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Nook vs. Kindle? Please help me choose.
March 20, 2012 12:22 PM   Subscribe

I am looking to purchase an e-ink reader... Been looking at the Kindle and Nook and I am having trouble deciding. One of my top priorities is that books I purchase not be lost in 3, 5 or 10 years down the road. Which device is most likely to be be future proof? I also have specific uses that I want it to work for such as being able to load PDFs of academic articles/books and access to the library (see extended explanation for more uses). Thanks for your help!

Heya!

I am looking to purchase an e-ink reader... Been looking at the Kindle and Nook and I am having trouble deciding. Here are a couple of things about my expected use and some questions:

* One of my top priorities is that books I purchase not be lost in 3, 5 or 10 years down the road. Which device has the best support for this and will be easy to export to a common format?
* I do not expect to purchase a lot of books. I will be using the library as well as free books that I can find on the internet so I want something that makes this easy.
* I have a lot of PDFs of academic journal articles and books. Which device will these be easiest to read on (and if possible, take notes on)?
* I own an Android phone as well as have an iPad from work. It is not necessary to sync with these but obviously a perk that Kindle seems to have over Nook.
* I use Read It Later/Instapaper a lot and I would like to be able to quickly take articles I find online and send them to the e-reader for later reading. I noticed this for Kindle but don't know how well it works or whether the Nook has something similar. Are there ways to do this on the nook?
* I travel internationally. I know the 3G version of one of the Kindles would allow free web browsing internationally. Is this still the case?
* I'm not against rooting a device. I have heard the Nook can be rooted but not sure if this buys me anything. Will this make any of the above easier/better?

Thanks so much for your help!
posted by D Wiz to Technology (43 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
* I do not expect to purchase a lot of books. I will be using the library as well as free books that I can find on the internet so I want something that makes this easy.

Nook. Side-loading .epubs and .pdfs onto a nook is ridiculously easy. You can load .epub files purchased or borrowed from anywhere without conversion. If you don't buy from the nook store, you'll have files in the most universal ebook format without DRM to take with you where ever you go. I've owned two nooks (first a classic, now a simple touch) and chose it for that reason. Have never regretted it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:28 PM on March 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'd go with the Kindle, specifically the Kindle Keyboard 3G. I owned one of the new Touch for a while but ended up sending it back and went with a Fire.
Anything you purchase from amazon will always be there and follow you around like a small puppy.
I also believe that they are ahead of the B&N Nook when it comes to having vendors and a system in place to borrow ebooks from your local library.
Regarding PDF's, they ARE readable on the Kindle mentioned above, I would just recommend trimming them (I use a free piece of software called Briss) so that you get more text and less wide margins.
I use Calibre to manage my extensive ebook/pdf/MOBI/ePub library and it works wonderfully with my Fire and I'm sure it will work with your Nook or Kindle as well.

Bon appetit!
posted by THAT William Mize at 12:32 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that if you are concerned about long-lasting book formats, you should look for readers that easily support the ePub format. It is basically just repackaged XHTML - it is a free and open format. I ended up getting the Sony Reader WiFi for this reason, although if you need 3G support, Sony Readers do not have that option. Sony Readers also handle PDFs very handily.

I would recommend investigating what service your library uses to lend eBooks. If it is OverDrive then both Kindle and the Sony Reader have native support for that - I don't know about the Nook.'

On-screen keyboards are going to be a hassle for long-form notetaking, so if that's important to you, I'd recommend a hardware keyboard.
posted by muddgirl at 12:35 PM on March 20, 2012


If your library can handle mobi files for the Kindle, then I'd recommend that. I have the Kindle 4 (non-touch), and I love it. I don't take notes with it, or use the wi-fi, it's just for reading, but it's great. I like the physical buttons for page flipping - I don't think the Touch has that (but the aforementioned kindle keyboard does). The keyboard, or touch would be the way to go for you, if you plan on taking notes. Inputting information on the non-touch Kindle is pretty bad.
posted by backwards guitar at 12:35 PM on March 20, 2012


Thanks!

