I’ve been watching a lot of the press surrounding the brewing three-party war between Apple, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Amazon over the tablet space for the past few months. I was one of the first people to be in line two Aprils ago when the first generation iPad was released by Apple. I bought it without hesitation, knowing that it was exactly what I had wanted and dreamed of all this time – a much larger version of my beloved iPod Touch. As I’ve had some opportunity to use different devices I’ve discovered that at least for me, each device that I own serves a particular purpose. Here’s a handy list of the device and what I use it for:
- 24” iMac – General computing, work and writing.
- 13” MacBook Laptop – General computing, work and writing.
- First-Generation iPad – Convenience browsing, game playing, reading comic books, cookbooks
- iPhone 4 carried by Verizon – Telephone and 3G data access with the HotSpot feature. I use it for mobile data access, taking pictures, scanning prices and comparing retailers and writing down notes and ideas for my writing. Sometimes inspiration strikes when you least expect it. Also enables me to play Foursquare, as well as many other location-aware games and activities that my family has come to enjoy.
- iPod Nano 6th Generation – Contains my entire music library and is the device I use when I want to play music. Also has a very useful pedometer that I use to track my steps and calories burned while I work.
- Nook SImple Touch – Contains a giant book library and is the device I use when I want to read.
I have to be very clear here, I am an Apple fanboy. If Apple makes it, I’ll use it. Over the years all the Apple devices have worked exceptionally well and over time they have gotten better. I still love using my iPad and my iPhone. There are four devices that I simply cannot go without whenever I travel, my iPad, my iPhone, my iPod, and my Nook. The iMac is a work-only machine and I leave it at work all the time. My MacBook I use from time to time, but I actually prefer to work on my iPad to my MacBook unless I’m writing something very long. The iPod Nano fits in my pocket so easily, or clips to my shirt so well that carrying it everywhere I go is a non-issue. My phone keeps me in touch, mostly over SMS and iMessage, and secondarily by the voice service itself. The majority of this post isn’t about these other items that I find indispensable, but rather about the tablets.
I can speak for the iPad and the Nook Simple Touch. I was absolutely sold over the iPad, especially when it comes to reading comic books. As for reading “regular” books, the glossy display and backlit nature of the iPad does start to wear down the eyes plus the native book app in the iPad, which is iBooks, doesn’t support the font I like the most, which is Helvetica Neue. I was a little dubious about the Nook Simple Touch at first, but the device won me over with it’s eInk display and it’s expandability via a microSD card port on the upper right corner of the device. The Nook Simple Touch has a lot of really compelling features going for it which made it’s purchase a sure thing. Here’s a list of what I like about my Nook Simple Touch:
- Size – It’s perfectly sized. It feels a lot like a paperback book, this size really is a sweet-spot for me because this device can fit in my front and rear pants pockets when I want to carry it without having it in my hands and it can be easily stowed anyplace a book can go.
- Weight – It’s surprisingly lightweight. Even with the microSD card, which only adds maybe a gram or two to it’s total weight, the whole package is very light.
- Textured and Contoured Back – The rear of the Nook Simple Touch is contoured to fit my hands and rubberized so that I can keep a nice grip on it without having to strain.
- Interface – Ever since the 1.1.0 Nook Firmware upgrade the device has been surprisingly quick on display updates and the touch sensitivity has also been tuned and I notice it. You can either use the side navigation buttons or a tap or swipe on the display to advance pages. It has a built in dictionary and wifi, with some social features but so far I haven’t explored those enough to report on them.
- Compatibility – The Nook Simple Touch (as well as the iPad) both can open and display ePub format books. There is a special place in my heart for the ePub format. it’s open, it’s well understood, and there are tools like Calibre which I can use to convert PDF or DOC or MOBI format (actually there are a huge number of formats that Calibre understands) and convert them all to ePub. I bought a 4GB microSD card and was able to store thousands of free eBooks on my Nook without even a second glance. I know the books will work, I know they are configurable, it’s perfect for me.
So now I’m witnessing this war brewing between Apple, B&N and Amazon. I’ve never really used a Kindle, but I assume it’s most like the Nook devices. The latest device to be released, and is shipping now is the Amazon Fire. I’ve heard a lot of people going on about how the Fire may be Amazon’s answer to Barnes & Nobles Nook Tablet and may compete with the iPad. Out of curiosity I went to Amazon’s site where they describe the new Kindle Fire and as I was reading along several alarm bells went off in my head all at the same time. Here’s a list of issues I have with the Kindle Fire, even before laying my hands on it:
- Eight hours of battery life – Even my iPad can beat this rating. I will hand it to the Kindle Fire that they were able to squeeze such a battery lifetime out of a device that was smaller than the iPad, but when you are watching video I will bet real money that end users never see these eight hours of battery life, let alone their hedged-bet of seven and a half for video playback.
- Incompatible with ePub format! – This one took my breath away! Any device should at least be compatible with the ePub format, but Amazon has elected to support their own format called AZW instead. There are other formats supported, but ePub is not on that list and my library is configured to support ePub and I prefer it that way.
- Prime Membership – If you want the most bang for your Kindle Fire buck, you’ll have to spring for an $80 a year Prime Membership. This could be useful if you do a lot of Amazon.com purchases but I don’t. It’s a little creepy that Amazon sells you a device and then charges you over and over again to use it fully. Feels more like a cash-grab and/or a gyp to me.
I don’t really believe the Kindle Fire will pose much of a risk to the iPad and iPad 2 class devices. I haven’t gotten a chance to hold either of the more relevant competitors devices in my hands to give it a right and thorough review. Based on just the description from the manufacturers alone, and even considering the Nook Tablet costs $50 more than the Amazon offering I can say just from the start that the B&N device is the one to get. Better battery life, better storage, better hardware, ePub format, that’s the one that I would get if I didn’t already have an iPad.
Keep your eyes peeled on this blog. I doubt I’ll ever get my hands on a Kindle Fire, but I’m pretty sure I’ll eventually be able to review the Nook Tablet.