Posts Tagged 'Android'

Nook vs Kindle: The Story of My Personal Decision

A Picture of a eBook

Image via Wikipedia

Ever since before we pre-ordered my wife’s first generation Barnes and Noble nook two years ago (probably even two years ago today since it first shipped November 30, 2009), I knew that I wanted an ebook reader that did not use a back-lit screen.

Back then I was aware that Sony and a few other companies already had expensive devices on the market that made use of the e-ink screen technologies I had read about a few years prior in Popular Science, and I had followed the release of the Amazon Kindle closely. This was a technology I knew I would use because I love to read, I love using gadgets, and I can’t read from a back-lit screen for too long before my eyes grow tired. As much as I love reading real books, the fact is that I get lazy about carrying around a whole book. I worry about tearing or creasing pages. And oddly enough, I have a sensitivity issue with paper.

Every once in a while, physical contact with paper is somehow registered as pain on my skin. I always loved to write, but my writing didn’t flourish until I could abandon the pain of resting my palm on paper and take up the keyboard. I have tried using gloves, lotion, petroleum jelly… You name it. Paper hurts my skin. Not all the time, but sometimes it’s so bad it becomes unbearable.

So I knew I needed an ebook reader.

I tend to shun products that quickly dominate a market and garner an almost cult following (ehem: iProducts).  I try to promote “the other guys” when it comes to making technology purchases, especially when the difference between the less popular product and the insanely popular product is negligible. And the Kindle had just about become such a product in the months leading up to the release of the nook.

Barnes & Noble nook (ebook reader device)

Image via Wikipedia

And so when Barnes and Noble announced the nook, I poured over the facts and decided that the  nook was a worthy competitor for the Kindle. When my wife expressed an interest in getting a nook or a Kindle, I helped her look at both as objectively as possible. In the end, she liked the openness of the Android platform, the fact that the nook would take the EPUB format, and she even liked that the nook offered competition for the Kindle. She opted for the nook, and we haven’t at any point in time regretted that decision.

So I guess a part of me always assumed I would get a nook. And recently, my desire to read and my desire to avoid touching paper books collided again and I found myself in a Barnes and Noble store holding the newest nook Simple Touch ereader. I loved it. Dark bevel (I heard once that the darker finish helped increase the perceived contrast of the e-ink screen). Slim profile. Compact design. Touch screen. And the price wasn’t bad at $150 (this was a month ago or so, before all the price changes).

I made the decision to get it. I knew that as the holidays got closer prices might go down, and I knew that some of my relatives might send money. I was too poor to just take the thing to the checkout then and there, but I knew I had a nook Simple Touch in my reading future.

It was just a matter of time.

Then Amazon did something crazy. They released an extremely similar product, at a lower price, with an ugly silver bevel. No worries. I still wanted the nook. But the Kindle was cheaper. But the nook had the dark bevel, and I was sure Barnes and Noble would match Amazon’s price soon enough (and I was right). So I stuck with my determination to get the nook.

Then Amazon did something else. They announced the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Essentially, it meant that I, as an Amazon Prime member, would have access to hundreds of bestselling books for free. Sure, it’s only one at a time, once a month. But these are not books that can be read for free on the nook. Most of them won’t even be on the library network where you can borrow books for free. And as a slow reader, I appreciate that the new Amazon service doesn’t have a due date. I can borrow the book indefinitely. This is a big deal for me.

But is it worth reading on a device with an ugly silver bevel?

Maybe.

So at this point my decision to purchase a nook wasn’t quite as solid. I had doubts. Also, somewhere in there I realized that the Kindle no longer held a firm, ridiculously popular grip in the ereader market. I realized that I wouldn’t have to feel like buying a Kindle was really just a pitiful cry for social help.

It was time to do what I do best: crunch some numbers.

I have used spreadsheets to analyze many things, and I knew that a spreadsheet could help me resolve this conflict. So I went to my bookshelves at home and wrote down the titles of almost forty of my favorite books that I already own (shamefully, a few of which remain unread). Then I went to my Amazon wishlist full of hundreds of books that have been recommended to me, or that I had planned on purchasing and reading in the future. All in all, I assembled a list of 103 books that were all relevant to my interests.

