Your First Look at Nook: The Technologizer Review

Barnes & Noble's E-reader is hardly perfect. But it's the most formidable Kindle competitor to date.

By  |  Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 9:01 pm

In retrospect, it was probably inevitable. Bookselling behemoth Barnes & Noble has spent much of the past decade and a half duking it out with online archrival Amazon.com. So when Amazon unveiled its Kindle e-reader two years ago, it pretty much demanded some sort of response from the 136-year-old merchant.

That response is the Barnes & Noble Nook, and its arrival this week signals the start of a digital transition for the bookselling wars.  The Nook has much in common with the Kindle, from its playful name to the paper-esque E-Ink display to built-in 3G wireless that lets you start reading a book seconds after you’ve decided to buy it. Even the prices–$259 for the device itself, and $9.99 for most bestsellers–are identical.

(Like Amazon and Apple, B&N likes to refer to its creation without a modifying article, and also dispenses with capitals–”nook lets you loan eBooks” rather than “The Nook lets you loan eBooks.” I’ve honored the lack of a “the” in the title of this article, but will blithely ignore it from here on out.)

For all their similarities, the Nook packs more pizzazz than Amazon’s e-reader, in the form of the color touchscreen it uses for much of its navigation. It aims to be more open, letting you read tomes you buy on PCs, Macs, iPhones, and BlackBerries–and even on e-readers from companies other than Barnes & Noble. And it brings back a virtue of dead-tree books that people have taken for granted for centuries: the ability to loan them to pals.

For this review, I got to spend some quality time with a Nook, running the software version which will be installed on the first Nooks to reach customers. As I was finishing up my review, B&N was racing to ready itself for the Nook’s debut this week–a few features weren’t yet up and running, or had rough edges that may be eliminated by the time the first consumers turn on their Nooks for the first time.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: The Nook isn’t a Kindle killer–not in this initial form, at least. For all its pleasing touches, intriguing innovations, and clear advantages over the Kindle, it feels like a less-than-perfectly-polished 1.0 product, just like Amazon’s first e-reader did a couple of years ago. The user interface is surprisingly sluggish, there are some usability gaffes, and I encountered a major bug with the device’s most-touted feature. Even the much-hyped lending feature has a major gotcha: You can lend a book once. Period.

The good news is that these issues all relate to software, not the physical design. Barnes & Noble plans to quickly use the Nook’s auto-updating capability to push out fixes and refinements; given that the device is sold out until early 2010, it’s possible that the Nook that most purchasers get their hands on will be a meaningful improvement on the one I tried. And a slightly more zippy, less quirky Nook could indeed leave the Kindle in a clear second place.

Even an imperfect Nook is easily the Kindle’s most serious rival, and by far the most important e-reader to arrive since the first Kindle. Amazon’s e-reader may be a fixture at the top of Amazon’s home page–making its current status as the merchant’s best-selling item pretty much a self-fulfilling prophecy–but it has no brick-and-mortar presence whatsoever. Sony’s Readers are widely available at retail, but in a relatively subdued fashion; Barnes & Nobles’s other bookmongering nemesis, Borders, sells Sony’s e-readers, but sticks them in unmanned, easy-to-ignore kiosks. All of which gives B&N the opportunity to introduce millions of American book lovers to the still-nascent notion of digital books.

Judging from my visit this weekend to the chain’s Emeryville, California outlet, however, the Nook will be impossible to avoid. Here’s the first thing shoppers encounter when they enter the store–and this was before it had a working Nook to demo, let alone ones on hand to sell. (The Nook is currently sold out until mid-January, and B&N won’t stock them in stores until all the earliest online buyers’ orders have been fulfilled.)

A Barnes & Noble representative told that the company intends to turn its thousands of store employees into passionate Nook advocates. If I sold books for a living, I’m not sure if I’d see the Nook as an opportunity for evangelism or as a threat to my livelihood. But in an era that’s seen so many venerable retailers of content go belly-up, it’s impressive to see Barnes & Noble embrace technological change with such gusto.

Before we go any further, here’s a T-Grid comparing the Nook with Amazon’s current Kindle and another big-name competitor, Sony’s Reader Touch Edition.

(Note: the original version of the above chart had some incorrect counts for Nook and Kindle in the New York Times bestsellers row; I’ve corrected them.)

I promise we’ll dig into the Nook at the moment, but for the sake of physical comparison, here it is with some rivals. Counter-clockwise from the lower left-hand corner: The Nook, the current Kindle, the original Kindle (just for the sake of nostalgia, okay?), and the Sony Reader Touch Edition.


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94 Comments For This Post

  1. trey ben Says:

    Hey, quick feedback: I had no idea there were multiple pages to this review, might be worth making that clearer?

  2. Harry McCracken Says:

    I don't have details on the logistics of using the device outside the U.S. (my info was based on a discussion with Barnes & Noble). I'm guessing that they check the IP address you're using, and I'm not sure if policies are the same for the Web-based store.

    –Harry

  3. Steve Patterson Says:

    The Kindle's connectivity is via Sprint EVDO (Amazon "WhisperNet"), not AT&T.

  4. Adam K Says:

    What are the specifics on Americans being unable to buy new titles while abroad? How is the “ban” implemented? Is it possible to buy new titles and load them via a laptop?

    I have a Nook arriving this week, and am leaving in January for a year-long round-the-world trip. I was counting on being able to purchase new material as I go. If it isn’t possible I may have to eBay the Nook and buy a Kindle.

