Barnes & Noble's Nook edged ahead of the Amazon Kindle in Consumer Reports' e-reader ratings.
Consumer Reports has rated Barnes & Noble's
touch-powered, grayscale Nook higher than Amazon's Kindle device.
"That marks the first time since the Kindle launched that
Amazon's e-book reader hasn't been the top-scoring model in our Ratings," Consumer
Reports' Paul Reynolds wrote in a
June 17 posting on its Website
. "It also continues the steady improvement
in Barnes & Noble's e-book devices since the company rushed out a glitchy
first version of the Nook during the holiday season of 2009."
Consumer Reports gives both the new Nook (which Barnes &
Noble refers to as "The Simple Touch Reader") and the latest Kindle equal
ratings when it comes to battery life. The new Nook and the WiFi-only version
of the Kindle also arrive at the same $140 price point.
"Among the pluses that allowed the Simple Touch to edge
ahead of the Kindle was its support for e-book loans from public libraries,"
Reynolds wrote, "but Amazon has announced that it will bring library loans to
the Kindle later this year; assuming it's implemented well, that functionality
might boost Amazon's e-book reader by the few points that now separate it from
the Simple Touch."
The two e-readers are so close to one another in the
publication's rankings, in other words, that a solid firmware update could
shift the balance.
Barnes & Noble's May 24 unveiling of a touch-screen,
grayscale Nook represented a radical change in strategy for the bookseller,
considering its previous release was the Nook Color, a full-color e-reader. The
new Nook features a 6-inch screen and weighs less than eight ounces, with a
battery reportedly capable of lasting two months on a single charge.
The Nook Color, which retails for $249, includes some
decidedly tablet-like capabilities: access to 125 apps, enhanced audio and
video for certain titles, Web-based email, support for Adobe Flash Player, and
a social-networking app that lets readers swap books and recommendations. Many
analysts saw the device as an attempt to flank Amazon's Kindle franchise, which
is widely perceived as dominating the e-reader market.
"Barnes & Noble is not targeting Apple with this device.
Instead, it's targeting Amazon, trying to undermine today's black-and-white
Kindle as well as tomorrow's color Kindle tablet," James McQuivey, an analyst
with Forrester, wrote in April about the Nook Color. "Barnes & Noble may
have come to market with its original e-ink Nook second, but its Nook Color
upgrade gives it the upper hand in the war over the serious reader."
As mentioned by Consumer Reports, Amazon intends to release
a Kindle Library Lending feature later in 2011. That will allow library patrons
to borrow Kindle e-books from more than 11,000 libraries in the United States.
Amazon is also seeking to broaden Kindle adoption with an ad-supported device
that retails for $114, slightly cheaper than the basic Kindle at $139 and the
Kindle 3G at $189.
Meanwhile, data suggests that the popularity of various
e-readers is threatening the traditional publishing industry.
"The book publishing industry has entered a period of
long-term decline because of the rising sales of e-book readers," read an April
28 research note from IHS iSuppli, which predicted a decrease in book revenue
at a compound annual rate of three percent through 2014-a reversal from the
period between 2005 and 2010, when revenue rose.
"For the traditional book publishing industry, the
implications of the rise of the e-book and e-book reader markets are
frightening, given the decline in paper book printing, distribution and sales,"
Steve Mather, IHS iSuppli's principal analyst for wireless, wrote in that
research note. "The industry has entered a phase of disruption that will be as
significant as the major changes impacting the music and movie business."