I decided that whichever service provided the greatest selection of books that I would be interested in reading would win. I put the list of books into the spreadsheet, then began pulling prices from Amazon and Barnes and Noble for the ebook versions.

Keep in mind that I put the spreadsheet together quickly, without doing a bunch of digging around. I went with the price for the first version that popped up, I didn’t do searches for variations or special editions or anything of the sort. I searched, I clicked, I got the price. That was it.

Oh, and I didn’t include expensive ebooks in my average price calculations. To me, any ebook that costs more than $20 should be ignored. If it’s that expensive but you just have to read it, find the hard copy in a library or check ebay.

Behold: MY SPREADSHEET.

I found out a couple of things right away. First, I have spent so much time on Amazon making music, movie, game, and grocery  purchases that I am way more comfortable with Amazon than I am with Barnes and Noble. I love going to a Barnes and Noble store in person, but I found their website nearly offensive in some cases. I can’t pinpoint exactly what I found so distasteful, but navigating it felt like trying to ride a bike through a rock garden, even after searching for 103 titles.

Second, and this one is important, I realized that Amazon does digital distribution better than Barnes and Noble. Amazon makes the entire process easier for me. Finding the books I wanted was easier and faster on Amazon, and since I already have an intimate relationship with them, the process for purchasing a book from them was easier (I found this out while trying to get free ebooks as a test of the system).

The results of the spreadsheet war? Amazon had 72 of my target titles in their Kindle library (69.9%) at an average price of $9.35 per title. Barnes and Noble had 63 of my target titles in their nook library (61.2%) at an average price of $9.32 per title. I found one book in the nook library that was less expensive than the version I found on Amazon. There were nine books that I found on Amazon that were not available for the nook. Not a single book from my list was only available for the nook.

All this meant that owning a Kindle would mean having access to all of the books I wanted to read in the nook library, plus some that I wanted to read that I couldn’t read on a nook, and it meant that I would have access to a constantly changing list of bestsellers that I could borrow for free indefinitely, in addition to all of the free books nook and Kindle can access equally (Project Gutenberg, the OverDrive library loaning network, and others).

Even with only a difference of 9 books between the services, a clear winner had emerged for me.

And since aesthetics are never a primary factor in my decision-making process, the Kindle Touch won by a landslide based on the Amazon architecture.

Plus, if the silver bevel does become a problem, I can always get a darker skin decal or a rubberized cover.

So last week I placed my pre-order, and today Amazon began shipping the devices, a whole week early.

I am very happy with my decision. I would promise a full review after I get it in the mail, but I’m afraid that I will be doing a lot more reading than writing.

Me and My Android 2.0

 

Android

Meet Android

So, tomorrow’s the big day. I’ve taken the whole day off work. I’ve identified the Verizon Store I’ll be making my purchase at and I know that they’ll be opening at 7:00 am (three hours earlier than usual). I’ve called and crunched all the numbers with a Verizon Wireless “plan expert.” I’m going to show up at the store early (even before their 7:00 AM opening time). Every detail has been considered, processed and addressed.

 

The next question is, will I even like my new Motorola Droid?

I’ve hunted across the net and found mostly raving, shining reviews. There are a few iPhone fanboys and enthusiasts that are shrugging the Droid off (or worse), but for the most part the reviews are glowing. Many people have tried to call the Droid an “iPhone Killer,” but I agree with those who don’t even bother pitting the Droid against the iPhone. We’re talking about two completely separate demographics in the same market. Think Nintendo Wii versus Playstation 3. While they may technically share the same market, the numbers prove that the demographics are so wildly different that they might as well not even be competing against each other.

I think my favorite review so far isn’t about the Droid specifically, but about its operating system, Android 2.0. I found it on Gizmodo, a site I generally get news from through other sources. In this case, Matt Buchanan writes one of the most objective, comprehensive and even stinging reviews of the Android operating system I’ve ever read. Halfway through the article I questioned my decision to buy the Droid this Friday. If you have been considering buying an Android phone, make sure you don’t miss this review.

