The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

The Barnes & Noble nook eBook Reader has been touted by some as a Kindle-killer, and after what seemed like a ridiculously long wait, when mine finally showed up today I was ready to be wowed. It’s not that I don’t already enjoy reading eBooks on my Kindle DX (Kevin is using the Kindle2) and on my iPhone, it’s just that the nook was the “next new big thing”, and I allowed myself to be caught up in the excitement.

I was perhaps a week later ordering mine than many were, because I found out that American Express Rewards offers B&N gift cards when you redeem points. I felt fiscally responsible for not just whipping out my plastic to order, and I had enough points saved up that I was able to get my nook for free. Including tax, expedited shipping and a screen protector, my nook came to just shy of $300 — all covered by three B&N $100 gift cards.

When I first ordered, I was ambivalent – I even went do far as to order a Camangi WebStation while waiting for the nook, and I knew that I would wind up returning or eBaying something, I just wasn’t sure what. I am sure that I don’t need to have four eReaders (not counting my iPhone & HTC HD2) in the house, but I didn’t want my decision to be clear cut. I wanted to really have to think about it.

When the nook arrived today, I thought that my decision would be much harder …

Before I go too much further, let’s talk about my eReader / eBook usage and needs. I want you to understand mine, so that you will know right up front if it is nothing like yours, and you’ll know how many grains of salt to take my experience with, so to speak.

I read a lot; and I read very quickly.

When I was a kid, if it wasn’t gadgets I was craving, it was books. I would say that a good portion of every paycheck I have ever earned has been spent on gadgets and books. I collect authors; if I find an author that I like, I will read everything they write — in hardback, in paperback – however it is available.  Favorite authors’ series become like crack to me, and even if it sometimes seems impossible to make the time, at the expense of other things I should be doing, I will find time to retreat into a good book.

I have been buying eBooks since the eReader site was Peanut Press — my first purchase was Secret’s Shadow by Alex Matthews on November 7, 1998. It has been slightly over two years since I ordered from eReader; at first I stopped buying because I didn’t have hardware that I wanted to use with that format anymore, and later because I decided I didn’t like their new points system or their pricing. I have long wished that eReader would sell a dedicated eBook Reader, but until yesterday’s announcement of the eSlick now having compatibility, it seemed like a pipe dream. With that said, I have 501 eBooks in eReader Digital Rights Management (DRM) .pdb format – all of them purchased, and as you can imagine, this is a hellacious monetary investment.

I have had a Kindle 2 and then a Kindle DX since March this year, and I have greatly enjoyed Amazon’s ~$9.99 pricing and the freedom to read their books on either the dedicated eReader or my iPhone. The eInk format took a bit of getting used to, but for the most part I can deal with the Kindle’s refresh rates, and on the iPhone it is never an issue.I have about 20 books that have been purchased from Amazon in Kindle’s proprietary .azw format.

Since my investment in .pdb books so vastly outweighs my investment in Kindle’s .azw books, it seemed like a no-brainer that when the announcement came that Barnes & Noble, who now owns FictionWise, the company who purchased eReader, formerly Peanut Press (are you with me so far?), was going to sell their own branded eInk device capable of reading .pdb files, I had to give it a shot.

Even though during Barnes & Noble’s press call regarding the nook, William Lynch, the President of B&N was unable to answer Gear Diary team member Carly Z’s question about whether or not the nook would be able to read their own subsidiary company’s proprietary flavor of .pdb, the web has been rampant with tales of how it would be possible. I took those with a hopeful grain of salt, but I know that sometimes the things you hope for are not the things you get.

So that’s where I am coming from … let’s continue.

Today, after fearing that it had been lost at the New Jersey sorting facility it had shown as never having left for four days, the nook arrived. I dropped everything I was doing so I could see what all the hullabaloo was about. As I opened the cardboard shipping box, I was immediately struck by how Apple-esque the retail packaging was. This is something that will look beautiful on a store shelf, and I thought it was exceptionally well done.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

Bear in mind that the Amazon Kindle is shipped from a warehouse, and no one will ever see it on a shelf, so it’s obvious that maybe a little more thought should go into the nook’s presentation.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

Here’s where I hit the first snag. The nook requires instructions to unpack, and it is not necessarily something that you can just figure out on your own if you are the type who doesn’t like to read instructions. The paper sleeve that fits over the plastic nook enclosure is tight as all getout; looking at the instructions, you would think that it should slide right off … that would be a wrong assumption, at least for the nook I received.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

Once the sleeve comes off, you are presented with what amounts to a clear acrylic puzzle box: pull of the plastic seal, pop the two parts of the box apart, and then release the nook from the death grip of the clear plastic holster it’s cradled in. I’ll admit, I was getting a little frustrated during the unwrapping, and I couldn’t help but be thankful I wasn’t filming it. Compared to the easy paper zip-cord on the Kindle’s packaging, unboxing the nook would be embarrassing to do live — especially for someone as klutzy as me.

But the packaging really is eye-catching.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

Inside the little box marked “nook” is a microUSB charging cable and wall adapter, as well as the instructions.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

The nook measures 7.75″ tall x 5″ wide x 0.5″ thick, and it weighs 11ish ounces according to B&N, but I believe that it is more like 12. It’s front side is composed of shiny off-white, or light putty colored plastic, which is not as bright as the Kindle 2’s white frame.

