Friday, January 11, 2013

A Tale of Two E-Readers: Kindle Fire vs. Nook Color

Two years ago, I spent some hard-earned Census money and bought myself a Nook Color, mostly because I wanted a quick and handy way to check my email and do other online stuff without hauling a laptop with me or having to leave the comfort of my bed. 

In 2010, the Nook Color cost $250. I was, overall, disappointed with my Nook. That is mainly my fault because I wanted it to be what it wasn't, which was a tablet. 

It is a fine e-reader:  it holds lots and lots of books (music too), and I really like that it has a slot where you can insert an SD card for even more storage, but its processing speed for loading webpages is somewhere between "Oh, come ON!" and "Jesus Christ, it shouldn't take you that long to load Gmail". It also has a barely-adequate battery:  make the screen too bright (necessary in sunny or brightly-lit areas) and you've just halved your battery life. Worse still is when you turn on the wireless antenna -- you can almost watch the battery indicator tick down on a minute-by-minute basis. 

Also, its onscreen keyboard is Teh Suxx0r (its buttons are too small and they frequently don't register that I pressed them, or assume I pressed another button next to it -- yes, even using a stylus) and it won't, to the best of my knowledge, charge while plugged into a PC. 

Oh, and its ability to read PDFs is... well, let's just say "in name only" and leave it at that.

Last December, mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas. Other than the Season One DVD of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I had no idea what I wanted. I would have settled for an Amazon gift card but mom is a big believer in tangible gifts for Christmas, so I just shrugged and said "I dunno."

A couple weeks later, the Kindle Fire went on sale: formerly $160, it was now $130. Mom showed the Amazon page to me, and after reading how it was optimized for web surfing and watching YouTube videos, I said "Sure, why not."

I love my Kindle Fire. It's slightly smaller and lighter than my Nook, so I can use the same sleeve for carrying it around. It is all-around faster:  faster interface, faster download speed, faster processing, faster playback. 

(Insert obligatory pun about the Fire being "blazing fast" here.)

The Kindle Fire is everything I wanted from my Nook Color:  The battery charges while hooked to a computer, charges faster and lasts longer; the onscreen keyboard is larger and more responsive; it has native support for PDFs; I can check my email, do Facebook, watch YouTube and surf the web like a boss.  It can use most Android apps, and whatever I purchase on the Amazon store is almost instantly delivered to my Fire. 

It does everything I wanted an iPad for, at one-fifth the price. However... it's not a great e-reader. 

For one thing, I cannot get my PC (which runs Windows XP) to acknowledge that the Kindle is a storage device. It wants a driver which did not come with the Fire and I cannot seem to find online. This means that, despite having a huge library of free e-books in both .epub and .mobi, I cannot transfer them to my Kindle Fire; I have to go through the store for every single one of them.  I have checked both Amazon and The Googles for a driver, and so far I haven't had any luck in that regard. 

Also, storage is an issue. My Nook has 5 gigs onboard storage, and the ability to hold an SD card of whatever volume I buy (I currently have an 8 gig card, but I know that there are 12 gig cards available, and probably larger ones too). I could, if I wanted, fill up card after card with ebooks and mp3s and other things. 

My Kindle Fire has 5.5 gigs onboard storage, and no way to improve that. Sure, I have access to the Amazon Cloud, but that's only if I have a wifi connection - it hardly counts if I need it on an airplane or in a cellular dead zone. And like I said earlier, I can't put my public domain e-books onto it without going through the store. Ugh. 

So despite there being two years of technological improvements between them, the Kindle Fire is unfortunately not superior in every way. Instead of an upgrade, it is (for me at least) a parallel development:  the Kindle Fire is my tablet for surfing the web, and my Nook Color is my dedicated e-reader. 

I know the whole prepper philosophy is "Two is one, and one is none" but extending it to e-readers is just a little silly, don't you think?


  1. I know my housemate's new Kindle Fire won't show up on his PC until he plugs it in and unlocks it. Just plugging it in doesn't do it. My older Kindle Fire doesn't do this. You may know this already; just mentioning.

  2. I use dropbox( to transfer everything I need between my various computers, smartphone and above all, kindle fire. I no doubt would have had the same problem but was already an avid user of dropbox, so I Luckily avoided all the problems you seem to be having.

  3. sorry, that link seems to have added a bracket to the end. The non-broken link is,

    Sorry about that.

  4. Thanks for the write up! 

  5. I originally was going to do exactly what you say - buy the Nook as a color tablet and oh-by-the-way e-reader.  Never went that route.

    Instead, I bought a Kindle Fire HD in October, when the small one came out.  I think it's a phenomenal e-reader.  I have the option to store everything on it or in the Amazon cloud, with a button area at the top of the page that lists the books.  I keep all of the books on the Kindle so that I can read them wherever, not just with a WiFi connection. 

    As a tablet computer, though, it's not everything I had hoped for.  A lot of Android software doesn't run on it.  I can't even just download things from Amazon, unless it specifically says it will run on the Fire HD.  The attraction of Android is that you're not tied to just one store, iTunes, and can get apps from more sources.  Instead, you have the worst features of an Apple device (tied to one place for apps - Amazon) and the worst features of a Kindle - of course, it can only go to one seller of eBooks. 

    But as a reader, it's a thing of beauty.  The display is fantastic.  It is fast as a web browser (although not real impressive) if the WiFi connection is good. 

    It has left me thinking of a separate tablet (Google Nexxus?) just to have a good tablet.

  6. My Pop just got a Nexus 7, very nice, of course it was to replace his stolen Viewsonic G Tablet. :(

  7. C.A. Bridges already said it, but you need to make sure the screen on the Fire is unlocked before it'll show up as a mass storage device (ie usb drive).

    When you setup your Kindle account, a special email address was created for it. You can email the .mobi format files to that email address and they'll be downloaded onto your Fire the next time you sync it. The email address should be something like "(name)".

    I went through similar "growing pains".  For Christmas in 2011 I got myself a Nook Tablet. It was a mostly decent e-reader but a not so wonderful tablet. So I returned it and got a Kindle Touch as an e-reader. I like. When the Google Nexus 7 came out, I bought it for my tablet goodness. And the Kindle app works well on it. But sadly, no micro-SD slot for expanded storage.

    If you're looking for a better tablet than the Kindle Fire, that can work as an e-reader, you might want to look into returning your Fire and get a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. It's very similar specs to your Fire, has a micro-SD slot, and isn't locked down to just the Amazon android market. It's at Costco for $190 right now, or Best Buy for $200. Which prices may be too much for you, but it's an option.


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