Monday, June 20, 2011

Kindle news - 6/20 Nook Touch vs K3. Software hack


MOBILE TECH REVIEW posted an announcement and description of its usual, very thorough video comparison of e-readers, this time of the Nook Simple Touch vs the Kindle 3.  The video takes almost half-hour to view because they go through all the features for each e-reader, comparing their pro's and con's.  They explain that they look at these elements:

  . books,
  . highlighting
  . the dictionary
  . PDF support
  . buying books
  . text clarity   (not a small thing, w/ Pearl screen capabilities)
  . reading features.

Their full written review will follow next week.  This was of interest to me because I hadn't seen any other news-site "reviews" yet that paid attention to anything but the TouchScreen interface, and -- while it is the key factor for many people because it does make navigation easier -- the effectiveness of an e-reader for people who read many books and periodicals is a lot more than that.

 It seems that many who look mainly at hardware don't pay attention to the other 4/5ths of a user's guide that will deal with the many reader options and explain the functioning of features that are very useful for book clubs and for classes but also for people who like to make notes about their reading or who like to look up more info while they're reading, with the ability to get back to that page with the press of a Back button.

  That your highlighting and notes can be easily lost without backup beyond the device's dependence on what happens with an e-book (accidental or premature deletion) and the lack of a method for transfering those notes to your computer (for use with a text editor or for printing or just for backup) is getting too 'simple' for my tastes.  But Amazon's 'cloud' has provided these capabilities for 4 years.  Beyond this, they added an extra copy of your web-readable annotations in a Kindle owner's private Amazon web page, organized by book.

The video review is at YouTube but can also be seen at MobileTechReview's forum.  (Those using Kindle blog-editions to read this can't run videos of course.)

The feedback at YouTube is mainly happiness at how thorough the reviewers are and there's little of the blind-siding with either device because the review goes into so much detail.  I did see there, and at, that viewers of the video report end up discussing the merits of each without just going into the side-taking that's normally seen.

CONSUMER REPORTS also posted their results of a review of the Nook Simple Touch (NST) and the Kindle 3 (K3).  The new Nook "beat" the Kindle 3G model by 1 point, though the Touch capability is a strong factor.  So one can wonder how it did in other areas.

But to an extent, it makes sense that the Touch Screen makes the difference and the other factors are less important (especially when they're not mentioned).

  Oddly enough, CR stresses that the new Nook is "emulating Amazon's focus on reading with minimal fuss and extra features and adds, "The Simple Touch drops those bells and whistles and the second screen.  As a result, it (like the Kindle) successfully "gets out of the way and disappears and lets you get on with your reading..."

That is bizarre because the Kindle 3 has a plethora of very useful features that the Nook has dropped from what it put into its original Nook Classic a year ago or that it never had at all.  Consumer Reports is normally known for looking at a myriad of features that, together, make a product what it is, but in this case they looked mainly at the type of navigational control, as if just driving a car a certain way would be the sole concern while not caring how the car functions along the way when there are several things you hope it will do well if at all. [Edited to correct a word choice.]

  In this case a car radio would be an unnecessary extra feature (the Nook dropped its mp3 player and ALL audio and has no speakers), and while its original Nook Classic had a GPS-like unit that would guide you to various web sites and allow you to download books from other stores, that is not functioning in this model, at least, and B&N shows it (the web browser) as non-existent, mainly because it fails at doing the most basic things and is therefore hidden.

  For one thing a web browser, while you're reading, can take you to a library (Wikipedia or Google) for more info on a subject.  One of the features that the Kindle allows free via normally-expensive 3G cell phone networks, in 100 countries, is access to Wikipedia FROM the page you are reading, for a search word or phrase.

  For students of any age, that free, 3G cell phone network access to Wikipedia (or Google) is no small feature, and it's been present since 2007 on the Kindle.  I've little doubt that if other e-Ink readers gave customers this feature for no add'l charge via 3G, a review would heap praise on it and not consider it not worth a mention.