Follow-up for both of you: How well do pdfs display when sideloading them? What if there are images or graphs in them?

@That William Mize- Why do you suggest the Kindle keyboard over the Kindle Touch?
posted by D Wiz at 12:35 PM on March 20, 2012


Kindle books are normally locked down with DRM. So, although I would expect a Kindle to be quite future-proof due to Amazon having such a hold on the e-book market, they're not so future-proof in the way you mean.

Technically, it is very easy to load a PDF onto your Kindle. You can email it or set up an extension/app on your computer to send automatically to Kindle. In practice though, I've found many PDFs are difficult to read on the Kindle- especially academic stuff which may be in smaller type - because the Kindle does not 'see' the text in a PDF- it's more like a picture. This means you can't resize the type in the way you can an ebook. You can zoom in and move around but it's a real pain. I don't know what a Nook is like for that, but if that's a primary reason you want an e-reader, I would not recommend the Kindle ( and I love my Kindle).
posted by KateViolet at 12:35 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, Overdrive ebooks are compatible with Nook.

Regarding touchscreen models - I got my mother a Kindle Touch for Christmas and I don't like the combo of e-ink display and touchscreen -- it's not as responsive as a table and the screen very jerkily re-draws with every interaction. It's not a deal breaker but I've decided that when I replace my Nook Color with an e-ink model I won't be getting a touchscreen version.
posted by trunk muffins at 12:39 PM on March 20, 2012


Technically, it is very easy to load a PDF onto your Kindle. You can email it or set up an extension/app on your computer to send automatically to Kindle. In practice though, I've found many PDFs are difficult to read on the Kindle- especially academic stuff which may be in smaller type - because the Kindle does not 'see' the text in a PDF- it's more like a picture. This means you can't resize the type in the way you can an ebook. You can zoom in and move around but it's a real pain. I don't know what a Nook is like for that, but if that's a primary reason you want an e-reader, I would not recommend the Kindle ( and I love my Kindle).

It sounds like sideloading pdfs on a nook is a bit easier than on a kindle. Everything except the B&N store (so purchased epubs, library-borrowed epubs, and pdfs) is managed through adobe digital editions. You add a pdf to your library, and then just plug in your nook and drag it into place.

However, the nook has the same problem with scaling as does the kindle.

Anything you purchase from amazon will always be there and follow you around like a small puppy.

In the past, amazon has deleted ebooks off of user's kindles. I don't know if this has happened more recently, but I've never heard of B&N doing this (and you're not locked into buying from the B&N store anyway with a nook).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:42 PM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


WTF? KateViolet says "Kindle Books are normally locked down with DRM."

I've owned a Kindle since the first generation. I have a much faster, newer one, as of this Christmas. Nothing I've ever bought has had one hint of DRM. Maybe it does exist, but it certainly isn't "normal".

If you want to keep a copy of purchased books, it is trivial to do so. Just hook your Kindle to your computer, and copy the files to your local hard drive. They'll be as impervious to loss as anything else on your system.

As far as 'future proofing goes", it is extraordinarily unlikely that we'll as a society lose the ability to parse or display HTML documents. That's all that Kindle e-books are, HTML with a couple extra tags. The "AZW" extension is nothing at all. It is still HTML, and will be readable with browsers, or converted to the latest-greatest via tools such as Calibre for *all time*.


Kindle, definitely.
posted by Invoke at 12:42 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you back stuff up with Calibre, either would be somewhat "future proof."

One thing Barnes and Noble offers that (as far as I know) isn't available with the Kindle is a two week money back trial.

As far as PDFs... They have to be side loaded, but it's a pretty easy process.
posted by drezdn at 12:43 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


A few notes based on my personal experience with a Kindle Keyboard:

The Kindle is a poor PDF reader: the screen is too small to comfortably read an A4 PDF document full screen & the PDF reading software doesn't understand the PDF text flow hints so it can't zoom into multicolumn text in a sane fashion.

If you want longevity from your books, you're probably going to have to break the DRM on any books you buy regardless.

