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eReader Showdown – Kindle 2 vs. Sony eReader

This report compares the user experience of the Amazon Kindle 2 versus the Sony eReader, looking at aspects such as physical design, interface design and shopping experience. Catalyst Group details their objectives, methodology, insights and observations.



Gather users’ general impressions of the Amazon Kindle 2 and Sony PRS-700 eReader devices, including the overall organization and presentation of content.

Note: Throughout this report, the Amazon Kindle 2 and Sony PRS-700 eReaders will be referred to as ‘Kindle’ and 'Sony’ respectively.

Interaction Design
Determine how the presentation and layout of the Kindle and Sony eReader devices fit with users’ expectations and needs.

Visual Design
Gauge users’ reaction to the styling and look of the Kindle and Sony eReader devices.

Gauge users’ reaction to the overall value of the Kindle and Sony eReader devices.

Gather users’ overall preference between the Kindle and Sony eReader devices.


  • 12 moderated one-on-one qualitative interviews (60 minutes) were conducted on June 8, 19, and 22, 2009 at the Catalyst Group office in New York, NY.
  • Participants were all college-educated professionals (6 males, 6 females) with no previous experience using either the Kindle or Sony.
  • Participants were not initially told that the Kindle and Sony were the focus of the discussion. The logo of each device was concealed with tape.
  • Participants performed a list of realistic tasks (e.g., highlighting text, etc.) after which they were asked to comment on their experience using the device (i.e., citing their likes/dislikes, ease/difficulty, suggested improvements, value, etc.)
  • Before the end of each session, participants were asked to select the device they liked best and why.
  • Participants were also asked whether they would likely purchase or use either device.

Statement of Limitations

  • The intention of these discussions was to provide insights and design direction; not quantitative assessment.
  • The observations in this report reflect the views of 12 participants. While accurate for this population, their views may not be representative of the overall population.
  • This report summarizes comments thought to be the most useful for providing insights and design feedback for the reviewed devices.

Overall Preferences: Survey Results & Reasons

Key Insights

  1. Overall, most users (8 out of 12) preferred the Kindle to the Sony
    • Clearer navigation – Users found the Kindle easier to navigate despite mentioning that they would rather have a touch screen interface
    • Better shopping experience – Users found the Kindle’s shopping experience easier since it allowed them to download items directly onto the device without the need of a computer
    • More aesthetically pleasing – Users found the Kindle more “sophisticated” and “elegant” looking
    • Better tactile “feel” – Users commented that handling the Kindle felt more “natural” and “pleasing”
  2. However, the Sony also had some positive features
    • The touch screen interface
    • The backlight feature
    • The ability to change the font size on any page
    • The perceived “durability” and “sturdiness” of the device
    • The reliance on icons to describe menu options rather than text
  3. Despite this, all users thought both devices had shortcomings and that the best eReader had not been created yet
    • Amazon
      • The lack of a touch screen interface
      • The lack of a color interface
      • The slow operating time (e.g., loading pages, joystick movements)
    • Sony
      • Non-wireless shopping
      • Difficulty navigating
      • The lack of a dictionary
      • The lack of a color interface
  4. Although most users preferred the Kindle to the Sony, they gave several reasons why they would not likely buy this device
    • Some did not regard themselves as “big readers” and therefore would not find much value in it
    • Several preferred the tactile “feeling” of real books (e.g., turning pages, etc.)
    • A few found electronic devices too “fragile”
    • A few did not want more technology in their daily lives
    • Price assumptions did not suggest value
  5. The couple of users who said they would consider buying a Kindle lost interest once retail pricing was discussed
    • All users were asked to estimate the price of each device. The Kindle averaged $210 and the Sony averaged $185. The actual price of either device is about 75% higher at $350

Detailed Insights

Physical Design: Overall Preference

Winner: Amazon Logo
Almost all users preferred the physical design of the Kindle to the Sony

Physical Design Kindle and Sony

  • Most users found the “thin,” “minimalistic,” “sleek,” and “rounded” look of the Kindle aesthetically pleasing in contrast to the Sony which they found “boxy,” “clunky,” and “very old school 80’s.”
    • “I thought it [the Sony] would be sleeker like the Vaio.”
  • Unlike the Sony, users found that the Kindle’s hardware features (e.g., keyboard) made the device more “accessible.”
    • “[The keyboard on the Kindle] makes it easier to see what’s going on.”
  • Unlike the Sony, users found that the glare-free screen and “less fuzzy” resolution on the Kindle made it easier to read.
    • “[The Kindle] doesn’t bring any eye strain.”

Physical Design: Drawbacks
Although users generally preferred the physical design of the Kindle to the Sony, they thought it had a few drawbacks

Kindle physical design

Positioning of controls

  • Having buttons on both sides of the device concerned users that they might accidently press one while holding it.
  • They did not understand why one of the ‘Next Page’ buttons was located on the leftside of the device. Rather than having two ‘Next Page’ buttons, they thought the lefthand one should have been a ‘Previous Page’ button instead.
    • “[The two ‘Next Page’ buttons] serve the same function.”
  • The joystick positioned on the right-side of the device made it “unfriendly” to left-hand users.
    • “This [joystick] would be really irritating if you were left-handed.”
    • “It’s [the joystick] out of nowhere on the right.”

Size of buttons

  • A couple of users thought the size of the buttons should be more proportionally equal.
    • “Why’s the ‘Next Page’ button larger than the ‘Prev Page’ button?”

Purpose of joystick

  • A few users were not clear what the purpose of the joystick was before using the device. Users thought they could navigate pages by using the arrow button on the Keyboard instead. Once understanding the joystick’s function, they mentioned that they would prefer a track ball.
    • “The square didn’t look like it [a joystick].”
    • “I want it to be just like my Blackberry.”
    • “It’s not intuitive.

This content from July 2009 is also available in pdf format.

This content was provided by Catalyst Group. Visit their website at

Company profile

Catalyst Group

Catalyst Group

New York, New York, United States of America
(212) 243-7777
About Catalyst Group :
User-centered research & design firm,dedicated to helping companies connect their business objectives to the needs and expectations of their customers

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