  But the Nook is US only, for purchasing Nook books, so is relatively limited and that's not particularly known either.

For those interested in the actual features that were made for people who love to read, see both my Features-Comparison and, for sure, the MobileTechReview video of the features of both e-readers, as it's a very balanced report, giving credit to each where due.

  The depth of the look via that video means there is less hype over just one product feature and less reliance on weight to today's library-lending when Agreements have been announced that the Kindle will be participating in that but, unlike most ereaders, there'll be no additional software to be downloaded or required, and the borrowed books will be delivered over Wifi without the arduous Adobe 3 DRM rights-protection method that requires using a computer and an extra piece of software to do the library borrowing.  However, Amazon came from behind on that one and since it's not ready as of today, that's fair game.

Here's the interesting reaction by the Mobile Read forum crowd to the Consumer Reports evaluation.  It's of interest because it's not a group wedded to any particular e-reader but they are a tough, knowledgable crowd.

First, I'm not recommending that anyone reading try this, since it not only violates the usual Terms of Agreement but it is also not a piece of cake for most and you could wind up with a non-working Kindle instead of an improved one.

  I just came across PC World's story about a software patch that opens up older Kindles to new features such as enhanced PDF support and better web browsing.  See the PC World story by Chris Brandrick for the details.

  More than anything, it's a strong sign that Amazon is long overdue on providing a software update for its Kindle 2 and DX models but especially for the expensive DX Graphite (which has the Pearl screen capability that the Kindle 3 has and was released only a couple of months before the Kindle 3).  The natives are restless.

Ad Age's Simon Dumenco writes an entertaining story about what has happened in the e-reader world since Steve Jobs originally told the NY Times's John Markoff that the Amazon Kindle was doomed because "It doesn't matter how good or bad the product is," he'd said. "The fact is that people don't read anymore.  Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.  The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don't read anymore."

  While he provided a tablet for web-browsing, video watching, and games, it also allows the unusual reading-users an area also.   And now, Dumenco adds, "the next version of the iPad operating system, iOS 5, will finally have a unified home for all your iPad newspaper and magazine subscriptions: something called Newsstand."

The Bookseller's Lisa Campbell reports that John Locke is the first self-published author to join what Amazon has dubbed the Kindle Million Club.  Here's his Amazon page.

For daily free ebooks, check the following links:
Temporarily-free books -
- USA: by:
NEW:  Apr  May  June 2011
   Publication Date   Late-listed
   Bestselling   High-ratings

UK: PubDate   Popular
What is 3G? and "WiFi"?       Battery Care
Highly-rated under $1,  Newest: $1-$2, $2-$3
Most Popular Free K-Books
U.S. & Int'l (NOT UK):
   Top 100 free
   Top 100 free
USEFUL for your Kindle (U.S. only, currently):
  99c Notepad 1.1,   99c Calculator,
  99c Calendar,   99c Converter

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's)   K3 Special ($114)   K3-3G Special ($164)   DX Graphite

Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

Send to Kindle

(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
If interested, you can also follow my add'l blog-related news at Facebook and Twitter
Questions & feedback are welcome in the Comment areas (tho' spam is deleted). Thanks!


  1. "... the ability to get back to that page with the press of a Back button."

    That's important. If the Nook lacks it, it's something an owner (though not a reviewer) would feel the lack of.

    "... the Kindle allows ... access to Wikipedia FROM the page you are reading, for a search word or phrase."

    In combination with the Back button, that should score points with a thorough reviewer.

    "... the Kindle 3 has a plethora of very useful features that the Nook has dropped from what it put into its original Nook Classic a year ago or that it never had at all. Consumer Reports is normally known for looking at a myriad of features that comprise [sic] a product, but in this case they looked mainly at the type of navigational control, as if just driving a car a certain way but not caring how the car functions along the way when there are several things you hope it will do well if at all."

    I agree 100%. (Except that "comprise" should be "constitute.")

