Friday, December 17, 2010

Electronic Book Platform Smackdown

I can code, but I use some help becoming a better designer. So I've been wanting to read Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition for some time (note, this is an Amazon Associates link -- I get a portion of revenue generated by it).

I'm flying to Tampa for the holidays so I thought I might buy the eBook version to read on the plane. Electronic books. What could be easier and more useful, right? Let's see what the options for my iPad are.


iBooks is a gorgeous App. It looks great and is easy to use, even if it is an Apple-centric product. You can hilight words, search, add bookmarks, and even write notes on the pages.

Don't Make Me think costs $31.99.


The Kindle iPad app doesn't quite look as fancy as the iBooks app, but the text is quite readable, and I like the overall experience. You can write notes, save bookmarks, search. Thankfully, Kindle is quite cross-platform; you can even find versions of the app for Android.

Don't Make Me Think costs $17.59 (if you want a paperback, Amazon charges $23.32)

Google Books

Google Books for the iPad has an very Google-like minimalistic feel to it. It remembers the last page you were on for each book, but otherwise I don't see any other mechanism for marking up books: no notes, no bookmarks (except the last page you visited), no hilighting. You can search inside of books.

Google books is cross-platform, supporting lots of platforms including Android and web browsers.

I was unable to find Don't Make Me Think for sale from Google.


The Nook iPad app reminds me a lot of the Kindle app, but slower. Nook reader apps are available on a variety of platforms including Android. It seems a little sluggish to open books on iPad compared to the other readers, but it works fine once the book is open. You can add bookmarks, hilights, and notes. You can search inside of books.

Don't Make Me Think costs $31.99


There are a lot of variables that impact the desirability of eBooks. DRM. Usability. Long term viability. Backing up. Two that matter to me are the ability to add notes, search, and get cheap books. For this particular book Kindle is the winner for both price and features (where it seems to match the competition).

Feature-wise, Google is the loser. I love Google for many things, but this product needs work. For buying fiction, Google might work fine, but for Non-Fiction I need to be able to mark up my books with notes. Also, the book I wanted wasn't even available. I hope to see improvement from Google's product.

Price wise, both Nook and iBooks charged significantly more than a new copy of the paperback on Amazon. Fail!

The worst part of all these options is that now you can waste a good hour doing price-comparisons between electronic books, used books, and paperbacks. If one of the Electronic Book providers offered an iron-clad low price guarantee, I think they might have a chance to steal some serious market share.

This might also be an opportunity for book price comparison websites. There is money to be made saving people time and money. Just look at all the travel, restaurant, and bargain websites out there. Where is the HipMunk of ebooks?

Have you purchased electronic books on these different platforms? I'd love to hear about your experiences.

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