Ask Techland: Kindle or Nook?

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Ah, the old Kindle versus Nook debate. Which one’s right for you? Let’s find out in a spec-by-spec showdown. This information is accurate as of 8/25/10.

Price

The Wi-Fi-only version of the Kindle costs $139; the Nook costs $149.

The 3G + Wi-Fi version of the Kindle costs $189; the Nook costs $199.

Connectivity

The Wi-Fi versions of both the Kindle and Nook connect to any wireless hotspot and both include free connectivity to AT&T-sponsored hotspots around the country.

The 3G + Wi-Fi version of the Kindle connects to AT&T’s 3G cellular network in the U.S. and to over 100 cellular networks around the world. The 3G + Wi-Fi Nook connects to AT&T’s 3G cellular network in the U.S. but doesn’t work internationally. Domestic cellular connections are free for both devices.

International cellular connections on the Kindle are free for purchasing books and using the experimental web browser, but carry a $4.99 per week charge for subscription-based content such as newspapers, magazines, and blogs.

Capacity

The Kindle can hold approximately 3,500 books; the Nook can hold approximately 1,500 books and can be expanded via memory cards. The Kindle doesn’t have an expansion card slot.

Size and Weight

The Kindle Wi-Fi measures 7.5″ x 4.8″ x 0.335″ and weighs 8.5 ounces; the Nook Wi-Fi measures 7.7″ x 4.9″ x 0.5″ and weighs 11.6 ounces.

The Kindle 3G + Wi-Fi measures 7.5″ x 4.8″ x 0.335″ and weighs 8.7 ounces; the Nook 3G + Wi-Fi measures 7.7″ x 4.9″ x 0.5″ and weighs 12.1 ounces.

Battery Life

With the wireless connections turned off (you don’t need to be connected to read books), the Kindle’s battery will last up to one month. The Nook’s battery will last up to ten days.

With the wireless connections turned on, the Kindle Wi-Fi will last up to three weeks and the Kindle 3G + Wi-Fi will last up to 10 days. No data is available for the Nook.

Available Content

The Kindle promises “over 670,000 books, plus newspapers, magazines, and blogs.” Kindle owners also have access to “over 1.8 million free, out-of-copyright, pre-1923 titles,” though those books must be downloaded to a PC first and then transferred to the Kindle via USB cable.

The Nook promises “more than a million titles available” although there’s no differentiation between books, magazines, newspapers, and other content. Nook owners also have access to “more than 500,000 free eBooks.”

The Nook also supports books published in the popular, open “EPUB” standard; The Kindle uses its own proprietary “AZW” standard.

Taking Your Content With You

Kindle software is available for PC, Mac, Android, BlackBerry, iPad, and iPhone. Only Kindle books are supported—no magazines or newspapers.

Nook software is available for PC, Mac, Android, BlackBerry, iPad, and iPhone. Magazines and newspapers are supported in the desktop software.

Feature Differences

Kindle:

- High-contrast e-ink screen with “50% better contrast than any other e-reader”

- Global 3G coverage (Kindle 3G + Wi-Fi model)

- Full QWERTY keyboard

- Webkit-based web browser

- Month-long battery life

- Text-to-speech reading

Nook:

- 3.5-inch Android-based color touchscreen for browsing books

- 14-day book lending to other Nook owners

- Browse full e-books for free when inside a Barnes & Noble store

- Expandable storage via microSD cards

- Supports open EPUB standard

- Replaceable battery

Conclusion

As you can see, both devices have various strengths and weaknesses. If you’re going purely on price and portability, the Kindle is a good option. If you want to be able to store as many books as possible and get them from as many places as possible, the Nook is a pretty good choice. Traveling internationally? The Kindle 3G + Wi-Fi is dynamite. Do all your friends have Nooks? The book lending feature might be right up your alley.

Make sure to check out each device’s respective book store to see if they have the titles you like. Also, the Nook has a 14-day return policy, while the Kindle has a 30-day return policy, so keep that in mind if you’re planning to check out both devices. The nice thing about the Nook is that you can try it out in person at a Barnes & Noble store first to see if you like it. Amazon’s got the longer return policy, which ought to give you enough time to decide.

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