Nook Emerges as Serious Contender in the eBook Reader Universe

Online Opinion Indicates New Color Nook Blooms Late But Bright for Barnes & Noble

eReader Study – Part II

Back in July, we released a study on Twitter conversations surrounding eBook readers, specifically examining the drivers of consumer satisfaction. We looked at the Amazon Kindle, the Apple iPad, and mobile devices as the three dominant product categories. Since then, the eReader market has continued to grow and evolve, and as a result we decided to conduct an updated study to capture more recent trends.

This time around we decided to focus our analysis on the Nook and Nook Color readers from Barnes & Noble, a product not included in our previous study. The original Nook debuted in late 2009 and has been slowly gaining prominence in the market throughout 2010, especially with the release of the Nook Color just prior to the holiday season. While the e-reader industry remained quite polarized in 2010–the Kindle dominating ‘dedicated reader’ segment and the iPad controlling the multi-functional tablet segment – Barnes & Noble has brought worthy competition to both sides of the market with the Nook and Nook Color. As a result, our analysis examined Twitter conversation about these two devices in comparison to conversation about the Kindle and iPad.

Thematic Analysis of eReader Consumer Opinion Sentiment

Analysis of Twitter conversation using the Crimson Hexagon ForSight™ platform revealed diverse findings about perceptions of the Kindle, iPad, Nook, and Nook Color. Sentiment was predominantly positive for each device except the iPad, with Kindle, Nook and Nook Color coming in tied at almost 80% total positive conversation.† Since our previous study, the iPad has continued to receive less favorable sentiment as an e-reader due to its glossy LCD display (less optimal for reading) and large size, though it is differentiated by its versatility as a tablet computer. Perception of the Kindle has remained relatively steady as well, with a slight increase in conversation about affordability from 11% to 14%, possibly due to price reductions implemented over the summer in response to competition from the Nook.

We also found that the market entrance of the Nook and Nook Color has added considerable diversity to the market. Both Nook devices came out on top in terms of percentage of total positive sentiment, though the specific themes of conversation differed from the Kindle and iPad. For instance, Twitter conversation indicated that support for library loans – a feature absent from Amazonís Kindle – is a significant driver of satisfaction with the standard Nook. As a result, budget-conscious consumers may opt for the Nook over the Kindle in order to ‘borrow’ e-books from their local library at no charge.

Twitter conversation also reveals that the Nook Color, while still very new, is already establishing a unique place for itself in the e-reader market. Unlike the Kindle and standard Nook, which feature black & white ‘e-Ink’ displays, the Nook Color has a color LCD touch-screen similar to the iPad. With this screen, the Nook Color is better able to support layered content like newspapers, magazines, and children’s books – types of media that the Kindle does not serve as well. In addition, the Nook Color’s display is a touch-screen which eliminates the need for traditional buttons that often make the Kindle more cumbersome to use. Twitter users clearly appreciate these advantages, showing 15% positive perception of the Nook Colorís display, compared to 10% for the standard Nook and just 8% for the Kindle.

The Nook Color’s display is not without its disadvantages, however. As with the iPad, the Nook Color’s LCD screen is less optimal for heavy reading or outdoor use, a shortcoming which is reflected by 13% negative sentiment regarding its display. Fortunately for Barnes & Noble, the company continues to offer the standard Nook for those who prefer an e-Ink display.

Another key finding about the Nook Color is that despite its price tag of $249, Twitter users still largely perceive the device as affordable – 14% of relevant conversation involved positive perception of price . This is telling of the Nook Color’s competitive positioning as a lower-cost, ‘pseudo-tablet’ that can cater to consumers looking for color and versatility without dishing our $500 for an iPad. While not a full-fledged tablet computer like the iPad, the Nook Colorís vibrant display and touch-screen seems to be attractive for those looking to do a bit more than just read e-books. With the introduction of the Nook Color, Barnes & Noble seems to have provided the e-reader market with a much-needed middle-ground solution, ideal for those torn between lower-cost e-Ink devices and expensive but versatile tablets.

It’s worth noting that while the Nook readers have certainly established a solid and growing position in the e-reader market during 2010, our analysis also revealed that Amazonís Kindle is still by far the most popular e-reader on the basis of total conversation volume on Twitter. Looking at the daily volume of relevant Twitter conversation for each of the devices, we see that conversation about the Kindle far outpaces the Nook and Nook Color, consistently adding up to more Tweets-per-day than both Nook devices combined (an average of about 1,000 Tweets per day for Kindle vs. just under 500 per day for Nook). Conversation volume for the iPad is also much lower (120 per day), though this is due to our analysis of the iPad being limited to conversations about using the device as an e-reader. Although the Kindle continues to leverage its first-mover advantage and enjoys a dominant position in the e-reader market, consumer opinion expressed online shows the Nook is making up for lost time and quickly gaining ground and market share.

Consumer Opinion Comment Volume

Are you happy with your eBook reader?† Considering a change?† Weíd love to hear your perspective.

As always, we’ll continue monitoring the topic for interesting trends. In the meantime, feel free contact us at info@crimsonhexagon.com with questions or to learn how your market, brand or product could benefit from leveraging the Crimson Hexagon ForSight Platform for social media monitoring and analysis. Want to see the Crimson Hexagon platform in action? Request a Live Online Demo.


Written by

Wayne St. Amand is a veteran marketing leader with a track record of significantly accelerating the growth trajectory and valuation of technology businesses. At Crimson Hexagon, St. Amand is responsible for driving business expansion through the company's global corporate and product marketing efforts.

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