These pretty pictures on the nook’s LCD screen are just a sticker that peels right off, but it shows you what will be seen once you have loaded the book with B&N titles. Note the page turning buttons on each side of the screen … very nice!

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

There is a power button on the top of the device.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

Before I get to the nook’s other end, I want to point out the full signal strength that the AT&T service provides in this part of the country. I would give anything to see even one bar on my Kindle DX without having to drive into town. Kudos to B&N for going GSM from the beginning.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

On the bottom of the nook, there are speakers, a headphone jack (no headset is included), a charging indicator light, and a microUSB port. The tab in the middle is used to pull off the entire rubbery back, which we’ll do in just a moment.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

There are slight indentions under the page turning buttons. I do like that there page turning buttons on each side of the device (lefties will like that!); there are no Menu, Back or Home buttons as on the Kindle, because those functions are done from the smaller touchscreen.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

Check it out! The nook includes 2GB internal memory, and you can add up to a 16GB microSD card; that makes for one pistol-packing eBook reader! The battery is marked as 1530mAh, and Barnes & Noble is saying you can expect two days of battery use.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

That’s an actual SIM card, which I had to remove and give a try in another device … just to see if it worked.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

There it is in the HD2. I plugged the SIM in, it was immediately recognized as a working card, but when I tried to open Facebook, that’s the error I received; obviously it was a no-go. There, I’ve tried it, so now you don’t have to.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

The nook’s hardware is truly beautiful, and in all honesty I like it better than the Kindle 2’s. Yes, they borrowed a page from the Kindle’s book with their artist series screensavers, but they one-upped Kindle by also including Cityscape and nature screensavers and four included wallpapers — or you can upload your own screensavers or wallpapers. I’m all for customization, so this was a great feature.

The little “n” at the top of the small screen is used to pull up the menu when the nook is turned on; if it is turned off or if it has timed out, you’ll need to hit the power button on top to reawaken it.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

The touchscreen is a neat feature, but I found it to be imprecise and extremely slow to react to touch. I am used to using a touchscreen phone, so I have come to expect a certain amount of precision and responsiveness when I tap — and I didn’t find it on the nook.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

I seldom (if ever) use the keys on my Kindle, so the nook’s soft keyboard seemed like the perfect solution — it pops up when you need it, and then goes away when you’re done. The biggest issue I had was again, anything having to do with the touchscreen was imprecise and extremely slow; typing out my B&N registration was painful, so I can’t imagine ever typing out an actual note.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

So let’s talk about what happened when I tried to load up an eReader book – just to check and see if it would work. We won’t talk about the time I spent downloading my entire eReader book library in hopes that it would work, because that’s a rant for another day and if the truth be told, I needed to do it anyway so I could load all those books on my HD2’s microUSB card.

Unfortunately only the iPhone eReader software seems to allow you to download your eReader books in bulk, every other version (except perhaps Android, which I have not yet tried) makes you retrieve them one at a time — which is a huge pain in the butt. Of course, you can’t retrieve them at all from the nook, because even though eReader is owned by B&N, it is also obviously their ugly red-headed stepchild. So to get an eReader book on the nook, it must be side-loaded, or directly placed on the nook by using the USB connection directly to a PC.

I found that side-loading directly to an 8GB microUSB card did not work – eReader files had to go in the nook’s main memory. I tried recreating the nook’s main memory folders on the memory card, thinking maybe that was the problem, but it didn’t work. I’ll keep trying.

The next frustrating thing was that I couldn’t see the four eReader DRM books I had loaded in the B&N book list, and refreshing did nothing. So I tried moving the eReader .pdb files to the Documents folder on the nook (this was done from the computer, not the nook), and that did allow me to see something – albeit a completely garbled title that gave no indication of the file’s name or even its author in every case but the Patterson book.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

Selecting one of the unknown titles shows the eReader document’s name in the file path . ..

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

…and clicking Read brings up a User Credentials Form.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

Entering the necessary credentials yields …

Holy crap; there’s my eBook — it worked!

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

Even better news is that the nook remembered my eReader credentials when another book was opened; I had been worried that I might have to re-enter everything each time.

But … there is no cover art, no color book in the lower screen, it’s slow to turn those pages … seriously slow – like several seconds slow, and it seems like the refresh is greatly exaggerated over the time necessary to do the same on the Kindle. Sure, I know that this is something that can probably (hopefully?) be fixed after a firmware upgrade or two, but the problem is that unless the firmware upgrade comes quickly, I’m going to be too frustrated to use the thing, and right back on my Kindle. Never mind the fact that if I loaded all 501 of my eReader books, I would likely be unable to tell what more than half of them even were.

So with that in mind, compare the nook to what I see when I look at my eReader library on my iPhone’s screen.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

So loading the eReader books was a minor triumph, and yet still a major disappointment. The next disappointment is that navigation through the touchscreen menu is cumbersome and extremely s – l – o – w. It’s not that it’s necessarily unintuitive to use at all; it’s just that you will tap the screen … and wait, tap again, and then find out that your first tap didn’t register, and now you’ve been dropped somewhere you never wanted to go … and how do you get back without doing it wrong again?

I can’t tell you how many false taps I’ve made on the color screen – keyboard or otherwise, how many times I have pressed the “N” button to have nothing happen, how many times I have seen an error screen, or even worse – had a total crash which mentioned an .android file, and don’t get me started on how finger-swiping doesn’t work like you would expect in the menu or book screens. It’s all so unfinished and … not even beta in some instances; it is more alpha!