  2. Roger,
    They do mention Wikipedia access but they don't tell people how easy it is to look up a word on the page, in Wikipedia while reading.

    Normally, when you're on a page, you can just start typing the word or phrase of interest, then use the 5-way to right-arrow over to Wiki or to Google, but Wiki results are more apt to be in more mobile-device format than Google's.

    Then when you're through reading, the Back button will get you back on the page you were reading before the jump. The Back button igets you back from a 'jump,' and by that they mean a hyperlink.

    The undocumented way is to highlight the word or phrase and then press the spacebar and the word or phrase will be copied to the searchbar which, in the Kindle 3, is actually more like a BOX with umpteen options. Go to the bottom and right-arrow over and Wiki is an option.

    That it's free on 3G in 100 countries has hardly ever been highlighted by reviewers. Most obviously don't browse the user guide when they do the reviews.

    Thanks for that correction! Will correct that.

  3. I agree with you that it's nice to see a review that goes beyond the hardware, which this does. I thought the video comparison was overall quite fair at pointing out the similarities and differences, with one exception:

    When discussing customer service, she did not mention that you can walk into any Barnes and Noble store and get help with the Nook. While some people don't mind hunting through forums and manuals, others prefer talking to a live person. I do a combination of both, and have been impressed with the knowledge and enthusiasm of staff at my local Barnes and Noble.

    Also interesting to me is that after watching this video for half an hour, I still had unanswered questions. Which just goes to show that comparing e-readers is quite hard because you never know which specific feature is important to someone. Examples of features important to me that weren't covered:

    1) Which has the better average quality of book in their respective stores? (I don't know the answer to this, though I can say that I have not yet found a free Google scanned book on the Nook that was good enough for me to read after 10 tries)

    2) Which makes it easier to get free content from places like feedbooks and mobipocket (The answer to this one is Kindle. The Nook can not wireless download books apart from the Nook store, and the computer/USB method is somewhat cumbersome in comparison)

    Maybe few people care about these two points as I see they are rarely covered in reviews. But in general, it's hard to know what a person will care about most, and therefore which device they will prefer.

  4. Joe, Google Blogger put this last note into the spam folder for no reason I understand and I just went through it, so that's why the delay.

    You've been lucky. I've heard other stories, on the Nook forums (have you gone there lately? I do, a lot because of my NookColor), and my own experience is that a person trained in the details is not there when I go in.

    And when one was, I heard wrong info being given, such as yes, they could buy Nook books from B&N while on vacation in Europe. Absolutely not.

    But the last time I was there, a very nice staff rep looked at my NC's inability to keep a B&N connection and said it should, went to the store server and rebooted it. I was impressed.

    A desk guy a few minutes before her (she wasn't desk rep but he'd gone home 20 minutes later), when I tried to show him a large white splotch that doesn't leave my NookColor screen, said "Wouldn't we all like a perfect world?")

    But I know my warranty should be good for a year so I decided not to let him get to me. In the meantime I read on their forums that the white hotspots are happening to others too.

    I actually would not consider the B&N desk peopled by "real people" 1/3 as good as the phone support by Amazon 24/7. Some time in the Nook forums and stories about others' experiences will give you an idea.
    See NookColor Support forums and NookColor Forums

    Here are daily-changing results for Google searches on Nook customer service and Kindle customser service for what others experience.

    Sales staff at B&N are good, but questions about things that go wrong, not so. Basics of operating a Nook, yes, a desk rep can generally show you the very basics. But I understand why CR could not go into this.

    While it's hard to know what an individual will want from an e-reader, there should be comparisons on the Basics AND on the advanced features and people can decide on their own.

    I think a good number of people just want to read on it, but if you show them what else is possible with the Kindle, they love it. But it isn't "needed" stuff generally speaking -- however, it's thoughtful programming on added functioning that makes the device more valuable to those who -would- use the added features.

    The answer is to do get as much info as they can. My one features-comparison mentions the inability of the NT to download books from other stores, and your comments give your own experiences.
    People should read many reviews, comparisons and ALSO read the real life experiences of those commenting back...