  5. Kit Says:

    nook owners and B&N eReader customers traveling abroad can access their online eBooks Library wherever they have Wi-Fi connectivity, but they cannot purchase from our eBook store from anywhere outside the United States and U.S. Territories, with the exception (beginning in December) of Canada. Subscriptions that arrive while you travel will be placed in your online eBooks Library, and can be synced to your nook over Wi-Fi.

  6. Ryan Says:

    It should be noted that all e-readers are capable of reading books installed into their memory through USB (assuming the proper format). Purchasing or downloading books wirelessly is not necessarily required. So if you buy your ePub format books from a third party and download them to your laptop, you should be able to transfer them to your Nook to read wherever. Or you could simply load your memory up with as many books as you possibly can before your trip, and not worry about it.

  7. Greg Smith Says:

    I have a Kindle 2.0 and am very happy with it. The feature I use the most is the text-to-speech capability. I have a 90-minute commute daily and use it to read to me. I listen to books as well as documents for work. Kindle's vast library has sold me on it. Nothing I've learned about Nook encourages me to change (except perhaps the WiFi). But now there is real competition for the Kindle. I'm looking forward to what happens next.

  8. Kyle Says:

    Here’s the thing about the rumoured Apple tablet; it’s going to have a full colour touchscreen. It’d have to in order to function as a tablet computer and run the iPhone OS like it is rumoured to do. There’s a reason eInk screens are so useful on eBook readers, they’re far easier to read and cause less eyestrain. I for one wouldn’t use a tablet computer as an eBook reader, not even and Apple tablet. I’m a huge Apple fan, and love pretty much all of their products, but I wouldn’t use it as an eBook reader. Granted, if it exists Steve Jobs will come out and convince everyone that need it to continue breathing, but it’s not likely to be something that I would want to use as an ebook reader.

  9. bowerbird Says:

    as long as .epub is wrapped in d.r.m.,
    it is _not_ an open format, and you
    should stop treating it as if it were…
    that’s outright duplicity by publishers.

    moreover, if/when amazon decides
    to drop their own d.r.m., they can
    convert their format to .epub too,
    or another more-deserving format,
    so as to support other hardware,
    so that’s not a consideration either.

    as long as everyone is using d.r.m.,
    nobody has the advantage of “open”.
    save the crown for deserving royalty.

    -bowerbird

  10. Kindle Lover Says:

    So, the Nook Sucks. Why B&N sell an imperfect ereader. This is awsome. They want to sell the nook at all costs misleading consumers.
    I have the International Kindle an its the best ereader. (i have the Hanlin v3 too or Papyre) but its worst.

  11. TechGeek Says:

    Will the nook PC/Mac/iPhone apps sync to the “furthest point read” like the Kindle ones do? I would assume so, but if not, it’s a non-starter for me. When I’m stuck in a long, boring meeting it’s nice to be able to pull out my iPhone and read, starting at the spot I left off on the Kindle.

  12. Trencher93 Says:

    I’m amazed that books with batteries you have to recharge would catch on. I can’t imagine paying hundreds of dollars for a device that would probably go black the moment you got to the doctor’s office and started reading it, only to learn the battery was dead. And all I need is another device to recharge! I already recharge my laptop, multiple mp3 players, hand vacuum, razor, etc in an almost constant rotation. Now I have to recharge books, too? I don’t see the attraction…

  13. ha! Says:

    @bowerbird

    an open standard can have DRM. an open standard means that anyone can make it, see ePub or AAC or PDF. All of these can have some kind of DRM put in, and that DRM is open as well, meaning the method is the same for each type of file.

    while i agree that DRM is bad and we shouldn’t use it, the inclusion of DRM in a standard doesn’t make it less ‘open’.

  14. David Lang Says:

    there are a _lot_ more books available for the kindle (and probably for the nook as well)

    see this article from early 2008 when amazon listed 100,000 titles available

    http://blogkindle.com/2008/02/a-million-kindle-ebooks-available-now-where-and-how-to-get-them/

    you have to download the books with your computer and put them on the kindle via e-mail or USB, they aren’t available through the amazon purchase page, and many sites don’t work with the kindle browser.

    there are also third-party hacks for the kindle to let you change the screensaver pictures. but the thing that I would want to see is the ability of the device to _NOT_ go into screensaver mode when turned off, but to leave the page I am reading up so then when I pick the device up I can start reading while I wait for it to turn on again.

    David Lang

    David Lang

  15. john Says:

    I am waiting for the nook (and not purchasing a kindle) for the following reasons:

    1) flexible, open software platform: android. I expect that any current limitation is due to software, not hardware. Your article confirms. Android provides a common development platform: technically, developers outside of b&n can invent new ideas in reading ‘apps’. Hopefully, b&n will allow them to find a way into the nook.

    2) Wi-fi. A device without wifi is limited by hardware. A feature I’d want is the ability to download or backup my reading material from/to my home computer disk drive without the usb tether. I also think an ereader should be able to hook up to a public library’s ebook repository, allowing me to run research and borrow ebooks from the public library.

    3) Free cookies at the b&n coffee shop.

  16. Petri Aho Says:

    Doesn’t seem to offer anything new and exciting. All I want is cheap, no nonsense reader that’s easy to hold and lasts a long time, that’s why I went for the Sony PRS-300. But now this whole DRM issue is pissing me off to no end. None of the American stores want to sell me ebooks, which baffles me considering I’ve bought probably over hundred paper books from Amazon and its affiliates. This all is just forcing me to consider piracy and I really don’t want to “steal” from my favorite authors.

