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.

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.



View All Comments »
  1. nicholasjh1 says:

    I don’t know if it’s the picture, but the kindle also appears slightly smaller (by way of smaller bezel, not screen), which would make it denser….not sure how you would notice this, except in rotating it, but it’s a possibility… my eye caught the post below and noticed that someone has already mentioned this…

    Also, if the kindle is smaller across, and they were both holding it with 2 hands, the angle of their arms could have been different, which could have caused a difference. haha, I just read that everyone thinks its mechanics/inertia.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  2. Lloyd says:

    I suggest a combination of:

    1) Name:
    “Nook” sounds kind of frivolous and “light weight” to me – sort of homey like “nook and cranny”.
    “Kindle” sounds more a bit more dynamic – perhaps invoking fiery imagery.

    2) Origin:
    Amazon is a real heavy weight company
    Barnes and Noble are pretty big too of course, but not such a global player I think

    3) Design:
    The Kindle has a squarer more formal look. It reminds me more of a laptop which I expect to be a bit heavier.
    The Nook is rounder and looks a bit more like an item of household goods – perhaps a place mat or some other similarly light weight item.

    One could test at least two of these ideas fairly easily.
    1) Try presenting subjects with no knowledge of e-readers with a “Nook” and a “Kindle” but swap their names over. then ask them what the weigh.
    2) Try presenting subjects with no knowledge of e-readers with a “Nook” and a “Kindle” telling them the Nook was made by IBM and the Kindle by a local company.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0