Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook GlowLight 4 Plus: Which should you buy?

Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook GlowLight 4 Plus: Which should you buy?

There’s something to be said for e-ink readers.  In an age of TikTok, Netflix, Facebook, and YouTube, they not only encourage you to read, but shut out distractions and relax. At the moment there are only three major brands in North America  — Amazon, Nook, and Kobo — and of those, only the first two have a substantial footprint. Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite and the Nook GlowLight 4 Plus are two of the most prominent readers available — so how do they stack up?

Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook GlowLight 4 Plus: At a glance

  • Both tablets are waterproof, and feature built-in front lighting that allows you to read in dim or overbright conditions.
  • Both products support audiobooks, but the Paperwhite only supports Bluetooth output, whereas the Nook offers both Bluetooth and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
  • The Nook comes in a single 32GB version, whereas the Paperwhite has 8, 16, and 32GB tiers.
  • You’ll have to pay extra to remove lockscreen ads on most Paperwhite models.
  • While the Nook supports EPUB and PDF files, the Paperwhite additionally supports MOBI, TXT, HTML, DOC/DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, and of course Amazon’s Kindle format.
  • Amazon offers multiple subscription reading and audiobook services, and easier access to library books.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook GlowLight 4 Plus: Performance and features

The New York Times on a Nook GlowLight 4 Plus

Just to get it out of the way, there’s nothing much to say about performance. Neither tablet is a speed demon, especially since e-ink has inherently slower refresh rates than any LCD or OLED panel. Of course that doesn’t particularly matter here — these devices are all about reading and audiobooks, which are inherently low-intensity activities.

We’ll be covering most of the products’ defining features in the sections below, but one glaring difference is storage. The GlowLight 4 Plus (which we’ll refer to as the “Nook” from now on) comes in a single 32GB version, whereas Amazon sells 8, 16, and 32GB Paperwhites (32GB is limited to the Signature Edition). Even 8GB should be plenty if you’re only reading text, yet you should definitely veer towards higher storage options if you plan on loading audiobooks.

paperwhite 5 (1)

Both tablets are waterproof. The Paperwhite (above) is slightly tougher with an IPX8 rating and even some mild salt water resistance, but the IPX7 spec on the Nook is more than sufficient. You can use either device by the pool or sitting in your tub — just be sure to fish out your tablet and dry it if it accidentally takes a dip.

There a couple of design details about the Nook some readers will appreciate, the first being the presence of physical home and page-turning buttons. The Paperwhite is entirely dependent on touchscreen gestures, which certainly do the job, but aren’t as straightforward.

The Nook also provides Bluetooth and a 3.5mm jack for audiobook listening, whereas the Paperwhite is limited to Bluetooth. 3.5mm may be slowly fading away, but many people still have compatible headphones and speakers, and state-of-the-art Bluetooth headphones are overkill for audiobooks except their support for noise cancelling.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook GlowLight 4 Plus: Software and ecosystem

Amazon Kindle App Promo Image

This is going to be the biggest differentiator for most people. Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla of the e-book industry, offering not just the best selection but multiple subscription options. You get a small slice of e-books and audiobooks with Amazon Prime, but even more if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited and/or Audible. Amazon also makes it relatively easy to borrow e-books from libraries, and there are plenty of other ways to get free reads such as Project Gutenberg or Send to Kindle.

With the Nook being sold by Barnes and Noble, you shouldn’t have trouble finding things like New York Times bestsellers for it, but expect to buy most of the things you read on a per-title basis when you’re not sideloading. Although there is an audiobook subscription option, there’s no equivalent for regular e-books, and you’ll inevitably have to buy some audiobooks outright unless you’re only listening to one a month.

On top of that the Nook only supports the two most popular platform-agnostic e-book formats, EPUB and PDF. The Paperwhite combines these with support for MOBI, TXT, HTML, DOC/DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, and of course Amazon’s proprietary Kindle format, so if there’s very little you can’t view on it. And it’s harder to borrow library books on a Nook, since you have to download an EPUB file to a computer, make sure your Nook is signed into your Adobe ID, then use desktop software (either Adobe Digital Editions or Android File Transfer) to sync. If you’re expecting to get most of your books from libraries rather than an online store or free repositories, you’ll almost certainly prefer a Paperwhite.