The Send-to-Kindle from Readability or Instapaper works fairly well in my experience, but you'll have to pay for the data if you use the 3G connection to sync the documents from Amazon. If you're usually around wi-fi (or are happy syncing when you have access to wi-fi) then the data transfer is free.

The Kindle is essentially a highly optimised novel buying & reading device, which also happens to be easy to send other documents to thanks to Amazon's syncing service. It's not so good at reading PDFs or academic books in my experience, or any books which rely to any extent on diagrams, layout or graphic design.
posted by pharm at 12:43 PM on March 20, 2012


@D Wiz: I recommended the Kindle Keyboard due to the fact that you wanted to do a lot of web browsing and using the Touch's keyboard was a PITA and I thought that an actual keyboard would suit you better for typing in webpages, etc.
posted by THAT William Mize at 12:51 PM on March 20, 2012


I've owned a Kindle since the first generation. I have a much faster, newer one, as of this Christmas. Nothing I've ever bought has had one hint of DRM. Maybe it does exist, but it certainly isn't "normal".

Really? I assumed that was why I couldn't open any of the books on my replacement Kindle that I had transferred via PC rather than re-downloading from the Amazon store.
posted by KateViolet at 12:53 PM on March 20, 2012


What about rooting? Will this give me access to better PDF viewing or instapaper access?

Also, there seem to be a couple people here saying they don't like Touch e-ink readers. Is there anyone here who likes theirs?
posted by D Wiz at 12:53 PM on March 20, 2012


Anyone who categorically says "You should choose the e-reader that I have chosen" is overreaching. Sure, Kindle people like their Kindles, and Nook people like their Nooks. For your purposes, either one (or a Sony or something else) will work.

Amazon's ebook format (AZW) is likely to remain current as long as Amazon exists, but it is a proprietary format which only works on Kindles unless you use a third party application (like Calibre) to crack each one and convert it to something more universal.

The nook uses the industry standard epub format, which is also likely to remain current into the foreseeable future.

Regarding the Overdrive service which many US public libraries are using: any ebook reader is compatible. The Kindle has an advantage here because the checkout process can be done in any web browser on any device, with Amazon simply beaming the book to your Kindle the next time you refresh it. The nook requires you to download the library book to your PC/Mac, then transfer it to your nook via Adobe Digital Editions and USB, which can be daunting for less savvy users.
posted by General Tonic at 12:53 PM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, there seem to be a couple people here saying they don't like Touch e-ink readers. Is there anyone here who likes theirs?

I like my nook simple touch. It's very responsive. (Sometimes a little too responsive, like when my cat steps on the screen and turns it a bunch of pages ahead.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:56 PM on March 20, 2012


I had a similar set of requirements when buying an e-ink reader a year ago. No phone/Instapaper synchronizing, though. In the end, I went for Pocketbook Pro 902. Big screen. Loading books means plugging it into USB and copy-pasting from my hard drive. Support for all kinds of formats. (PDF support is very good.) Wi-Fi support. But I must say if you want to do any browsing at all, it'd be better to get a touch screen version like 903.

In my experience, smaller screens are ok for novels and short articles, but for anything academic or with illustrations, you really need a big screen like Kindle DX or anything close to A4 format.
posted by gakiko at 12:58 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've owned a Kindle since the first generation. I have a much faster, newer one, as of this Christmas. Nothing I've ever bought has had one hint of DRM. Maybe it does exist, but it certainly isn't "normal".

Yeah, the DRM is there, it's just not obtrusive if all you do with your books is download them from Amazon and read them, or send them to other devices registered with your account. Your Amazon books are permanently linked to your Amazon account, you don't get to resell or give them away to friends unless you un-DRM them (which is easy to do with Calibre).

As for the touch screens, I used my Kindle touch for a few weeks before returning it for the 'regular' one. The touch screens are just a bit laggy for my tastes, and I liked the physical buttons on the side of the screen to turn the page. I imagine in another generation or two the touch screen performance will be much better.

