understand the competitive landscape and they struggle to articulate the unique value of the Nook.

If I was an army general overseeing this battle, I would say that Amazon is winning, because I still see many more Kindles than Nooks every week when I fly. What about you? Are you seeing more or less Kindles, Nooks or iPads with book apps?

Howard Fenton is a Senior Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research.

Howie Fenton is InfoTrends' Associate Director of Operational Consulting. For over 25 years, he has focused on benchmarking operational and financial performance in in-plants and commercial printers. He can be reached via e-mail at Howie.Fenton@infotrends.com.



By Richard Celley on Oct 27, 2010

It is indeed an interesting competition to watch. I've just received an e-mail from BN touting the November 19 release of the Nook Color which looks pretty nice for $249. To my mind that is more worth purchasing than any of the gray-scale models. My prediction is that next will come a more fleshed out browser function making the Nook more of a large-screen "I-Touch" sort of device.


By Heidi on Oct 27, 2010

I am in the market for either a Nook or a Kindle. I was in Barnes and Noble last night, and the person who worked there was very knowledgeable on Nook, explaining the benefits, features and even had a comparison chart for the popular e-readers on the market.

But even after talking with her, I can't decide. I love my touch screen phone, I don't know that I could function having to press buttons! However the Nook is heavy and the battery life not as long as the Kindle. The books are a bit more expensive then Kindle, as well.

So now B&N came out with the ColorNook and that would be the dealbreaker for me, but it's only in Wi-Fi. Back to the drawing board.


By Sally Swithers on Oct 27, 2010

I have owned both the Nook and a Kindle 2, and in my opinion there is no comparison. I returned my Nook because of battery problems (the battery did not last more than 4 days, even with everything turned off) and fared no better after B&N replaced the battery.

In addition, I found it gadgety, and not as straightforward as the Kindle, which I bought soon after.

I enjoy my Kindle so much that I am about to buy the newest version.


By jane on Oct 27, 2010

That would be "more or fewer Kindles, Nooks . . . "

I use my Kindle since I was accumulating so many paper books, and most dedicated readers only want an e-reader, nothing more.


By mary ann penatzer on Oct 27, 2010

I have a nook and love it. My disadvatage is I have to be connected to wifii to purchase a book. When I bought it the sale person did not understand my internet connection which is a verizon card. i cant get any AT&t towers where I live and I am 50 miles from the B&N store. So i agree the sales people are not well informed and they would not permit a return


By Len on Oct 27, 2010

Lending feature on the Nook has been a great feature. If Amazon is saying that the Nook lending feature is "limited", we can only assume that perhaps with Kindle, you'll be able to loan your book more than once.

With the Nook, a loan is a ONE TIME ONLY transaction. Many of our members on www.booksfornooks.com have voiced their complaints about this limitation. I guess we'll have to wait and if what Amazon considers "limited" is in line with ours.


By Brian Hagelstrom on Oct 27, 2010

Since I enjoy reading and go to Barnes and Noble for books, I decided to buy a Nook.

Once they updated their software, I have been well pleased with it.

I do like the fact that I can get digital books from Google and from libraries. There were a lot of free books I was able to obtain from Google that are in the public domain.

Also, Barnes and Noble offered free books from their classic collection for awhile and I loaded up as many that were of interest to me.

I like that fact that my digital library is not stored on just my Nook and that version 1.5 promises to allow me to pick-up where I have left off reading regardless if I am using my Nook or accessing my library from my labtop or iPod Touch. We'll have to wait to see how well it works.

I do notice that now and then my book is no longer at the spot I stopped. This was more of a problem with software version 1.1, but I do notice is occasionally with 1.4. We'll see if they correct the problem with 1.5.

I have not used a Kindle. They do seem to be very similar. I do like using the touchpad with the Nook, but I have seen other comments from people who do not like it.


By Petnard on Oct 27, 2010

Too bad the new color Nook uses an LCD screen instead of the e-ink (which in its Pearl incarnation on the Kindle 3 is really good). Also, the new color Nook weighs a pound. We need either a 7" Kindle e-ink, or color e-ink


By dave on Oct 27, 2010

I'd love to buy a nook, but unfortunately they just don't have the books Amazon has. Sure, they have the popular authors, but try searching for specialist books and I find B&N don't have them, at all. Rather than bring out a new color reader, which doesn't have the e-ink screen, I'd rather they focussed on the numbers of books they offer. The reason people buy kindles and Nooks is because of the e-ink screen and the books offered, take that away and there's no reason for me to buy one, color or not. If Amazon start supporting e-pub, then it's game set and match to Amazon.


By Mary Mekelburg on Oct 28, 2010

I love my Kindle. And I was happy to find a Kindle app for my Android. So I can still read one of my downloads even if I'm traveling light and don't have the Kindle with me.


By Bill Ruesch on Oct 28, 2010

I am slow on the uptake and haven't purchased either, but have considered doing so. One thing that restrains me is my experience with BetaMax. I spent a goodly amount of money getting the Sony BetaMax when they came out because all of the pundits said it was better technology than VCR. My BetaMax library along with the machine have long ago gone to the landfill.

Kindle or Nook--which is destined for the landfill?


By Pam Butcher on Oct 28, 2010

I considered a Kindle for some time, but decided on the iPad because it offers more. I use the Kindle app and have found it to be very simple, usable and only deepened my love affair with the iPad.


By Cary Sherburne on Oct 28, 2010

I love my Kindle. My daughter and I share an account, and I like the idea of book lending with others, will love to see how it is implemented. I looked at the Nook but was not impressed. After reading some of these posts, it would seem they have a way to go. Warning! don't download the games! I am now addicted to some stupid word game on my Kindle (Every Word) and haven't read a book for a couple weeks! Oh, well, maybe it is brain activity that will head off Alzheimers :-)


By Michael Jahn on Oct 29, 2010

@ - Bill Ruesch - Betamax was introduced on May 10, 1975 - The last Sony Betamax was produced in 2002 - I am sure you have purchase cars for much more and lasted much shorter than that ! I replace my Laptop every two years - don't let your betamax experience color your decision. They are all going to be landfill material, but - hey - look at the price point - we pay more for a concert.


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