Several times today, I found myself cussing out loud in frustration, and then the reality hit me — I paid Barnes & Noble to put me through this! I paid to be their beta (alpha?) tester! I paid for them to make me jump through hoops to read a format from a site that they own!

Who’s the fool? Not B&N … they got my money, and I’d be an even bigger fool to let them keep it.

And yes, in the middle of this frustration I called the nook a “steaming turd” on Twitter, and you know what? I would again. I want technology that will enhance my life, not frustrate me and provoke streams of four letter words.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

Before anyone starts with the “well you know there is supposed to be a firmware upgrade next week that will take care of some of your complaints.” I want to say how do you know which items it will actually fix? And if it honestly could fix many of my complaints, why couldn’t Barnes & Noble have just waited a week to ship? We would have still got out nooks in time for the holidays, but using it would have been a much less frustrating experience right out of the box!

And just to add insult to injury, I had put the plastic case back into it’s paper slider when I first unpacked the nook. I had to gently undo the seam on its side to get it off.


The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

The Barnes & Noble nook eBook Reader is available directly from the bookseller; they are currently backordered, but if you wait a few days you should be able to find mine — along with plenty of others’, I suspect — on eBay. If you wait a while longer, maybe B&N will fix some of the things that are frustrating me. Who knows, maybe the next nook will be a winner, but this one is MEH.

Odds & Ends: I had $20 in B&N gift certificates which I entered on their site under nook certificates so I could use them for purchasing. They show, and on the website all is well. On my nook, when I tired to buy a book I got an error saying that I didn’t have a credit card registered on B&N and therefore could not purchase two $9.99 books. I honestly can’t say if Amazon has the same caveat, because I have had a credit card registered with them for ages. But I am a new B&N customer, and this seemed like a bit of a slap in the face.

Also worth noting is that when you purchase from B&N, you will be charged sales tax. I know that states are cracking down on Amazon, but at the moment, a $9.99 book on Amazon is still $9.99; on B&N, it is $10.81. This adds up …

MSRP: $259

Be sure you want it, because –

You can return nook within 14 days of receipt. Either call 1-800-THE-BOOK (843-2665) for a return authorization, or return it to a Barnes & Noble store.

A 10% restocking fee will be charged to customers returning a non-defective device that has had its shrink wrap removed and/or seal broken.

Please note: if you do not call for a return authorization number and send the nook to the wrong return center, no refund will be provided and your nook will not be returned to you.

What I Like: Ability to expand memory by 16GB, making it up to 18GB — wow!; beautiful and solid hardware; the touchscreen is a neat feature; uses GSM, not CDMA — which means great reception in my part of the country; page turning buttons on both sides of the device; front is not cluttered with buttons; removable battery, beautiful hardware — I like it better than the Kindle 2; you can read eReader format books on the nook

What Needs Improvement: Packaging is a pain to open; eReader books must be read from documents, and their titles are garbled and there is no cover art; battery only lasts about two days; slow eInk refresh rate; multiple crashes, screen lags, false button presses, swiping doesn’t always work,slow, slow … and did I mention S – L – O – W? Urgh.

The Barnes & Noble nook; or how I managed to completely waste my Saturday on a piece of over-hyped hardware

So go ahead. Do you have a nook? Tell me what you like about it in the comments. Tell me why you think I’m wrong … if you do.

Otherwise, let me know how much you got for yours on eBay. 😉

12/13/09 Update: Mike Cane has convinced me to keep the nook, so that I can update this or future posts as new firmware is sent. It’s a sound idea, and my hope is that the nook software will eventually live up to the hardware’s promise. More later …

12/14/09 Update: For another opinion on the nook, be sure to check out Julie’s review on The Gadgeteer

About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
I've had a fascination with all types of gadgets and gizmos since I was a child, beginning with the toy robot that my grandmother gave my brother - which I promptly "relieved him of" in 1973. I'm a self-confessed gadget magpie. I can't tell you how everything works, but I'm known world-wide for using a product until I have a full understanding of what it does, what its limitations are, and if it excels in any given area ... or not.
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  • gorkon

    Wow. That was pretty scathing. I hope I don't hear about it from people at Church!

    • They'll be okay, Joel … I promise. But give them my email if they have any concerns. 🙂

      • gorkon

        I am sure they will. They don't have a metric assed ton of books. Incidently, did you buy anything from the Nook's store? DO they work any better than the eReader Books?

        • I had two $10 certificates, so I purchased 2 B&N books. I found that they are the only books which will utilize the pretty “cover flow” on the LCD screen since a book from any source but B&N has to go into the My Documents folder. Looks like B&N is taking a stand – their books are the golden child, while eReader and Fictionwise (and any other loaded eBooksnot from the B&N store) are the ugly red-headed step-children. 😛

          Mike Cane has just posted on this:

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  • kev365

    “Yes, they borrowed a page from the Kindle’s book with their artist series screensavers”

    B&N has had those works well before amazon existed, btw. Just look at the walls inside their stores. Amazon clearly used B&N's idea there.

    • Hi kev365, thanks for the clarification. I have been in only one B&N store before, (we have Hastings in the town nearby), so I wasn't aware of that. Since the Kindle was first, I'm sure you can see why I I thought that. 🙂

  • Nan Palmero, MBA

    Thank you for sharing, Judie. With technology, all the specs in the world can't correct a bad user experience like the one you had. I'm sorry it was such a disappointment for you, hopefully they'll get these issues ironed out so the nook will be compelling enough for you to want to purchase it again in the future.