  17. A. Kindle Owner Says:

    I have had a Kindle DX since the week they came out. One thing about these articles that always seems to get overlooked is that all the public domain books that are claimed by Sony/B&N can be read by the Kindle also.

    The Kindle can read un-DRM’d .mobi files and can download them over the cell network (for example – using the browser, you can search, download, then read from Gutenburg Project website). All the Google books ePubs can be converted easily on a computer and uploaded over USB. So, just because they are not in the Amazon store doesn’t mean that they are not available.

  18. Paul Says:

    The “lend” feature is slightly inaccurate in that books that can be read on the Sony ereaders can be lent to the device.

    e.g. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/6417660/E-books-helping-surge-in-library-members.html

    Here is an example of a UK library offering Sony ereader lending: http://essex.bookaisle.com/DD60E304-6172-4D40-A6D6-FA20C0F50BDC/10/259/en/help.htm

  19. Martin Says:

    Wow. Such lack of style. This is like MP3 players before Apple came into the market. These things look like prototypes from the 70s that never got released.

    And I still can’t believe they promote crappy visuals by touting the battery life. Electricity is not hard to get, and we’re all used to recharging our cell phones. And I cannot believe that anyone can ignore that black refresh with page turns.

  20. Mike Cane Says:

    >>>But B&N’s figure includes free public-domain e-books that have been scanned by Google

    Yeah, good luck with that!

    Google’s One Million eBooks Of Crap! — http://snurl.com/tld8w

  21. kwn2196 Says:

    Very nice review, very informative. The chart doesn’t mention that Kindle owners can share books (but not periodicals) so long as they are on the same Amazon account. This works with up to six Kindles (or Kindle apps) and is, I think, an extremely useful feature. My husband and I own a Kindle 1 and a Kindle 2, and it’s great that we can buy a book once and both read it. And unlike the Lend me on nook and text-to-speech on Kindle, it’s something the publishers can’t turn off.

  22. Hanzi Muller Says:

    Does it have a remote kill switch like the Kindle ?

  23. Rich Dailey Says:

    I think the big nook home run hitter is not even on deck yet… that is the Android OS itself. I see tighter integration with Google Books. And apps.
    I think B&N still has some cards up it’s sleeve, and will play them only after the game is well underway.

  24. Mark Says:

    I received some cash for a Christmas gift. I walked into B&N on November 30 (the original Nook release date) on the hopes the store would have a couple devices. I was told that they were going to receive ONE device, a week later as a demo model. After some further reading online, I ordered my Kindle the next day and had it in hand four days later (and that with only the FREE Super-Saver Shipping). B&N is going to lose lots of business to the Kindle simply because they don’t have it in stock in time for Christmas beside not having it ready at the promised time.

    Your review is a good and detailed, better than others I’ve read. However, I think you give the Kindle’s browser short shrift. It’s actually a great feature. Yes, it’s very limited but it can do what the Kindle was designed for: let you READ. Every search on the Kindle can be directed straight to Google or to Wikipedia. To have Wikipedia right in your hand is awesome. Already, reading books, I’ve had my interest sparked. To be able to quickly switch to Wikipedia and read more is great.

    Not only that, with the browser I can access FREE news (like Drudge or any other online news site) along with my email and calendar (Google). While hardly built for intense browsing, it’s certainly passable and internet access is a great bonus.

    Not only that, with the internet, Kindle can directly download any supported format (without DRM) straight to the device. For example, you can download a classic from Project Gutenberg and it needs no conversion to be read.

    You also didn’t comment (unless I missed it) on the document formats the Nook will read. Kindle now displays PDFs (though without zoom yet) but will also CONVERT PDFS, Word and other formats to reader format. I’ve already converted a few PDFs and while there are some formatting glitches, it does a good job of laying out a 3 column PDF in the correct order.

    The email addresses that you Kindle has are also useful for getting documents to the computer.

    I think many are excited about the Nook but I agree, from what I’ve read, that it’s not going to be a Kindle killer. The Kindle just has too much of a head start for the time being.

  25. David Lang Says:

    @hanzi,

    if they have the ability to update the software in the device remotely, they have the ability to do anything they want on the device, including disabling the device, removing books, or anything else.

  26. Mario Says:

    I was surprised you didn’t cover one of the new features: PDF reading from MicroSD. I was curious how well it worked, how it looked, how it compared to the current kindle and even the kindle DX.

    Thorough review, besides that.

  27. Bruce Says:

    What is your take on netbooks potentially being used as eBook readers? Do you think the price point of a netbook, plus it’s additional functionality, vs. a dedicated eBook reader would sway increasing numbers of folks towards a netbook as an eBook reader?

  28. mdmadph Says:

    @Hanzi Muller

    As long as it’s still got wireless capability, the concept of a remote kill switch on the Nook isn’t an impossibility. It’s reasons like this that make me only look towards a Sony Reader for the time being, but if they start putting wireless capabilities on their readers too, I’ll have to look elsewhere.

  29. Thomas Martin Says:

    Odd sentence on the 4th page…

    “ePub isn’t quite an MP3 of e-books–for one thing, it enables DRM that can leave a book in ePub format unreadable on an device that supports ePub.”

    Do you mean that the DRM can cause an ePub book to be unreadable on other ePub-compatible devices?

  30. Harry McCracken Says:

    @Steve Patterson: The current Kindle uses AT&T, not Sprint. (The Kindle DX is still on Sprint.)

