Comparing e-Readers: iPad vs Kindle vs Nook

The tale of the hardware tape

iPad Pro Family
image credit: Apple Inc.

For the most part, the e-book reader market is dominated by three companies and devices: Apple and its iPad, Amazon and its Kindle, and Barnes and Noble and its NOOK. They're not the only reader devices, as the chart below shows, but they're the major options.

When planning to buy an e-reader, though, it's important to understand what you really want. Do you want a thin, lightweight device dedicated to reading even in difficult environments like the dark or direct sun?

Or do you want a more full-featured tablet that offers ebook reading as one feature along with things like web browsing, multimedia, and gaming?

Versatility doesn't necessarily make it a better product. Devices that do one thing really well can also be appealing—depending on your needs and preferences.

This chart doesn't compare user experience or book price. It simply stacks some current versions of these devices—plus the Kobo aura e-reader—against each other from a hardware and cost perspective to help you make a purchase decision.

e-Reader Comparison: iPad vs Kindle vs nook

 iPad
Pro
iPad
Air 2
iPad
mini 4
KindleKindle
Fire HD 8
NOOK
GlowLight
Plus
Kobo
aura
screen (inches)/
resolution

12.9
2732 x 
2048

9.7
2048 x
1536

9.7
2048 x
1536
 
7.9
2048 x
1536
68
1280 x
800
66
color screenyesyesyesnoyesnono
backlightyesyesyesnoyesyesyes
touchscreenyesyesyesyesyesyesyes
storage

32 GB
128 GB
256 GB

32 GB
128 GB
32 GB
128 GB
4 GB16 GB
32 GB
4 GB4 GB
connectivityWi-Fi
4G LTE
Wi-Fi
4G LTE
Wi-Fi
4G LTE
Wi-FiWi-FiWi-FiWi-Fi
ebook formatAZW
Doc
ePub
MOBI
PDF
RTF
TXT
AZW
Doc
ePub
MOBI
PDF
RTF
TXT
AZW
Doc
ePub
MOBI
PDF
RTF
TXT
AZW
DOC
MOBI
PDF
TXT
AZW
DOC
MOBI
PDF
TXT
ePub
PDF
ePub
MOBI
PDF
RTF
TXT
web browseryesyesyesnoyesnono
audio/video?yesyesyesnoyesnono
gamesyesyesyesnoyesnono
bluetoothyesyesyesnoyesnono
size (in.)12 x
8.68 x
0.27

9.4 x
6.6 x
0.24
9.4 x
6.6 x
0.24
8 x
5.3 x
0.24
6.3 x
4.5 x
0.36
8.4 x
5.0 x
0.4
6.4 x
4.7 x
0.34
6.3 x
4.4 x
0.33
 
weight (lb.)

1.57-1.59

0.96-0.98

0.96-0.980.65-0.670.360.750.430.40
price

US$799-
$1129

$599-
$939

$399-
$629
$399-
$629
$79-
$99
$89-
$135
$130$120
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Beyond the E-Reader Features

Deciding what e-reader to buy is driven by more than just specs and price, of course. You need to consider the full experience of each device. After all, a device that does more of what you want and costs just a bit more is a better option. When considering e-readers, there are three thing not listed in the chart below that I think are important to keep in mind:

  • Stylus—In addition to touchscreens or buttons, the iPad Pro can be controlled by a stylus, the Apple Pencil. The Apple Pencil isn't designed for launching apps, but is instead a highly specialized device for writing, drawing, and other creative applications. On this list, only the iPad Pro has anything similar to the Pencil.
  • Gaming—Everyone wants a break from reading from time to time, and games can be a nice option—if your e-reader supports them, that is. On this list, only the iPad and Kindle Fire support games. The NOOK comes in a Samsung-tablet version that offers games, but isn't included here.
  • App Store—Expanding the functionality of your device beyond just reading is key to finding long-term enjoyment and value. Perhaps the best way to do this is to a device that can run apps to do things beyond reading. On this list, just the iPad and Kindle Fire have App Stores.

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