    • Nan, I hope B&N gets it ironed out, because the hardware is really slick — this could be a good eReader if the software were as slick. 😛

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  • nukediver

    Thanks for the honest review – I just sent a friend a link to it. She's been on the fence over which e-reader to get for Christmas, and I'm hoping this helps her make the right decision. She took one look at that shiny color screen on the nook and couldn't think about anything else!

    • dancohen

      I was somewhat turned off to the Kindle after the whole DRM issue last
      summer. That plus the 1984 debacle made me question whether or not I wanted
      to continue to use it. When compared to what Judie just went through with
      the Nook however the Kindle looks near perfect. Obviously it isn't but of
      the ebook readers currently out it is certainly the one to choose!!!

      • nukediver

        I have to agree; those issues bothered me too, but the bottom line (at least for me) is that the Kindle does what I need it to do. I travel a lot, and it allows me to take a boatload of reading material without the giant pile of paper. The current e-reader discussion reminds me of the “why do I need an iPhone” discussion a few years back. Once these devices are in a more polished form, it will boil down to personal preference. And let's face it, more choice is better for all of us in the long run 🙂

        • If you want an eReader to give right now (as in, for a 2009 holiday gift) – I would go with the Kindle. But after a few firmware updates, who knows? The nook may finally be a contender. 🙂

          • gorkon

            Plus you will have the added benefit of it being in STOCK!

            • Good point. 😉 You also have the choice of getting the larger DX if extra screen real estate is an issue.

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  • kev365

    I just wanted to add a comment about the packaging. I'm sure it is a standard packaging they are using. Meaning that it would be the same stuff available in the stores once the manufacturer catches up. That probably being the case, no pun intended, I'm sure it is packed that way to protect it from potential theft in store. I've not opened one myself, but considering your picture of there only being five steps to open the package, it seems your only real complaint was the “death grip of the clear plastic holster it’s cradled in.” I suppose Amazon would not need to worry about that so much considering you can't go to a store to get your own opinion about it.

    Thanks for adding info about some of the interesting things about it. Instead of being like David Pogue's biased, OCD like rant including complaints about em dashes, which the devices have no control over. I say biased because if you check his ebooks they are not available on, but amazon has them. But I suppose that's another topic.

    • dancohen

      “I say biased because if you check his ebooks they are not available on, but amazon has them. “
      This was a joke right? Calling a guy biased because the vendor of the device doesn't carry his books? Talk about assumptions!

      • kev365

        I'm saying biased because does not have his ebooks and because amazon, which he compares their Kindle to, does have his books. Along with a nice bibliography with bio and photo. Go to and search “David Pogue”, you will see a link for “Amazon's David Pogue Page”

        Here is a link to the NYT article:

        Assumption? Sure.
        Joking? nope

        • dancohen

          kev365- That is a great theory but it is just that- a theory.

          Personally I have read the guy for a long time and have enough respect for
          his professional integrity that I will give him the benefit of the doubt and
          say that while one carries his books and the other does not, his
          *review*was based on his experience with the device. To say otherwise
          is unfair and
          just wrong. To say you “Wonder if it had any impact…” would have been far
          more appropriate.

          And you ask Judie to back up statements? At least she didn't call someone
          very integrity into question in a public forum.

          • kev365

            I never claimed it to not be a theory. I did agree it was an assumption.

            I felt Judie was open to discussion, seeing how responsive she is here. Why should I not ask her questions?

            • Carly Z

              Just to move this back to Pogue for a moment, Kev…

              Authors generally don't have a lot of control over who carries their books. If Pogue agrees to license his books as eBooks, he isn't personally calling Amazon and B&N and asking for his books to be included. That's the job of his publisher, and if he has a beef with anything he'd be taking it up with them.

              If anything asserting that he's biased because B&N isn't carrying his eBooks is against his better interests, since as a businessman he'd want a good relationship with major booksellers.

              And author pages are a common part of Amazon, not particular to David Pogue, and something that B&N doesn't have on their website to nearly the same degree. It's the same for authors that ARE carried on both Amazon and B&N's sites too. Amazon didn't give just Dave Pogue a special website, they give them to most authors.

              Just correcting a few misconceptions, so you are clearer on why it is a bit of a stretch to argue Pogue is biased against B&N based on his books.

              • kev365

                It's not necessarily up to the publishers. In most cases, with older titles, the publishers have more of a say in what happens. In the past few years authors have had more control over this, with new works. Please, let's not get in a discussion about ebook contracts, those are also being debated in courts. Especially after Google's book scan program.


                Thanks for the clarification about the Amazon's author pages, this I did not realize.

                I appreciate the discussion among the Gear Diary moderators. It's obvious you are a dedicated group. As I mentioned, I'm not looking for a fight. I don't think I've ever got so many responses in a comments section from moderators. It really shows you value what you do and that is respectful.

    • davidpogue

      Two ridiculous assertions here. First; “Instead of being like David Pogue's biased, OCD like rant including complaints about em dashes, which the devices have no control over.”

      This is untrue. BN controls the typography of its ebooks, oh yes they do! When I pointed out the em-dash bug to the product manager, he was surprised and embarrassed and promised to add it to the “To do” list for a future update.