His conclusion? Keeping his audience in mind (remember, the site is called “Gizmodo”), he says, “I can’t say Android 2.0 is ready for your mom yet, but it’s definitely ready for anybody reading this.”

For one of my favorite aspects of the Android operating system, read this one about its integration with Google services.

Essentially, for someone like me whose life is already nearly fully integrated with the services Google offers (Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Voice, Google Contacts, Google Maps… the list goes on), the Google build of the Android operating system seamlessly synchronizes the online Google services with a device that you carry in your pocket. No more forgotten appointments. No more separate phone/address lists. Everything consolidates nicely into the Google package and I slip it into my pocket. Sure, Android has shortcomings. The Droid may not be the ultimate cellular device, and its hardware may even be lacking in a few areas. But I know that the Google Android branded Motorola Droid is a perfect match for me.

Why? Mostly because I already know I don’t want an iPhone.

Motorola Droid Discovery

Ever since I first read about the possibility of the Motorola Sholes coming to the Verizon network, I have been bouncing with joy. More than a year ago I was anxiously engaged in trying to determine if and when Verizon might bring us an Android phone. Well, the Motorola Droid (the new name replacing the previous code-name of Sholes) has been officially announced and will be coming very soon to Verizon customers (on the 6th of November).

So, I’m probably going to get this phone, but in the meantime I’ve been receiving e-mail updates, reading reviews, looking for “spy shots” and so forth. In doing so, I discovered something inconsequential but entertaining (to me) at least. Check this out from an e-mail I received today:

Droid is a registered trademark!

Click for full size.

Yes, in the yellow highlighted portion we learn that Verizon or someone had to pay Lucasfilm Ltd. to use the name Droid. I laughed a little when I read it. You should too.

RE: RE: Letter to Verizon Wireless

If you’ve been following since the first letter I wrote, I just received a response to yesterday’s letter and here it is.  It’s short, it’s cold and it’s completely useless.  Notice that the second paragraph is the only thing this lady took the time to actually write to me, the rest is canned.

Dear [Mediocre Renaissance Man],

Thank you for your reply.  My name is [Service Chick] and I am happy to assist you.

[Mediocre Renaissance Man], at this time we do not know if we will have phones that will support the Android software. With [Service Dude]’s response, we cannot even mention any potential phones that have not been announced to the public. I am sorry for the inconvenience this may cause.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to assist you today. We appreciate your business and thank you for using Verizon Wireless.  Should you have additional questions or concerns, please reply to this e-mail.

Sincerely,

[Service Chick]

Verizon Wireless

Customer Service

My response:

Dear [Service Chick],

I am sorry too.  I hope that Verizon offers or announces something before I move in a couple of months.

Sincerely,

[Mediocre Renaissance Man]

The long version:

I just wish they would reaffirm their intentions to release something, even with no definite time frame.  I think I made that clear in my communications with them, but I was talking to the wrong department.  Customer service doesn’t know much more than I do as a consumer.  I really should have tried harder to contact a different division.  Maybe I will, next time.

RE: Letter to Verizon Wireless

This is follow-up for the letter to Verizon Wireless that I wrote yesterday.

For the follow-up to these letters, see this entry.

The letter submission was successful, and I want to share the response I got back today with you.  I have edited the customer service member’s name out, as well as my own (just for fun, I’m sure most of you know it, I haven’t exactly tried to hide it from you).  Here’s the letter from Verizon, with my response immediately following it:

Dear [Mediocre Renaissance Man],

My name is [Service Dude], and I?ll be happy to assist you with your equipment questions today.

I am unable to provide information regarding which equipment is being considered or approximate release dates, as this may raise expectations that may not be met.

Although we do not have the handset you are looking for at this time, I invite you to view our current phone selection as a possible alternative.  To view available equipment, please click on the following link, which will direct you the “Products” page of our website:

http://www.verizonwireless.com/products

You may also receive free e-mail updates as to when new products and services are available.  To receive your free e-mail update please click on the following link, to view the “E-mail Updates” page of our website:

http://email.vzwshop.com/servlet/website/ResponseForm?OSPEJNlmhtLk_.2ef

There are several wireless phones being tested for functionality and reliability with our network.  Verizon Wireless will not offer a product or service unless it meets the high standards our customers have come to expect.  Verizon Wireless is constantly improving the services, features, and wireless phones we offer to our customers for their communication needs.

