Barnes and Nobel Nook

It’s no secret to those who know me that I read a lot. I also have a habit of reading several books at the same time. According to my girlfriend that’s messed up but alas I usually have several topics I’m interested in at the same time and depending on the interest that’s most peaked at the time I’ll read a different book. Due to this I’ve been following the e-book reader market.

I bought an Amazon Kindle about a year and a half ago and have absolutely loved it. It’s nice being able to carry my entire library with me wherever I go. It’s also convenient since I don’t have to either drive to a book store to purchase a book or order it online and wait for the title to be delivered. Before getting my Kindle I spent a lot of time in Barnes and Nobel carousing books. Now I stop in there maybe once every couple of months to browse their non-fiction titles since the Kindle store has a pretty horrible selection in that department.

Well Barnes and Nobel yesterday (or maybe the day before I forgot) announced their entry into the e-book reader market, the Nook. Of course this requires a comparison of the two products.

The Nook stands out from the Kindle in a few areas. The first, and most obvious, is the LCD touch screen located below the ePaper display. This is where you do all your navigating and controls. More on that in a bit. The second difference is the Nook uses AT&T’s 3G network instead of Sprint’s. But to alleviate the pains of using AT&T’s network (seriously their network has less coverage than most bikinis) the Nook also includes Wi-Fi. Two other features the Nook has that the latest Kindle doesn’t (although the previous model did) is a replaceable battery and a memory card slot.

I guess I’m going to cover my thoughts on the differences. First I want to talk about the LCD touch screen being touted as the chief wham-bam feature of the Nook. I don’t like it. Yup you heard me right I don’t like it. My reasoning is three fold. First LCD screens suck power every second they are one. Displays using ePaper technology only use power while they are actively switching pages meaning while you are reading a page no power is being used by the display. That means the LCD screen on the Nook will drop the battery life and long battery life is one of my favorite features of e-book readers.

The second issue I have with the LCD is viewing it outside. See ePaper displays work very well in direct sunlight so you can comfortably use the devices outside. LCDs on the other hand become very difficult to read in direct sunlight so the Nook has a contrast here. The main reader works best with a lot of light while the navigation screen works best without direct light hitting it. This seems like a duality in usefulness to me.

The third issue I have with the LCD screen is the fact LCD screens are backlit. This means the LCD screen is going to be much brighter than the ePaper display that you actually read from. The problem is the human eye is drawn more towards bright items then items having no source of light. Unless there is a way to easily kill the backlight on the LCD while reading a book I would find this to be quite an annoyance after some time. Again this is coming from a person who can plop down and read for a couple hours straight, I doubt it would be any sort of issue if you only read a few minutes at a time (but if that’s you why waste your money on an e-book reader?).

I hate AT&T’s network. You don’t hear this often but I love being on Sprint’s network. Why? Because I get data coverage almost everywhere and phone coverage in even more places. I can get high speed data in a podunk little town like Winona, Minnesota and basic data in Caledonia, MN (where AT&T coverage is practically non-existant). When my friends on AT&T have coverage issues I have three or four bars normally. Hell my phone works in my apartments garage. So needless to say I really like being able to purchase books on my Kindle from practically anywhere without the need for Wi-Fi. But having the option of Wi-Fi for times when data service coverage is unavailable is a great idea which I highly approve of.

With that said there are some features of the Nook I really like. There is a method of loaning books to friends which the Kindle completely lacks. Honestly I don’t really lend books to friends but it would be nice to have the option should the situation arise. The truth of the matter though is we need to eliminate DRM all together. Of course I believe it will take the publishing industry many years to figure this out. Hell look how long it took the music industry until they started allowing DRM free MP3s to be sold and later songs sold on the iTunes music store.

The removable battery is a huge plus in my book. I still have the first generation Kindle and hence a removable battery. But alas I’m not one to phase our my devices overly often unless a new device has new features that can justify an upgrade to me. I do run into battery failure issues with my devices and do desire a method to replace the battery myself when that occurs. This is one of the issues I have with the iPhone and iPod series of products. With that said I can’t imagine a situation where I’d need to replace a battery in an ePaper device due to depleting the battery through use. Seriously I can go a couple weeks with my Kindle without needing to recharge it so long as I keep the wireless switched off.

Barnes and Nobel is claiming 1,000,000 e-books when their store goes live. Amazon’s Kindle store currently proclaims 350,000 titles. Depending on what titles Barnes and Nobel is claiming (for instance they mention free e-books which are probably out of copyright titles which means I can also get them free on my Kindle) this could be a huge boon. I know the Kindle store has some odd gaps in their titles (Jurassic Park still isn’t available). If Barnes and Nobel can get a larger selection of titles that would jump them ahead pretty far.

The Nook does support native PDFs by the looks of it. Many papers I read are in PDF format and I can get them on my Kindle after a dance involving a free e-mail address that sends the PDF to Amazon to convert it. The Kindle DX natively supports PDFs but it’s also a huge honking device compared to my paperback sized Kindle. The more natively formatted formats supported on a device the better in my opinion.

I’ll hold my final judgement until the Nook is actually released but I really don’t see any major advantage it has over the Kindle and the LCD is a huge disadvantage on a dedicated reading device in my opinion. But one fact is certainly true competition is good and the Nook will give some heavy competition to the Kindle.

Barnes and Nobel are also claiming special in-store features. This is really meaningless to me since one of the advantages, to me, of an e-book reader is not having to go to a store to gain any features. But again I highly doubt any main feature of the Nook will depend on going into a Barnes and Nobel store to use it.

2 thoughts on “Barnes and Nobel Nook”

  1. Hi Burg! I heard you had a blog, and i’m just looking to kill some time. Also as a Kindle owner, I pretty much agree with everything here.

    The LCD screen to me is a bit of a cop out. This has to be a result of a ‘user research study’. People want color in their e-readers, but I think B+N is missing the point. It really doesn’t make any sense beyond drawing attention, and is a complete weakness for precisely the reasons you outlined.

    I like that it’s android-based, I like ‘digital lending’, I like the multi-platform support, I like the competition for the Kindle, I like the user replaceable battery, sd card, and library, but I don’t see this knocking the Kindle off of it’s ‘niche’ throne. It’s storefront availability (B+N and Best Buy) is probably its biggest strength over the Kindle. Amazon’s ‘brand’ is very hard to rival, especially given the audience that E-Readers currently appeal too (early adopters and/or techies who happen to read).

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