The Nook Simple Touch and the Kindle Touch – a comparison

Let me start this post out by stating that I am a long-time Kindle owner and lover. If I seem to be favouring the Kindle over the Nook, this is the reason: I have had far more experience with the Kindle than I have with the Nook and I have been spoiled by the Amazon and Kindle experience. That said, let’s get on with my experience thus far.

Look and Feel

My first impressions of the Nook as I extracted the box from the shipping packaging was that the Kindle comes shipped in its ‘own box’ because the box itself is sturdy enough. The Nook packaging is flimsy. I can see how it would be easy to destroy in transit. I wonder if it might not be cheaper to package the Nook in its own shipment-sturdy box from the start.

Out of the box, the Nook was completely devoid of charge. I had to charge it for a good half hour before I was able to turn it on. As a gadget-geek, I like when my new gadgets come out of the box with even just a smidgen of a battery charge if only enough to tease me. My Kindle was at about a 20% charge out of the box and had no admonitions about “charge battery before first use” as the Nook’s quick start guide states.

The Nook feels no lighter or heavier than the Kindle. Unlike the Kindle, however, the Nook rests naturally in your hand with the back contours giving a solid grip feel that says it’s safe and won’t fall out of your hands. The Kindle Touch lacks that feeling.

For some reason, Amazon thought it would be a good idea to move away from the graphite-feel to their Kindles. This new surface makes the whole device feel cheap and flimsy where it didn’t before. Being fairly clumsy, this makes me feel like I might be dropping and chipping (or even breaking) the casing within the first few days of owning it. The Nook Simple Touch has that graphite feel that coaxes you into feeling that the device is secure in your hands. I wasted no time in getting a DecalGirl decal for my Kindle (as you can see in the photo) so that it would look and feel less cheap to me.

As soon as I turned on the Nook, the first thing I noticed was the quality of the e-Ink. On the Nook, the black is true black, clean, and crisp. I had never noticed it before, but the black on the Kindle screen is pixellated and almost hurts the eyes trying to focus on the letters.

Navigation or Page Turning

Navigation with the Kindle held in your left hand is intuitive: touch the left hand area of your screen to go back and just passed there to go forward. No buttons, no muss, no fuss … until you find that you prefer to hold your Kindle in your right hand. Then you encounter your first problem – needing your left hand to go back a page. (Side note: I don’t know about you, but even navigating with my right thumb while holding the Kindle in my right hand feels awkward to me.)

Navigation with the Nook is smooth whichever hand you hold it in. You tap the left side of the screen to go back, and the right to go forward. Can’t reach either side easily with your thumb? No problem, physical buttons are on the side to help you. And those button functions are configurable too – you can choose to go forward with the top or bottom buttons.

Those little nice-ities…

Having been used to the Kindle’s minimalistic approach to the library list, the book cover approach that the Nook takes is a welcome difference. Especially since navigating the pages of your library are as simple as tapping an up or down arrow at the bottom of your screen. With the Kindle, I have to be extra careful to swipe on the library page lest the tap be interpreted as an “Open this book now” tap and not a “Next page of my library” tap. I can’t count the number of times I have ended up opening a book on the Kindle when what I meant to do was to turn to the next page in my library.

I have seen people complaining about the lack of a dedicated back button on the Nook. The Kindle Touch does have a dedicated back button but it’s now a soft button (versus a physical button) and not intuitively obvious. The Nook has a contextual back button; which means that it’s there when they “think” you might need it and if you happen to turn a page forward, you lose it. I can see that being annoying, but not much of a deal breaker unless you cross-reference many texts.

One thing I absolutely loathe about the Nook is that I have to plug it into my computer to transfer books to it. This is a convenience provided by the Kindle system that makes the whole Nook experience a non-starter for me. I just find that not being able to email myself a book is a complete deal-breaker for me.

So, which is better?

I can’t come to a conclusion about which eReader is better because both of them are good in their own right. As I have said before, it boils down to where your eBook numbers lie. If you have a largely ePUB library, Nook is a better choice; mobi or Amazon’s proprietary AZW, then you should definitely go with a Kindle.

If you have mostly DRM-free eBooks, then either of them is a good enough choice. The Kindle has the edge over the Nook by allowing you to email books to your Kindle from any email program. If you don’t care much for that feature, then the Nook is a win based on its feel in the hand and the look of the letters on the screen.

That the Nook has a slot for an SD card is neither here or there unless you are in the habit of carrying your books around on an SD card; transferring from computer to Nook is still a plug-in-transfer-plug-out experience.

The choice between the two is a strictly personal and subjective one. Kindle because of the ecosystem, Nook because of the higher quality e-Ink and construction. Nook for the ability to lend to your friends, Kindle if your friends don’t read anyway. Nook because ePUB is the more popular eBook formats, Kindle because the Amazon Kindle library is the largest eBook store right now.

Anyone else had the chance to compare 2 eReaders up close and personal and would like to share their experiences for us?

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