Having both the cheapest e-readers from Barnes and Noble (the Nook) and the equivalent from Amazon (the no-touch, buttons only Kindle) I can say that overall, the Nook is the better choice. But for Barnes and Noble to compete, they have to do a better job in courting e-book authors. They don’t need to match Amazon on every penny with respect to price. But their website needs updating, they need a lot more e-books, and frankly the US and international consumer could use a viable alternative to Amazon. Since e-books represent the most practical way to outflank the elite and put non-politically correct, stifling elite orthodoxy into the hands of the average person.
First, the hardware. The basic Nook, at $99, is a nice machine. Its menu system is easier to use, its a touch-screen, with page forward and back buttons on each side. It has a Micro SDHC card slot, with up to 32 GB storage, so you can have very cheaply extra storage for as many books as you want. Unlike the Kindle, the Nook displays covers for books in the Library. It uses the EPUB format, which means you can get thousands of books from Google Books in this format, for free, as well as Project Gutenberg (any work published before 1923, with some exceptions, basically). Unlike the Kindle, you get page numbers. Like the Kindle, you can set bookmarks, use a table of contents to navigate, pick up where you last read, and so on. You get more fonts, and usable fonts than the Kindle which really only has one. The fonts seem crisper on the basic Nook vs. the Kindle. Its a very nice e-reader for the money.
The Kindle, well the basic one is the slimmest and lightest on the market. You get not a touch screen but page forward and backward buttons, and a series of buttons on the bottom, including a rocker switch to select different items, a home button, a menu button, and the like. Amazon has just updated the software, offering an improved font and somewhat confusingly switching the wireless mode to “Airplane” (which means off) and On. Prior to the software upgrade, the Kindle had the wireless (which drains the battery) settings buried beneath several layers of menus. Now on some books the Kindle will display page numbers.
Both the Kindle and the Nook are “hackable” which voids the warranty but allows you to either root the thing and turn it into a Android tablet or install your own fonts, etc. For me that’s too much trouble, others may like that option.
The Kindle has more storage space for books upfront, but no option for a Micro SDHC card for extra storage.
In checking out books from the local library, the Nook requires Adobe Digital Editions (and yes you can and I have done this under Linux using WINE, the Windows Emulator). This has pros and cons. Its a bit more effort, you have to download the epub using Adobe Digital Editions, and then side-load it (using the USB cable) to your Nook. Under Linux, this requires mapping your Nook as a floppy drive (yes, really) under WINE before starting Adobe Digital Editions. You use Adobe Digital Editions to load your Nook with the DRM-protected borrowed EPUB. A hassle.
HOWEVER … this means Barnes and Noble has no record of what you downloaded. They don’t know. For the Kindle, this is different. You check out your Kindle e-book from the Library, and it shows up on your Amazon account on Amazon.com. You then choose (which if you have more than one) Kindle you want the e-book sent to. Wirelessly. No hassle with Adobe Digital Editions, but you tell Amazon what book you’re checking out. I like Amazon. I like my privacy even more. So I prefer the Nook for that reason.
Barnes and Noble’s website is just awful. On older browsers and computers it loads like molasses. Amazon’s by contrast is faster. Much faster. And easier to find items. It also looks nicer and cheerier, with a very White background that is both simple and well, just friendly-looking. I like the look a lot. Amazon’s reviews have had problems, some authors complain of junk/phony reviews, that trash their books for political/cultural reasons. There have been complaints too that pay-for-service people post good reviews for Amazon e-books to pump up the ratings and thus visibility. But overall, Amazon has better and more detailed reviews for books than Barnes and Noble, and a lot more of them too.
Barnes and Noble has to improve their website, since that’s the main way people buy books (using the Nook or the Kindle to buy a book is a hassle, mostly).
Amazon makes it ridiculously easy to buy books off the Kindle by mistake, lend the Kindle to a family member not absolutely familiar with it and you’ll get many books purchased just by accident. At least Amazon makes it easy to return these e-books, you can go to your account page and return them for the reason “Purchased by Accident.” For the Nook, buying a book requires confirmation. So you are less likely to do so by accident.
