Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Nook = NO(T) OK

I've recently took advantage of a considerable price drop in Nook e-readers and got myself a shiny new Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight - a reader touted by Barnes & Noble to be an ideal bedtime reading companion. Having used it now I have to disagree. Not only that, but I think I now understand better why Barnes & Noble thought price cuts for Nooks are a good idea - at least the e-ink models.

Let me count the ways in which this Nook is simply crap:

First, the bezel around the screen is huge and very dark in colour which I find distracting. Yes, it may make it easier to hold, especially for people with large hands, and yes, it does have physical buttons (my only gripe with Kindle Paperwhite), but we'll come to that, too.

Second, said physical buttons are so stiff that the whole blinkin' thing rocks in your hands when you press them. True, this is a touch screen model, but then we come to:

Third, that wide bezel is also quite a lot raised from the screen so if you want to touch the edge of the screen to turn the page and not cover text in the process you are either out of luck, or need to press against the (sharp-ish) bezel edge. Not quite conducive to seamless bedtime reading.

Fourth, when not held in hand, e.g. when you lay it on a dinner table, turning pages is either still uncomfortable if you're touching the screen edges or, if you're trying to use physical buttons, turns into an exercise in not making the whole thing jump and roll in the air the back of it being so rounded that pressing on the edge rocks it - a lot.

Fifth, I have read about - and witnessed - slight unevenness of backlighting on the Kindle Paperwhite  but on the Nook this is becoming almost ridiculous. See, on the Kindle Paperwhite, you may notice slight unevenness at the very bottom of the page caused by there being four separate light sources there - in most books it may reach the last line on the page. On the Nook, however, there's a sort of a pattern across almost the fifth of the top of the screen making it clearly visible on the top several lines of the page.

Sixth, actually getting to the book you're reading from a Nook that's been idling (showing a screensaver) is unnecessarily cumbersome. First you need to press a button to "wake" it, and you'd expect to be shown the page you left off at, but no. Next you're presented with an unlock screen where you need to swipe along a narrow-ish area the width of two thirds of the screen. Even if we disregard the awkward feeling you get on your finger from that raised and sharp(ish) bezel one must ask a simple question: WHY? What woudl be so wrong with either just a button press or just a swipe (even if the latter will use more battery in idle)? Why require both? Stupid!

So, there you have six serious - IMNHO - flaws of this otherwise highly acclaimed e-reader. Having just one or two may be acceptable even if you planned serious and long term use. But six! And I found them after only a couple of days' playing with the thing! No way! And no wonder it obviously wasn't selling that well at all.

Any redeeming features? Anything actually better that, say, Kindle Paperwhite  Well, yes: it is easier to switch off (and back on) the backlight. Kindle Paperwhite seems to be designed to be used with the light on all the time. The Nook starts up (every time) with the light off, but just pressing the button for a bit longer switches it on. Nifty. But not nearly nifty enough to make it any more palatable.

Am I keeping the Nook then? Well, yes. Why? Because I may - just - come across a title I want to read and it's either only available in EPUB and cannot be converted to MOBI, or it is considerably cheaper for the Nook. It's not that bad, after all. I am sure I could survive reading a book or three on it. Plus, it was really inexpensive (relatively speaking) so why not have (yet) another way to read books handy?

Oh, there's actually a seventh gripe: memory size. Kindle Paperwhite has 2GB. Much  more than reasonably needed quite probably, but still there should one need it. Nook? Only 256MB. Again, probably more than enough for most use(r)s, but not really acceptable at this day and age. Also, I may not be happy/able to connect it to a computer often enough to swap titles. Much nicer to just dump a lot I may want to read than spend fifteen minutes picking and choosing carefully as I had to when I got the thing. Another fail, Barnes & Noble, and a cheapo one at that.

I think I speak with authority when I speak about e-readers. I have owned a lot, including several Kindle models, at least one or two Sonys, and an assortment of lesser known (and way crappier) ones. I also use e-reader software on my Android devices, my Linux and Windows computers, and have also used it on various Palm OS devices (yes, Palm OS, not WebOS). Plus, I actually read. A lot.