A look at the nook

Look, let me point out up front: this blog is called I Love My Kindle. I do…and that’s the e-book reader I know the best.

However, I don’t think I’m completely prejudiced. I was originally going to write a post comparing the nook, the Sony, and the Kindle, but I think it’s better to split it up. Kindle loyalists, be warned: I’m going to say some good things about the nook. 🙂

Let’s start out with this: I think there is room in the market for several main e-book readers. The e-book share of publishing has been growing rapidly, and I think that will continue. There are a lot of different cell phones, a lot of different cars…I don’t see any reason why there can’t be, oh, ten big players in the e-book field. I don’t think one is going to “kill” another.

Let me also say that this is not going to be all about tech specs. I think the Kindle blazed a new trail in the market partially because just plain old readers (not necessarily techies) could use it and liked it.

Okay, let’s get started:


I had to add this in after I starting writing this post.  It has just been announced that the nook will not be available for orders placed now until next year.  The Kindle had similar shortages in the past, but appears to be currently available.  Point to the Kindle.  😉

The screen

You care about the screen because, well, there’s where you are going to be reading.  They both use the same screen, the Vizplex from E Ink.  They both have 6″ (measured diagonally) screens.  That part of it is going to be pretty much of a wash.   Both of them use 16 grayscale for pictures.

The buttons

I think you’d adjust if you moved from one to the other.  The nook appears to have forward and backward buttons on both sides of the screen.  The Kindle 2 has a previous page button only on the left side, and a forward button on both.  The Kindle has some other buttons (Home, Menu, and Back).  You’re going to accomplish those functions on the little touchscreen at the bottom of the nook.  You can’t change pages with the touchscreen by the way (I asked). 

The keyboard

The Kindle has a keyboard for data entry, and the nook will use the touchscreen.  You will need to do some data entry when you are searching for things. 

Buying the books

Both devices use a cell-phone like network to get books wirelessly.  The nook also has Wi Fi, which is what computers use.  It’s a little unclear to me how much of a difference that will make to most people.  In some cases, it may make a big difference, if you don’t have the cell network easily available.

You can buy books from the Kindle store while abroad (although if you do it wirelessly, additional charges may apply).  You can not buy from the nook store while abroad.  Barnes and Noble says specifically:

…when you travel abroad, you can read any files that are already on your nook. You can connect to Wi-Fi hotspots that do not use proxy security settings, such those commonly used in hotels, and download eBooks and subscriptions already in your online digital Library. You cannot, however, purchase additional eBooks and subscriptions.
nook FAQs


The nook claims to have a million books available.  Amazon has about 380,000 right now.  That sounds like a win for the nook, but the nook is counting books from Google.  You can put those books on your Kindle as well, but it requires some converting.  Selection isn’t simply about quantity: it’s also about whether or not they have the books you want.

If you look at the fiction sections for Barnes and Noble and the Kindle store, you get a reveaing number. 

The Barnes and Noble e-book store lists 24,932 when you look at fiction.

The Kindle store lists 124,926 for fiction

That’s almost a hundred thousand more for the Kindle.  Of course, that number could change over time, but initially, the Kindle has more.

A number of those books from the Kindle store are self-published directly to the Kindle store, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.   They tend to be cheap.

I recommend you look for the books you know you want to read in both stores and see what you find. 


On new bestsellers, they seem to be pretty close.  On older books under copyright, what I’ve been finding is that Amazon wins handily (generally).

Of the 24,932 fiction e-books in the Barnes and Noble store, 17,334 are under ten dollars.  That’s about 70%. 

Of the 124,926 fiction e-books in the Kindle store, 119,965 are under ten dollars.  That’s about 96%.

I wanted to compare prices on specific books.

What I did was take the ten fiction best sellers at each store that were over ten dollars at one of them.

This is a comparison of the top ten fiction e-book best sellers at Barnes and Noble:

B&N Kindle Difference
 $   12.80  $    8.64  $      4.16
 $   14.36  $    9.99  $      4.37
 $   11.96  $    7.99  $      3.97
 $   14.99  $   16.50  $     (1.51)
 $   11.16  $    9.99  $      1.17
 $   19.96  $    9.99  $      9.97
 $   14.99  $   14.04  $      0.95
 $   12.00  $    9.75  $      2.25
 $   12.00  $    9.89  $      2.11
 $   14.39  $    9.99  $      4.40
 $ 138.61  $ 106.77  $     31.84

The bottom row is the totals.  So, getting those books at Amazon would save you $31.84, or about $3.18 average savings per book.

