My wife bought me a Nook for Christmas. Now that I’ve been using it for a while, I thought our readers might be interested in a review. The Nook, if you’re not aware of it, is an e-reader, equivalent to a Kindle, that is sold by Barnes & Noble.
Briefly, I love it. I do a lot of reading in bed and on airplanes, and the Nook is actually better than a paper book under those conditions. It’s light, takes up hardly any space in a briefcase, and can easily be held in one hand. You can turn pages with one hand, too. It is a bit more elegant than the Kindle, with a touch screen below the reading surface rather than the Kindle’s typewriter-buttons, and no moving parts. The only mechanical controls are page-forward and page-back arrows on each side of the device. Alternatively, you can turn pages by swiping the touch-screen. The device can hold as many as 1,500 books.
Barnes & Noble claims to have more than 1,000,000 e-books for sale, along with many that are free, as well as magazines and newspapers. Downloading books is easy and remarkably fast. The device’s virtues were illustrated when I was away from home on business for a couple of weeks last month. The book I was reading turned out to be rather depressing, and I decided I needed something more upbeat, since reading for a few minutes before bedtime was my only relief from work. So on Saturday night, I downloaded a new book in my hotel room and began reading it, a few minutes later, over dinner.
Like the Kindle, the Nook can also be used as an mp3 player for audio books as well as music. You can read about the device here.
It may be that e-readers as we now know them are a transitional technology. Some think that they will be displaced by Apple’s new iPad and similar multi-functional products. Perhaps so; personally, I think the iPad is more likely to replace low-end laptops. The iPad is significantly bigger than the Nook or the Kindle–9.56″ by 7.47″, compared to the Nook’s 7.7″ by 4.9″. It also weighs 1 1/2 pounds, compared to the Nook’s 12 ounces. Those differences are, I think, significant. While I haven’t yet handled an iPad, I’m pretty sure it can’t be held in one hand as comfortably as the Kindle or the Nook. The iPad’s versatility and greater functionality (color, video and so on) are of little significance when it comes to reading books, unless one has a strong preference for the iPad’s screen, which allows reading in the dark. My guess is that serious readers will continue to find e-readers like the Nook useful for a considerable time to come.
UPDATE: The Nook software has been updated in several significant respects. It now incorporates a browser which is in beta and is by no means flawless, but works a great deal better, for example, than the browser on my Blackberry. The addition of a browser suggests that the Nook will migrate upwards in the direction of the iPad. Further, the update includes chess and sudoku–welcome if you’re on an airplane and finish the book you’re reading. And the update’s most practical addition, perhaps, is faster page turning.
I’ve now read 15 or 20 books on my Nook, and have a better sense of how it will fit into one’s lifestyle: it can replace paperback books and most periodicals. If you want a hardcover book for your shelves or table top, you will still buy it. But if, like most serious readers, you go through a large quantity of paperbacks that you only want to read once and don’t especially want to keep, the Nook allows you to buy, read and store a virtually endless number of them, at your convenience. If you hear about a new series of mystery novels, say, no problem: just download the first of them and see how you like it. If you, like me, are a constant air traveler, no need to worry about stuffing books into your briefcase. The very slim Nook will carry more books than you can possibly read, with newspapers and magazines included too. And buying electronic books is already cheaper than paperbacks, and will get much cheaper still as competition intensifies. And my sense that reading books on the Nook is a bit easier and better than reading them on paper has been confirmed by further experience. So, I love my Nook more than ever, and definitely recommend it.
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