It’s worth noting here that both products have relatively simple onscreen interfaces, and sync with mobile apps if you want to carry on reading via a smartphone or a more advanced tablet like an iPad or Galaxy Tab.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook GlowLight 4 Plus: Display

The Nook GlowLight 4 Plus with warm light on

The Nook pulls ahead here by most metrics, justifying its pricetag with a 7.8-inch, 300ppi (pixels per inch) screen. The Paperwhite’s display has a similar pixel density, but slots in at 6.8 inches. That makes the Nook instantly better suited to things like newspapers and graphic novels, and superior for reading overall. If your eyesight isn’t the best, it means being able to enlarge text and retain more content onscreen.

Both the Nook and Paperwhite take their names from their front lights, which keep their e-ink legible whether you’re in darkness or direct sunlight. We should point out however that while they each let you adjust the warmth and intensity of lighting, only the Nook and the Paperwhite Signature Edition can automatically adjust brightness to your surroundings. If you buy a standard Paperwhite, you’ll have to adjust brightness manually. That’s not a big deal, but auto brightness could potentially improve battery life and/or protect your eyes when you’re reading in bed.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook GlowLight 4 Plus: Battery life and charging

The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2023

The Paperwhite can potentially last up to 10 weeks on a charge, according to Amazon. That’s going to vary based on your device settings, as well as whether you listen to audiobooks, and how voracious your overall habits are. Amazon’s figure assumes 30 minutes of e-book reading per day, with Wi-Fi off and brightness set at 13. If you read for an hour a day and leave Wi-Fi on, expect battery life to drop, if probably to about a month. That’s still impressive.

Barnes and Noble will only promise “weeks” of runtime for the Nook, and we haven’t tested the product’s battery life to say something more concrete. Realistically, we doubt anyone will complain — even charging up an e-reader every week or two is nothing next to charging an iPad every couple of days.

The devices primarily rely on USB-C for charging, but if you buy the Paperwhite Signature Edition, you get the added perk of Qi-compatible wireless.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook GlowLight 4 Plus: Price and availability

  • Kindle Paperwhite (8GB, with ads): $139.99
  • Kindle Paperwhite (8GB, without ads): $159.99
  • Kindle Paperwhite (16GB, with ads): $149.99
  • Kindle Paperwhite (16GB, without ads): $169.99
  • Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition (32GB, without ads): $189.99
  • Nook GlowLight 4 Plus (32GB): $199.99

Superficially Amazon might seem to have pricing on lock, since you can buy a Paperwhite for $60 less than a Nook, and that’s without accounting for Amazon’s frequent discounts. The company is willing to take a financial hit to get you into its ecosystem.

The devil is in the details, though. The entry-level Paperwhite is limited to just 8GB, which once again may be fine for pure e-books, but could be a problem if you start loading audio. You’ll then have to pay an extra $20 if you want to keep ads off your lockscreen, which feels like gouging on Amazon’s part — particularly since the company really, really wants you to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.

In truth the closest match to the Nook is the Paperwhite Signature Edition, and even that still uses a 6.8-inch screen versus its rival’s 7.8. When you consider the specs you’re getting, the Nook holds its own in terms of value.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook GlowLight 4 Plus: Which should you buy?

The 2023 Kindle Paperwhite with warm light

If smooth access to the most possible content is what matters to you, go with a Paperwhite. However monopolistic it might be, the Kindle platform reigns supreme, and that’s only aided by wider format support, optional subscription plans, and easier library borrowing. You’ll also save money on the hardware, if by virtue of reduced screen size and/or storage.

Those factors will probably decide the battle for a lot of shoppers, but the Nook could pull out a victory among people who want 32GB of storage, physical page-turning buttons, 3.5mm audio, and/or the biggest possible screen. You might find that last feature matters more than you’d expect — even if you’re not reading graphic novels or coping with eyesight problems, a 7.8-inch display means less frequent page flipping. Just remember that if you do go the Nook route, you’ll probably be buying most of your e-books and/or audiobooks, assuming you’re not already planning to sideload from third-party sources.

Would you rather buy a Kindle Paperwhite or a Nook GlowLight 4 Plus?

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Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook GlowLight 4 Plus: FAQ

Yes. The Paperwhite is slightly more durable, even offering some salt water resistance, but the Nook will do just fine in most cases.

If you’re worried about blue light levels — an issue that’s somewhat overblown, we should point out — both tablets let you make the lighting warmer.

No, they only come with USB-C cables. You’ll need to supply your own charger or plug into a computer.

Yes. The Paperwhite supports Bluetooth, while the Nook offers both Bluetooth and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Yes, both of them support PDF files.

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