Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Nook by Barnes & Noble

So, after much debate, I decided to finally make the transition from strictly paper books to the e-world. A good friend of mine had done a bit of research and settled on the Nook, so I decided to trust her instincts and go that direction, as well.

One reason I decided to go electronic was that I found it cumbersome to carry sufficient paper books with me while I was traveling abroad last fall. I took four novels and a couple of guidebooks with me, and it took up quite a bit of room in my suitcase. I'd rather travel light. The Nook, unaugmented with additional memory, is capable of carrrying 1500 books at once, so that should appease my travel needs quite well.

The second reason I decided to do it was economic. When new novels come out in series that I am following, the hardbacks are usually around $25. I can either wait for my library to get the book in and put myself on the waiting list, or wait for the paperback, if I don't want to spend that much money. Ebooks are quite a bit cheaper than hard copies, and I can get them immediately on the day they're released. In theory, anyway. I haven't yet bought an ebook for my reader, but I think I'm all set up to do it.

I got my Nook as a Christmas present, technically, but since I had to go with my wife to show her what to buy, exactly, I had access a little before then. So, I charged up the battery and loaded up a bunch of books from my Baen Free Library CDs, so the reader wouldn't be useless on Christmas morning, then gave it back to her to wrap and place under the tree.

The Nook takes a bit of getting used to, but I think I'm adjusting well. It's about the right size to hold in one hand for simple reading, and if you hold it just right, your thumb can read the page turning button, leaving your other hand free for food and beverages, if you're a mealtime reader. The page transitions are pretty quick, certainly comparable with my usual one-handed page turns with paper books. The font size is easily adjustable, but only the smallest size available actually fits an entire page on the screen at once, and that's just a bit of a strain for my old eyes, so one ends up hitting the page button twice as many times as for a regular book. Once you get the timing down, you can be reading the last sentence and hit the button, and move seamlessly to the next screen.

One downside to the Nook is that it isn't backlit. So, for low light conditions, or reading in the dark, you have to have a little clip-on booklight. Fortuitously, my son bought me one made especially for the Nook as a Christmas present. There's also a balance to be achieved between battery life and convenience. The Nook has a screen saver, "sleep" mode that turns on after a specified amount of time without any activity. If you tend to put a book down, wander off to brew a pot of coffee or let the cat in, the lower wait time settings will be annoying, as you'll have to "wake" your Nook every time you return. I think I finally settled on a 10 minute sleep mode wait time as optimal.

Battery life might turn out to be an issue. So far, after several hours of reading, the lowest I've gotten the batter level is 67%, so that's not too bad, but it might be a problem if I'm traveling for extended periods without access to an outlet or a USB port to charge it up with. The jury is still out on this one.
It's quite easy to "sideload" ebooks from your computer to your Nook. When plugged into the USB port, it behaves much like a thumb drive, and you simply drag and drop or copy and paste the files into the proper directory on the Nook drive, then "eject" the drive and you're up and running with all your new books. Occasioally, if I haven't immediately disconnected the drive from the computer, it's gotten a bit confused, and I had to re-plug and re-eject to get it to see the new acquisitions, but so far it hasn't really "lost" anything.
So far, I've loaded up about 400 books or stories on it, and haven't really impacted its total capacity. It's also possible to add a microSD card of up to 16 Gb, which takes the total to around 15,000 books possible. It could be a while before I need to expand.

One other issue, which I understand there are some hacks out there to solve, is that the Nook displays your entire library as a "flat" database. You get a long long list of book titles to scroll through to find your book, if you're just browsing to figure out what you want to read next. There is, however, a search feature that will find a particular title for you, and B&N just came out with the version 1.5 code for the Nook, which introduces the Shelves functionality, so you can put groups of books together on shelves, perhaps by category (I made mine Authors), so as to simplify the process of finding what you want. I'm not sure what the maximum number of shelves allowed is yet, but I'm sure I'll find out at some point.

I'll probably never get away from paper copies entirely, but I'm enjoying playing with my new toy, and hoping it does what I'd expected it would do for me.


Curling up by the Fire said...

I found your post interesting as it is exactly what I would have written. I bought an ereader this Christmas with all of my GC and I am really enjoying playing around with it too. I have so far read 1 whole book and am halfway through another. Playing around with the settings has been my biggest challenge and the first time I downloaded books I somehow downloaded all of them twice so I had to learn how to remove as well. It's a learning process. I just ordered an ebook from the library so when it's available I'll see how that goes too.

I am like you in that I'll probably never give up printed books, but so far it's been interesting. And it will definitely make travelling easier although the first few times I'll probably travel with 'backup' just in case until I get used to my ereader.

Marsha said...

Just had the "Kindle" discussion with a friend who got one for Christmas too. Traveling would be the main reason I would get one. Have a friend who goes to S. America every winter and she takes a whole carry-on size suitcase full of books. She put off getting one before she left and was kicking herself all the way to the airport. We're shopping for a Netbook right now. Buying a reading contraption will come down the road as we are planning on more travel. We are both so woefully non-techno - it's a jungle out there buying new technology.

Jon said...

@Marsha - You can read ebooks on a Netbook, the software can be downloaded for whatever format you feel comfortable with. It's not as compact as a Nook/Kindle, but if you're hauling it along anyway, you could avoid a second device.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see you finally got one, seems perfect for you. Is it waterproof for the bathtub?

Your oldest friend

Jon said...

Ah, old friend, I'm afraid it is not waterproof. But then, neither is a paperback book.

Anonymous said...

True. Nevertheless, I've been able to dehydrate a few soggy paperbacks. Zip-lock bags might come in handy with these newer devices.