    @Thomas Martin: I mean that there are different ways to apply DRM to ePub, and it’s not a given that every ePub-compatible reader supports every form of DRM.

    -Harry

  31. jeeger Says:

    I own a Sony PRS-505, and I have been reading the s**t out of it since I got it. Ergonomics leave a bit to be desired though.

  32. Nick Says:

    Interesting… I’m looking forward to all these new readers coming out, and also finding out how/if any of the books from one store will work on another’s device. I own a 1st-gen Sony Reader (PRS-500) and my wife & I love it. Even after 2 and a half years the battery life is still excellent, and we grew accustomed to the page flip screen refresh long, long, ago. Add to that the ability to carry the massive 2000+ page novel “Cryptonomicon”, a dozen or so Discworld novels, and The Lord of the Rings (which I also own in two different dead-tree editions), and it is easy to forgive foibles such as screen refresh. While it can be annoying to have to change the battery, it has only run out on us twice, once while I was using it to listen to music in the car (and it continued playing music for 45 minutes *after* the dead battery screen popped up).

    The only thing that bugs me, though I know it’s the price for being an early adopter, is knowing that unless I get another Sony reader I likely won’t be able to transfer any of the Sony books that I purchased to a new reader, at least not without breaking the DMCA. I can still read them in Sony’s software on the computer, but that kind of negates the Reader, doesn’t it?

    Final/biggest complaint: Price. Even at $200, the Sony Pocket is pricey (ignoring having spent $350 for the original reader, thank you economy ;)) and we just can’t afford that right now… meaning the occasional disagreement over who gets to read ;)

  33. scott Says:

    nice review, ive been waiting for a good review on the nook for awhile now. I have asked for a nook for xmas for being my first ereader. I thought about getting the sony because its pretty open in terms for formats but lacks things, i dont like the amazon azw way of life, i would have to crack the azw to make it open so i know i wasnt stuck.

    I think barnes and noble will do great once they fix their bugs, it seemed like they were trying to hurry and finish it before xmas, then realizing how much work that really needed to happen, it just wasnt possible so they pushed it back to fix the bugs. It seems also like the company is willing to do anything to make the nook succeed so they will listen to the feedback people give and probably get that browser, text to voice, and why the lend once thing fixed or give the option for publishers to allow x amount of loans within a year or something. Thanks for the review :D

  34. J Osborne Says:

    I have an eBook reader, my iPhone. It has a smaller screen then the listed readers (but high resolution). I find it easy on my eyes. It has a built in “book light” which makes it great for reading in bed without waking my wife. It displays new pages lightning quick, and uses the same bookstores BOTH the Kindle and nook use (plus others too small to normally care about).

    The battery life is tiny compared to the week or two on the Kindle and nook, but I already charge it daily, so using it for book reading too makes no difference. It is small enough (and does enough other useful things) that I carry it everywhere. Except the shower and pool of corse.

    For me the price was right (free since I had already bought it for other things before I knew it could read Kindle and nook books). If I were buying it just to read books the price tag on the phone would be too high (monthly fee for a book reader?), but the iPod Touch is a good deal for a device that can read BOTH brands of ebook.

    For me it is good enough to make the purchase of a dedicated reader seem silly, but if I did more reading in direct sunlight (where the backlit LCD display doesn’t work as well as the eInk on the Kindle and nook) I would likely sing a different tune. The small display doesn’t bug me either, but if I read a lot of textbooks that needed full size graphs and illustrations, the Kindle DX would seem a better deal. In other words, the iPhone is perfect for _me_ and others like me, but your circumstances may differ, and the best choice for you might be a dedicated reader (or the iPod Touch, or a dedicated reader plus the phone…Kindle at least syncs your last read position).

    Lest you think I’m just a naysayer, I really like ebooks. Over the last year I have converted to buying only ebooks (as far as entertainment books go at least, I’ll buy a paper book for a car manual for example). Partly I’m planning on retiring to an RV some year, and want to take all my books with me, so I need them to weigh a lot less then the thousand-plus pounds they do now, and partly I just don’t get to read a lot unless I can take “fill-in” time in lines, or a little time in the mornings before my wife wakes up. Both of those times are better served by something smaller then a paperback that I always carry with me, and includes its own backlight. I love ebooks, and if a dedicated ebook reader worked a lot better then my phone, I would be happy to buy one.

  35. Robert McKay Says:

    I know a few people have covered it, but it doesn’t seem to be getting as much attention as I think it should. B&N isn’t even close on most of its e-book prices. Yes, the NYT Best sellers are all 9.99, but that’s where the prices stop being at all similar. Most books that I’ve searched for are $2-3 more expensive on B&N. Some cost an extra $5 or more. I did find a few that were cheaper, but all of them were less than a dollar cheaper than Amazon.

    The much touted ePub support is a non-issue as the open source program Calibre can convert any ePub book into a .MOBI book which is easily readable on the Kindle. I really wanted to get a Nook because of Android, but I think the Kindle is still the clear winner in pretty much all areas other than looks. I think I’ll just get the Droid phone for messing around with Android awesomeness and get a Kindle for reading books.

  36. bob Says:

    Just saw the Nook in person at the local Bookstar (memphis). I’m a Kindle DX owner and the device is nice. A bit slow and it crashed once on me.

    The local bookstar employee download the LA Times and the formatting seemed better than the kindle (there were pictures included) but I didn’t get the price of newspapers or magazines. Being a Zinio user I do like the concept of reading from an ebook but for magazines I think that color is a large portion of the experience.

