Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nook Review Time

I got my greasy little typing sticks on a Nook last night at the Barnes & Noble by UNLV.

Summary review: daddy want.

Detailed review: when I picked it up from the display stand (to which it was bound with a white cable that, presumably, would reveal itself to be an iPod cable-white Coral snake if I made a run for it), I thought it was a mockup unit, like the cell phones with pictures of functional interfaces adhered to the screen that are actually hollow and once used to smuggle cocaine from, oh, let's say Tijuana.

The reason I thought it was fake was that the image on the screen--a hedcut image of Mark Twain--was obviously not a sticker, but obviously not a digital image. I asked the guy at the information desk if he had a real one, and he reached over coyly and hit the power button. Mark Twain dissolved in a black mist of e-ink, and was replaced by text.

I was impressed already.

Seriously, it looks that real: e-ink is absolutely indistinguishable from paper, albeit paper under a thin layer of glass-like screen material.

If you haven't seen the pictures, here's the layout: a smallish e-ink screen above--about the size of a hardcover book page--and a color LCD below. The LCD is used to navigate: scroll through your books, change settings, buy books, etc. Both screens look brilliant.

  • E-ink is awesome, and, IMHO, the only acceptable way to read anything longer than a blog post on an electronic device. Remember that little voice in your head that eighteen years ago suggested that going to see Ratt and Winger concerts with no ear protection was probably a bad idea? That's the same voice in your head telling you not to read The Lost Symbol on your iPhone. (What's that? Couldn't hear you.) I said, don't read novels on your iPhone, you old goofball! Geez...
  • It's very small. Look around the room for a 5x7 picture in a small frame. It's about that big, maybe a little longer. It does not, however, have an image of you and your fabulous 80s haircut--but it does display pictures in black and white e-ink, so you could do that, if you wanted to...I guess.
  • It plays MP3s, which seems like a totally worthless feature to me, but somebody probably wants that. Ever read Skymall catalogs? There are toilet paper dispensers that play MP3s now. No kidding. Christ.
  • It supports ePub and PDF, so you can read those magazines you've been collecting in the internet for the past three years, as well as the large collection of third party books published in ePub, which seems to be the standard ebook format. Many, I believe, are free.
  • It runs the Android operating system, which means it is probably going to be more hacker-friendly than the Kindle. I'm sure someone has already modified a nook to do something related to porn, funny cats, Warcraft, or porn. My hope for this feature is that third parties will release modules and hacks to open it up to other formats, like Kindle books and Word docs.
  • If you're at a B&N store, you can read one book per day free via the wireless connection.

  • The wireless function can use any WiFi connection, but can only be used to buy more book from B&N, or, if you're in a B&N store, read a book from their library. To read your own non-B&N books, you have to transfer them over manually via USB or a memory card. Which seems like a waste, but you don't really want to be surfing the internet on this thing, because...
  • E-ink is great for text or lineart/hedcut images, but anything more than that and it blows. Pictures look grainy, and the refresh rate is extremely slow. The time to flip pages in a book is about 2-3 seconds. I wonder if that would be distracting, or if you'd get used to it after a few pages.
  • For how small it is, it's heavier than it seems like it would be. I guess it has all of that electronic junk inside, but it's Bible-heavy--not a little tiny Gideon Bible, but not quite the leather-bound kind hand-written by Franciscan monks that came with a free deerhide bookmark and a hunchback named Eoderic to carry it around for you, either. But a big, solid hardcover Bible.
  • The interface in the LCD seems slow and bit clunky, but I can deal with that. After all, you're buying it to read books, not flip through settings screens. If taking ten more seconds to find your bookmark is the worst thing that happens to you all day, things are going much better for you than you probably know.

In all, I think the Nook is a winner. The only thing stopping me from buying it is that my physical, non-electronic TBR pile is immense thanks to Paperbackswap, and it would probably be a good six months before I read anything but PDF magazines on it. Not that that's a bad thing, but I just have to decide if that's worth $260.

The other thing worth mentioning is that there will be a lot of competition coming out in e-readers this year, and that always spurs innovation (no fewer than 4 major newspaper/magazine publishers are proposing their own proprietary readers, including Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and ESPN). Can someone else do it better? Maybe. Probably. Will they do it in a reasonable timeframe, and at a decent price, and not have it locked down to their sandbox with proprietary formats and binding subscription agreements? Probably not.

I'll decide in the next week or so--no rush, since I won't be able to get one shipped until likely late January. I am strongly leaning toward getting one, though, primarily so I can get through the 50MB of PDF magazines I have sitting unread on my computer.

That, and I want to see what it's like listening to Winger's "She's Only Seventeen" while reading New Moon. Creepy, I suspect.


Jamie Eyberg said...

my rather large, and growing, population of .pdf mags is the main reason I want of these things as well. I have a hard time sitting down and reading long works on my computer. I still print out my own stories to proofread for crying out loud.

Jeremy D Brooks said...

Yeah, I can't do it, either. First of all, it looks bad on a computer, and it's hard on my eyes. Secondly, I have this hangup that if I'm sitting at a computer, I should be working. I guess that's what therapy is for, though...

Robert said...

I definitely want to get an eReader at some point, but the realization that every month they'll come out with something new and better makes me hesitant. Also, I was thinking about the PDF thing, and I wonder how they get formatted on the device. Because on my phone, I have an eReader app and a PDF viewer, and the eReader app is wonderful (formats the text to fit the screen, you can change the font size, etc), but the PDF viewer ... it's just a PDF viewer. You can't format the text at all. So I definitely need to investigate.

wv: pingsses

Jeremy D Brooks said...

I'm still curious about the PDF formatting too. You can change fonts and size on ePubs, but PDFs can be tricky, especially if they have fancy non-image font stuff going on. I was hoping they would have one pre-loaded, but, alas, all they had was New Moon (which I can now say I've read two pages of).

Cate Gardner said...

I am starting to sway towards getting an ereader eventually - it might be ten years, but my heels are no longer digging into the ground in protest.

Jeremy D Brooks said...

I think most of us are's a slow-motion race to see who gets there first. I'm kind of an early adopter with technology, but I get wary when there is no agreed-upon standard; although ePub and PDF are close.

Jeremy D Brooks said...

FYI, here's a compilation of reviews from Galleycat. Not looking so good...PDF support is spotty, and the slow page turns are not easy to get used to:

Robert said...

Yeah, the lending thing is a cool idea, but it's not on all the books, and once you do it once you can't do it again. Either I'll wait for the nook 2 or break down and get the Kindle ... still, I'm in no rush.

wv: botua

Jeremy D Brooks said...

I did some soul-searching on it and shook the Kip Winger-shaped magic 8 ball, and decided to hold off. This feels like the standoff time before Toshiba threw up the white flag on HD-DVD last year, and everyone who bought into HD got screwed. I really, really want one, but I just have a gut feeling that there is a lot more movement coming in the market in the next 12 months, and I don't want to be stuck with an overpriced, under-functioning doorstop in 9 months.

katey said...

Thanks for that, Jeremy-- I definitely need one of these, but more importantly I'm planning to buy one for my mom for Christmas... as soon as I can decide what brand. Much appreciated.