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?