WeigtingApplesAndOranges_3“If you two don’t stop quarreling back there, I’m going to turn this e-book industry around!”

One might imagine Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s mother scolding them thus from the front seat of the family car, as over the last day or so the two have been issuing dueling announcements over the length of their battery life. Thus far Amazon has claimed the Kindle to have a battery life of up to one month if reading one hour per day with the wi-fi turned off. (30 days x 1 hour = 30 hours.)

When Barnes & Noble came out with the Nook Easy Touch Reader the other day, it claimed a battery life of up to two months—if reading one-half hour per day with the wi-fi turned off. (60 days x 0.5 hour = 30 hours.) At which point, Amazon abruptly changed its own calculation from 1 month x 1 hour to 2 months x 1/2 hour to match. (We won’t even get into that greatest of all marketing weasel-words, “up to,” which in actual practice means “you’ll get this much if you’re lucky, but you’ll probably actually get less and you certainly won’t ever get more.”)

Now CNet reports receiving a statement from Barnes & Noble that changes the measurements to an entirely new standard (and seems to sound rather annoyed underneath all the marketroidese).

With up to two months on a single charge, the all-new Nook has the longest battery life in the industry and superior battery performance to Kindle 3. In our side-by-side tests, under the exact same conditions, continuous use of the device resulted in more than two times Kindle’s battery life. While reading at one page a minute, the all-new Nook battery lasts for 150 hours, where the Kindle battery, using the same page-turn rate, lasts for only 56 hours (both with Wi-Fi off). We’ve also done a continuous page turn test and at one page turn per second, the all-new Nook offers more than 25,000 continuous page turns on a single charge.

It’s probably going to take an independent review authority like Consumer Reports to run a test and find out which one is really longer-lasting. Though from the point of view of someone who connects his electronic devices up to charge every night while sleeping, it’s really kind of a tempest in a teacup.


  1. The real life use of an e-reader would rarely conform to the claims of either company. I use my Kindle for many hours each day and since I also have newspapers plus NY Times Latest News, also Slate, way more page turns are involved than in what they consider to be the norm. With the newspapers and blogs, it is not straight-through reading. I am back and forth to the list of stories selecting what I want to read. Also when reading a book, for sure I am doing more than one page turn a minute. All that matters to me is being able to read when I want to, so every couple of nights, I plug it into the charger before I go to sleep. I hardly consider this a big deal but am not about to run the battery all the way down just to see how long it would go. My backpacking days are over, but if I were still doing that, then I would have the wi-fi and 3G turned off and forgo anything except books. But how often does that happen in a normal life? And how many of these nitpickers don’t have a place to plug the reader in overnight? Do they read in their sleep?

  2. While I agree that we won’t know any thing for sure until there’s an independent review (or we do our own testing), the latest from B&N is meaningful. All batter measurements we’ve been given before by any eReader has been meaningless. So many hours per day of reading is meaningless, since power is really only consumed when the page is refreshed (assuming network connectivity is off). So how many times you turn the page will cause this “guesstimate” to be way off in many situations. Consumers have complained about this from the very beginning, as no one gets anywhere near the battery lifetimes published. However, telling us how many hours the batter lasts if you continuosly turn pages once per minute gives us a very real metric that can truly be used for comparison purposes. This no marketing wriggle room here.

    Personally, I think it would be a PR disaster for B&N to be making these numbers up. So while I’d love an independent investigation, I’m inclined to believe that the NOOK 2 does have nearly twice the lifetime. Also, while in normal practice I do charge my devices much more often, usually nightly, there is are legitimate reasons to want longer battery life. Taking your eReader camping, for instance.

  3. It’s appalling B&N has made this an issue with a phony metric. Absolutely no one is going to use their e-ink Nook for two months without a re-charge. There is a material difference between 4 hr, 10hr, 24 hr, two weeks without a recharge under “normal” usage.

    So, ok: Nook Touch claims two weeks based on 2hrs per day reading without wifi or is it two months based on 1/2 per day reaching without wifi? Isn’t the whole point of the wifi that you stay synced, can share bookmarks, etc? Isn’t wifi ON what is being touted as useful?

    Assuming battery size about the same, and the software routines poll wifi about as efficiently, the e-ink screen is identical and presumably drains at a consistent rate … which leaves the energy cost of the touch screen technology.

    Surely the Nook and Kindle are in the same ball-park for regular (and vacationing) users. It’s not a difference between them: it is a difference compared to other technologies such as Nook Color.

  4. @Alexander Inglis: I keep WiFi off most of the time. When I want to sync, I’ll turn it on long enough to do so, then turn it back off. There’s no reason to have constant connectivity.

    There’s a reported battery difference of nearly a factor of two. That’s significant, and for some people it will be important. Some people really will go for extended periods where it will be inconvenient or even impossible to charge their eReader. So simply dismissing this metric is wrong. That said, it is true that for most people, both devices have battery lifes that are more than long enough to not matter when comparing them. So if you say you don’t care, that’s great. Just don’t dismiss those that do.

  5. Actually the battery drains down even not using it. So probably turning it on after two months and trying to read for 150 hours won’t work 😉 But anyway, great if it has a better battery life, won’t exchange my Kindle for it.

  6. @Alexander, I wouldn’t say appalling. One of the bullet-points in the Kindle ads is the battery life. B&N comes along and claims double. I deal with sort of silliness all the time. The OEM of the machines I deal with have stated accuracies (under given circumstances) and the competition comes along an claims even tighter accuracies (under ever tight circumstances). Happens all the time, and while it trips up the folks that don’t read the specifics, it makes them look silly in the eyes of those who do.

  7. The new nook has a smaller screen, though, and thus probably requires refreshing the screen more frequently since the “pages” hold fewer words. Since e-ink devices only really use power when refreshing, I would think this should be a consideration for any buyer/reader.

  8. Spider: the screen on the new NOOK is the same 6″ E-Ink screen used on the old NOOK and on the Kindles (other than Kindle DX). It’s Pearl technology like Kindle 3 instead of VizPlex technology like the old NOOK and Kindles 1 and 2, but there’s no size difference.

  9. Good point, Spider. Of course, the screen sizes should be taken into consideration when it comes to overall size and portability. For me a Kindle, a PRS-950, or a Nook are too large, the PRS-350 sized units are too small, but the PRS-650 and the Nook ST are in the Goldilocks zone. I would be more than happy to have what is a ridiculously long battery life (compared to my phone, or my lapper et cetera) nominally reduced a bit in order to have a unit in the size I prefer.

    Hooray, choice!

  10. The real takeaway lesson here is, never believe battery life claims by vendors. The numbers aren’t usually totally made up, but are obtained under conditions that seldom match your own. The first thing I do when looking at vendor claims of battery life is chop them in half.

    If an independent party tests battery life in a device, and tells me how they test it, then it might be useful for making comparisons between devices.

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