War of the Words: Kindle versus NOOK

A war is being fought. It is a war that wages in the home of many Americans, in the workplace, and even in the educational sect of society. It is a war that has been raging since the dawn of time; technology versus tradition.

Which is better, eBooks, or traditional print books?

And an even deeper question is this: of those who choose to utilize eBooks, which  product is the best for reading them, the Amazon Kindle, or the Barnes & Noble NOOK?

The Amazon Kindle made its debut in Nov. 2007, and has since launched four additional generations of the device, its latest one the Kindle 3. Barnes & Noble jumped on the bandwagon and debuted its own eBook reader, the NOOK, nearly two years later in October 2009. The NOOK has since released an updated version of the hardware, the NOOKcolor.

College students are beginning to take interest in e-book readers; many textbooks are now available in eBook format, and the conveniences of carrying several books within a single, thin digitized device are numerous.

“I was able to find eight [textbooks] out of about 18,” said Sheila Sine, an English major and junior at UAA, “If you’re reading a book for English class, it’s an easy way to make in-text notes, and they’re all organized within the Kindle, so that you can go back and look at the notes and highlights you make.”

In addition to having many of the books she needs for class all in one place, Sine also saved money by purchasing eBooks for her Amazon Kindle.

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“I initially bought my books through the Bookstore, and it cost me around $300 to buy all my textbooks. But with the books I was able to buy through Amazon, the most expensive of which was $10, I was able to return about $100 worth of textbooks to the Bookstore. The Kindle almost paid for itself.”

Shawn Lyons, a local cosmetologist, uses his Barnes & Noble NOOKcolor daily, but not for class.

“I pretty much read every day,” he said, “I carry it around with me wherever I go; it’s never not on my person.”

Both Sine and Lyons were hesitant to first pick up an eBook reader, since they anticipated missing the feeling of a printed book in their hands. And while Sine still prefers to read printed books for pleasure, Lyons is more accepting of the new technology.

“At first I was a little scared to lose the actual ‘holding of the book’ thing; that went away real fast. I have 2700 books inside my NOOKcolor, and it’s not using up all of my space anymore,” said Lyons, “It saves you so much space.”

Lyons also went on to say that he enjoyed the fact that purchasing eBooks is a good way to conserve trees and paper.

Advantages to using eBook readers are plentiful, but which reader offers the best overall service?

The newest Kindle offers a whopping one-month battery life, as long as the wireless feature is turned off. The NOOKcolor however, only sports an eight-hour battery life with its wireless feature turned off. But while the Kindle has over 900,000 compatible eBooks, newspapers and magazines available for purchase, NOOK readers have access to over 2 million eBooks; a figure that doesn’t even factor in the available newspapers, blogs, and magazines that are also compatible with the reader.

The NOOK and Kindle also allow owners to lend their eBooks out to friends for free for up to 14 days. Both readers also have access to free books. The NOOKcolor, however, has access to a feature that the Kindle does not.

Barnes & Noble has a program called “PubIt!” which allows anyone to publish and sell their own books, short stories or poetry over the internet. Amazon has no such program, and the Kindle does not have access to these indie books. Prices for “PubIt!” works are typically cheaper than regular books, and the program allows authors and readers a chance to connect in a way previously impossible. And since, like the Kindle, the NOOK allows you to preview all books for free before purchase, the buyer doesn’t have to worry about purchasing an amateur story that looks good, but ends up being poorly written.

Finally, one of the most important features of any electronic storage device is how large the memory is. The latest Amazon Kindle sports a memory capable of storing 3,500 books, double what their last version was capable of holding. The Barnes & Noble NOOKcolor however, boasts a superior 6,000-book capacity, in addition to the 50 children’s picture books, 500 songs, and 150 photos its memory capacity also holds. It also has the capability of receiving personal files and storing them on an SD memory card the owner purchases.

The NOOKcolor costs $249 brand new, and the Kindle $189. While the price difference is steep, so are the differences between the two pieces of hardware.

Despite the overall superiority of eBook readers to printed books, and the likelihood that printed books will one day disappear in wake of the new technology, these ancient objects that have been well-loved and revered over the centuries will no doubt still hold some admirers.

“There are certain books that I have in my library that I will never get rid of, and only read in printed form,” said Lyons, “It’s just the ones throughout your life that you come to love; I will never get rid of them, and I will read them as paper.”

Sine felt similarly. “The Kindle is nice, and it’s easier and it’s convenient, but if I had more money, I would buy printed books…I really hope printed books will always have a place in our world.”

All statistics and product information for the Kindle and NOOK came from Amazon and Barnes and Nobles, respectively.