At the most recent e-Reader Conference 2011 in San Francisco there was one prevailing sentiment among all others. Major news media outlets are trying to drum up a Kindle Fire VS. Apple iPad debate, which is not really important. The big news that everyone in the industry is talking about is how the Kindle Fire will affect the Barnes and Noble Nook Color.
Doug Klein, the VP of Product development in the Nook division, sees the Kindle Fire as the primarily competitor to the Nook Color and could cut into its profit margins.
Barnes and Noble saw 1.2 billion dollars this year so far in Nook Sales and is considered an unheralded success for the retail chain. Part of the reason why it does so well is thanks to the female demographic. Doug speculated that 70% of all Nook Color users are females and they use the device to access books, magazines, and other content such as NookKids. The Nook Color is priced at $249 and is within the price reach of most customers looking for a device that not only can read books but can access most media in full color.
Doug Klein mentioned that the Nook e-readers are the most successful Android products of all time and the scope of sales speaks for itself. The Nook Color Android experience is locked into a custom GUI and UI and is not like most stock tablets that rely on the Google App store or other markets to pump content into the device. The company recently opened its own App Store earlier in the year that allows customers to download apps and games certified by B&N. The Nook e-Readers also use Android as the main OS, while most others on the market use Linux.
So the strengths of the Nook Color entail Magazines, eBooks, Apps, NookStudy, NookKids, and a deep content distribution system. The biggest con is that the device and all of the content is primarily USA only. You must have a registered billing and shipping address in the United States and the company does not ship the device overseas. The only way to get it is via 3rd party companies such as our own sponsor Shop e-Readers.
The Kindle Fire is also a full color tablet and is priced well below the cost of the Nook Color at $199. It also uses a custom GUI that makes the tablet much like the Nook Color in the respects that it is locked down to be a media/book reading device and not a run of the mill android experience.
The new Kindle Fire tablet coming out in November is poised to be one of the most successful tablets of all time. It is priced very aggressively at $199 and may get more sales because it is within the price range of the average person. It is designed in the same way as the Nook Color, in the respect that it is a locked Android experience and promotes exclusively Amazon products and services. Amazon has said that it is not going to lock the bootloader and will allow customers to load in their own applications. This means if you want a more traditional Android experience you won’t have to wait very long until someone roots the device.
The Kindle Fire may not have the deep magazine experience the Nook Color has right now, but Amazon has made inroads in securing the top publishing companies to offer subscriptions and single issues. This puts the Fire in direct competition because it intends on offering magazines at more affordable costs.
The big draw on the new Kindle Fire is the ebook, audiobook, and the cloud based solutions. Amazon has one of the best ebook stores in the world and has everything from classic books to modern day best sellers. It is also a nexus in terms of authors self-publishing, so you can easily discover new up and coming authors. Amazon does business with Audiobooks with audible.com and beats out the Nook Color for people who love having books read to them as they are driving, walking the dog, or doing whatever else. Some people just have a preference to have books read to them rather than just reading text on a page for a number of reasons.
The new Kindle Fire Silk web browser is also designed very well and will automatically cache the most visited websites so they instant load. This is very cool and considering the Fire is WIFI only and lacks 3G or 4G, it could provide a boon for offline reading.
One of the main benefits that will ensure Amazon sees a massive amount of sales is because of the international availability of its content. The company markets its entire content library to Canada, USA, Europe, Australia, and many more. This allows people to buy books, magazines, and soon download apps internationally.
Amazon also has plans for even more content as the Fire launches. They are approaching various publishers on a Netflix style ebook subscription service. They are getting resistance on that front because Penguin told us in an exclusive email interview that it “devalues their books sold on other platforms.”
So the Amazon Fire will offer magazines, books, audio books, apps, textbook rentals, video on demand, Amazon Prime, and a slew of other services. The company really does offer a greater media experience with its device than the Nook Color does.
Doug Klein mentioned that he is not worried about the Kindle Fire eating into his companies market share of being the second highest grossing e-reader line in the USA. He sees the Kindle Fire has a multimedia device and the Nook Color as a pure reading experience. The big reason why the Nook Color should continue to sell well is because “Barnes and Noble Stores are discovery engines, they allow customers to discover new books, magazines, and gadgets.”
The primary battle for LCD Reading devices this holiday season will definitely be the Kindle Fire vs the Barnes and Noble Nook Color. For the first time B&N will have serious competition on all fronts from its biggest rival. Amazon controls over 70% of the entire e-reader market in the USA and could make strong gains with the release of the Fire tablet in November.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.