      And by the way, it wasn't an “OCD rant.” It was a “mention.”

      You also say: “biased because if you check his ebooks they are not available on, but amazon has them”

      Good heavens. Not only am I completely unaffected by this discrepancy, I wasn't even aware of it!

      That's up to the publisher. Personally, I couldn't care less, because the number of ebooks sold is about .000000001% of paper books, and probably affects me to the tune of 35 cents a year.

      As other commenters have pointed out, this is up to the publisher, not to me, and I'm sure O'Reilly will convert its books (and mine) into's format just as soon as there's any reason to do so… like people actually buying them.


      • Kevin

        Thanks for your time. I admit that was the first review of yours I've seen. So, going off the information I was seeing, It did seem to me to be quite a bit one sided. I appreciate your interest in clearing up my misinterpretation.

    • To address your comment about the packing: it's not just the plastic holster that I have an issue with, it's the fact that I had to destroy the paper slider which goes over the plastic case to separate them from each other the second time (when I was going through the motions of packing the nook, thinking I would return it).

      I like to keep my packaging materials intact, as I generally will trade or gift my gear when I am done with it; destroying a package just to open it is not something I was happy with.

  • As I was going to say last night, this makes Sony look good… as they (B&N) already sell eReader-capable devices (like the Slick and the iRex readers) which do support covers. There's no excuse for not fully supporting a format you sell, unless the ADE base doesn't support the format.

    Even Sony realized their readers had to be responsive out of the box, which is why their latest ones seem much snappier than the old 500 series, much less the nook.

    • kev365

      eSlick and the iRex readers are not sold by B&N. Those devices have access to B&N's ebook library though.

      • dancohen

        I was totally unimpressed with the eSlick when I has it briefly.

      • Odd. B&N owns eReader, and they're selling the eSlick with a $100 book credit there, according to their own website:

        Given that B&N owns them, and could theoretically keep eReader from selling non-nook readers.. it seems to me like they're selling this, just as they plan to sell the Plastic Logic reader later. But you're right about the partnership with iRex.

        • Kevin

          wow, nice catch. I was wrong, I see it now in the upper corner “A Barnes and Noble Company” for

          I suppose that brings up a question then. Why is that product not sold in B&N stores or on I find that interesting because of the advantage they mention about being able to go to the store to check out nook.

          • haesslich

            Because, like Sony, they appear to be a bit schizophrenic when it comes to what they're doing – on the one hand, they own several ebook stores (eReader being the big one as they took the DRM system as their own, followed by FictionWise as well as their own B&N store), but on the other hand they sell SOME of these readers in store (the iRex was available the last time I'd heard at some locations and they're going to roll out the Plastic Logic in the future)… but so far the only one they're given their official blessing to is the Nook. Which has a completely new, broken, DRM system and some issues.

            By the way, is anyone else having issues with Disqus not being able to log in sometimes…?

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  • gorkon

    Has anyone seen the new Sony eReaders? I looked at them and some of the reviews around the intarwebs and they seem to be a little wanting.

  • I'm still interested in the Nook. I've already read reviews about its slow response time to key presses, and I really don't care much about the packaging although I appreciate that it is packaged well since the screens on these things are rather fragile.

    I don't usually purchase the 1st generation of any high priced devices because much of time the 1st generation device is nothing more than a beta release. In this case, it appears the Nook was rushed to market because of Christmas.

    I'll hold off until B&N works out the firmware issues (let someone else be the beta testers) and then see if it's the reader for me.

    • Hi Julie, I think there is much to like about the nook, and I am hopeful that future firmware updates will fix many if not most of the issues I experienced.

      With that said, I despise the fact that B&N took a page from several other companies lately, and rushed this product out without full Q&A testing. Having to promise a firmware update nearly the moment your product ships is lame. Making your customers pay full price to be your beta testers is lame. of course, being sued for stealing a smaller company's device idea is lame too, but that is another post for another day.

      • kev365

        “I despise the fact that B&N took a page from several other companies lately”

        Can you back that up? Please describe examples of this and not just assumptions.

        “rushed this product out without full Q&A testing” & “Making your customers pay full price to be your beta testers is lame.”

        Really? I started to believe this might be an honest review, but now you're making random negative comments again. Like this one, “Yes, they borrowed a page from the Kindle’s book with their artist series screensavers.” Which I helped you with earlier.

        “being sued for stealing a smaller company's device idea is lame too”
        Can you prove this, too? The only thing similar in design to Alex is the second screen. However, if you look at the specs, Alex's second screen is completely different. They are by far different ereader products. They did have a non-disclosure agreement, but with an opt-out if they came up with a product of their own.

        • Sure kev, let me give you some recent examples:

          1. The HTC HD2 – gorgeous hardware, camera and manilla issues galore – firmware updates are helping but still not quite final. (Another case of amazing hardware, software not quite there … yet) — my joint review with Clinton Fitch coming soon.

          2. The Dash Express which Wayne reviewed earlier this year —

          3. The Archos 5, which Dan reviewed —

          4. B&N being sued – here is a copy of Spring Design's Complaint. It think it says it all:

          Sorry, but I think that there are too many similarities to the Alex, and there are plenty who agree with me.

          I'm not going to argue with you, and at the end of the day whether you think I am honest or not is your decision … but I can generally back up what I say, and I am always the first to admit if I'm wrong or didn't know something (as you saw above).