I don't think you really need to worry about future proofing too much. Your books will be available, you can pretty easily convert one format to another and remove any DRM as you please with Calibre. I'd play around with the various brands and models, choose whichever one gives you the most pleasant user experience. You can't really go wrong.
posted by skewed at 12:58 PM on March 20, 2012


Amazon allows publishers to specify if the book is DRMed or not. Some do, some don't. It's not a huge deal, as the Amazon DRM is relatively easy to crack, but it does take some fiddling. The only real holdout is the Apple ibook, which has proved very resistant to removal of DRM. That's the only format you really need to avoid. Calibre can interconvert most of the others.
posted by bonehead at 1:00 PM on March 20, 2012


One of my top priorities is that books I purchase not be lost in 3, 5 or 10 years down the road. Which device has the best support for this and will be easy to export to a common format?

The difference between expectation of loss or not is whether or not it's DRM-ed. There are straightforward converters for un-DRM-ed epub to mobi (Kindle's format) and vice-versa. We can expect there to continue to be converters from either of these to any future open un-DRM-ed standard.

If this is your priority, you should either not buy DRM-ed books, or strip the DRM (illegal in the U.S. and probably most places, so it'll continue to be less than straightforward), and have a sound backup strategy. If you have DRM-ed epubs or mobis, I think it's a toss-up whether it'll be easy to access them in 10 years; I don't think either offers an advantage over the other in this regard.

I have a lot of PDFs of academic journal articles and books. Which device will these be easiest to read on (and if possible, take notes on)?

I've yet to have a good experience with a PDF sized for 8.5"x11" on my 6"-screen Nook, and wouldn't expect much different from anything the same size. I've heard reports of people successfully converting PDFs to be acceptable, and I guess it must be possible with some PDFs featuring only single-column of running text, but I've given up. If PDFs are a priority, I'd definitely consider getting a tablet instead of an e-reader.
posted by Zed at 1:00 PM on March 20, 2012


Maybe I'm not understanding something, but in my experience it's easy to put PDFs on my Kindle. I plug the Kindle into my Mac and drag the file to the Kindle. The same goes for the file that Instapaper creates -- I download it from Instapaper to my Mac and drag it onto the Kindle.

However, it is a pain to read PDFs for all the reasons mentioned.
posted by ceiba at 1:01 PM on March 20, 2012


Yes, Overdrive ebooks are compatible with Nook.

Sorry, I know the Nook can read ePubs. What I don't know is if Nooks are set up to access OverDrive the way Sony Readers and Kindles are - OverDrive is one of the buttons on my home screen (so it downloads automatically if I have Wifi access). Kindle is even easier.

Also, there seem to be a couple people here saying they don't like Touch e-ink readers. Is there anyone here who likes theirs?

The Sony touchscreen is similar to the Touch. It does do a jerky flash thing when I scroll around, but I have gotten used to it. I like the capability of having Hold-Touch context menus. For web browsing (like accessing Overdrive) I like being able to 'click' on links the way one can in a regular browser. Page turning is very intuitive (but the Sony Reader also has buttons).

I think it comes down to a trade-off between how easy a Kindle is to use vs. how open most other eReaders are.
posted by muddgirl at 1:01 PM on March 20, 2012


(Also totally agreeing that if you want awesome PDF support, an e-ink reader is not going to cut it - it just won't have the resolution IME).
posted by muddgirl at 1:03 PM on March 20, 2012


When converting back and forth between different formats in Calibre, is any information lost or does anything stop working? Meaning, if I buy a Kindle and then want to convert a book to epub format, does that mess anything up?
posted by D Wiz at 1:04 PM on March 20, 2012


I own an Android phone as well as have an iPad from work. It is not necessary to sync with these but obviously a perk that Kindle seems to have over Nook.

... how so? We have an iPad, an iPhone, and Android phone, and two Nook Colors, one rooted and running CM7. We read the same Nook books on all of them.

And of course all Kindle and Nook books have DRM. That's what prevents you from pulling the books off the e-reader and sending them to your friends. If you didn't see a hint of DRM, then you probably didn't try doing that. FWIW, Kindle DRM is rather easily broken with free software.

