Review: Barnes and Noble Nook eReader

Nook!

My house is full of books. There are bookshelves full of them in my living room, my bedroom and my office, and I always have a running list of books that I want to read that I haven’t had time yet to add to the home collection. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve run out of space for more, and since I can’t imagine parting with any more of my current stash, I needed to find a solution. I’d heard about the kindle, but there was just something unappealing about the large white surface and the keyboard. It seemed, so… clinical. I like the size of my books. I like the smell of a new book, the feel of the pages, and the sound the pages make when I turn them. I like books. How could an electronic device give me that same feeling?

Last fall, as my book ownership was reaching the limit of my apartment and my husband’s tolerance, and I was sneaking books into the house and hiding them so it would appear they’d been there all along, Barnes and Noble announced that they were coming out with an ereader, a competitor to the kindle.  I’d already decided that I wasn’t interested in the kindle, but the new ereader, named nook, had a different look and feel.  It was smaller than the kindle in length and width, sized about the same as a thin trade paperback.  Instead of a keyboard, which seemed silly to me on a “book”, there was a small touchscreen that would show images of the covers of the books in my collection.  And it was from Barnes and Noble, my national book haven, the place that I could go, no matter where I was in the US, and feel at home.  It was as if the book gods where sending me help in my time of need.  How could I not at least give it a chance?

Not being one to rush in lightly, I waited until the sample nook arrived in-store to make a decision.  Excitedly I arrived at my local B&N and bee-lined my way to the giant “NOOK” sign in the middle of the store.  I couldn’t believe how small and sharp-looking the nook was, but I also couldn’t believe all the issues the salesperson was having with the display device.  It seemed to take forever to turn the pages and to navigate the menu.  I asked if the contrast on the e-ink screen was adjustable, and the staff went back and forth, unable to give me an answer.  I left frustrated, deciding to wait until some of the issues were resolved before I made my decision.

A few weeks later, on December 26th, I was back in Barnes and Noble, taking another look.  I’d heard that there’d been a software fix, and sure enough, the page turning and navigation were much faster.  I placed my order, and anxiously awaited my nook, scheduled to ship on February 2.  In the meantime, I read the nook forums an a lot of online reviews, and I started to worry.  The reviews were bad, and the nook owners had a lot of complaints – issues registering, freeze-ups, losing their pages, parts of the book being cut off, sideloading issues, etc.  I started to think I should just get a kindle.  But I waited it out, wanting to see for myself if my nook would have issues.

The Review: My nook arrived two weeks ago, on February 2 (it shipped early!) and I excitedly unwrapped the package.  I’d heard about people having issues getting the nook out of the package, and had watched an unboxing youtube video in hopes of having an easy unboxing process.  The nook IS hard to unbox.  B&N sends it clicked in to a plastic mount that keeps it from shifting around in the shipping process, but that is definitely a bit tricky to detach.

Once it was out of the box, I turned it on and plugged it in to charge, following the “getting started” instructions that came with it.  I’d heard that there was some issues where users were excited to play with the nook right away and their nooks froze while charging, so I did my best not to play too much, but I couldn’t resist registering and setting up my home wifi network on it.  Both processes were easy and fairly intuitive for me, and I had no freeze issues.  In fact, I’ve been freeze free since I’ve had the device.

In the last two weeks I’ve purchased four books on the device, downloaded one book purchased previously, read two books and started a third, all without issues.  I’ve also installed wallpapers and screen savers and updated my software.  The only issue I had there was that when I connected my nook to my PC to side load the software update (I could have waited for my nook to download it but I was impatient) my nook lost the page I was reading.  I had heard that this would happen and that the new update would fix the issue, and sure enough, the next time I connected it to my PC my nook kept the page.

Reading Experience: I was sure that I’d miss having an actual book when I was reading on the device, but that hasn’t happened.  The size of the screen is about the same as a mass-market paperback and the text and images are crisp, but not so crisp that it seems unnatural.  The feel of the nook is good in my hand, not too heavy and not too light.  I would have preferred that they round the edge so that it didn’t dig into my hand so much, but I get the same issue from reading a hardcover.  Turning the page with a swipe on the darkened touchscreen is a lot like turning the page on a book, and not nearly as hard to get used to as some of the more vocal reviewers have made it sound.  Page refresh is as fast as turning the page of a book.  And I’m not getting the eye strain that I would sometimes get when reading on my laptop or netbook.  In my opinion, Barnes and Noble have done a good job replicating the book-reading experience here.  Sometimes I forget I’m reading on an electronic device altogether.

Battery Life: One of the bigger issues that I’d heard before receiving my nook was that that the battery life was not nearly as good as advertised. One could not go a full week on one charge with the device in airplane mode. Some reviewers and forum posters had stated that the nook could not go a full day without a charge. What if my book was really good? Would I have to charge my nook in the middle of a reading session? It turns out that while I can’t read all day every day for a week without charging, I can read my usual amount – stints of four to five hours a day with a few no reading or light reading days mixed in – and go about 4 days without a charge. I’m pretty happy with that, but if I was going to take an 18 hour flight I’d probably buy a spare battery and charge it up before I left the house.

Other Concerns: I’ve heard there are still some issues with the side loaded content – viewing book covers and organizing large catalogs.  Not being big on ereaders prior to the nook, I have no content to load.  There are a few books that I would like to read, quite a few in fact, that are not available as ebooks in the Barnes and Noble store, but none of these are available anywhere else in a format that I can load to the nook, so I’ve got little reason to worry about side loading.  I’ve also not tried the mp3 player or the notes and highlights feature.  I’ve heard the latter still has some issues, but as the last two software updates for the nook rolled out well, I’m confident B&N will be resolving these issues in the near future.

Do I miss the smell of the pages and the feel of a real hardcover book in my hands?  Well, yes and no.  The experience is changed, but the essence is the same, and the convenience of the nook makes up for some of the sentimental factor of books for me.  It fits nicely in my bag, and if I finish a book in, say, the Department of Motor Vehicles, I can just select a new book and keep on reading.  Am I swearing off regular books? No way.  I’m just adding a new and convenient way to read a lot of the books I want to read, a way that keeps my house, and my life, a little less cluttered.

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6 comments to Review: Barnes and Noble Nook eReader

  • Love the website and your posts obviously. I feared the same issues with digital readers when they were new. I decided not to buy one and your post has changed my mind.

    By the way, I love the theme for the website. Is this a WordPress blog? What theme did you use?

  • Thank you!

    Yes, this is a WordPress blog. The theme is a very customized version of Atahualpa by Bytes For All. The Atahualpa theme is really easy to customize because it has a multitude of options pages, so even if you don’t know HTML and CSS you can build your own custom theme.

  • Jak

    Hello!

    This was a very informtive review of the Nook and its making me think of getting one sometime this summer possibly.

    Thanks for the info!

    Jak

  • Bill

    Very nice review, I just purchased mine and I’m in love with it.

    How are you liking after the latest V.1.3 update?

    So far this has beyond exceeded my expectations and very glad I chose this over the Kindle.

    nice review.

    • Thanks!

      I’ve been pretty happy with the nook. At this point I’m just hoping all the crazy ebook pricing issues will settle down soon. I’ve found I’m switching back and forth between the nook and regular books because some books aren’t being released as ebooks, and others are way more expensive in the ebook format.

  • michael

    I bought a nook a few days ago and was woried about the problems but when I got my nook I could not be any happier with it.