Here is the same comparison for the top ten bestselling fiction e-books at Amazon that are over ten dollars:

B&N Kindle Difference
 $   45.99  $   28.40  $     17.59
 $   28.99  $   29.58  $     (0.59)
 $    9.99  $   10.40  $     (0.41)
 $    9.99  $   12.78  $     (2.79)
 $   14.99  $   14.04  $      0.95
 $    9.99  $   14.29  $     (4.30)
 $    9.99  $   14.26  $     (4.27)
 $   21.56  $   11.99  $      9.57
 $    9.99  $   13.10  $     (3.11)
 $    9.99  $   13.07  $     (3.08)
 $ 171.47  $ 161.91  $      9.56

Now, as you can see here, a big impact is an expensive boxed set.  Taking that out, the Barnes and Noble books would be $8.03 cheaper…an average of about eighty-nine cents on nine titles.

Oh, and it wasn’t actually the top ten, because one of Amazon’s top ten wasn’t available at Barnes and Noble.

Those will tend to be popular bestsellers, I think.  I do think that a number of those at Amazon will come down to the $9.99 price point in the next couple of weeks, but I don’t know that for sure.

Books published before November 1999:

 $    7.99  $    6.39  $      1.60
 $    8.00  $    8.00  $          –  
 $    9.99  $    9.99  $          –  
 $    9.99  $    3.95  $      6.04
 $   11.20  $    9.75  $      1.45
 $   12.00  $    9.75  $      2.25
 $    7.20  $    5.99  $      1.21
 $   12.80  $    5.99  $      6.81
 $   12.00  $    9.99  $      2.01
 $    9.99  $    9.99  $          –  
 $ 101.16  $   79.79  $     21.37

This was actually a pretty tough one.  I could limit it the way I wanted on Amazon by using Jungle-Search.  I took the bestselling fiction books which said they were published before November 1999 (I was looking for books more than ten years old).  The Kindle books were, on the average, $2.14 cheaper.

Here’s why it was hard: the Kindle store had so many books that Barnes and Noble didn’t!  I was excluding ones I knew were public domain, because there are so many versions it’s hard to compare.  To get ten to compare, I had to look at about forty.

Here’s a list of some of the titles that Amazon had that I did not find at Barnes and Noble in an e-book:

1984 by George Orwell
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
A Confederacy of Dunces by Toole & Percy
Mike Mulligan y su maquina maravillosa (Spanish Edition)
Curious George Goes Camping by H.A. Rey
A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Curious George in the Snow by H.A. Rey
Curious George and the Dump Truck by H.A. Rey
The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Nicolae by Lahaye & Jenkins
Soul Harvest by Lahaye and Jenkins

Books from other sources

Barnes and Noble has access to a million books…when you count the Google books.  As we saw above, if we don’t count those, Amazon has a lot more books.   You can convert those same books for the Kindle, but it takes a third party program…and is a bit more work (not that hard, though).  On the other hand, you can go to sites like FeedBooks.com on your Kindle, and get books directly there, as reader Al pointed out in a comment on this post.   I do that to get books…they have quite a few freebies, both public domain and newly-written books.  Since you can’t go anywhere on the web on your nook except for the Barnes and Noble store, you can’t get them directly.  Again, you can get around limitation with the nook: you download the books to your computer and then put them on your nook using a USB cord.

Customer Service

People tend to be very satisfied with Amazon’s Customer Service and it’s highly rated.   However, I do have to say that Barnes and Noble is doing some interesting things with this for the nook.  I’ve asked a couple of questions about the nook by e-mail, and gotten very quick answers.  If you go to the Barnes and Noble on-line community, they have administrators who are actually directly answering questions people are asking.  Amazon has a Customer Service Q and A forum, but they don’t directly answer questions, just post announcements.

That said, the Amazon Community is big and very helpful. 

