Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Business Insider's look at possible 'Dethroning' of Kindle e-reader

Business Insider's SAI: Tools looks at the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo.

As with other comparisons I've read, I've been interested in seeing which review sites note the lesser screen-contrast of the Nook Touch after being mesmerized by the touchscreen aspects.  In this article, headlined "Can the Kindle be Dethroned? Here's Our Ultimate E-Reader Showdown," the photo slideshow comparison is marred by glare from lighting in the room, and you can see the pink-orange light and lack of detail where it falls, but you can still see what they're getting at.

  The examples and header text below are straight from Business Insider's article, without the usual reduction, which would change the comparison properties:

Text on the Kindle has high contrast and looks the best. Blacks look the blackest on Kindle.

Text on the Kindle has high contrast and looks the best. Blacks look the blackest on Kindle.

Text on the Nook looks good, but not great. There's noticeable jagginess on letters

Text on the Nook looks good, but not great. There's noticeable jagginess on letters

They also note that with page turning, both the Nook and Kobo 'flash' black only every few pages, "which makes the reading experience more immersive" but they add that it sometimes "ends up being a distraction" because the screen flashes are more unpredictable and the screens can contain remnants of previous pages, so it's a "tradeoff."

The review of features with emphasis on touchscreen aspects doesn't go into the other features the way a Melissa Perenson would (PC World) nor with the thoroughness of Ars Tehnica, but they illustrate pretty well the pros and cons they mention.
  To the left is a photo of a Kindle 3 and an iriver Story HD.

Here's an earlier article on Kindle 3 screen contrast vs the lesser screen-contrast in new touchscreen models.  It includes the NY Times story by Nick Bilton about Amazon sources reporting noting less contrast while working with e-Ink touchcscreens in their labs.  It also includes links to the earlier thorough comparisons.

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's)   K3 Special ($114)   K3-3G Special ($139)   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.  Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
    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.
-- 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. I would definitely forgo touch screen capability for better readability (i.e. high contrast text) and cleaner page turns. If Amazon comes out with a new Kindle that compromises on what it already does so well, I think it's a mistake. I would even stick with my K3 over a color + touchscreen Kindle that goes off on the fundamentals.

  2. Hi, Anonymous one -
    I feel the same way but the touchscreen, if they can do it better, is important for the web-browsing feature, which takes advantage of free 3G for quick lookups.

    I did get a NookColor because I prefer it for color photographs and for magazines (also for web browsing in a portable reader), but it's the Kindle that I carry with me and which saves the day every time I have to wait somewhere, which is often.

  3. That business insider slideshow was a really nice pictorial comparison. I agree with their comment that the Kindle looked slightly better than the Nook thanks to smoother font and higher contrast. For some people this will matter a lot. For me, Nook Simple Touch (which I've now been using for over a month) has reached the level of "good enough" contrast and clarity. I've been using it 15 or so hours per week without eye fatigue. Devices with contrast superior to the Nook doesn't matter to me.

    On the other hand, I didn't agree with their oft-repeated comment about the squarish Nook being odd-looking. Why should I care? Once I start reading, I don't notice what I'm holding.

    The really well designed bezel on the Nook that causes this look (combined with 3 ways to turn pages) makes for a very large number of ways to hold it. This is very useful for rotating hand positions to avoid hand fatigue. I could care less if it looks odd to some people - this is not a fashion accessory.

    Though I disagreed with some of the comments, I thought the picture comparison was really useful for someone considering which e-reader to buy.

  4. Joe,
    I agree with just about all you say, and said in the linked earlier-article that whether it matters or not to people will depend on their eyes.

    They merely pointed out the difference in darkness if it matters to anyone (and it did to me immediately when I saw it and to others -- but it won't bother most, probably).

    Re the form, I think this bothers some for the same reason there is a "Golden Ratio" as an ideal in some cultures. You can read about it at the link, and it's an important idea in art and photography.

    At the worst, I'd say that the NT reminds me of a version of a book that you'd see in a schoolroom for very young people. On the other hand, MANY just love the form and the way the the touchscreen functions. It's very practical.

    It's the mileage-varies thing.

  5. And I agree with all you say as well - the Golden Ratio shows up all over nature and the link you referenced has some nice pictures and comments about this ratio. I appreciate that ratio in nature and architecture given that my eyes and brain are essentially hardwired to appreciate it.

    I also understand that electronic gadgets, and most especially smartphones, have become fashion accessories in certain crowds (just wait until computing gets embedded in clothes or eyewear . . .). I use my e-reader at home primarily so even if I were fashion conscious (which I'm not), it wouldn't matter as nobody but my family members sees the thing.

    The Kobo looks better from the perspectives of the Golden Ratio and looking novel-like, but the Bezel seems completely impractical due to the accidental page turn issue.

  6. Joe,
    100% agreement this time :-) Sometimes, people break the mold, to good effect.

    So true re the Kobo -- I do like it better on sight but there is so much going against it such as not having the dictionary work with an ebook you bought elsewhere.

  7. Of course, the Kobo information is outdated in terms of its software, which has made good strides since this overview. It's definitely worth considering vis-a-vis Nook. I think they have got dictionary lookup working with sideloaded books now, and if not they've all but promised they will address this. The web browser evidently is actually usable. There are still some things I think I'd find annoying, such as the need to use desktop software for certain things, but it gets points for being small. To the extent that accidental page turns are an issue, I think it's something that one would eventually learn to avoid.

    As I will never tire of saying, the contrast issue has NOTHING to do with the touch screen technology. It has everything to do with the fonts. If I could put the Kindle fonts on the Nook, it would look identical. Amazon beefed up the smaller sizes, they are actually very close to demibold rather than 'regular'. At larger sizes, you really can't tell the difference. That said, the more I use my Nook, the less it bothers me (and I do use mostly smaller sizes).