  5. Thanks for your comments, and the heads up about the spam filter.

    Guess I've been lucky with my Barnes and Noble store - though I will say that out of the 5 or 6 people I've seen there behind the desk, 3 have stood out as exceptionally good while the others, not so good. Example of a solved problem:

    I was not able to look at all books in-store at first. 2 of the 3 best reps were there at the time. They first looked at their own Nook to make sure the server was up. They played around with mine. We did a reboot. Then they asked questions about my Barnes and Noble account that I had linked to. When I told them I hadn't ordered anything online for years, they said it was probably an out-of-date credit card. Problem solved, after I updated all my online Barnes and Noble information.

    And that, by the way, is another minor Nook software shortcoming. I got virtually no information about why the Nook was not able to view in-store books. It should have told me that my online account information is out of date or something similar.

    Another positive story: I had trouble with touch responsiveness at first. One of the 3 good reps not only gave me tips as to the best way to touch the screen (light touches), but also explained that touch was heat-based. So temperature fluctuations can impact performance. For example, if you're in a hot room, the temperature of the Nook is not much different than the temperature of your fingers, so the screen becomes much less responsive.

    As I mentioned on a prior comment, I plan to review the Nook. And you may recall the level of detail I went into on my Kindle 2 and iPod touch reviews for various types of reading material. I'm feeling overwhelmed by the amount of Detail I'm accumulating on the Nook, and don't know if I'll ever finish the review.

  6. I'm really enjoying my Nook STR, and one of the reasons is that it is so much more nimble at navigation. So nimble, in fact, that it is easy to drive right off the road and into the weeds and lose your reading place, with no Back to save you. But when that happens, recovery is also faster.

    Nook does offer 'Back' (one time only) in two situations:
    - hyperlink navigation
    - goto page navigation

    It doesn't offer Back for:
    - Content navigation (TOC, Bookmarks, Note/Highlights)
    - navigating search results
    - 'fast page' navigation

    But in these latter cases, you can see where you're going so it is not as necessary.

    I actually don't think Back is intuitive enough. It's too opaque. And if you push it one too many times...

    What's needed is a 'reading history' list that logs each jump location (with some context) in order, and lets you move back and forth (similar to a browser). Then you know where you are headed at all times, and can always retrace your steps if need be. This could also be used to switch more quickly between two books.

    I last saw this feature on iFlow Reader, a now-defunct iOS app.

  7. Tom,
    Nook Touch tip:

    "Back" is done on the Nook Touch by doing a swipe from right to left at the top strip.

    The finger must be moving at the first contact, or it interprets it as a tap.

    The NookColor recognizes this Back motion at the bottom strip.

  8. The Back 'swipe' on the status bar only works for navigating the non-reading interface (Home, Shop, Library, Search, Settings) and has no role in book navigation. If you are in reading mode, there is no status bar, so it just advances the page as with any right-to-left swipe. NookColor may be different.

  9. Tom, you hadn't mentioned the swiping method at all, so I thought I'd mention it as very few do know about it.

    It works if you use an external link to a webpage (although in the Nook Touch there is no official web browser so that would possibly not work unless the hidden buggy built-in Android-system web browser can recognize that).

    Swiping it at bottom for NookColor (and they say, at top for Nook Touch) activates that Back process wherever it takes you.

    Normally the swipe-to-left goes Back to your last big jump although in a book it works only for external hyperlinks.

    BUT within a book, in the NookColor, when you want to go back from an INTERNAL link (to a FIGURE, say), the NC shows a "Back" icon for ONLY a few brief *seconds* at the top center, but it takes you back to where you jumped from in the book. If you miss it in that brief few seconds, then you can't use it.

    It's almost subliminal. Maybe in the Nook Touch, it's at the bottom center. Take a look.

    As for getting back to Table of Contents, the Android browser lets you do that by tapping on the bottom SMALL little underscore, which brings up the bottom status-bar AND the Table of Contents.