Here’s a really big one, though: Amazon says you can “return” any Kindle book within seven days of purchase.  Barnes and Noble says no returns.  They might flex that, but that’s the policy.  They say:

“Once purchased, eBooks cannot be refunded”

I asked how many people had returned a book and how often in the Kindle forum.  I haven’t analyzed it yet, but many people had returned 1-5 times…sometimes from buying the wrong book, sometimes because of formatting issues. 


Within the system, the nook wins here.  It allows you to do personal images for sleep mode pictures.  You can only do that on the K1, and it is unsupported.   Kindle people want that, and many people use an “against the rules” hack to do it (which I don’t recommend).

The Exclusives

Things the nook has that the Kindle doesn’t:

The nook has that little touchscreen for selecting a book.

The nook allows very limited book lending.  The limitations are going to disappoint people:

  • You can only loan the book once…ever
  • You can only loan it to people who have the Barnes and Noble reader software (but that will be a lot of people, and they don’t have to have the nook)
  • While it is loaned, you do not have access to it
  • You can’t give the book away or donate it
  • You can only do it for fourteen days (I think you aren’t allowed returns)
  • You can only do this if the publisher allows it

I’m guessing a lot of publishers won’t allow it, but we’ll see.

The nook has a micro-SD slot.

You can browse some content in Barnes and Noble stores.  When I was talking to a demonstrator (who was quite nice, by the way) in a Barnes and Noble store, the point was made that you can browse any part of the book…for an hour. 

You can hypothetically see a nook in a store.  However, I went into a store, and that wasn’t all it might have been for me and for some other customers.  We couldn’t actually see the nook: what we saw was an inert, plastic mock-up.  I had hoped to use the touchscreen and try out the buttons, but it was like having the Little Tykes toy version of the nook.  It wasn’t the right weight…so the demonstrator would hand people about a 500 page paperback book to show us!   We could go watch a video in the DVD section: apparently, one that is also available on the website.  The B&N employee was nice, and actually wanted to see my Kindle: I thought that was fair.  I hadn’t pulled it out, because I didn’t want to interfere with what the store was doing, but the demonstrator wanted to see it. 

Things the Kindle has that the nook doesn’t:

The Kindle has text-to-speech.  However, it can be blocked by the publisher, and Random House and its imprints have done that.  Also, it doesn’t sound like an audiobook.  I use it, but a lot of people don’t like it.

The Kindle has general web-browsing, but again, it can be disappointing.  It’s quite slow.

Amazon also converts quite a few formats for you for free, although it charges you if you send it wirelessly to the Kindle.

The Kindle plays Audible audiobooks.


There are two sets of formats.  One is the formats with DRM (Digital Rights Mangement).  Those are the ones you are going to buy, usually.  The other question is non-DRM formats…those are the ones you will usually get for free from other sources.

DRM for the Kindle

Kindle formats only

DRM for the nook

eReader and Adobe Adept (basically, EPUB and PDF).  You’ll be getting stuff mostly from the Barnes and Noble store, but also from some other places.

non-DRM for the Kindle (without conversion)

mobi/prc, txt (lots of freebie sites use these, including Project Gutenberg, FeedBooks, and ManyBooks…but the latter two also offer pdfs)

Amazon will convert a number of other formats for you.

You could use Calibre to convert non-DRM files for either machine.

Battery life

Amazon says 14 days with the wireless off: the nook says 10.

They also have a lot of things in common.  For example, they both play MP3s, both companies back up your files for you, and so on.

Well, that’s not comprehensive, but it should give you a pretty good idea.  Oh, and you can see the nook in a Barnes and Noble store: I think that’s going to sell quite a few of them.