    If I was in the market for a kindle 2 (which I’m not since I read a lot of pdf’s) I would have a hard decision. Amazon has made book buying pretty easy (at the expense of my budget) and B&N is going to have an interesting battle ahead of it.

    The upside is that hopefully Amazon will get off their asses and release some software upgrades, even my Sony 500 had a better user experience.

    thanks for the review,
    bob

  37. David V. Says:

    I’m with J. Osborne: iPhone gives me convenient access to all major e-book formats (including Kindle and Nook). Even when at home, I prefer the smaller form factor (over Kindle’s), and at night the backlighting allows me to continue to read without additional lighting (which my wife appreciates).

    I read more novels since last March (when I got the Kindle app) than in many years before (thanks to having my reader with me at all times).

  38. Elian Gonzalez Says:

    “Even an imperfect Nook is easily the Kindle’s most serious rival…”

    Wow, have we consumers gotten so sloppy as to actually *expect* flaws in expensive devices as a normal thing? Imagine reading, “Even an imperfect anti-lock brake system is easily a full-fledged ABL’s most serious rival.” Completely different, I understand, but for the sake of rhetoric, can’t we demand better?

  39. Harry McCracken Says:

    @elian: Boy, I think all gadgets–even the best ones–are less than perfect. I did mean that the Nook was the most serious Kindle not only because of the product itself (it’s promising, with some serious issues) but because Barnes & Noble is in a good position to pour resources into it. From what I can tell, they’re very serious about making the Nook a success.

    –Harry

  40. Victor V Says:

    @David V: I don’t want to have to wear glasses from reading on an iPhone, that’ll just ruin my eyes, like numerous other habits that could choose me.

  41. xeromist Says:

    I have the Sony PRS-300SC pocket reader and it fits my needs pretty well. All I was looking for in a reader was:

    reasonable price
    portability
    open formats
    long battery life
    not hopelessly flawed

    I got my pocket reader for $160+tax from Fry’s (still that price today) and it fits in my pants pocket. Basically every other reader on the market is far too expensive and/or too bulky. I don’t need wireless or memory expansion when I can already load far more than I could possibly read before I return to my computer. Why do I need a touchscreen which increases cost and diminishes the crispness of the e-ink when most of the time I use ONE button: next page?

    Give me a no-nonsense reader without a price tag that makes me afraid to take it anywhere.

  42. Ken R. Says:

    I just saw the Sony e-reader at Wal-Mart and have to say: if the screen sizes are that small, then forget it. I would only consider a Kindle DX – with its larger screen – at this point. I can’t believe those that read a lot of books, for whom thse products are intended, would even consider such a small screen/page size.

  43. americansun Says:

    my friend bought one of these recently… the kindle is superior.
    http://americansun.wordpress.com/

  44. crustymonkey Says:

    One thing I’ve noticed so far in the B&N ebook store that is significantly lacking are any kind of computer/technical ebooks. There are ton of books from O’Reilly, Wrox, Apress and others and I have found not one in the B&N store (do a search for “programming”). Being a geek, one of the main selling points for me in an e-reader, since I haven’t made the plunge yet, is replacing the shelves holding hundreds of pounds of dead trees with something I can slide in my laptop bag and take with me. Despite the fact that I think that the nook has a lot more potential, I still have to head in the direction of Amazon unless B&N removes their collective heads from their asses and starts making some technical reference material available.

  45. Jacque Says:

    With regard to lending, I don’t care if I can lend my ebooks, I just want to be able to borrow them from the library. Right now I have a Sony Reader Touch because my library says its books (from Overdrive) are readable on it. Mostly that’s true tho I’ve had some issues. I like the look and feel of the Sony, also. Easier to read in bed than with print bk usually. Wish ebook reader makers were less anxious to SELL books and more anxious to serve the reading public who use libraries. I read hundreds of bks/yr, don’t want to own them.

  46. thehailo Says:

    I have an original Kindle and love it.

    To me, it feels most of the changes coming in new readers are making them more “gadgety” and focusing on specific areas (newspapers, text books, etc.) which do not appeal to me. I want a simple paperback replacement, and the original Kindle does that very well for me. I’m not even a fan of the iPod-like redesign of the Kindle 2, though I wouldn’t mind native PDF importing and a quicker refresh rate.

  47. My Social Relevance Says:

    Great review, thanks for the info. I’m looking to buy one if the Apple netbook doesn’t come to fruition.

  48. Dirk Gently Says:

    I’m looking forward to the nook, and I’m really hoping that some things are fixed:
    1. ebook prices are insanely high. Production, storage, distribution and retail costs are minuscule compared to paper books. Why isn’t this reflected in prices???

    2. Sharing/giving: I should be able to give the book to anyone. Sure – they can add a (say) three-month ban on re-gifting – but the central principle is that I own the book and should be able to give it to whomever I please.

    3. No kill switch.

  49. beezle Says:

    My Sony reader can go for three or four weeks without the need to recharge when used lightly (ie read a couple nights a week). I think thats a big advantage over these others and believe also that the wireless feature is overblown. How often do you really buy new books? And given the tens of thousands of free books available there is no reason to every find yourself with nothing to read. I have literally hundereds of books on my device just waiting to be read.

  50. zmjjmz Says:

    I actually ordered a nook less than a week after the official announcement, mainly in anticipation of Android. With this kind of platform, the nook will inevitably be opened to all. The small screen at the bottom is worthy of quite a few apps, and the e-ink screen can be used to do fun stuff. I imagine that it’ll be quite great to use for IRC, and if I can get an ssh server running on it I can drop the USB cord.

