Sunday, December 20, 2009

First Impressions: Barnes and Noble's Nook

Yesterday I finally got over to the Barnes and Noble (B&N) store in Hadley, MA to check out the new Nook e-book reader. I have not purchased a Nook and only had about ten minutes with it. Not a lot of hands-on time but since I've owned a first generation Kindle (Kindle 1) for a couple of years now I think I can at least compare the devices. I also had a chance to watch my thirteen year old daughter use the device for the first time. Here's my first impression pros and cons:

Nook Pros:

  • SD card slot - my Kindle 1 has a slot but the subsequent Kindle 2 and Kindle DX versions do not.
  • The Nook battery is user replaceable. Users can't replace Kindle (2 and DX) batteries - these devices need to be sent to Amazon for battery replacement. Kindle 1 batteries can be removed and replaced by the user. [Thanks Pierre T. for making this clear - see below comment]
  • The color touchscreen below the e-ink screen. It is very sluggish (see cons) but it's programmable.
  • Integrated WiFi radio - the Nook has it and the Kindle never has. There's a couple of reasons why I like this option:
    • My Kindle 1 connects over Sprint's 2G network, the Kindle 2 and DX use Sprint's 3G network. 2G is slow, 3G is not bad. WiFi is faster.
    • Also, by not providing a WiFi connection option for the Kindle, Amazon has likely had to keep the Kindle price a little higher to pay for provider connectivity.
  • The Nook has a LendMe feature that allows you to share books with your friends. It is limited to only one 14-day period per book, if the publisher gives permission. You also cannot read the book yourself if it is lended it to another Nook friend. LendMe seems like a good idea but needs some work.
  • The Nook has a touchscreen keyboard. Many will argue this point with me but I'm not a big fan of mechanical keyboards on mobile devices. They add weight, take up space, collect dust and (because they are mechanical) are more prone to breaking.
  • The Nook Operating System is Google Android based.
  • Google Books access.
  • Hackability - some users have already got Pandora, Tweet (Twiiter client), Facebook, Google Reader and web browser running on the Nook.
  • Just like the Kindle, users can also read Nook books on iPhones and iPod touches using a Nook app (users can also read on a Blackberry using a Blackberry Nook app).
  • Compared to the Kindle, Nook controls are much better positioned on the device for left-handers like me.
Nook Cons:
  • The interface is sluggish - New York Times tech writer David Pogue wrote that the Nook is slower than an anesthetized slug in winter. You need to navigate slowly or you will get ahead of the device and end up lost. But you know, my Kindle interface is sluggish too. I really did not notice much difference. They both use the same e-ink screens and this is likely the source of many of these sluggish criticisms.
    • David Pogue actually got out the stopwatch and found... It takes four seconds for the Settings panel to open, 18 seconds for the bookstore to appear (over Wi-Fi), and 8 to 15 seconds to open a book or newspaper for the first time, during which you stare at a message that says “Formatting.” Too slow!!!!
  • The interface is not intuitive (I consider the iPhone interface to be intuitive as a comparison). Pouge refers to the interface as balky and non-responsive. But.... comparing - the Kindle interface is probably just as unintuitive.
  • The LendMe feature is both a pro and a con - only one 14-day period per book and only one loan for the life of the book. LendMe is just in beta now .......
Overall the Nook looks like a strong piece of hardware that needs some operating system and software upgrades/work. These should be relatively easy fixes. I'm also hoping (and predicting) we'll see a custom Nook Android Software Development Kit (SDK) soon.

I've got a few more pics of the Nook posted here.


To access Mike Q and my 22 minute and 50 second podcast titled First Impressions: Barnes and Noble's Nook, click here.

Listen to it directly in your web browser by clicking here.

If you have iTunes installed you can subscribe to our podcasts by clicking here.


Pierre Thiry said...


Thank you for reviewing the Nook. I was curious about its features compared with the Kindle.
A correction however about battery replacement for the Kindle. I also own a Kindle 1 and my battery became defective after some water damage. I was able to get a replacement battery for $19.99 from Amazon. And my kindle 1 is kicking again better than new.

Gordon F Snyder Jr said...

Thanks Pierre. Excellent catch!
I forgot the Kindle 1 has a user replaceable battery while the Kindle 2 and DX require the device be sent to Amazon for battery replacement.