For more information

The nook at Barnes and Noble  

nook demo video at YouTube (view on PC)

The Kindle 2 at Amazon 

Amazon demo video at YouTube (view on PC)

Tech spec comparison at MobileRead Wiki 

Please feel free to let me know what you think, and if you have points you think I should add to this.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

4 Responses to “A look at the nook”

  1. Al Says:

    Bufo – Well done, but I have a couple of points: The K2 is only slightly less than 2.5 inches from the bottom of the screen to the bottom of the Kindle. Are you sure you didn’t mean 2 inches instead of 3 for the keyboard? Also, I have not had good luck putting in data with a touch screen. I am always getting the wrong character with my Palm, my GPS and any other touch screen I have tried, although I understand the iPod has a good one. I had the screen saver hack on my K1 and it was a hack. It is a different hack on the K2 but works the same way. You didn’t say anything about the font selection. I use a BIG font so does the nook have one as large or larger than the Kindle? I installed the Large Font Hack on mine to make it easier to read. I realize that there probably would be the same type thing on the nook in time. Finally does the nook have direct download of feedbooks, mobibooks and Gutenberg books? This feature is particularly good for non computer owners who have a Kindle. TIA Al

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thank you!

      You’re right on the dimension comparison…I’ve fixed that. Amazon says the K2 is 8″ tall (by 5.3 by .36). The nook is 7.7 x 4.9 x .5 inches. It’s point three inches taller, not three. 🙂

      The Kindle has six font sizes, which range up to about font size 20…on the device itself. The Kindle for PC app goes up to about size 72. The nook has five font sizes (and you could read the book on a computer). I’ve seen a discussion on the nook board with an official reply…but it didn’t have a font size.

      No, since the nook won’t go anywhere on the web except the Barnes and Noble store (unlike the Kindle), you wouldn’t be able to go to those other sites (currently). You could download the books using a computer and then transfer them to the nook, I believe…in the proper formats, of course. 🙂

      Thanks! I really appreciate your comments!

  2. Julia Says:

    You make a convincing argument, but you failed to mention the nook has chess and suduko, and has page numbers when the kindle has this “location” nonsense, and if a book isn’t popular enough it is not available to buy, and the nook has alot of support from google epub, pdf etc, and the kindle is tied down to amazon. You really went to work on this, but i have a nook and I love it, nook all the way! But i hope you enjoy your kindle.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Julia!

      I like NOOKs, and I like Kindles. 🙂 I’m a big fan of reading generally.

      A few comments:

      I didn’t mention that the NOOK had chess and Sudoku in that post…because it didn’t at the time. 🙂 Just as the Kindle frequently improves (and has a number of free games…it comes with Minesweeper and Gomoku, and you can download other free games), so does the NOOK. I posted that on November 22, 2009. I believe Chess was introduced in about April of 2010 with the 1.3 firmware update.

      I prefer the locations to the page numbers, personally. I find the concept that I would be on the same page through several screens, depending on what text size I am on, quite peculiar. A location is a smaller unit than a page, and therefore more precise. How many pages does an e-book have? Zero. 🙂 Pages just aren’t part of the electronic file.

      There are many, many more books in copyright available for the Kindle than for the NOOK. That seems to be a common misconception: it’s confused because you can get free books (like those Google books) directly from Barnes & Noble, which is a nice touch. For the Kindle, you get the non-DRM (Digital Rights Management) from Google, and then you can convert them with free third-party software. That’s not as convenient…but you can get close to two million books out-of-copyright books for either device from Archive.org.

      For example, right now B&N has 66,223 in-copyright books in the fiction category.

      The Kindle store has 234,642 in the fiction category.

      Now, that’s not a one-to-one comparison, and I’m always careful to say that. The figure for Amazon includes 16,611 public domain books. Remove those, though, and you still have way over 100,00 fiction more in-copyright titles in the Kindle store than there are in NOOKBooks.

      There’s also this idea that the Kindle is tied down to Amazon…that’s simply not true. You can get books for the Kindle from many other places. Generally, those will be books that aren’t in copyright, but not always. You can get them from Baen, for example, and Fictionwise (which is owned by B&N) sells books for the Kindle.

      The NOOK has some advantages: so does the Kindle. One of the pluses for the NOOK is compatibility with Overdrive, which gives you access to public library books. The Kindle does not have that.

      I appreciate your enthusiasm for the NOOK. I think it is a good device. I’m just answering you in detail to get the facts out there for people who read these comments. There are good reasons to get the NOOK, and good reasons to get the Kindle. I never understand the desire some people have to make it one or the other…there is plenty of room for both, and in fact, some people have both. 🙂

      Thanks again for taking the time to write! Have fun reading!

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