          • kev365

            I appreciate your examples, however, I don't see how they are examples of how B&N “took a page from several other companies lately,” “”rushed this product out without full Q&A testing,” or released this as a beta test.

            On #4, thankfully we have a justice system to decide that. I might add that the injunction Spring Design requested was denied. There must have been a good reason for that.

            • dancohen

              kev365- If a device is released and needs a firmware update upon arrival… the company released it too quickly. Simple.

              Other companies have done this before and it is obnoxious whenever it happens. B and N is just the most recent to do so though. I'll give you an even better example- Apple's iPhone 2.0. Garbage. Crashed constantly. Lost data. Backups took hours. It SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN RELEASED but Apple had locked themselves into a timetable and needed to release it. They did and I almost quit using an iPhone it was so bad.

              Here too. The end-user should not have to struggle to make the device work as Judie did. And SHE is an experienced gadget user. The typical end-user would have an even worse time.

              There are CLEARLY issues with this device as it currently stands. Moreover, a company should not advertise a device's functionality to hype it up only to release the device with promises that those core functions “are coming at a later date”. That too says one thing to me- THE DEVICE WAS NOT READY!

              My guess is that it will be better, perhaps even good, after a firmware update or two. But here is the thing- obvious problems like lag should be found, and the firmware updates should be applied, BEFORE people put down good money for the device and have a terrible experience.

              You look to be itching for a fight here but Judie is the one who actually has and has used the device. And if you take the time to read her other reviews on the site you will see that she does not make rash generalizations and only pans devices when they deserve it.

              Oh, and by the way, having lived through some of her attempts to get the device to work properly yesterday I can tell you, the review was more than fair.

              • kev365

                Thanks for your comment. I have used the demo version at one of the stores. It seemed fine to me. I think there would be a much shorter list, now-a-days, of companies that do not release updates to there products soon after release. I would have to give B&N credit for supporting their product and their customers interests. Along with credit to other companies that update and support their products. Amazon had updates to their products, as well. Amazon happens to have a huge advantage in that customers have been able to give them feed back for a couple of years now. I'm sure B&N appreciates all the feedback, as well. Is it “obnoxious?” Sure. Don't we wish everything was perfect though?

                Believe me, I'm not itching for any fights. I'm glad as a consumer I can get online and see reviews. I'm just picky about random comments that hurt the value of reviews. Like Judie's comment, “Yes, they borrowed a page from the Kindle’s book with their artist series screensavers.” I tossed out a correction for her, she gave me a great reason why she thought that. That gave me a lot of respect for her. Then she made the comments in this section and I requested clarification because they seemed baseless.

        • Kevin, with one of the rare reviewers who do give a lot of credit where it is due, for the Nook, you seem to me to, yes, be itching for a fight, in characterizing a review that's as many-sided as Judie's was, as not 'honest.'
          Give me a break. Accusing a reviewer of dishonesty as easily as you do is ugly and dumb. If there were only one attribute I was limited to, to describe Judie, it's honesty.

          B&N WAS 'sued' — for the reason given (a lawsuit will accuse and the case will be tried later), yes — that's been 'proved.' It happened and will go to trial, unless a settlement is made.

          The number of reasons given by Spring – the advice by a B&N exec to avoid Amazon because, he said, they would try to take their technology, the many meetings with heads of B&N, as late as mid-year 2009, all point to at least a decent case. While the facts did not meet the standard for halting the sale of the Nook in December, the judge said there was reason to go on and he sped up the pre-trial process for that.

      • I agree, I've been eagerly awaiting the Nook and am disappointed that B&N rushed it to the marketplace. Doing so leaves them with a big black eye.

        Unfortunately, That seems to be a common (and bad) trend with a lot of technology gadgets these days.

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  • Jessica Fritsche

    I am sorry you had such a bad nook experience, Judie. 🙁 I am glad you are giving it a chance, though. I seriously can't understand why some people are having horrific trouble with theirs and I am not having any with mine. No weirdness, no error messages, no nothing. Did I just get a lucky unit or something? lol Not that I am complaining, but seriously…what is UP with that? I would think that I'd have the same trouble as everyone else.

    The eReader garbled text thing SUCKS…and is strange, too. I don't have as many books as you (not by a long shot, damn girl!!) but I did download a couple of mine and load them up, and I didn't have any problems. 🙁 The titles show up fine (need to check cover art) and my only annoyance is that the rest of my books that I've sideloaded show up first name, last name and my eReader books show up last name, first name.

    • Jessica, I would really like to revisit the nook after the firmware update with you – perhaps we can do a dually about how it goes and what improvements we notice. Hopefully (for me at least), there will be many.

      I am very thankful that you haven't been as affected by the v1.0 as I have. I know yours was an early holiday gift, and it would have been awful if it hadn't made you happy. 🙂

      • gorkon

        Which according to Pogue's review, is coming as early as next week.

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  • Thanks for the review. Your review combined with the New York Times review helped me make the decision to go with the Kindle instead.

    • Andrea, you will likely love the Kindle. Is this your first eReader? 🙂

    • dancohen

      Judie's experience with the Nook, plus my great experience on vacation with the Kindle, has put me so far back into Amazon's camp I am surprised. So long as you have DRM you ultimately have to make a choice and for me it is straight up the Kindle. (Unless Apple does something!)

  • Great! I'll just stick with my Sony PRS-505 and calibre for now 🙂

  • alslayer

    Wow great review. I would totally be upset if I bought this device expecting my ereader books to work. I guess I am going to wait on the eSlick now.

