The world has nearly arrived at the level of technology of "The Jetsons" in one key way. No, not with flying cars or vacuum tubes delivering drinks or robot butlers (sorry), but with digital media in the purest sense. Books have gone electronic, and leave it to one of the largest traditional retailers of hard-copy books and one of the pioneers of online book shopping to lead the market in electronic readers. Barnes & Noble presents the Nook; Amazon.com presents the Kindle.
The Kindle second-generation reader and the Nook are, outwardly, very similar. Both boasted retail prices around $250 as of their 2009 releases and both have the same basic functionality: you pick it up and read pre-purchased books on the screen. The prices have dropped a little since release and, as of March 2011, float between $139 and $199, depending on the version of each device.
Both readers feature a 6-inch screen that use what's called "E Ink," an LCD display technology that creates the illusion of printed text. The key difference here is that the Nook uses the Monochrome E Ink display for the reader portion (and color for the touch-screen interface), whereas the Kindle has the one-generation-newer Pearl E Ink screen. The key difference is that the Pearl screen is meant to provide deeper, more intuitive contrast to make reading the Kindle outdoors easier, despite glare from the sun.
Though visually very similar, the two readers have slight physical differences that may contribute to your decision to buy. The Kindle is a touch smaller and lighter. Its overall physical dimensions measure 7.5 inches-by-4.8 inches. The Nook is 7.7 inches-by-4.9 inches. The differences may sound slight, but the result is that the Kindle is nearly 3 oz. or 25 percent lighter than the Nook.
Features and Functions
The Kindle does one thing and one thing only: it displays e-books. It has Wi-Fi functionality and a built-in browser that are used for -- you guessed it -- downloading books to read. The Nook is a bit closer to a tablet like the iPad. It is primarily designed for e-books, but also has an audio player that plays MP3s and a few built-in games, like Nook Chess.
The Kindle's built-in storage is large enough to hold up to 3,500 books, according to Amazon. The Nook's internal memory is large enough for approximately 1,500 books. If you need more space (would you?), both devices have a slot for microSDs to expand the memory up to 16GB.
These devices are both built to last -- almost as long as a paper book, really. Battery life depends on a few things, like how brightly you like your screen to display and how frequently you use the Wi-Fi to download books, but on a fully charged battery these readers last forever. Nearly. The Nook can stay on, uninterrupted, for 10 days on a full charge; the Kindle will last for a month.
The Nook is only available to customers in the United States, but Kindle ships to international customers in several countries. To see if your country is supported, select your country by scrolling within the Important Information section on the Kindle International Customers Web page (see Resources).
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