When the debut of the Amazon Kindle started to revive the e-reader and e-book market, I started paying more attention to what was going on in that little world. Not with the intention of buying a reader anytime soon, but because I like gadgets, and I’m a librarian, and I had the thought of “someday, when the DRM is all sorted out, I’ll get one.”
Well, the DRM hasn’t been “all sorted out” (ha!) but someday came this spring, when the idea of buying a Kindle cheap on ebay was planted in my brain, and ferociously took root. Ultimately I didn’t get one, as none of the listings I saw were inexpensive enough. But, this happened in the spring, and my parents were looking for a gift worthy of a milestone birthday. So, I started to look into the possibilities. I had two requirements: I wanted something that could seamlessly download my subscriptions to The New Yorker and The New York Times, and I wanted something that could handle the standard epub format (which means it can be used with Overdrive, a system libraries use to lend out digital content like ebooks and audio books, and I can also purchase ebooks from a variety of sources). This immediately put the Kindle out of the running. My intent here is not to knock it, as I know several people who have one and love it. But it wasn’t going to work for me.
At that point I started to look at the nook and the Sony Reader line. There are several models of Sony Readers at this point, and they can all read the standard epub format. But only one can also seamlessly download subscriptions. The nook can do both of these things, and had the added bonus of being about half the price as that Sony Reader (at the time at least, the price on the nook has actually gone down*, and the Sony Readers may have as well). So, we had a decision.
I’ve been using my nook regularly since mid-April, and I just love it. My recycling bin fills up more slowly now because my subscriptions are on the nook. Since I don’t necessarily read the paper every morning (or more realistically, skim the headlines and pick and choose what catches my interest) I know that I always have something new to read available. My subscription to the Times is actually cheaper, and I get the whole week instead of just Sundays. (The New Yorker is about the same I believe.) I like being able to download books from Overdrive, which I’ve done a couple of times. The Adobe Reader software that’s required to do this has given me some odd problems, but generally it works well and it’s a simple process to download a book onto my computer and upload it to the nook. The selection isn’t the greatest, but it’s getting better and I think as more and more people are using the collection, it will grow. The nook can also read PDFs, and I did try one but it was a very overly-formatted document (a certain 30-some-odd-page ruleset) and I didn’t have much luck with that. But, for a PDF that doesn’t have a lot of formatting and diagrams, I think you would be pretty much fine.
One thing that I didn’t even think of is how nice it is to have something so small to read from. It’s really easy to hold the nook in one hand (for example, while in a boarding line at the airport) or curl up and sort of balance it on my knee. It fits in one of my purses, so if I think I might have some time to kill while I’m out, I can slip it in my bag. It’s lightweight enough that it’s very comfortable for reading in bed, which has been highlighted for me recently because I was reading something on the nook, and then switched to a large-ish hardcover for book club. Man is that annoying to hold in bed, I am constantly shifting from one side to the other so I can read the appropriate page. Speaking of turning the page, it’s not as seamless as physically turning a page. You can either push a button on the side of the device (both sides have the same buttons) or swipe your finger across the touchscreen at the bottom. I have found that when I’m reading for a longer period, I get into a rhythm and learn when to swipe so that I can finish reading just as the page changes. Ultimately I find this is a small price to pay.
The screen is very easy to read from, and I don’t get any glare. It’s nice to be able to change the size of the font (for example, when I was at my parents’ house earlier this month, I left my glasses downstairs and didn’t feel like going back down to find them, so I just increased the font size). Photos can sometimes be hard to make out, as everything is converted to greyscale, but usually that’s OK. I think it will bother me the most with photo essays, but I can always just make a note of the issue and look at the physical copy at work.
I also have to say that the nook holds up well to the abuse to which I subject it. I have always read during my meals if I’m not eating with someone, and the fact that this is a piece of electronics hasn’t stopped that. I am constantly wiping off little drips of condensation from my glass, or smears of chip dust when I forget to wipe my finger off before turning the page, etc. It definitely needs to be cleaned right now. Call me gross, but I feel like this is a legitimate thing — after all most of us wouldn’t think twice about reading over the newspaper or a non-special collections book, so why should that have to change just because you’re reading on an electronic device? I also have yet to get a case for mine (I have plans to make one, ha!), and while I did borrow one for one trip, I’ve since found that it’s pretty much fine on it’s own. The case is just for peace of mind, so when I do get around to making something, it’ll really just be a fabric envelope.
It’s fantastic for travel. When I went home a couple of weekends ago it was great to just take the nook, instead of a stack of New Yorkers and a book as well. When I got through the magazines I downloaded some samples of books from the B&N store, thinking I might buy one. Those I had a mixed experience with. One included what seemed like most of the first chapter, which was great. Another publisher’s sample included only three paragraphs of the prologue (plus all the title pages & whatnot), others were in between. I don’t think I will be purchasing many books, since I really don’t to begin with, but I like that I have the option to at any time — like next time I have a long layover and nothing to read, I’ll be able to buy something for book club, rather than something random at the airport book shop. And I won’t have to worry about the book then collecting dust on a bookshelf. Granted, I have lost the ability to then lend that title infinitely, but i have never really been a big lender of books for whatever reason, so this is OK for now. (That said, I do hope that this, and some other copyright/fair use type issues around ebooks, get sorted out in the next few years, but I’m not holding my breath.)
Overall it’s really a great device, and I encourage you to consider it if you’re looking at e-readers. Amazon is the elephant in the room, but I think B&N has put up a great contender. (Did I mention it runs on Android? How cool is that?!)
*My nook can get on wifi networks and has free 3G from AT&T, but now you can get a wifi-only option. So if you don’t care about the automatic download of subscriptions, you can save yourself some money.
And I have to say,