The Kindle, Nook, iPad, and Reader Compared

Because I am in the publishing industry, and because I have written extensively on the topic of digital publishing, I get asked several times a week, what e-reader I recommend. Frankly, I’m probably not the best person to ask. I experiment with all kinds of technology and am very fickle. I am always trying something new.

So, rather than simply offer an opinion, I spent Saturday morning creating a spreadsheet that compared the four major e-reader brands, representing a total of ten models. I included the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony Reader, and the Apple iPad. (You can download the actual spreadsheet here or the PDF.)

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If you are thinking about buying an e-reader—or upgrading the one you have—this is where I would start. Compare the prices and features of each and then make a decision.

In researching these products, keep in mind that:

  • The prices vary widely: From $139 for the Kindle 3 to $499 for the cheapest iPad.
  • The battery life varies widely: from 9 hours on the iPad 3G to 1 month with the Kindle 3.
  • The storage capacity varies widely: from 350 books on the Sony Reader Touch and Pocket editions to tens of thousands on the iPad.
  • The interface varies widely, too, from the five-way controller on the Kindle 3, to the touch and stylus of the Reader to the multi-touch of the iPad. The Nook is particularly unique, sporting both e-ink and full-color touch technologies. The iPad is the easiest to use out of the box.
  • The manufacturer web sites vary widely. In my opinion, Amazon is the best for offering the most facts. Apple is the best at demonstrating the features via video. Barnes & Noble is somewhere in the middle. Sony is the most difficult to navigate and compare. (I wanted to pull my hair out!)

We have really come a long way since Amazon introduced the first Kindle. Today, there are so many great options. Competition has not only created a viable e-reader and digital publishing market, it has also improved the quality of all the offerings.

In addition to looking at the price and features, I think you should also must answer one preliminary question: Do you want a dedicated e-reader device (like the Kindle, Nook, and Reader) or do you want a multi-function device (like the iPad)? This will at least get you pointed in the right direction.

I just got the Kindle 3 and am loving it (see my unboxing video, along with my initial impressions). I plan to write a full review in the next few weeks, after I have thoroughly tested it. I can’t wait to see how Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Sony respond.

Questions: Have you bought an e-Reader? If so, which one and why?
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  • Lisa Dugan

    Thanks for the e-reader comparison; this is exactly what I was looking for. Based on the info you provided I’m confident that the Kindle 3 is the one that I want. The question now is do I get the WiFi only version or the one with the 3G option. I guess the answer depends on how much the boyfriend will pay for my Christmas present.
    Thanks for the help.

  • Kim

    Michael, I am considering buying an e reader for my 11-year old daughter for Christmas but am struggling with which one. Wow, this table is great…so much information. Which one would you recommend if my daughter will mostly be using it for reading? She does want it to have a dictionary and I know at school they do have to make sticky notes regarding characterization and inferring. Can any of these help with that?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I would pick the Amazon Kindle. It does not have the ability to create sticky notes in quite the way you describe; however, you can highlight, look up words, bookmark, and take notes on specific passages. Thanks.

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  • Chtellez

    I have had a NOOK 3G (Black and white e-ink) for 6 months, and I just purchased a NOOK color. I loved the Nook from the start but it was uncomfortable to read at night, even with lights on. However, there is now a NOOK cover with an integrated light that is a dream. The NOOK Color is fantastic. It is great to have them both, because for long stretches of reading, the e-ink is much better on the eyes. However the NOOK color is very versatile. They are both light and easy to place in bag. I use the NOOK application in my IPod Touch, and I have been amazed how many times I have resorted to it! If they had 3G capacity for web browsing and they allowed streaming voideo, then they would be lie an mini-IPAD or at least like a Galaxy Tab. I understand that this is in the works. Apple should consider a mini IPAD, It is still heavy to carry around.

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  • Janis

    Michael, my husband gave me a Kindle for Christmas, and I gave him a Nook. Now we are wondering if there is any advantage in our having the same kind of ereader. One factor I liked about the Nook is the capability of downloading from the library. He is an avidlibrary user with books on reserve and stacked at bedside all the time.

    With your chart, I’ve seen the Nook’s memory and book selection as less than Kindle’s. (I don’t think that covers library downloads, does it?).

    Are there any factors that stress we should have the same ereader?

    • Michael Hyatt

      My chart was done before the new Nook Color came out, so the specs may have changed. If you have a Kindle, up to five devices (computers, phones, iPad, Kindle) can share the same library. However, it does not offer the ability to check out a book from the library. Thanks.

      • Jeff Randleman

        And yet, with the new lending feature that Amazon has released, library lending isn’t such a wild idea anymore.

  • Meg

    I bought a Sony Reader a while back, which to be honest, I’m regretting now. I bought it before the Kindle 3 came out, so at the time, the purchase was made because of the price point, and the fact that I could get e-books from local libraries and “loan” books to friends. But now that I’ve had it, I don’t like that it doesn’t have a backlight, so it’s impossible to read in dimly lit environments. I also do not like that I have to plug it in to my computer to download books. But I guess that’s hindsight for you! And hey, at least I have my Android phone, which I used to download the Kindle app.

    Thanks for the comparison chart. I’m considering the possibility of selling my Reader and buying a Kindle in the future. Surely something to think about!

  • Jeff Randleman

    I purchased the Kindle 2 almost a year ago, based on a video you posted in 09. Thanks!

    • Michael Hyatt

      My wife uses my Kindle 2. I have the Kindle 3, which is a little smaller, more storage space, and a higher resolution screen.

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  • Anonymous

    Wow, that is an in-depth spreadsheet. Thanks. Are you planning on updating this or doing a new post to include the new Nook Color (or the upcoming Nook Color 2) and the new Amazon Kindle tablet due out in October, 2011?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Maybe. We’ll see.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see where you show if an eReader can handle the ebook standard eBook format ePub or the newest version ePub 3.  This is really important because if you own a Kindle you can’t read an ePub format eBook.  The iPad and Nook among most other eReaders have no problem with the ePub format.

  • Mary

    I am looking for a reader for my father who has macular degeneration and can no longer read a regular book, do you have any recommendations for an elderly person with this issue. I know nothing about them.

    • Michael Hyatt

      The Kindle is great. You can make the type size any size you want.

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  • Susanwbailey

    I bought the Nook tablet and generally love it except for one big out – you cannot cut, copy or paste at all. I find this especially troublesome with the web as I often copy and paste URLs to share in email, Twitter and Facebook. Since you can do all those things on the Kindle,I would expect that B & N will deal with this to remain competitive.

    WordPress is not totally compatible with touch screen technology and there is no WordPress app so I cannot update my blog on the Nook. BUT they do have an Evernote app and everything syncs up so that helps.

    I love how easily interacts with my PC and how easy it is to load up ebooks from Google Books. Also easy to load and view PDFs.

    The price is right and I love the size. I have a cool cover that feels just a book.

    Overall very happy with my Nook!

  • 15cburns

    i have the nook tablet and i am loving it. I think it is the best possible e reader. It can also record your voice and it has really great sound.

  • Rick Guilfoil

    I wrote my master’s degree thesis on eReaders.  Specifically that tablet devices would become the preferred eReading device.  You can read it here if you are interested.