  51. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    > There’s a reason eInk screens are so useful on eBook readers
    > they’re far easier to read and cause less eyestrain.

    That is just an excuse for eInk that has been made for many, many years now. If there is any reality to it at all, you’re talking about an eInk display under ideal lighting conditions versus the crappiest analog-connected fluorescent backlight LCD which was obsolete a couple of years ago now. All of Apple’s LCD’s are not only digitally-connected and have LED backlights, but they all have ambient light sensors so that the device adjusts its own lighting to wherever you are sitting when you use it.

    If you’re not sure that Apple’s LCD’s are better, consider the cost on the user’s eyes of looking at 16 shades of gray on eInk versus 16 million colors on a $189 iPod. The user has to interpret the 16 grays at every step, you have to interpolate the missing information. This is much more work for the user. Plus the eInk is ghosting, it is full of artifacts. The iPod screen just shows you the actual information.

    Even if eInk were better in any way other than cheapness, it is not suitable for book publishing, because:

    * books are color and always have been, since before the printing press when the illustrations were hand-painted … a book reader needs to be able to show ALL books from human history, in the same way the iPod can play all consumer music and audio, books from the late 1980′s onward are all stored as digital masters and even if the printed version lacked color the master copy has it

    * using LCD gives you the Web, using eInk does not … my personal belief is that this Web thing is more than just a fad … hard to imagine why someone would carry such a big screen and they can’t use Web pages, especially when the same Web browser engine from the iPhone, iPod and Mac is free and open source and runs in very little system resources, so by using eInk these devices all gave up iPhone-style browsing

    * when electronic book publishing matures a little bit more, it’s not going to be acceptable to write a book about movies and not have movie clips in there, it’s not going to be acceptable to write a book about music and not have some audio clips as examples, in the same way a book about photography has photos in it today … and computer books will have step-by-step movies where the flat screen captures are today, the screen captures are not photographic artwork, they’re movies of the author interacting with a computer, but we show only one frame in a printed book solely because that’s all print can do

    If you’re using an eInk reader today, the key benefit is you get to enjoy electronic book publishing during its jurassic age, and 5-10 years from now you’ll be using a full color, full motion book reader and have fond memories of when you could see 4 or 16 grays on that funky display. I bought my first MP3 player in 1999 or so and it could hold half a CD of music in half CD quality, and it took about 20-30 minutes for the audio to transfer from computer to music player over USB1. You could burn a CD faster in many cases. Then 5 years later the same money bought you an iPod nano that was about 25% of the physical size, with storage for over 100 CD’s at full quality, a color screen showing album art, and you could change the music very quickly and easily thanks to iTunes and USB2. That is when digital music players stopped being nerdy and went mainstream. If you had a player with a gray screen or small capacity or slow connection, you get to look back fondly. The book reader of 2009 is like the 1999 MP3 player. In 2014 book readers will all be LCD, they will all have the Web, they will all be able to show you the diagrams in Gray’s Anatomy or the photos in an Annie Leibovitz book or anything published in print throughout all human history.

  52. roninsherpa Says:

    Kindle = fad.

    Let me get this streight, in order to read a book, I have to invest $250-500 into a gadget that will cause my electric bill to go up, and I haven’t even gotten a book yet. Yeah, OK I can get on the internet…Hello! My phone does that. Extra time to read? I almost have to have a second job to afford the iPhone!
    The Kindle is a fad that will go away shortly. Electric books…Save ya money.

  53. Jon H Says:

    Martin wrote: “And I cannot believe that anyone can ignore that black refresh with page turns.”

    It really does virtually go away. Push the button when you’re halfway to the end of the last line, and by the time your eyes go back to the top, the flash is about done.

    Ken R. wrote:

    “I can’t believe those that read a lot of books, for whom thse products are intended, would even consider such a small screen/page size.”

    You can change the text size, so if your complaint is that the text would be small, that doesn’t apply.

    The smaller size is more convenient in crowded environments like when you’re on a standing-room-only subway or bus. I have the Kindle 2 and the DX, and the DX is somewhat unwieldy in such circumstances.

    If you’re reading fiction, the small screen isn’t a problem. The only time it’s a problem is when you’re reading material with diagrams that you care about, or when you’re reading computer source code. Both work better on the larger DX.

  54. Jon H Says:

    My main concern about the Nook is a slight paranoia that, at some point, they’ll increase revenue by putting animated advertisements on the color screen.

    J Osborne wrote: “I have an eBook reader, my iPhone.”

    I have the kindle app on my iPod touch, but never really used it much. With my iPod, my main interest is in using it to listen to audio. If I had an iPhone, the priority would be on having it charged in order to make or receive calls. Reading e-books eats battery charge that could be used on higher-priority tasks. That’s pretty much the bottom line for me. I’d hate to miss an important call because I’d drained the battery reading an ebook.

  55. bob Says:

    In response to Hamranhansenhansen’s reply.

    It sounds like you haven’t used an ebook reader. While it’s true that they can’t surf the web very well, have only 16 shades of grey and all that other stuff they do serve the purpose of letting me read a book.

    Will ebook readers be better in 2014? I hope so but the same can be said for everything in the computer world.

    What’s disappointing right now is that the newspapers don’t seem to get what a ebook reader format should look like. One would think that something like the Wall Street Journal would be great on an ebook reader since it doesn’t use color on the front page and the column width seems like it would be a good fit to the screen size.