    Let's say, all this is not that intuitive to newbies either. Android is full of surprises since they don't use the Menu system which lays out the options.

    Using the normal Table of Contents status bar that can be enlarged is how I always get back to Table of Contents with the NC.

  10. Tom,
    By the way book-reading features that involve navigation in my NC are woefully few relative to what I'm used to with the Kindle. I get exhausted just thinking of all that the Nook books don't do in either Nook, but I love the color and faster speed of the NookColor when I need the color. Even then I very much miss being able to zoom illustrations full screen (maps, diagrams) the way I can with the Kindle -- and of course the ability to put it into landscape.

    And the annotations being easily transferred to my computer AND put on my own private annotations page on Amazon. For me, it's sad that most people don't know about these things because reviewers aren't interested in them.

  11. Andrys,
    I took your advice and wandered over to for their thoughts on K3 vs Nook Touch. Seemed like a couple of fanboys toing and froing about touch and some other issues -- lotta heat not too much light for me.

    UI is hard -- especially in small form factor devices -- the H/W choices are limited, and then once you've chosen your H/W approach, you find out that there are many irreconcilable differences with how humans prefer to interact with their devices. There's no best (or right) answer.

    I understand the dislike that many have for touch (primarily smudged screens), but the keys provided on the kindle don't exactly lead one to UI nirvana either. The keyboard is so bad on the kindle (and I can't type worth a darn to boot) that if something requires a lot of keying, I just forego the pleasure.

    OTOH, fingers are lousy pointing devices -- they are just too imprecise for many (otherwise useful) aspects of touch. Stylii are better, but they tend to get lost -- not all stylii work on all touch screen types, and some of them aren't very precise either.

    On most of my PCs I use voice recognition for writing to good effect, and a little bit for navigation and control. VR would be a desirable addition to an EBR, but the processor/memory configurations of the current crop of EBRs is way under what would be required to do an acceptable job here. Then there's all the issues attendant on attempting to use VR in some very useful situations like classrooms, or libraries -- lots of opportunity for chaos there I think :D.

  12. pandacastles/Ed,
    Agree with practically everything you say.

    Don't like the Kindle keyboard, yet find it more reliable and ultimately faster than my trying to do email on the fairly larger NookColor in landscape mode. The NookColor screen is oversensitive so I invariably activate the wrong alpha keys. You don't even have to touch them to have them activated, so you can imagine what that's like.

    The e-Ink Nook has a slower response so that helps a bit. But highlighting? VERY tough on touch screen. I can't start exactly where I want to and then get the same prob with exactly where to end it. On the Kindle's button, it's slow but precise.

    I like instant dictionary summary definition whe cursor is placed in front of a word on the Kindle. Touching right spot and then making two selections on Nook takes more time.

    I cannot do destructive deletes on NookColor but can with Kindle, so that is faster than trying to make the device sense what insertion point my not-fat finger actually wants.

    So, for highlighting I like the Kindle better. For tapping where to go, a touch screen, SOMEtimes, as it takes me elsewhere if my touch is not where IT thinks it should be, depending on size of the type.

    Pros and Cons. Cons and Pros.


NOTE: TO AVOID SPAM being posted instantly, this blog uses the "DELAY" feature.

Am often away much of the day, and postings won't show up right away. Posts done to use referrer-links may never show up.

Usually, am online enough to release comments within a day though, so the hard-to-read match-text tests for commenting won't be needed this way.

Feedback and questions are welcome. Thanks for participating.

Technical Problems?
If you're having problems leaving a Comment, Google's blogger-help asks that you clear the '' cookies on your browser's Tools or Options menu bar and that will fix the Comment-box problems (until they have a permanent fix).

IF that doesn't work either, then UNcheck the "keep me signed in" box -- Google-help says that should allow your comment to post (it's a workaround to a current bug).
Apologies for the problems.

TIP: There's a size limit. If longer than 3500 characters or so, in a text editor, make two posts out of it.

[Valid RSS]