Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Video Comparison of 4 E-readers + another Nook and Kindle Face-off

Len Edgerly's whimsically titled Wolf Hall Tournament of Ereaders video is a comparison of features and functioning of four e-readers and is the newest feature at his The Reading Edge site, which has interesting reports and interviews in connection with the many e-readers available currently.  Here's the direct link to Len's blog report with embedded video.

 To get the larger version of the video, click on the top left image or the link at the left.

 Len loves e-readers and buys them to try them out, not waiting for review copies.  In this case, he also bought 4 copies of the "Wolf Hall" book because the alleged 'standard' of ePub between books with digital-rights-management added to the book files is not quite standard yet.  Nooks can read Sony books sometimes but not vice versa, Adobe holds the DRM reins, and the book vendors tend to add something a bit different to theirs.  Despite talking to customer support at a couple of e-book stores, there was no support given to Len for using other vendors' files on the e-readers.

The 4 e-readers reviewed for effectiveness of functions are the Sony Pocket Reader, the Kobo Reader, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and the Amazon Kindle 2.   The Sony PRS-600 has known glare and contrast issues due to an additional layer for a touch screen, and Len did not keep his, so it's not included.  Also, it doesn't have wireless at all, for the higher price.  The Sony Pocket Reader and the Kobo are on a more equal level as they both have no wireless to speak of and no basic study features such as inline-dictionary, searches for a character, highlighting or notes.   The Sony Pocket reader has long been popular for its "pocket"ability and easy-to-read contrast-ratio, but the Kobo has a slightly larger screen.

Seldom do online gadget reviews go into how the advertised features actually function and even tend to not mention basic ones like the dictionary, search, and annotations many like to use with an e-reader.  The few I have seen that do discuss functioning include the recent Laptop Magazine report on the Kindle DX Graphite and one on Sony readers by Willson Rothman of Gizmodo.
  A favorite for its description of how Kindle features work, in general, is by, done for the Kindle 2, which Len uses for the video comparison.  And there's one by Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica actually describing how the new software update's features work.

  That's especially what I like about the video.  Len lists features important to him and shows HOW each is implemented on the two e-book readers that have screens unimpeded by an extra layer of glass and which happen to be the two leading e-readers in sales today -- the Nook and the Kindle 2.

  There'll be a new Nook soon (Nook 2 and the new Kindle 3 (and UK Kindle 3) in late August.  We know what the Kindle 3 will have but have no idea what the new Nook 2 features will be.  In this video, you'll see how each handles (1) dictionary look-ups, (2) searches for a character's name or mentions in a book, and (3) highlighting and note-taking as well as how to find a highlight or note you made.

  These are key differences and most reviewers have not gone into the functioning of these features vs other e-book readers at all.  So Len has done quite a service here.   It's 28.5 minutes long, so set aside some time to watch it if you're curious about the differences between these models.

  The one thing I'd like in the future is Len using a tripod behind him and showing the full model or full screen as he shows the functioning, because the close-ups can take you out of context, and often the video-camera doesn't focus fast enough when going close-up anyway.  The actual words are not as important as the actions with the screen and sometimes keyboard in full view. Closeups could be added as needed later.

  But I've seen no one else do such a clear comparison of book readers before, showing how features are implemented on each.  And Len Edgerly's presentation is devoid of the 'seller' characteristics you often see with video reports.  He likes what he likes, with reasons given, and is enthusiastic, but he's also fair-minded and open and an e-reader/gadget addict who cannot have enough of them :-).

  The surprise for many is usually the password-protected, private webpage we have at Amazon (if we approve server backup of our annotations) that shows all our highlighting and notes for each book we download from Amazon, in chronological order and copyable to a text file so we can edit the notes in a separate document, and of course is printable.
  It's really an amazingly helpful private webpage which I never saw mentioned in college pilot studies feedback.  In fact, students in those studies reported difficulty with just highlighting (which I find easy to do).  What i like is you can UNhighlight too :-), something hard to do with a physical book.  But notes typed in are slow-going with that keyboard.  However, I prefer it to a hard, flat-surfaced virtual one.

  Now that the annotations webpage has been modified by Amazon to include the Facebook and Twitter features, I should add that the most useful first page there is the one listing your books, showing which ones have or don't have annotations, etc.  Here's a sample of a page showing a selected book and annotations for it.

Len has written about the Wolf Hall video in conversations on Twitter and in comments at Youtube and feels he should have mentioned the Nook's "Lend me" feature, which is better than no lending feature but, if the publisher allows the feature, the loan of a Nook book is restricted to one loan ever, for each book, for 2 weeks max.

