It is perhaps somewhat ironic that I have been reading eBooks of some sort or other on handheld devices for over 20 years, and yet have never owned a dedicated eReader. It is even more ironic that while I live in a house with two nook eReaders (wife and younger son), I have spent very little time with the devices. I attribute the former to my desire to always stay on the cutting edge of technology coupled with the relative newness of dedicated readers; the latter I attribute to a desire to allow others to learn and discover for themselves. I have been reading on my iPad for over a year, and also on my Android phone and iPod Touch, but have found that more and more there is an email to be read, RSS feeds to check, games to play, tunes to write … a whole host of distractions to keep me from reading!
So for me the nook Simple Touch Reader is an entirely new experience: a dedicated device to replace a function already served by one of my several multipurpose devices. My intention isn’t to give an in-depth or thorough review with the context that Carly will deliver – but instead a first look from someone who has barely touched an eBook reader before after a weekend of playing around – and reading!
Out of Box Experience
It bears noting that the nook makes an incredible first impression – not like a gorgeous new computer or iPad, but remarkable in how utilitarian it all is. The box is wrapped in plastic with a hole for a peg-board hook, and when you unwrap it and pop open the box you can just take out the reader and get going. Setup is simple (unless you believe that terms and conditions violate your human rights), and within a couple of minutes I was on my home WiFi, logged into my Barnes & Noble account, and had downloaded a book from my library, which opened exactly to where I had stopped reading on the iPad.
The first thing I noticed when I grabbed the nook was how great it felt in my hand! The rubberized back made it easy to grab, and the size felt just perfect – like picking up a paperback book in terms of size and weight.
The nook is an extremely simple piece of hardware from the outside. The entire front is dominated by the screen, with a small ‘n’ logo at the bottom, two lines on each side, and the word nook at the top. All of these are in a dark gray that matches the back and offsets them from the screen bezel. At the bottom is a mini-USB port, and on the right side is a covered micro-SD card slot. The back has a lighter gray power button. That’s it!
Some of the pre-release press focused on Barnes & Noble saying this was a one-button device. In reality there are six – the home button under the screen, the power button, and the page forward and backward stripes on each side of the screen. Why do they say there is one? Because aside from the home button you will never likely need to push any of the others because they are handled using the integrated infrared touch screen system under the bezel.
The final thing to mention is the screen – it is gorgeous. I read in normal in-house light, sitting outside in the shade and sitting in the sun waiting for my kids. In all conditions it looked great. Of course, in darkness it is useless, just like my good old Psion Revo or HP200LX. The text is extremely clear and readable, and since the touchscreen is infrared and not a layer on top of the screen, readability is maintained.
As I mentioned, the new nook doesn’t attempt to be an Android tablet like the nook color, and doesn’t feature a web browser or other distractions. You have the reader, your library, and the nook bookstore.
In terms of the reader, you can navigate easily using the touch screen by swiping the way you want to move, or tapping the right side to page forward or the left side to page back. Tapping the center or swiping down will bring up the menu, and allow you to access various in-book utilities as well as heading home, to your library or to the shop.
You can bookmark pages, go to different spots, and other common eReader features. Everything worked very well for me, but I lack a reference point with another hardware reader.
In order to set the system up, and also to go shopping, I had to use the on-screen virtual keyboard. Generally I’m not a fan of virtual keyboards, and I can’t picture using the nook to write a post – but it was a very accurate and entirely tolerable system. I was able to log in, search, and purchase books without any issue. The books were immediately added to my device.
When I opened George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones 4-book set, it opened to my last read spot. But as I mentioned I have gotten increasingly terrible about actually staying focused on reading, so I just went back to the beginning. This weekend I read twice as far as I had managed in the previous month, which I attribute to the lack of distractions – it is a pure reading experience. Page turns are fast and crisp, the screen is beautiful and the text feels like reading a ‘normal’ book, and ultimately kept me reading when I would otherwise have just been doing something else.
As I said from the beginning, I don’t intend this to be an in-depth or comprehensive review – I leave that to the experts.
I cannot compare this to the Kindle or the Kobo or the Sony eReaders in any substantive way, though I have touched them all. I like the nook quite a bit for what it does – and also for what it doesn’t do. I don’t need another tablet or media player or full featured PDA or anything else. I need something that provide an easy way for me to read, maintain my books and shop for new ones – and nothing else.
The nook Simple Touch Reader delivers exactly what it promises – a simple reading-centric device with a touch screen that allows you to perform simple tasks in a natural way. And so far it has accomplished my primary goal in that it has me reading more!