My Nook Report

I’m sitting here, stressing about my English paper.  It’s at least a page shorter than it needs to be, but I can’t seem to find a place to add a single sentence.  I’m to the point of walking away–I did the same thing with the last paper, and ended up getting an A-.  So…maybe this is the trick to passing an English class?

If anyone decides to test this theory, please don’t blame me if the results don’t work out…

So, rather than continue with said paper, I decided to update the blog.  Besides mentioning that I bought a new toy, I don’t think that I’ve talked about it at all.  So…this is my impressions of the Barnes and Noble Nook.  For those of you who don’t live in the United States or Canada…sorry.

So, a note on eBooks.  I realized, some time after I brought my Nook home, that it was a bit ironic that I bought an eReader, because, hopefully, when I’m through with school, I’ll be able to get a job in the publishing industry–I want to design books, both the cover image and the inside part.  I’ve been conflicted, though, and worried that aspiring to work in publishing is as foolish as aspiring to work for a newspaper. BUT, after a couple of weeks of using the Nook, I’ve decided a couple of things–first of all, electronic media isn’t going to kill the book any more than the automobile killed the horse (tragic accidents aside).  The Nook isn’t good for, say reference material.  Furthermore, even though it is possible to download free e-books…

Let me put it this way.  Sites like My Space and YouTube are full of wannabe musicians.  I could spend all day listening to the music for free, and still never come across anything I like.  I’m beginning to realize the same is true for e-books.  Yes, I can download self-published works for free, but they read like self-published works.  I’m more than willing to spend a few dollars for a book that’s been through the hands of editors who ensure quality–I’m not going to waste hours and days of my life reading a story, no matter how compelling, if it is poorly written. (And now I’m all concerned about the quality of writing on this blog.)  Secondly, a good book takes time, and it’s hard to find the time to write a quality book if the author is concerned about a day job.  Finally, even e-books need to be designed.  I’m reading  “The Grand Design” by Stephen Hawking on my Nook, and I was over the moon to see the amount of design that went into the production of that book in its electronic form.

Case in point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of Stephen Hawking’s “The Grand Design”…

One of the reasons I chose the Nook over the Kindle is because the Nook supports the .ePub format, which, apparently, is becoming the industry standard. The Kindle doesn’t.  But, more importantly, it’s the form of book that my local library has available for check out.  With just my library card, I can download books from my home computer and “side load” them onto my nook–books bought from barnesandnoble.com are automatically loaded via WiFi (more on that in a bit).

library books I have checked out at the moment

I do have to use an intermediary program called “Adobe Digital Editions” to get my library books onto my Nook, but it’s free to download.  Digital Editions and the Nook are both smart enough to know when the lending period of my books have expired, and won’t let me read them any more.  I didn’t like this at first–but it also comes with the option of sending books back once I’ve finished them, or decide that I don’t want to read them.  This may not seem like a big deal, but it’s HUGE to me.  See, back when I was employed, I liked to listen to audio books that I checked out from the library while I worked.  (I go to the same site to download audio books as I do e-books)  I can choose how long I want to have the book for: one, two or three weeks, but I can’t have more than 5 books downloaded at a time.  Well, with the audio book, if I choose the three-week check-out, and the book is either shorter than I thought or a stinker that I don’t want to finish, that spot is taken for the remainder of the three weeks, until the computer takes it back.   Through Digital Editions, I can send a book back, and free up that space.  Granted, this might be different for libraries outside of Utah.

Okay, the most important thing about an e-reader is knowing how to get to the books, right?  The Nook is navigated by a color touch screen, which I quite frankly love.   The part I’m not so crazy about is once you get into the “my library” tab.

“My Library” is broken up into two sections, books downloaded from Barnes and Noble, and everything else.  The Barnes and Noble section is much easier to navigate and use, with the option to archive, or hide books and browse by cover.  The everything else section, named, uninspiringly, “My Documents” is where my library books end up, as well as any other documents that I want to put on my Nook.