  56. Jon H Says:

    One comment about the size of the Amazon kindle store: There’s an enormous amount of crap on there. Lots of self-published dreck, many duplicates of many different public-domain texts. Basically the store is spammed full of junk, in no small part because of Amazon’s vanity publishing business.

    Some topic categories have more of a problem with this than others. I browsed history once, sorted in order by publication date, and waded through about 10 pages of public-domain spam from a single publisher before I gave up.

    For example, somebody took the diary of Samuel Pepys, valid in itself, but then broke the ten years or so of diaries into single-month ebooks, creating 120 or so different ebooks, that clogged up the category.

  57. Bic Says:

    You underestimate the number of books available on the Kindle since you don’t seem to be counting all the public domain and free ones available, for example, at Feedbooks.com. Also, the key part of any of these devices is the e-ink screen. Does anyone else feel that 6″ is too small and 9.7″ too large? How about a nice 7 to 8 inch screen! Then I’ll buy one. The LCD screen is a gimmick. How often will you really be looking at book covers and downloading books, relative to the amount of time reading them? Focus on the screen, the rest is cosmetic. Also buyers must compare cost of books. At this point, B&N is higher (and also includes tax) as is Sony, compared to Amazon. Over the long haul, the Nook will cost more.

  58. KenJr Says:

    I bought one of those first release Kindles. I loved it right from the start. Now what was this ‘similar’ issue with the first Kindles that you’re referring to? I’ve seen a video demo of this Nook. If my Kindle had been as klunky as this gadget I’d have sent it back to Amazon right there on the spot.

    And by the way, if I had been the project manager for the Nook I’d have fought tooth-and-nail with marketing to keep this thing from getting out the door until it’s ready.

  59. David V Says:

    Im with J. Osborne: iPhone gives me convenient access to all major e-book formats (including Kindle and Nook). Even when at home, I prefer the smaller form factor (over Kindles), and at night the backlighting allows me to continue to read without additional lighting (which my wife appreciates).I read more novels since last March (when I got the Kindle app) than in many years before (thanks to having my reader with me at all times).

  60. Kyle Says:

    Ok, I can actually buy that a colour screen would be useful because I basically sit at my computer for most of the day without much eyestrain (thanks to my low magnification glasses). I’ve used Apple products for years, and love their stuff, I’m just not sure I can justify buying an Apple tablet, especially since I have an Iphone already and don’t want another Iphone OS device because it just feels redundant. Plus, publishers are definitely lagging on tech adoption, they haven’t really learned from the music industry at all it seems. If they do get their act together we’ll see some big advancements in this field and hopefully some price drops to spur greater adoption. But I’m not banking on them getting a clue anytime soon, so I’m happy with the current generation of Ebook readers until they evolve.

  61. Edward Says:

    I have to write this, as nobody seems to mention it. The DRM used by BN is 1000 better than any other eBook DRM scheme in current use. I have been an ereader.com customer for years, and have a lot of experience with it, so here’s how it works:

    1) DRM is encrypted with the full name and credit card number of the purchaser.

    2) No activation for device. No limit on number of device. No Internet connection.

    I purchased some PDF files from the old Amazon ebook store. I can’t read them now. I will never be able to read them again. This can’t happen with pdb.

    Also: BN is working with Adobe to use the same scheme for .epub format books.

    Not sure if the Nook is any good, but this is consumer friendly DRM. If I have to pay $3 more to BN for a book or Fictionwise or EReader.com, I will rather than risk a .mobi book.

    -Edward

  62. Ed Gould Says:

    I will not go near any ebook, especially since AMAZON deleted books that had been sold. Never trust anyone that sneaks around you back and deletes honest books. Amazon has become a book burner and I do nt tolerate any book burners.

  63. tsopics Says:

    I actually ordered a nook less than a week after the official announcement, mainly in anticipation of Android. With this kind of platform, the nook will inevitably be opened to all. The small screen at the bottom is worthy of quite a few apps, and the e-ink screen can be used to do fun stuff. I imagine that it’ll be quite great to use for IRC, and if I can get an ssh server running on it I can drop the USB cord.

  64. Kathy R (Bermudaonion) Says:

    Great comparison chart! Amazon has recently updated the Kindle 2 to support pdf files.

  65. blackwatertown Says:

    Thanks for the review. Doesn’t appeal to me enough to encourage me to buy one yet?
    Also, like some other commenters, interested in whether books you thought you had bought can be remotely withdrawn without your consent (as with the Kindle)?

  66. ShoresOfDoom Says:

    I am a B&N employee but I hate pushing the Nook on people. Not because of the product itself, which seems fine, but because most people are simply not smart enough to appreciate what a rip off DRMed electronic books can be. In the end, you really aren’t buying a copy of the book so much as a license to read it, which would make one forever indebted to B&N for future use authorization.

    Unlike real books, you probably can’t resell DRMed electronic books, or give them away, or leave them to someone in a will. And worse yet, if DRMed electronic books become the norm, used book stores will probably go away too.

    I am a fan of the CONCEPT of electronic books, but because of DRM, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend the Nook (or Kindle, for that matter).

  67. clothingjeans Says:

    This product is nice, after which Yao will not have to buy more books, and otherwise my room full of books, and some can not find, and this, under convenient.

  68. soumen Says:

    A good review, comparison dimensions of all the three devices are perfect. Let’s see when a Chinese Edition of the some comes in the market, I think it will have a ten times less market price like the mobiles…..

