Kindle vs. Nook: Which One is The Best $99 E-Reader?

video: Nook and Kindl e-reader reviews by Joanna Stern.
ABCNEWS.com

I get a lot of technology questions from my friends and family, but lately I've gotten the following questions very frequently: "Should I get a tablet or an e-reader? Oh, and if I go with an e-reader, should I go Nook or Kindle?"

That first question is fairly simple to answer, the second, however, is a bit more challenging.

Why an e-reader?

An e-reader is the best device if all you want to do is read and you don't want to carry around a heavy hardcover book or several paperbacks on a trip. Now, of course, a tablet could help too, but e-readers have a leg up on tablets when it comes to reading outdoors. They also have better battery life.

Most e-readers have an E Ink display, a monochrome screen that is readable in very bright light and indoors. Unlike tablet screens, E Ink screens are easy to read if you're lounging by the pool -- there's no glare to deal with. Also, e-readers tend to be thinner and lighter than tablets, like the iPad. They are easier to hold in one hand while lying down. Additionally, they have very long battery lives; typically you can read for a month without having to recharge.

So, if you've decided to buy an e-reader and not a tablet -- which one is the best? That's where that Nook vs. Kindle question comes in.

Barnes & Noble's Nook Simple Touch and Amazon's Kindle Touch are almost identical. Both $99 e-readers have 6-inch E Ink displays, infrared touch screens, built-in Wi-Fi for downloading books over-the-air, and access to millions of e-book titles. Of course, there are some differences; follow along below to find out how they stack up against each other.

Round 1

PHOTO: The back of the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch.
Barnes & Noble
Hardware and Interface Design

Both the Nook Simple Touch and the Kindle Touch are lightweight and easy to hold in just one hand. The 7.48-ounce Nook is slightly thicker and heavier than the 5.98-ounce Kindle, but I actually prefer the feel of the Nook to the Kindle.

The Nook has a rubberized back with contoured edges, making it very easy and comfortable to hold. Additionally, unlike the Kindle, the Nook has physical page-turn buttons, so you can easily press the buttons on the left or right side.

The software interface on the Nook is also easier to navigate than the one on the Kindle. The Nook's is more visually appealing, with icons that illustrate the different menus. Additionally, all your downloaded books or the ones in your "library" display covers of the books, which is more visually appealing than the Kindle's all-text interface. There are also no ads.

Amazon's $99 Kindle Touch has "special offers," which is a nice way of saying ads. The ads are confined to the Library page and to the screensaver; you won't find them in the middle of a book. But for the same price, Barnes & Noble offers an ad-free experience. For $139, you can get the Kindle Touch without special offers.

Verdict: The Nook Simple Touch is the more comfortable e-reader. That's not to say the Kindle isn't very thin and light, but the Nook has the edge on design and aesthetics.

Round 2

PHOTO: Nook Simple Touch
Courtesy Barnes & Noble
Screen

Both the Kindle Touch and the Nook Simple Touch have 6-inch E Ink Pearl displays. They are great for reading indoors and out. They both also have infrared touch screens, making them both responsive to swipes to turn pages and taps to select menus. The Nook Simple Touch turns pages ever-so-slightly faster than the Kindle, but it really isn't noticeable in everyday use -- only when comparing them side-by-side.

For a pure screen standpoint, the Kindle and the Nook tie, but Barnes & Noble is offering something for those bookworms who like to read at night, after their partner has gone to sleep -- a Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight. This $139 model of the Nook has a built-in backlight. You just press the Nook button for a couple of seconds and the screen illuminates.

Verdict: Tie. The $99 e-readers have virtually the same display.

Round 3

PHOTO: Amazon offers access to millions of e-books right on the Kindle.
Amazon
Book Selection / Features

There was a time where Amazon boasted more books than any other e-book store, and while it still may have more titles and some rarer gems, Barnes & Noble has an incredible offering. Both stores are likely to have all the books you are looking for, as both boast over a million books, magazines, and newspapers.

It is important to remember that both stores sell proprietary e-books, meaning if you download an e-book through Amazon it will only work on Kindle devices. If you download a book from Barnes & Noble, it will only work on the Nook. That said, while both readers let you load PDFs, only the Nook supports ePUB, a popular e-book format that is sold or downloadable for free through other e-book stores.

Where Amazon beats the Nook is on price of e-books. When I searched for "The Hunger Games" on both devices, it was $5.00 through Amazon. The same title cost $8.99 on the Nook. Also, Amazon offers a break on priced to Amazon Prime members (a service that provides free shipping and discounts for a $79 a year). Additionally, Prime members can borrow books for free from Amazon's Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

Both e-readers offer the ability to highlight and look up words, but the Kindle has an interesting feature called X-Ray. It lets you see the "bones" of the book, including key characters and passages. The Nook, on the other hand, lets you share passages of the book on Facebook and Twitter via Wi-Fi. Both e-readers come standard with W-Fi; Amazon offers a 3G option, which gives you the ability to download books via a cellular network, for $149.

Verdict: Amazon has the slight edge in book selection and features. Its pricing is a bit more competitive, especially if you're an Amazon Prime member.

PHOTO: The Amazon Kindle Touch pictured left, Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch pictured right.
Barnes & Noble, Amazon
Overall Verdict

There's no perfect answer to the Kindle vs. Nook question. The Nook Simple Touch is better-looking and feeling, and it has a nicer interface. If you aren't tied to Amazon and you'd prefer not to have ads for $99, Barnes & Noble is the way to go.

However, the Kindle is a very good option for Amazon Prime members who want to save money in the long run on books. And if a touch screen isn't important to you, Amazon has an even cheaper $79 Kindle without a touch screen, just to make things a bit more complicated!

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