Why Does the Kindle Feel So Much Heavier Than the Nook?

As someone in a mixed marriage — that is, in our home we read on Kindles and Nooks (and also an iPad) — I got a laugh out of the following e-mail. It’s from a Buenos Aires reader named Pablo Untroib:

Hi guys, read your 1st book and I’m on my way to finish SuperFreakonomics, today it happened something that I thought you would be interested. First a little introduction:

Two months ago I purchased a Nook simple touch e-book reader, these gizmos aren’t that popular here in Argentina compared to USA, so my wife’s 1st reaction was, why you spent money on that thing? So I loaded it with some books, she likes and not a day passed then she said: this Nook is mine, you should get a new one for yourself. Strategic error on my side, I should had purchased two to start with, anyway, a month passed and a friend brought me a second Nook from USA.

After that day, my wife evangelized about the e-book reader among her friends. So intense was the campaign that when a new birthday was about to be celebrated, the group of friends decided to gift an e-book reader to one of her friends, since her friend does not read english, I suggested my wife to purchase a Kindle touch since Amazon Spanish books selection is far greater than Barnes&Noble.

Fast forward to this morning and the Freakonomic moment:

Today my wife brings the Kindle home so I can help her load some books, so the birthday present can be used right off the box. When she handed me the Kindle, I handle it for the 1st time in my life and my first comment was: its heavier than the Nook isn’t it? yes, I noticed exactly the same, she replied. Then I went to work where I have a precision scale, to my surprise the Nook weighed 209 grams and the kindle 209.7 grams. 

Pablo continues:

I assume it’s pretty impossible for two persons to accurately weigh only 0.7 grams difference by hand.

Why our perception was so off the scale to be sure of the “difference”? 

Can it be that we wanted it to be heavier, less comfortable to use, to unconsciously validate our choice of reader?

I love Pablo’s questions and especially that he bothered to weigh the two devices to check his gut instinct. How many times do we all assume that our gut instinct is right without whipping out the scale (or the calculator, or whatever instrument of measurement is appropriate)?

So what is the explanation? In addition to Pablo’s idea, at least two possibilities come to mind:

  • This is the endowment effect in action, leading Pablo to assume his choice (the Nook) is superior simply because it is his. One problem I always have with this explanation is that many of us also experience a “grass-is-greener” effect, whereby the thing we don’t possess — in Pablo’s case, the Kindle — appears more desirable simply because it isn’t ours.
  • Is there something in the physical design of the Nook and the Kindle — color, materials, typography, etc. — that makes the Nook seem lighter than it is and the Kindle seem heavier?

Would love to hear your thoughts.

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  1. Idea says:

    They have the weight distributed differently. Different inertial moments. Harder to turn or move one in certain ways, even though they are the same weight.

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  2. David says:

    Balance them both flat on a pencil laying flat to see their balance point is, my guess is that the nook is maybe more bottom heavy compared to the kindle.

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  3. Tom says:

    It could be weight distribution (as others have said)
    Density and expected weight (as others have said, and reminds me of the trick question “Which is heavier, a pound of lead or a pound of feathers?”)

    But it can also be material, as in touch sensation. Most probably comparisons where made using one hand, and the effect might be that you have to hold on harder to a more smooth material making you feel like your holding a heavier item and not just holding on harder to compensate is sliding out. (which can be increased with the effect of weight distribution)

    Although I would expect 1 and 2 are more probable (as people have said..)

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  4. Eric M. Jones. says:

    I quit taking Lipitor because it ruined my ability to detect different weights. To be clear: I couldn’t tell with any precision just by hefting it, how much a box weighed.

    My carpenter told me a similar story: He couldn’t feel the real weight of a hammer in his hand.

    We both stopped taking it for this reason.


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  5. Dan B says:

    The Nook is more ergonomically shaped then the Kindle in my opinion. There’s a nook in the Nook for fingers to rest in, making it easier to hold.

    I’m a Kindle owner, btw.

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  6. Lakshmi says:

    A Hypothesis: Nook’s bezel is larger, giving a larger area to hold it by while holding it by the bezel. Kindle’s bezel is narrower. Maybe it is not the 0.7 grams he is sensitive to, but the substantial increase in the pressure on the hand due to a narrower bezel?

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  7. BikerDad says:

    I don’t have an e-reader or tablet, so I what I’m offering is a hypothesis only:

    Balance point. The balance point (due likely to the placement of the battery) of the two devices could be different.

    A second possibility is simply that one is physically and/or visually smaller than the other, and thereby “seems” denser.

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  8. M.M. says:

    It’s obviously because, as any fashion maven knows, black is slimming. Duh.

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