A Nook Review — not for me


After using the Nook for a little less than a week, I can justifiably say that ebook readers, are maybe just not for me for the time being.  When the more known Kindle first came out, I had gadget-envy just because e-ink was so different than the LCD screens I’ve grown accustomed to.  It was certainly pleasant to look at. I didn’t get one because 1.) the price was too high and 2.) I calculated that I didn’t buy enough books in a year to justify the cost savings of buying ebook formatted books.

So when work got in one of those new-fangled Nooks, an ereader from Barnes & Noble, I borrowed it and tried reading a book on it.

Unfortunately, I was met with roadblock after roadblock. First, I couldn’t figure out how to get the .txt file of my book loaded on the darn thing.  I guess it only supports a handful of limited formats and a .txt file, one of the most simple text formats, was not one of them.

I had to use Calibre (an ebook manager/converter) to convert my .txt file into an .epub file and then upload it to the Nook.  (To the Nook’s credit, once I got the format right, uploading a file to it was just a matter of drag and drop.)

Then came another roadblock.  I had started reading my book in dead-tree format and was already 1/4 of the way in, so I wanted to find my corresponding place on the device. Now if you think about it, ebooks don’t actually have pages that directly correspond to pages in a physical book, but the pages on the ebook were still relatively numbered.  I could find no way to specify a page to skip to. Even a progress bar or slider that I could slide to represent what percentage of the book I want to flip to wasn’t present.  The only way I could move quickly through the book was to push the ‘next page’ button and watch the pages flip agonizingly by until it got to the right page.

Luckily, after about ten key-presses later, I realized I could just preform a text search for “chapter 4” and hopefully it would bring me to where I wanted to start reading.  This worked, but the text search did take a minute or two.

One of the advantages of e-ink is its low power consumption. Power is only used when pages are changed because the device needs to refresh the e-ink. It doesn’t make much sense that I have to use so much power flipping through pages just to get to my place in the book.

The placement of the next and previous page buttons on the Nook also took a while to get used to.  There are two sets of buttons on each side.  I would think that pressing one button on one side, and then the corresponding button on the other side which is in the same location, would do opposite things. For example, if I press the right button, I’d expect to go forward a page, while the left button would let me go back a page. The Nook says no.  Both buttons go in the same direction.  To change directions, it’s a matter of pressing the button at the top or bottom.  Now it makes a bit of sense if you hold the Nook one-handed, since it allows users to go forward and back by just having their hands on one side, but for a two-handed user, it takes a while to get out of the habit of accidentally pressing the wrong button.

It wasn’t till my fourth day with the Nook that I realized that swiping the bottom LCD screen, even when it’s off, also turns the page. But don’t bother using it because it’s unresponsive and slow.

Speaking of speed, I read somewhere that the latest update to the Nook, which I have, speeds up page turning so that it’s faster than turning a page on an actual book. It’s not.  Page turning is slow, slow, slow. Press a button, wait a second (during which you wonder if you pressed the button hard enough), and then the page reloads. It totally throws off my rhythm when reading.

When I first read about the Nook, I thought the bottom LCD screen was a genius idea.  Higher-res pictures of book covers, and being able to navigate faster? Yes please.  In reality, it just doesn’t work. The quicker-to-refresh LCD is jarring juxtaposed with the slow-refreshing e-ink. Using the bottom screen to navigate the top screen just doesn’t work. It feels clumsy and clunky.

Even though I had been pining for an ebook reader, I have to say that if my experience with the Nook, primarily the slowness, is any indication of the state of the devices currently, I’ll stick with my dead tree format for the time being.

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  1. says

    I’ve used both at this point, including both the Kindle 2 and the Kindle DX. Ultimately, I’m going back to the Kindle 2. The DX is a bit too large, and way overpriced, and the Kindle 2 does seem a bit more responsive than the Nook when turning pages, even after it’s highly-vaunted firmware update. Not to mention the whole device just feels a lot more solid overall than the Nook for a lot of the reasons you mentioned (button placement, UI.)

    As for page refresh times: at this point, I’ve gotten used to simply pressing the next page button when I’m in the middle of reading the final sentence on the page. By the time my eyes hit the last word on the page, it’s already starting to form the next page for me. It works for me, but I can see how it wouldn’t work for others.

  2. says

    I’m actually tempted to buy the new iPad so I can use it as an eBook reader for travel… only!! I swear, I will never give up my real books.

  3. says

    Are you still using Stanza on the iPhone? My only complaint with Stanza would be that I am reading books on a really small screen, but I have actually gotten used to it.

    • says

      Yes, I’m still using Stanza on the iPhone with the same complaint you have. And, sometimes it is tiring to look at a backlit screen, I realized, especially when I’m all computered-out.

  4. says

    Interesting review! I’ve been intrigued by ebooks and readers for a long time. I used MS Reader on my laptop and PocketPC several years ago and actually enjoyed reading on the lcd. I can’t read a book for more than 15 minutes before falling asleep, (ebook or paper) so I am not as concerned about the display tech. I am more concerned about the drm. It sucks that I can’t read my MS Reader ebooks on anything but their software, and I don’t want to be locked into something like that again. However, if Amazon comes out with kindle software for android, I’d probably go with that. But I’ll stick with paper/booklight for the time being.

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