Nook's DRM can be broken, but B&N cleverly generates the encryption key from your name and credit card number, so you have to be comfortable entering this information into sketchy software.
posted by kindall at 1:04 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


@kindall- I didn't realize that Nook had an app also. I only knew about Kindle's. Thanks for pointing that out!
posted by D Wiz at 1:07 PM on March 20, 2012


Is there anyone here who likes theirs?

I have no qualms with the touch screen on the Nook Simple Touch, except, like PhoBWanKenobi, when my cat steps on it and turns my page. Typing might not be as fast as a keyboard, but I only use my simple touch to read things.

To load overdrive content into a Nook, you'd need to side load it.

The Nook can sync with iOS devices, I've done it with both my wife's ipad and my ipod. Not sure on android devices. I would think so, as the Nook itself runs android.
posted by drezdn at 1:09 PM on March 20, 2012


Given your requirement of PDFs from journals, I'd suggest a iPad or another ~10" tablet. The screens are big enough to read pages formatted with a multi column layout without lots of fiddly scrolling. For what it is worth, the resolution on the iPad 3s screen makes even small text look awesome, and, I believe is better than the resolution on any eInk displays.

An iPad can run the Kindle and Nook apps, if you buy from either of those stores, and there are multiple options for viewing PDFs and other ebook formats, including iBooks, which supports PDF and ePub.

Any ebook you buy has the potential to be encumbered with DRM. I think it is quite likely that you'll still be able to read books with Amazon or B&Ns DRM scheme in a decade, but the safe thing to do is either seek out stuff sold without DRM, or find a tool that lets you strip the DRM after purchase (which may or may not be legal in your juristiction) so you can set a copy aside.
posted by Good Brain at 1:20 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have rooted my Nook, and what it buys me is that I can download Kindle app on it and read Kindle books. So: two-in-one e-reader.

Downside: you can't launch the app from Nook directly. You have to launch it from your computer; but you only have to do it after you reboot the Nook (so, for instance, every time you let the battery die). But as long as the Nook is re-charged before the battery dies completely, you can get to the Kindle app by searching for your Kindle books on it.

It displays PDFs all right, but I don't think it's any better at it than Kindle. But I can download a better PDF reader app (ezPDF, I think), so I'd try that.

However, the consensus seems to be that e-ink readers will not be the best at displaying PDFs in general. You might want a tablet for that.
posted by Ender's Friend at 1:30 PM on March 20, 2012


Whether PDFs are easily readable on an e-ink reader is determined by the way the PDF was created.

I. Some PDFs are just a series of images. You may or may not be able to zoom on the image, but you will not have a good experience with such simple scanned PDF documents on a small screen, because there is no 'real' text there.

II. Some PDFs are a series of scanned images, but also include a text file. On an e-ink reader these typically display the entire scanned PDF image when using normal/medium zoom, then switch to inline text when you zoom in. These are great.

III. Some PDFs include page images and text, as described above, but with a catch. Especially with antique titles found in Project Gutenberg, Google Books, etc, nobody has gone through the hundreds of scanned pages and checked for errors. Letters such as 'i' can become 'r', '5' becomes 's', and a piece of flannel stuck to the page since 1911 becomes 'gn99.'
posted by General Tonic at 1:32 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you use calibre, you can set up instapaper as a custom news source and easily download articles you've saved and then upload them to the nook; I haven't done it in a while but I had it set up at one point and it worked without a problem.

I chose a nook over a kindle because you can expand the memory, and you can change the battery yourself. With calibre, file formats aren't an issue, so that took away any advantage that the kindle/amazon connection might give; if I want something on amazon, I can get it and convert it and put it right on my nook.
posted by lemniskate at 1:49 PM on March 20, 2012


Here's an article reviewing/comparing the Kindle 4, Kobo Touch, and Nook Simple Touch:

Kindle Touch compared to Nook Simple Touch, Kobo Touch, and Kindle 4
posted by backwards guitar at 1:50 PM on March 20, 2012


I found the Nook touch has smoother redraw when you turn a page, it all seems to happen smoother. If you are wanting to view PDFs you might want to look into something that isn't eink To be honest there isn't as much between them as people like to make out. I went with a Nook touch because I like the feel of it in my hand, it can read a lot more formats and a lot less DRM bs to hassle with, though they can be easily hacked and I liked being able to expand the memory. You can download books internationally if you have an account in the US with the Nook, though sometimes it wont work over wifi and you need to do a work around via a computer and a USB cable.