My “My Documents” folder is a jumble of syllabuses (syllabui?) and other documents for school, stuff downloaded from lds.org, like conference talks and the LDS hymnbook, recipes, shopping lists, interesting crochet patterns, and, of course, library books.  I like having all this stuff in one easy to carry around device, but it’s impossible to organize on the Nook.  On the computer side of things (and inside the Nook) I have various folders and hierarchies to keep things straight.  When it comes to displaying them on my Nook, the hierarchy has been flattened out, leaving me trying to remember if the document named “Our Fearful Way of Knowing” is for church or school.

Navigating by cover

The B & N library is much cleaner and easier to navigate, as I mentioned.  I like being able to browse by cover (again, covers need designers.  I want to be a designer).  From the Barnes and Noble website, it is possible to download free e-books; both public domain classics and promotional items.  Personally, I’d stick with the classics.  The free promotional items are hardly worth looking at; the ones I’ve looked at are all either poorly written to the point of incomprehensibility or samples of a much larger book.  Granted, it could be that I’m just looking at the wrong books, and there could be a gem in there I haven’t found.  I’m just not sure it’s a gem worth looking for.

My favorite feature about reading with the Nook is the built-in dictionary.  If I don’t understand a word, I can go to the touch screen, and select “look up word” then either type in the mystery word, or navigate a cursor until the word is selected.  When reading dead-tree books, I usually won’t stop and pull out the dictionary if I come across a word I don’t understand, instead I’ll figure it out by the context.  This dictionary is available to books in the .ePub format (Nook also supports .pdf’s and a few other formats that I can’t remember right now, and don’t feel like looking up, hence my being able to put stuff like shopping lists and crochet patterns on my Nook.) in either the B & N library section or the “My Documents” section, but not, somewhat annoyingly, as a free-standing book.

Along with the dictionary, I can highlight and annotate .ePub books.  I actually don’t use this feature as much as I thought I would.  Like I

Highlighted and Annotated

said earlier, the Nook isn’t really great for reference books.  When I highlight and annotate,  I tend to think as much in color as I do context, so the gray on the screen doesn’t really help me. (1)

I’m actually glad that I figured out that the Nook isn’t really all that great for reference books, because I planned to buy eTextbooks starting next semester–that was part of my justification for spending the money on the Nook.   I wish I had poked around the Barnes and Noble website a bit more before I started saying that–Barnes and Noble have a reader that you can download onto a computer that can read eTextbooks, but the Nook can’t.  I think.

See, I didn’t know that I needed a textbook for my Art History class until the first day of class.  The bookstore was out of used versions of the text, and I wanted to see if I could get a deal online before buying a new book.  I could, but it would take time to get to me.  While I was waiting for the textbook, I downloaded an app onto my computer called the Nook Study Guide, and a one-month free trial of the text I needed.  The trial has ended, but I can’t seem to get rid of the ghost of the electronic version of that textbook.  The cover even shows up on my Nook.  When I click on it, though, I get an error message.  I don’t know if that’s because it’s a textbook or an expired trial.  I’m reluctant to try downloading another trial textbook, for fear of  having two ghost texts instead of just one.

When I bought my Nook, there were two versions available, the WiFi version and the WiFi+3G version.  I went with the WiFi version, which saved me about $50.  I’m not sure that going for the 3G model would have been worth it for me, though.  I can connect to the internet using my wireless network, (I did have to enter in my password, but the Nook remembers it) or the one at school (which is a bit trickier, because I need to enter a user name and a password, and isn’t remembered.  At least not consistently.)  I can see where having 3G coverage would be nice, but to me, it’s unnecessary.  Being connected to the internet allows me to buy books directly from the Nook–something that is potentially fatal to my bank account.  I can also set up a wishlist, which is much more wallet friendly.  There is a browser available on the Nook.  It’s in beta format right now–it’s pretty slow, and the eInk screen limits it’s usefulness significantly.  Still, it’s nice for when I want to check Facebook or Wikipedia between classes.  The touch screen does turn into a QWERTY keyboard when you ask it to, but it’s kind of hard to type on.  I’d hate to write an email, let alone a blog post from it, but I could.