    • alslayer, your eReader books will work, they just won't be formatted as nicely as the B&N ePub books (as in, no cover art and under the My Documents sections instead of the B&N Library section), and you may have garbled titles or worse – missing pages (saw that on a forum post, I believe). Irregardless of all the caveats, eReader books can be read just as easily as those purchased from B&N on the nook, however.

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  • It's an interesting review. While as someone who lives out side the US, the nook is not available to me, I've been interested in how the Nook performs as a lot of other companies are looking at the concept very closely.

    As a long time Fictionwise customer, I'm however somewhat surprised at how much B&N is trying to ignore that they own and got most of their Tech from them. While I can understand not offering direct access to those sites by default to a certain extent to avoid confusing users, the lack of an option to do so afterwords is a somewhat glaring slap in the face to long time customers, apparently saying that while they'll allow you to read your older books, they're going to make it as inconvenient as possible.

    It does seem a bit bizzare , but then this is the same company whose eReader app on the iPhone is happy to support all three storefronts while the B&N branded app locks you to only one, though its basicly the same app.

    Oh, well, I'm Glad I got the Pocket Pro from Astek, which while not supporting wireless downloading, natively supports a lot of non DRM'd formats. And they've announced that they're going to be added native eReader DRM support soon, along side the Adobe DE, so I'll get the best of both worlds.

    • Indeed. I personally think the Sony's a bit lacking (the PRS-300/600 don't allow a clock on the bloody screen, and the PRS-600 seems to have a habit of crashing now and again)… but they're one of the few reasonably priced ebook reader sellers that will sell to a non-US market outside of Aztek, whose products I haven't seen a lot of since they're small fry compared to Sony (who have their own stores, and now have pushed their readers to major retailers everywhere… even drug stores).

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  • tonton2

    After reading many reviews I ordered the nook about a month ago and it is expected to ship within the week. I am an avid reader of mostly fiction…some current, some not…and really just want a reliable, easy-to-use reader. I don't need bells & whistles like color screen, lending capabilities, etc. However, I chose the nook based on reviews and just figured since it was the same price and the reviews were so great (pre-release), this must be the eReader for me.

    I was in B&N today and was able to play around on one of their demo copies they finally received. Needless to say I was very disappointed. Not only was the “formatting” issue irritating but the slow page turning was very annoying. I noticed that the screen flashed gray before the next page was displayed….is this typical? I'm a very fast reader and can't help but think this will drive me nuts and add on a significant amount of time it takes to finish a book.

    I am tempted to either cancel my order before it ships or sell it on ebay once it arrive and look at the Kindle more serious. Or even the eSlick since I just ran across that. Or can someone recommend another device that will allow download from a large library and stores of a large number of books and reads more like a book (without the slow page turn and gray flash)?

    I know updates should/could/would handle these issues but what if they don't or don't very well? Or it takes months? And there is the issue of B&N's library being more limited than Amazon's and their pricing higher.

    I'm really just looking for advice from people who have used the nook (outside of the demo at the store), can compare it to other devices and can possibly give their opinion and recommendations based upon how I read and plan to use it, as described above. Thanks.

  • Ton Ton, there is always a bit of a refresh lag with any eInk device, but the difference (as of now, anyway) between the Kindle's refresh rate and the nook's is substantial. I also think that the Kindle's interface is a bit more intuitive, when you get down to it.

    The good news is that unlike the nook, you can order the Kindle, give it a try and then return it within 30 days — with no restocking fee. That should give you plenty of time to decide if eInk on a dedicated reader is for you, or if you would prefer another solution.

    Do factor in that current titles seem to be less expensive overall and more readily available on the Kindle … and as of now there is still no tax on Amazon sales.

    After another day spent futzing with the nook, my opinion is that at least until a major firmware upgrade, it would be better to wait or buy something else.

    • Ton Ton

      Thanks, Judie. I think I will wait until after the holidays and do more reasearch to see if there is a better solution for me. I don't feel like I'm missing much now since I like the tactile feel of an actual book, but since I read so fast it can be inconvenient to go to the store or wait for an online order. Plus, travelling with a e-reader is much easier than a few books. I'll consider the nook again after an upgrade but also think it's a bit more than what I my simple needs require. Thanks, again, for your imput.

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  • markvlastelica

    I've been kind of interested in an eReader for sometime and if I was in the market for one your review would have helped me immensely! I didn't think there was any bias at all 🙂 I like that your review was tough on the device because if I'm going to be spending $300 on a device I want it to work great not just OK. Companies do use paying customers as Beta testers. Like Dan said I was so FRUSTRATED with iPhone 2.0 and don't even get me started on the BB Storm.

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  • Very interesting article and thread of comments!

    I understand some of the opposing points, but after reading a load of reviews for the nook it seems that the 'problematic' complaints are just too wide-spread to dismiss as anything but a systemic problem with the device.

    Dan mentioned Judie's long history as a techno-geek, and as any of us who have been fiddling with devices with ages know, in a new technology area you can usually expect to pay the price as an early adopter in terms of quality, reliability and polish. I have a stream of devices from the late 70's through last week running through my head right now …

    But one thing is clear: as a device category hits the mainstream it had *better* be ready to go at Day 1 – or it will be a major flop, and perhaps never recover. Look the Zune, which is now a fine device but due to the launch failure is on just about everyone's 'Flops of the Decade' list and is unlikely to even be more than a 3rd tier media player.