They both link with ios stuff, they both keep copies of the book in the cloud for you to redownload if needed. Barnes and Nobles have bricks and mortar stores if you have questions which I've found useful. All have apps for other appliances so you can read your book on your phone or computer.

It's really not an apples and oranges comparison but a case of do you like Red Delicious or Granny Smiths.
posted by wwax at 1:59 PM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


So do both Nook and Amazon, sync your content wirelessly via Wifi? Or do you need to connect via USB? Does it keep copies of all books in the cloud or only copies of books I buy through Amazon/B&N? (Sounded like Library books on Nook don't sync wirelessly but wasn't sure if that is true for other books.)
posted by D Wiz at 2:05 PM on March 20, 2012


Nook syncs any of your BN purchased content wirelessly, and keeps it in the cloud. Anything not purchased through them is up to you to keep sync'd.
posted by drezdn at 2:19 PM on March 20, 2012


I have a Kindle, and books -- both ones I buy from Amazon and ones I get from the library -- sync via wifi like magic. I've never connected it to the USB other than to recharge it when I couldn't find the right doohickey for plugging it straight into the wall.

Amazon's archive has all the articles I e-mail myself using Longform (to find articles) and Readability's browser add-on (to send them).

I don't know one way or the other about the Nook.

I should mention that Mr. Corpse works for Amazon.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:21 PM on March 20, 2012


I have a kindle keyboard. I love love love it for pleasure reading, but it is crap for academic journal PDFs. The two-column format just does not work correctly. If you're in a field that doesn't have images, you could convert the PDFs using calibre, then any ebook will read them, but I'm in science and that doesn't help me.
posted by zug at 2:43 PM on March 20, 2012


One of my classmates has a nook which he uses for journals. The text looks way too small for my eyes, maybe a 4pt or 6pt font, but he likes it well enough. Perhaps you would too if your eyes were sharp.
posted by zug at 2:44 PM on March 20, 2012


I have been so sorry that I did not wait. I bought a kindle that I love but a month later read this article on Lifehacker and keep thinking I should have waited. The article shows how to root a nook touch into a tablet that will let you load and use the kindle app. This feature may not last forever as a forced update of the nook touch or the kindle software could break this function.
posted by dstopps at 4:32 PM on March 20, 2012


My Xoom is great for PDF files with images, charts, tables, text, etc., and my nook is great for novels, news, general book-reading. The other way around, not so much. But Calibre is really the key to an optimal experience, either with the nook or Kindle. It's excellent for converting, reformatting, changing fonts, pulling custom news sources, basically giving you ultimate control over the files.
posted by notashroom at 6:29 PM on March 20, 2012


I love my Kobo Touch for reading epubs, but PDFs are annoying to read. The text is too small to read a page at a time, but the refresh is too slow for zooming in and around.

an academic friend bought a kindle DX to try to get around the screen size problem. She's in a field that publishes trade-paperback sized journals, so it's working for her, but 8x11 journals (like most in science) still don't display well, since even the kindle DX is smaller.
posted by jb at 10:06 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks everyone for all the great answers! One or two additional questions:

* When converting from Amazon to epub or vice versa, does anything break? Do all functionality, menus and formatting work after the conversion or does it lose anything?

* Has anyone traveled abroad with the Kindle 3G and been able to browse the internet for free over 3G? I have heard this used to work but the only reference I can find is on a British site and am wondering if it works this way on the US Kindle too?
posted by D Wiz at 1:50 PM on March 22, 2012


Converting from mobi to ePub sometimes formats the text a bit oddly. Other times it is flawless.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:47 PM on March 22, 2012


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