The Kindle has ads, on the screensaver, and home page. Some people hate them, others don’t. I just ignore them. The Nook has line drawings of famous authors, Victor Hugo, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf on the screensaver. Barnes and Noble allows you to browse e-books for free on their Wi-Fi network in the store. They have helpful people to assist you in the store, no charge, with your Nook. Even after purchase. The Nook has a more limited number of cases and covers, than the Kindle, but Barnes and Noble displays them so you can see them for yourself. Amazon, you just have to guess at what they will feel like and read the reviews. You can buy a Kindle at Best Buy and Walmart. But they have only a few covers there.
Best-sellers are the same at both Barnes and Noble and Amazon. But the back-catalog of writers like say, the late and lamented Stuart Kaminsky (sorely missed, the author of the Toby Peters and Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov series) average about 80 cents more on Barnes and Noble. The e-book only prices for Amazon in some genres, particularly romance, can be as much as $10 a book less than at Barnes and Noble.
I have not seen or used the new Amazon Kindle Paper White touch model, which is constantly backlit, and has from reviews a better and more uniform lighting than the Nook Touch Glowlight (which is lit only from the top) so I cannot comment on those models. But overall, for the storage, ease of daily use and pleasure reading, and compatibility and privacy issues, I give the Nook the nod over the Kindle, in the basic budget e-reader category.
But it is clear that for Barnes and Noble to survive, they’ll have to do things differently. Yes, I know they are corporate. But really, who wouldn’t want the only national book store chain to survive? If they go under, many places will no longer have any book store at all. And the pleasure and serendipity of cruising the bargain/remaindered shelves will be gone. As the judgment of which cook-book, or how-to book, is superior, will go with it. Since you can only tell so much from reviews, or samples.
Visiting nearly any Barnes and Noble is a pleasurable experience. You get free Wi-Fi. Comfortable chairs. A nice cafe to buy coffee and snacks at, perhaps not the best coffee or lattes around, but serviceable. And all those books. Including hard to find periodicals and magazines (like 2600, subscribe to that one and the FBI comes knocking at your door).
Yes, your average Indie Bookstore might have the edge on quirkiness. But mass has its advantages. I like the fact that near me, there are several Barnes and Noble bookstores. If I want a book, I can go out and buy it. Or just linger in the pleasure of looking around at all those books. Browsing and perusing. This is an experience, and a company, worth preserving. Already America has lost far too many book chains: B Dalton, gone. Brentano’s, gone. Crown Books, gone. Bookstar, gone. Borders, gone.
Books matter. They are the most immersive, lingering, and uniquely personal experience you can get. A movie has a few hours, at most, to tell you a story. Not even a trilogy could capture the real, sprawling, and often side-tracked experience (Tom Bombadil?) of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. Only something like that has the emotional and persuasive power to break through the circle of crap and lies that the modern elite’s PC nightmare is built upon.
Truth has its own power, and its own beauty. People know crap, even when they are waist deep in it. They can smell it. Over the long run, and for most people, measured in decades, things like Lord of the Rings have more power than a thousand “Honey Boo Boos” and “Celebrity Rehab with Doctor Drew” and “Dancing with the Has-Beens.”
And this matters. It matters because America and the West is in crisis. Things are spiraling out of control while America and the West are addicted to lies and fantasy and magical thinking. We might still have time yet, to save ourselves. If we do, books matter.
The last thing we want, is JUST one company providing the e-reader and website for e-books. Because then they are just a phone call away from a President Obama, to pulling and deleting books because well, they’re just un-PC. Competition, and the ability for users to switch elsewhere, is vital. I want to see Barnes and Noble compete and thrive against Amazon, so both are kept on their toes and responsive to readers, and not driven by monopoly dependence on government to make elites happy.
One e-book alone won’t make a dent. But there exists, in my view, the opportunity for e-books to cumulatively, like Soviet Soldiers bearing down on the Wehrmacht, crush the elites lies. In emotional as well as logical ways. This is vital for all who plan to live in the future, because our margin for lies has pretty much been used up.
In my view, if you are considering an e-reader, you would do well to personally check out the Nook.
[I don't get any ad money, and no one is paying me a dime for any opinion expressed here. I just REALLY love my Nook. I really do. Re-reading both Rudyard Kipling's Kim from Project Gutenberg, and the new-to-me Rex Stout, "Nero Wolfe" series checked out oh so conveniently and privately from the Library has been a pleasure. I don't think you can go wrong here.]