As for Barnes & Noble, it made an utterly unshocking move today by knocking $20 off the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, matching the Paperwhite’s $119 price. (There is no 3G version.)
Even with Paperwhite/GlowLight price parity, expect B&N to helpfully remind you of a couple of points in the Nook with GlowLight’s favor: It doesn’t include any advertising — unless you count the “What to Read Next” suggestions on the home screen — and includes an AC adapter. The Kindle Paperwhite puts what Amazon calls Special Offers (also known as ads) on its screen saver and at the bottom of the home screen, and comes with a USB cable but no wall charger.
You can turn off the Paperwhite’s Special Offers for $20 — although Amazon says that few buyers of existing Kindles go to the trouble — and add a wall charger for $10, bringing the price to $149, or $209 for the 3G model.
The Nook with GlowLight isn’t without other virtues. It’s slightly over half an ounce lighter than the 7.5-oz. Paperwhite, and some readers might find its wider, more sculpted case easier to grip. (Using the flat, thin-framed Kindle feels a bit like reading off a handheld blackboard.) The Nook has a physical button for accessing features and returning to the home screen, while the Kindle makes you jab at the top of the screen to get to its various options. B&N’s reader also lets you turn pages by pressing the edges of the case as well as by moving your thumb to tap the display, although it requires a rather firm squeeze to register.
Even the GlowLight’s great big power button on the back is more thoughtfully designed than its Paperwhite counterpart. Judging from both the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Fire HD, Amazon has a deeply-held belief that power buttons should be dinky, oddly-placed things that are tough to find and press.
When it comes to content, Amazon seems to have the edge overall. It says it has 180,000 exclusive titles, and it lets members of its $79-a-year Amazon Prime service check out one book a month from a library of 180,000 tomes at no additional charge. Still, with massive quantities of books available on both platforms, including many free or nearly-free public-domain items, plus hundreds of magazines and dozens of newspapers, no buyer of either a Kindle or a Nook will ever run short on stuff to read.
Unlike the Nook with GlowLight, the Kindle Paperwhite still has a very basic web browser built in. Amazon has been describing it as “experimental” for half a decade now, which seems to be a code word for “Don’t expect too much.” Its store also includes 74 downloadable apps — mainly traditional games such as chess, checkers and sudoku, none of which are major arguments in favor of buying a Kindle.
The bottom line is that the Kindle Paperwhite and the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight are both well-done gadgets. Each one has some advantages over the other; neither has any crippling flaws.
But that doesn’t mean that these two e-readers are evenly matched. Amazon decisively wins this round, thanks to its remarkable new screen. Unless you’ve already invested copious amounts of money in e-books from Barnes & Noble or another company — most of them aren’t easy to move onto Amazon’s hardware — the Kindle Paperwhite is the e-reader to buy. It’s the best one that Amazon, or anyone, has built to date. It’s also the best product that Amazon has sold under the Kindle moniker — a refreshing reminder that there’s always room for a device that does one thing really, really well.