Nook vs Kindle: Did Consumer Reports Make a Mistake?

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I’ve been studying a new article by Consumer Reports which just went online Friday. “In a first, a Nook beats the Kindle in our e-book reader Ratings,” they announced in a bold-print headline.

They’re talking about the new touch-screen version of the Nook (which finally went on sale last week). “The Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch Reader is more than merely a worthy competitor to the Kindle…” writes Consumer Reports reviewer, Paul Reynolds. “Now that we’ve tested the device in our labs, it actually scores a few points above the Kindle in our tests.”

Except not really. The article looks like it was changed later by a proofreader, who’s added the phrase “[corrected]” at one point further down the page. And now in brackets, in the third sentence of the article,
there’s a pretty big disclaimer. “[To clarify: The Nook scores one point above the Kindle below it in the 6-to-7-inch category. But it ranges from 4 to 5 points higher than other Kindles.]”

I’m not sure what “other” Kindles they’re talking about, since the only Kindle I know that’s isn’t six inches is the Kindle DX (which hasn’t been updated in almost a year). There’s also the cheaper “Kindle with Special Offers” and the WiFi-only Kindle — but that’s not really a fair comparison. (Obviously consumers already know what trade-offs they’ve made in order to get the lower price.) And of course, Amazon has stopped selling the Kindle 2 and the original Kindle, so there’s not much point in telling today’s consumers how those devices would’ve stacked up. It looks to me this comparison is a tie — especially since Amazon has announced later this year they’ll add the ability to borrow e-books from a library. The Nook was awarded a point for already having this capability, so it’s an advantage which is going to be short-lived.

I was also really intrigued that Consumer Reports didn’t award the Nook any extra points for the supposedly longer battery life that Barnes and Noble had been claiming they’d achieved. “Despite a power struggle between B&N and Amazon over which device runs for longer, we give both equal credit for a claimed battery life of five days or more,” their reviewer writes. In fact, for several criteria, it’s a tie (including battery life), and I’ve heard that the Kindle apparently beat the Nook when the magazine rated the devices on “Versatility”. One person who’s seen the ratings told me the Nook only scored higher for supported file types, and for the way that the Nook handles page turns.

And yet both the Kindle and the Nook received the magazine’s “Best Buy” rating. (Consumer Reports notes the latest version of the Nook “continues the steady improvement in Barnes & Noble’s e-book devices since the company rushed out a glitchy first version…during the holiday season of 2009.”) So now they’re reporting that “Simple Touch” Nook “matches or bests – albeit modestly – its Amazon competitor in almost every aspect of performance. ” This comparison ultimately shows that the Nook hasn’t landed a knock-out punch to Amazon’s Kindle project.

It’s more interesting as a general comparison, a status check on the war that’s raging between these two devices. “B&N has caught up with the Kindle in large part by emulating Amazon’s focus on reading with minimal fuss and extra features,” writes Consumer Reports, noting the new Nook eliminated the color navigation screen below the reading area (as well as the easy access to the Nook’s web browser). “As a result, it (like the Kindle) successfully “gets out of the way and disappears and lets you get on with your reading,” as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in praise of the Kindle during my interview with him last month.” But in the mean time, rumors are flying about the pending release of a new color touchscreen tablet device from Amazon. I’m half-expecting Amazon to announce a new version of the Kindle at the same time — so Consumer Reports may have to perform a new comparison soon.

To be fair, I’ll admit that there are things I like about the Nook. I was talking to my friend Len Edgerly again this week, and I acknowledged that it’s obviously easier to point at a choice on a menu than to first nudge your controller through each of the other choices above or below it! Although if you’re trying to look up a word, apparently you first get only an intermediate menu when you point at a word on the Nook’s screen, where you then have to indicate again that what you want is the word’s definition. But I also like the two-column layout of the Nook’s home page. (And yes, it does look easier to navigate the device just by touching the screen.)

But I’m still a big fan of my Kindle.

One thought on “Nook vs Kindle: Did Consumer Reports Make a Mistake?

  1. That correction was added almost as soon as the article was posted.

    And there are actually 4 6″ Kindles right now, not 1. The 2 Kindeals are counted separately from the K3 3G and the K3 Wifi.

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