Barnes and Noble are still working to get Nook customers into the brick-and-mortar stores, by offering sales and specials that are only available if  you are connected to a Barns and Noble hotspot, including the ability to browse full books.  I haven’t gone to check it out, but apparently, if you take your Nook to a Barnes and Noble, you can read any book for up to one hour every day.  I’m not sure if that means you have an hour’s reading time, or once your hour on one book is up, you can move to another.  This might bear some invesitgation.  If only I had the time…

Barnes and Noble announced just this week that they’re rolling out a new version of the Nook–a full color, full touchscreen backlit LED version.  The main screen of my Nook is what’s known as an e-Ink screen, and is like reading words printed on paper.  I’m a bit annoyed at the timing of this announcement, but, even having known this new version was being rolled out, I would still go with the version I got–if I wanted the full-color version, I would have gotten an iPad.  I like that when I’m spending all day doing homework on the computer, that upon taking a break, I can turn to my Nook and read something that’s not as hard on the eyes.

Barnes and Noble claims that if put on Airplane mode, a charged battery will last up to ten days, and with WiFi turned on, it’ll last about two (if WiFi is available, the Nook will automatically check for updates every once in a while) .  I’m a bit skeptical, it seems to me that the battery drains much faster than that, but it could be that I just spend too much using the WiFi connection to browse for books.

Barnes and Noble has done a great job of making it possible to personalize the Nook.  Beyond naming (mine’s called “Storyteller”),  I can set a wallpaper (a woodcut of Don Quixote downloaded from Wikipedia)  and a screensaver.  They also offer a variety of interchangeable colored  back-plates, as well as covers and frames.

So…the screensaver.  It’s more of a battery saver than a screensaver.  See, eInk takes almost no battery to hold an image, so when the Nook is idle for a certain amount of time, or it’s manually put to sleep, an image will pop up.  Rather than cycling through other images, though, it’ll stay on the same one until the Nook is woken up.  In theory, the next time it goes to sleep, it’ll display another image, but mine has a tendency to get stuck on one image.  When this happens, changing to a different screensaver, then changing back seems to get things unstuck.

There’s also a built-in MP3 player that I haven’t used–my digital music comes via my Rhapsody subscription, and I’m not going to spend any extra money to put music on my Nook, especially when the phone I carry with me everywhere (unless I forget or lose it) lets me put Rhapsody music on it for free, and doubles as an MP3 player.

There’s also chess and Sudoku built-in, but I don’t play them very often–simply because if my brain is too fried to read, it’s much too fried to play logic games.  If I’m thinking clearly enough to  play logic games, I’d rather be reading.

I waited until I had enough money to buy a cover along with my Nook before making a purchase, because I know how hard I am on both

if you click on the picture, you'll be able to see where the tag came off. I didn't like the tab, but I'm still annoyed that the cover was so poorly put together.

books and electronics.  I chose the Johnathan Adler Punctuation Cover, which looks amazing, but has some quality issues.  It took all of two days for a tag on interior to start to come unsewn, it doesn’t close all the way, and recently, I’ve noticed a sticky resin on the seams of the pockets.

I do like that the cover looks like a book, and I like the clear pocket where I keep my student ID/bus pass–I like to read while I’m waiting for the bus, and it’s nice to have it close at hand, rather than having to fumble through my wallet to pull it out.

Overall, I’m very happy with my Nook.  I probably spent more money than I could strictly afford on something that isn’t going to be as useful to me in my college career as I expected, but I think it was worth it.  I wish I’d gotten a different cover, but not badly enough that I’m going to replace it before it wears completely out.  I’d recommend the Nook to, well, geeks like me who like both reading and gadgets.   The problems are minor compared to the overall benefits.

(1) The highlighted picture is of a .epub version of the Book of Mormon that I bought on the Barnes and Noble website.  I did try downloading the Bible and the Book of Mormon from lds.org, but they are only available in .pdf form, and are so difficult to navigate as to render them all but useless.

 

EDIT:

Since I wrote this post, Barnes and Noble has come out with a software update for the Nook.  This corrects a few of the problems that I was complaining about–specifically, it’s now possible to organize both the BN books and the My Documents section into what’s known as shelves, so it’s easier to keep things apart.   Also, the browser is no longer in beta format.  It’s still not great, but the point of the Nook isn’t to browse online.  Also, the pages turn faster, now, and there is the option to password protect both the Nook and your bank account.

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