Barnes and Noble and Kobo started selling e-readers and e-books around the same time in 2009/2010. Over the years the two companies have constantly refined their E INK offerings, providing users with better hardware and software. The latest generation readers are here, the B&N Nook Glowlight 4e and the Kobo Clara 2e, which are considered entry level e-readers. What are the major differences between the two?
On a pure hardware level, these are quite different. The Kobo has 300 PPI, which provides razer sharp fonts, whereas the Nook has 212 PPI. Both have sunken screens and bezels, which means there is no no layer of glass protecting the screen, instead it is using exposed e-paper. I like this design more than glass, since there is nothing getting in the way between your eyes and the screen. There will be no glare from overhead lighting. Speaking of lights, the Nook is using a front-lit display with just white LED lights and the Kobo uses both a front-lit display and color temperature system.
The one big advantage that the Nook has, are the buttons. One of the signatures of the Nook line of e-readers are manual page turn buttons on the right and left side of the screen, in addition to a home button. I like having the option to turn pages in ebooks, manga, newspapers or magazines with a button click, instead of swiping and gesturing via the touchscreen. The Clara does not have buttons.
The Nook is powered by a quad core processor and the Kobo is using a dual core. Nook has 2GB of RAM and Kobo has 512MB. Why does Nook have more powerful hardware? This is because of the operating system. Nook e-readers have always employed Android and skin the UI, so it is consistent across multiple generations of hardware. Android is more demanding, so e-readers tend to require more powerful hardware to handle multiple background processes. Kobo has always run Linux, which doesn’t require much CPU or RAM. The Nook has 8GB of storage and Kobo has 16GB, which is double. Battery life is relatively the same.
The software experience is quite similar. Both brands devote most of the home screen to the books you are reading and don’t really advertise products and services. Both have UI navigation links to the store, library settings. Nook has Readouts, which provides free ebooks and interviews with authors, as well as editorials by Nook staff. Kobo has reading statistics, compatibility with borrowing reading books via Overdrive and Pocket articles with plugins with major browsers. Kobo also price matches ebooks, while Nook does not.
The reading experience is more or less the same. You can adjust fonts, line spacing, margins, or font type. Kobo has more advanced options, whereas Nook is a little more simplified. I like the Nook reading experience more than Kobo. They both have access to the same books, mostly. Tittles from major publishers and indie authors, however Nook has more manga, in addition to newspapers and magazines. Also, don’t discount the page turn buttons on the Nook.
The Nook is primarily sold directly in the United States from B&N, although you can buy them outside the US from the Good e-Reader Store, who is a Barnes and Noble authorized distributor. Kobo has more of an international footprint and they tend to partner with bookstores, so their devices are available where readers are. I think in the US, the Nook is the better device. It has more powerful hardware and if anything goes wrong with it, it is easy to bring it back to the store to have it serviced. Internationally, its a tossup. I think the Nook still wins, it is more simplified reading experience. Kobo’s tend to have more quality control issues, with uneven lighting and are more prone to dead pixels on the screen.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.