    In deed this is a great tools specially for people like me who need to read/refer a lot of books. But I doubt which will worth spending, to either of these three device you mentioned above or an ultra thin notebook device e.g. Sony Vaio.

  69. Clay Says:

    I was told that if the Audio Book is in MP3 format, that you can actually listen to the audio books. So the comparison above should state that.

  70. teenagegeek Says:

    Very cool.

    I saw the kindle on tv a couple of days ago, it looked good, but nook does sound a lot better.

    Whats up with the grey scale though?

    i really want a reader though, but perhaps not this christmas…

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  72. kcd75 Says:

    Thanks for the post!

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  73. marcmgraham Says:

    Thanks for the in-depth review of the Nook. It is very timely as I’m thinking about purchasing an e-reader and of course it’s coming down to the Kindle vs. Nook.

    A nice feature of the Kindle is you can share books on up to six devices as long as they are registered on the same account. This is nice for sharing books within a family.

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  75. chris Says:

    I was anticipating my nook arrival for Christmas, and had requested it over the kindle. I am very disappointed. I charged it, updated the firmware, which didn’t really fix any of the issues I was experiencing, and then bought a book. They charged me for the book. I have still not been able to download it. I bought another book I was waiting to read, still can’t download it. It says I am in the queue for about half an hour, then gives me an error message and says I should call 1-800-THE-BOOK if problem persists. Only problem is they are closed for the holidays.

    They released their biggest assest of the year, which they admittedly say is full of software bugs and problems. and take the day off when we are all using our nook for the first time… a fa-q to the customer in my opinion. I’m all for everyone having a break for the holidays, but if you are going to market a product that is half baked, and promise delivery in time for Christmas, but send it out a couple days before the gift giving day, you better triple up call center support, not shut it down.

    I will return mine. it sucks.

  76. Mr. Morozov Says:

    I got a pre-order for a Nook as a Christmas present, and I’m really excited. I’m a bit confused why they’re hyping this up as running Android, because it doesn’t resemble it at all. Still, I can’t wait for January 15 to come (the day my Nook comes in).

  77. Arcturus72 Says:

    The only problem I’m having with my wife’s Nook is that no matter which card we out in (and 8 Gig or 1 Gig one) is that it doesnt even see either chip we try to put in.

    Any suggestions?

  78. PeterY Says:

    For anyone considering the nook, please read about my
    experience.

    First I had to wait about 30 days for my nook to
    arrive. It worked as advertised at first
    but began having problems after the third recharge cycle. The nook was stuck in the screen shot mode and
    would not respond. After holding for 45
    minutes, B&N tech support was able to walk me through rebooting the reader. After a full recharge, again the nook would
    not turn on at all. I tried everything
    recommended by tech support and nothing worked. How does a new item with a new battery stop working like this? Why doest it take 45 minutes each time you
    call their help desk?

    I decided to ask for the manager and request a refund. Although they agree to fully refund me the
    price of the nook, all accessories and membership fee, they would not refund
    the ebooks I had purchased. I can tell
    you that the service managers are anxious to get unhappy customers off the
    phone. I suggested that I receive a
    store credit to purchase the physical books in their stores which they refused
    to do. They were just happy to get me
    off the phone.

    I can’t remember the last time I such a terrible experience with
    a retailer. They are not prepared to
    handle the tech issues and not committed to providing good customer service.

    Bottomline is that if you are considering the Nook, buyer
    beware!

  79. phineas Says:

    Tablet devices that are strictly for reading e-books would seem to be a fad. An actual tablet PC that is also great as an e-book reader would seem to better fit the niche, and be somewhat less….Faddish…

    At first I thought Apple’s new tablet was going to be a flop. No I am not so sure. Look for Apple’s new tablet PC to inspire hoards of slightly smaller, much cheaper, ARM-based competition.

  80. GiannasAma Says:

    The nook DOES have audio book ability. on MP3, just like music. However it does not support audiable.com since amazon has an agreement with them. If you do a web search there are mp3 book rentals that are like netflix for the most part. B&N tried to tell me that the only audio books supported were the ones that they sell online (sales girl told us this), its not true, it does not support the .AA files like audiable. You DL the book CD just like you would for any mp3 player & upload to the nook instead of the MP3 player.

  81. Rabies Says:

    I bought a nook yesterday and returned it today. From the time that I had to call B&N Tech Support to be told how to open the box until about four (4) hours later the damn thing froze up on me and I had to go to nook’s website and read the FAQ to figure out how to un-freeze it (which involves holding the on/off button down for precisely 12-seconds.)

    On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best) I’m going to give nook a 6. And I’ll wait a year or so to see what improvements there are in all three eReaders.

  82. lany Says:

    Just got my Nook a week ago and i must say that it was the worst money ever spent. It was a mistake not doing my research before ordering online… then when I had the time to compare the Kindle with the Nook, while waiting for my shipment to arrive, I realized I had made the wrong choice…Still decided to give it a try. This product keeps freezing on me and I have to keep restarting it. It is extremely slow. The touch screen is small and when I’m trying to type something I have to take my time so it wont hit the wrong letter or number. All in all not worth the prize.. I’m returning today no matter if there is a restocking fee. I’ll just wait till the IPad comes out.

  83. iPad Tips Says:

    Just bought an iPad, feeling much better and sold Kindle at eBay.

  84. user Says:

    I'm having trouble falling in love with this nook. The touchpad is very unresponsive.

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  91. Zac Efron Says:

    I loved the nook, now I have a Kindle and really love it.

  92. Selena Gomez Says:

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