First Impressions of the Barnes & Noble nook


All day I have been perking up at the sound of trucks on the street, each time hoping it would be the UPS truck delivering my much-anticipated Christmas present from my wonderful husband–the brand new Barnes & Noble nook eBook reader.

My husband pre-ordered my nook on the very first day, so I knew I would get it before December 9.  I did a little dance of joy yesterday to learn that he had gotten the tracking number for the shipment and that the nook was winging its way to me overnight!

I really thought my nook was never going to get here today–it was 8 PM before the UPS guy showed up at our door with the delivery!  Of course it’s always a horrible wait when you’re really anticipating something.  But at last, my two month long wait is over…nook is here and it’s in my hot little hands!

I tore into the package immediately, eager to boot it up and start loading up eBooks.  I wanted to do an unboxing, but my camera seems to be MIA at the moment, and I was too impatient to look for it!  So, I got straight to work setting it up.  Here are my first impressions of the nook after a few hours of use:

  • Aesthetically speaking, the nook is very nicely designed.  The buttons for page navigation are responsive and I like that they have a set on each side of the device (good for lefties and righties!).  The device is sleek and attractive, which is what I’d expect for a 2009 gadget.
  • I really like the touchscreen vs. a physical keyboard (I am not a fan of the Kindle design) and I think the touchscreen is something that affords the nook a lot of options, especially once the Android community gets ahold of it.  Is it the most groundbreaking thing I’ve ever seen?  No, but I think it works well for navigation and such, and it’s just pretty to see your book covers in full color.
  • The nook itself is a great size for my hands.  It has some heft to it so that it doesn’t feel super delicate, but it is by no means big.  If you are holding the nook sans case, the back of the nook has a subtle curvature to it that makes it nice to hold.
  • I don’t believe in gadgets without cases, though, so I popped mine into another gift from my husband–a coated canvas trompe l’oeil case featuring a page from Alice in Wonderland.  I was very impressed with the cases and accessories available for the nook at launch.  I thought it was a nice touch to have so much to choose from right off the bat.  I just wish the book light for the nook was already available, as it’s the accessory I am currently lacking.
  • The eInk screen is VERY crisp and clear.  This is my first eBook reader, and my first eInk device experience other than messing around with a display Sony Reader.  I know a lot of people think that eInk is archaic in the days of full color backlit screens, but it is exactly what I wanted.  I started getting migraines two years ago, and with their arrival went my ability to read backlit screens without getting horrible headaches.  I will be able to read on the nook for hours.
  • The refresh rate when navigating through a book on the eInk, or through menus on the touchscreen, is just fine.  I don’t have a Kindle or Sony, so I can’t speak to the experience versus what it’s like on another eInk reader, but I do not find the refresh rate to be ridiculously long or annoying.  It only takes a second or two for the page to refresh.  I believe that my nook has the firmware update that came through yesterday, which addressed the laggy refreshing going on in the review units that were sent out.  From what I can tell, any of the problems or annoyances reported by reviewers yesterday and today should be able to be easily fixed with future firmware updates.  Barnes & Noble seems to be listening the popular opinion so that they can be responsive in a timely fashion…I couldn’t believe they pushed a firmware update out already!
  • The user interface feels very intuitive.  I have read reports of it being confusing, but I just don’t see it.  I was able to acclimate to it in no time.  I did have to laugh when my husband tried to use the eInk screen as a touchscreen the first time he picked the nook up–he is just too used to his iPhone!  He also found the user interface to be nice and easy to navigate and was very impressed with it overall.
  • Shopping for books on the nook is easy–almost TOO easy!  It feels like when I first got iTunes and could suddenly purchase any album or song with the simple click of a button.  I bought two books right away and the process could not have been simpler.  They were both NYT bestsellers and one was $5, one $6.  I know pricing is being worked on at B&N so that their prices are 100% competitive with the Amazon Kindle store. and I can already see that reflected in books I am browsing today vs. looking at the prices of those same books a few weeks ago.
  • Loading my own content (both non-DRM and content from is super easy.  The nook comes with a USB cord and, when plugged in to the computer, shows up on my Mac as an external drive.  You just drag and drop books to the location you want–there is a default “my documents” folder on the nook, but I created a new one called “my ebooks.”  You can create whatever folder structure you want–I figure I will probably create subfolders for authors on the nook so I can keep things organized when uploading.  Currently, I don’t believe subfolders are supported when browsing self-loaded content, but I will try it.  I suspect that folders will be something pushed out in a future firmware upgrade for the nook, especially since the Kindle just did that.

I’ve been reading eBooks for a long time; I first started on a Handspring Palm PDA, then my Casio Cassiopeia Pocket PC, then on a succession of PDAs and PDA phones, then on my iPhone.  I was nervous to move to a new device, especially one that I’d never actually tried out or read reviews for.

I have to say, for my first foray into dedicated ereading devices, I am very pleased with the nook and really glad I waited and didn’t get a Kindle 2.  Looks-wise, it’s what I really felt an eBook reader should look like, and performance wise I am very pleased thus far.  I’ll post again after a few weeks with my nook to see if I have changed my mind–I have a holiday vacation coming up and I plan on getting a lot of reading done!

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3 Comments on "First Impressions of the Barnes & Noble nook"

  1. Dave Peterson | December 9, 2009 at 12:09 am |

    Very cool review, Jess, and I'm glad you are entirely pleased with the nook! I've had the chance to use all the major Kindle releases in the last two years and I really love dedicated eReaders (although I find the Kindle for iPhone app pretty great as well). I hope you're right about some cool innovation coming from the Android developer community. I'd love to see the nook make some very creative use of that touchscreen!

  2. Glad to hear more positive feedback for the nook (makes me wish I was in the US not the UK!) What I was most interested in is your feedback re. speed. Sometimes I wonder if reviewers – who after all live with a glut of this tech day in, day out – end up with expectations that don't quite match up with those of consumers. i.e. the reviews say “the nook is sluggish” whereas customers say “it's fine for me”.

    Of course, it could just be that the firmware update has addressed things particularly well!

  3. I think that is always a caveat with pre-release product reviews … you can't be sure that it reflects actual product making it into people's hands. Glad to hear about the good experience- I *know* you've been dying to get this!

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