[Mediocre Renaissance Man], I hope this information has been helpful.  We value your business and appreciate the opportunity to continue as your wireless service provider. Thank you for using Verizon Wireless products and services. Should you have additional questions or concerns, please reply to this e-mail.

Sincerely,

[Service Dude]

Verizon Wireless

Customer Service

Here’s what I had to say to that:

[Service Dude],

Thank you for your timely response.  I fear you have understood my inquiry well, but somehow managed to pretend you missed the point.

I am familiar enough with Verizon’s complete lineup of handsets and I am not interested in any of them (I currently have the Samsung SCH-U620 and am not displeased with it).  I am not looking for just another handset.  I am looking for an Android handset.  Like I said in my initial communication, this is something of such a great importance to me that I am considering switching service providers unless I receive some indication that I will not have to wait long to get an Android phone on the Verizon network.

I do somewhat appreciate your vague statement about “several wireless phones being tested for functionality and reliability with [y]our network,” but I am afraid it does not provide enough of an assurance that an Android phone will be available to me soon.

I am sure you understand my position as a customer.  Having worked in customer service many years myself, one of the greatest customer service philosophies I came to understand is that loyal customers are the most important foundation on which a business should maintain itself.  If you begin to lose longtime, loyal customers, you hurt your business almost irreparably.

I hope that Verizon will announce something soon that will answer my question.  I will be moving away from my current home in California within the next few months, and when I get to my new home (even if my contract is not yet expired with Verizon Wireless) I will begin researching T-Mobile’s service in my area.  I am sure I am not the only Verizon customer with such plans.  The only way Verizon will be able to retain my business is if concrete plans to release an Android phone are revealed before I move.

I understand that I am just one customer among many hundreds of thousands on the Verizon network, and my changing networks will not ultimately hurt business for the company.  I am not trying to make threats.  I am simply pointing out the fact that good, valuable customers (like myself) are walking away from your company simply because of your inaction.  All it would take is one press release (dated 2008, last year’s press release is not enough) to assure Verizon customers that an Android phone is coming soon, and many customers would be retained.

Sincerely,

[Mediocre Renaissance Man]

Letter to Verizon Wireless

Dear Verizon Wireless,

I have been your customer exclusively since I purchased my first cell phone in my first year of college several years ago.  The years have been good to us, and I am pleased to report that I have been almost entirely satisfied with all of your services.

These days I work, support a wife and two children and maintain a technology blog in my free time.  As a longtime fan of Google products and services, I was thrilled by the announcement and unveiling of T-Mobile’s new Android enabled phone, the G1.  In fact, I was so excited about the new product that I immediately found myself at your competitor’s web site researching pricing and plan information.  My contract with Verizon won’t be over until November 2009, but I was already considering abandoning my favorite service provider to get the shiny new G1 in my hands, despite the complaints I have heard about T-Mobile services.

So, as a technology blogger, Google buff and loyal Verizon customer, I am asking you directly: when can Verizon customers expect to see an Android phone available?  I am aware that LG, Samsung and Motorola have all announced their intention to build Android phones, but which one(s) will we see on the great Verizon network?  Will Verizon just sit back and watch their customer base switch (even in small numbers) to a competing network without doing anything to retain them?

If Verizon would simply announce something (a date, timeframe or even just the intention to release an Android phone) – other than the announcement last year that Android would be supported on the Verizon network – many customers like myself would remain loyal and wait for the official arrival of a Verizon Android smartphone.

A clear and detailed answer to my inquiries would be much appreciated, and the failure to respond with action before my contract is up will result in at least one fewer Verizon customer.

Sincerely,

[Mediocre Renaissance Man]
Note to my readers:

I e-mailed this to them (via their “contact us” form on their website) today.  Now we wait and see.  I’ll let you know if I get a response.  I’d really rather stay with Verizon, but if I can’t get my hands on an Android phone on their network soon you can bet I’ll be switching.

Their response and my subsequent response can now be read here.


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