    The reviewers seem unaware of the fact that many, if not most, people get covers for their ereaders to protect them, and don't actually use them 'naked'. So their concern about how easy it is to hold something is somewhat misplaced, since there are simple ways to address this. Also you really can't expect to get physically comfortable with a new device without using it for awhile. It took me weeks to get used to using the Kindles 5way; I kept hitting the Back button by accident, and had to retrain myself on the new page turn buttons.

    And in terms of 'book-like' form factors, what is less 'book-like' than something with a physical keyboard? I for one will not get another ereader with a physical keyboard, although it might be nice to have the option for a bluetooth keyboard. Touch screen is not a 'killer' feature, but I prefer it. The main problem overall is that it's not 'accessible' to physically or visually impaired, at least in Nook and Kobo (because they have no audio). Hopefully Amazon will at least maintain the level of accessibility of previous Kindles in their touch screen devices.

    As far as page flash, I think Nook has it about right. It's nice to have less flashing, and I almost never have ghosting, and when it does flash, it's really not distracting. Again, it's something most people will just get used to, as millions of KIndle users can attest. Kobo lets you adjust the frequency of page flash, but that seems unnecessary—they should have just fixed the ghosting.

    Kindle still wins overall because everything about the ecosystem is so much more developed. Your annotations actually GO somewhere to be saved. You can use the wireless capability for delivering personal or 3rd party content. You can add dictionaries. Integrated google search and wikipedia. It's more accessible for sight impaired people (text to speech, voice menus, and yes, the keyboard). Library borrowing will be fully integrated (notes and highlights won't vanish when you return the book). Overall the selection and prices are still the best. They would rule it all if they added ePub support.

  8. If you look at the Kobo reviews (many) there are -many- more problems. Why do people have to be asked settle for so many missing features? I like their management style but the Kobo (and I'm holding reviews on it because they're too negative and even I have my limits).

    As for your theories/beliefs/truths re the touchscreen vs font or font strokes and lightness, the WSJ said that those "familiar with" the Amazon tablet situation said that they had been having trouble with the lightness of the fonts while working with the e-ink touchscreen technology. That's Touchco.

    E-Ink and Amazon certainly know how to tweak the fonts but apparently that hadn't helped as of that particular article (if their 'familiar' sources were solid, but I would think the WSJ ones would be though lately I had wondered if they had just tapped phones :-) [Mainly kidding])

    As for flashing and what people get used to, people say over and over again that they don't even notice it after a short while. I'd forgotten all about it.

    However, with the Nook Touch, it was very nice with one page smoothly morphing into another page's text until you hit the one that was a LONG BLACK flash and it was more like an electric shock in a way because one is not used to it and it's somewhat unpredictable exactly when it might come.

    These things will bother one or another person, OR not, no matter how we individually respond to it.

    Some will never get used to this or that, others will get used to anything quickly.

  9. I haven't seen any Kobo reviews that post-date the recent updates (which continue to roll out). As such, I don't regard them as accurate in terms of 'missing features'. I actually think they are delivering too many updates and relying too much on their customers to test things, but apparently they feel it is best to be 'responsive' and are committed to delivering as many updates as it takes.

    Whatever problems Amazon has had with the Touchco technology have nothing to do with Nook, which doesn't use it. All I'm saying is that I have a Kindle, I have a Nook, and have verified to my own satisfaction at least that the 'lightness' issues boil down to the fact that Amazon has tweaked their fonts and B&N has not. I monitor the Nook forums constantly and there don't seem to be many complaints about this. (if you're curious, see my post on Mobileread:

    The Nook 'flashing' rules are simple: one every six pages, except you always get a flash when entering or leaving any page with an image on it (this includes little decorative section separators). So yes, it's unpredictable (but completely deterministic), and yes, I'm sure there are some people who would prefer flash on every page, or who just cannot tolerate any flashing at all, ever. But again, it's not something many people are complaining about, and in any case, eink flash is not something anybody's figured out how to eliminate entirely, so it just goes with the territory.

  10. Tom,
    The reviews are bad enough. I wouldn't waste anyone's time recommending it for that cost over the other e-readers, for one thing --
    UNLESS one lives in Australia and other non-U.S. places since it has a strength in books in other languages and availability over there.

    They've already made their screen display stronger too?

    Reviews I saw were just last week. I think you go with what is happening when you review it. They -all- improve with updates.

    I don't get your take on the one thing you attribute font lightness to due to your individual experience.

    Amazon was said to have explained that they were using the IR type of touch display also and were finding the lightness of the font a problem. I don't think they say things like that lightly.

    I'm sure what you see will be one factor but there are obviously (to me) things occurring with e-ink and even the IR type of touch display. I monitor the Nook forums (4 of them) constantly (as a NookColor owner and a blogger curious about the Nook Touch), so I know that there are complaints but I have also said many will not care about the faintness of the fonts but that many of us do.

    We count too. That includes several reviewers now. People new to a technology can't compare and don't care what other readers will do or not do.

    All of this is subject to individual reactions, but when these start showing up in reviews as much as they have, there is something going on that isn't ideal.

    As for the black Flash, I got used to it within probably a couple of hours and these days I don't notice it at all, but I was loving the morphing of most pages with the Nook Touch and realllllly disliking the sudden emphatic long flash of darkness that seemed to come out of nowhere, but that is just my reaction.

    I don't pretend to speak for the entire world when I say these things. They're things I notice and I also will note it when the regular reviewers start talking about them.

    They're things people should know about and then ignore if it doesn't bother them. It's like the grayness of e-ink screens. It WILL bother and even depress some people. It's all info that is useful...


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]