Nook vs Kindle AKA Open Vs Closed

The Barnes and Nobles Nook and the Kindle are similarly capable e-readers.  They use the same e-ink screen and both have wifi and free 3g cellular service for quickly downloading books from their stores.  The Nook has a small color touchscreen under the e-ink display while the Kindle has a physical keyboard, but that isn’t the big advantage that the Nook has over the Kindle.

Nook vs Kindle

The main difference is that the Nook is an open system while the Kindle is not.  The Nook is powered by the Android OS, so theoretically you can program whatever you want that works ok within the device UI, and devs have added programs like Pandora to the e-reader successfully.  The Kindle is running a closed OS so the only way to add new programs is if Amazon adds them to the device.  Both devices have a web browser and the Nook also has Sudoku and Chess, which actually work surprisingly well utilizing the color touchscreen.

Much more important than the OS is the support for book formats.  The Nook is an open platform that supports a wide variety of ebook formats.  As a Nook owner, I can go to dozens of online bookstores to purchase ebooks and load them on my Nook successfully.  If I had a Kindle, I’d have to purchase exclusively from the bookstore.  Even better, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of libraries across the country that offer free ebook rentals.  I can go to my local library’s website and check-out ebooks for 2 weeks, load them onto my Nook and read them, checking them back out if I need more time.  That alone is a huge money saver and allows me to sample a wider variety of books than I otherwise would.  You can also lend a book that you’ve purchased to a friend for 14 days; you just send them the book and they can accept it on their Nook and have 14 days to read it, during which time you have no access to it on your device.

Beyond the present benefits of multiple bookstore options and free library rentals, there is also future proofing when using the Nook instead of the Kindle.  If I buy a book for my Nook, then I can use that book on future ebook platforms that are also open.  If I buy a book for a Kindle, then that book is locked into the Kindle platform.  If future ereaders come out that are much better and I want to buy one, I would lose all books that I had purchased for my Kindle, which is very unfortunate.  By buying a Nook instead, I’ve ensured that I will be able to read those books I do buy for it for many years to come.  Since I buy mostly non-fiction books, that is very important so that I can re-read books in the future or refer back to parts of them at some point.

I know I’ve argued the benefits of the iPad and iPhone OS, a closed system, before and that may seem opposite of what I’d argue given this post here, but there is a big difference.  Content.  The iPhone OS is so great because of the App Store and the wide array of great Apps and developer support for the system.  When comparing e-readers however, the content is the same.  For the most part, both offer the same books, so it comes down to which gives me more flexibility for purchasing and borrowing the books as well as which allows me to transfer the book that I purchased to a wide variety of devices both now and in the future.

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