  Kindlers compare that with how the account-sharing plan is implemented at Amazon, in which a book can be shared among 6 devices on an account, with no mention of 'household' or 'family.'  Kindle Customer support helps with the how's of registration and deregistation of other individuals' Kindles on your account, and many spouses use the feature, so that one book can be read at the same time by both for one purchase.  One would have to put a lot of trust in anyone who uses that account as the account owner is responsible for all the charges.  There is a long-running Amazon Kindle forum thread on how Kindle-owners use the feature.

  Where the Nook and Kobo shine is the ability to borrow public library e-books - a rich feature for a city with a large collection of these (New York City) but less exciting in many other areas.  Check with your local library.  I wish Amazon had the fortitude to work out arrangements with libraries.
  That's a primary factor for some, but if it's not very important on a personal level then how an e-reader works will be key.  And Len's video will give you a very good idea.

E-reader Faceoff: Kindle or Nook? Here's a Written Comparison
Also appearing last night is a short article by Mark W. Smith for Free Press (  An excerpt:
' The big difference here is the Nook's small color touch screen at the bottom of the device. The Kindle features a physical keyboard and a handy five-way rocker button for navigation. The Nook's color touch screen is nice, but the navigation can feel disjointed as you touch one screen to move the cursor on another. And the bright color display can be distracting while you read. '
He has good advice on choosing wireless options and lists unique advantages of each e-reader over the other.

Kindle 3   (UK: Kindle 3),   DX Graphite

Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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  1. Len's stuff is always very good, and this one is as well. I will say, though, that the Text to Speech test was a red herring, since he knows that the nook doesn't do TTS. He could just as easily done a test for a library loan, which, as we know, Kindle does not support.

    As you state above, his detailed steps in search, dictionarfy etc were really revealing.

    B & N better step it up for nook 2, or they will be left behind. Do we know if it is going to have the pearl screen?
    Rick Askenase

  2. Rick,
    E-Ink said it had several sizes ready to go and it serves all the e-Ink e-reader vendors, so I've little doubt that the new Nook -will- have the Pearl screen, but I don't know.

    Having played with the Nook twice for a half hour each time, trying my favorite features (dictionary, search and the web), it just had too many steps for me.

    And the Nook forum has had many notes on how it is difficult to find your annotations once you make them -- you do have to go TO them to 'find' them. If they fix that and the dictionary and search routine, they'll really give the Kindle a run for the money.

    Even then, the Free 3G for some web browsing here and in many countries now and with the new Webkit-based browser doesn't have an equivalent in any other e-reader.

  3. Andrys, thanks for this terrific review of my video! I agree that Amazon's sharing feature is a lot more significant than LendMe on the nook. Rick, I agree that the last test was weak. I wish I'd kept the tests to four, or maybe I could have had a final section specifying features that exist only on one or the other device.

  4. My sister works at a library where they have several Kindles preloaded with content that can be loaned out like a book (after de-registering them..). I think it is a great way to leverage the convenience of ebooks for all library patrons, not just the ones who happen to own hitherto-expensive ebook readers of their own. It seems like it is more flexible, simpler to manage, and less costly than solutions like OverDrive. Any ereader could work, but I think Kindles are probably best because its sharing mechanism is so transparent at least when DRM is involved.

  5. Len, you can do a Part 1 of Two title-renaming (URL stays the same) and then link to your Part 2 since you wouldn't want to add to the video (which is easy enough) because of loss of stats at youtube.

    That's a great idea to do the unique features of each.

    As Tom says, more and more libraries are loaning out Kindles now and they can't keep them in stock. I recently did a story on one and then saw an article on yet another one. The Overdrive-loaning collections at libraries is a big plus in some cities but almost barren in other cities, per many from forum reports.

    I'd still love it if Amazon could work out a deal with libraries and loaning of ebooks that wouldn't be harmful to their bottom line (now that the devices are practically at a non-profit level and after this year "Agency" book prices will probably be evaluated for publisher profits, which will be less than they did earlier).

    The device-sharing thing is offered by most but much more rigidly implemented at most places. Nevertheless whole families are getting Kindles and winding up getting their own accounts to buy their own copies of books often due to differing personal tastes. All this is encouraging more book reading and buying as we can see in the rise of e-book sales, which keep outdoing estimates.

  6. OverDrive claims that library lending (at least in their ecosystem) actually drives sales:

    (from an excellent blog on library trends,

    I tend to believe them. Otherwise publishers would be reluctant to sign on.

  7. Tom,
    I believe it does if the book is liked and people talk to their friends about what they read. I guess for Amazon folks it would be a matter of that against how many would would have bought it but get those from the library.

    I think it's more a matter of being dependent on Adobe's DRM licensing process, as they are a competing company in some ways.

  8. Tom,
    I think that when one company provides the licensing wherewithall to all the others, for a fee, it can get to seem like a protection racket to some :-)


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