    Similarly the ebook category is not new, with many of us having read for as long as 2 decades on handheld devices … but it is now becoming mainstream, and with the pounding the nook is getting in reviews, it is unclear if they will be able to recover … we'll know by next year.

    And if they don't – and also if they don't actively combine all of their ebook properties *fast* they will fall so far behind they'll never catch up and end up chasing Border in the race to irrelevance!

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  • philipperadley

    I am surprised that no one has mentioned Walt Mossberg’s review in the Wall Street Journal that appeared the same day as Pogue’s. He makes a number of the same points, and thus backs up what both Pogue and Judie are saying. So we have four reviews (don’t forget Julie’s at The Gadgeteer) that make the same negative points. Point: don’t buy it now! Which makes me think, Kevin, that you ordered a Nook and have to make sure it is good. BTW, my daughter played with a Nook in a B&N store here in NYC and found many of the same problems.

    • Hi Philppe, I saw that Mosberg was just as underwhelmed; I have to admit that I can't remember the last time so many different reviewers were in such total agreement about any product. 😛

      BTW – I actually linked to Julie's review right after it went live at the bottom of mine, so people could see yet another take on it.

    • Kevin

      Nah, don't have one. I'm interested in the technology though.

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  • haesslich

    You know, this is starting to feel like the Zune launch all over again… especially as competitors are well established in the arena, but the nook's having issues trying to iron out the issues that the competition solved ages ago – despite having had years to study what was out there. It's not like they were entering a completely new market either – they've sold ebooks for some time, so having issues with a format YOU ALREADY OWN AND RELEASE TITLES IN is a huge one, on the same level as a PS3 not playing its own discs on launch.

    Hell, there've been ebook readers which were dedicated devices for around 10 years, as the iRex devices have been around for quite a long time, although eInk didn't really get popular until Sony's Librie showed up a few years ago, followed by the PRS-500 and some of the Hanlin devices. And then the Kindle showed up, with a tight integration with an easy-to-use store and deals with a lot of publishers…

    Hmm. Where have I heard this scenario before? And worse yet, B&N is selling ereaders through the eReader site (the Slick), and will be selling Plastic Logic devices later… which means that their own branded reader, if they don't get past the 'oooh, shiny color screen but awful responses' stage quickly, could mean we'll be looking at another replay of the Zune. But at least the ZUNE worked at launch with the media it was intended to read…

  • Kevin

    You know, I really just want to end this here. I'm sorry, Judie, for my wording. It was accusatory and not how I should have requested information. I did like your review, I recently stumbled upon and added the RSS to my google reader. I'm interested in what you guys have to say. As I mentioned, from the responses here from moderators, it is obvious you guys are dedicated and value what you do here. Thank you for this review and I look forward to seeing your work.

  • krukvt

    Have you tried converting your PDB format books to MOBI using Calibre? I haven't tried that particular conversion with the program but have had success converting some LIT files to MOBI for use on my Kindle and have had no issues. You can get Calibre from

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  • dlkiefer

    Well… I just canceled my Nook order! Seems like just in time, too! They were suppose to ship it (overnight – free due to my wait after ordering) tomorrow. But after all the reviews on here about it, I've decided it is too much of a risk to get it, hate it and have to PAY to send it back! Nope… not for me!! LOL

    So, I am heading over to Amazon to put in an order for the Kindle 2!

    Thanks bunches for all the info to help me make a decision… 🙂



    • Hi Donna, So you went for the Kindle! I honestly don't think that you will be disappointed. Do let me know how you like it. 🙂

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  • sulster

    Hello! Late poster here. I had ordered the nook in November after I first saw it. I read your review after that and was really scared that my nook would suck! But, I opened it on Christmas morning. Granted, there was a software update immediately available, but other than that I LOVE IT! I learned that the fingernail technique I use on my Smartphone touchscreen does not work and that the nook prefers the ball of my finger for typing. Have you used one since the software update? (did you post about it somewhere and I have just missed it?) I was curious to see if that helped the issues you were having.

    Oh, and I had no issues getting it out of the box. I don’t think it came out the way it was technically supposed to, but it worked!

    Just my half of a cent. Love the site, BTW!

  • darkone

    Hey Judie,

    I actually do over-the-phone support on nook. If you’re interested, I’d be more than willing to answer whatever questions you have that I am able to if you’re looking for more background info/answers. Better yet I wouldn’t mind doing a live chat with you about nook.

    • Thanks darkone, but my nook is no more. I do appreciate the offer, though. 🙂

  • darkone

    Then since yours is already gone, I’ll let you in on a secret:

    it does seem like, based on the calls we’re getting, that B&N either didn’t do much QA (quality assurance) testing on this product, enough testing on it, or they didn’t do any at all… on top of choosing manufacturers with unreliable manufacturing methods, specifically referring to the batteries. We’ve shipped out quite a few replacement batteries in the past few weeks.

    On the bright side, all of this nonsense means that the nook will in fact be improved… eventually. I wouldn’t be surprised if B&N released a new n improved nook later this year or next year.

    If all else fails… call the support line.

  • Nancy

    Just wait 1-1/2 yrs until the frame cracks at the page turner (both mine and my husband’s), call India, stay on hold, get transferred, waste 45 minutes and then be told it’s “out of warranty” and nothing can be done.  Checked Kindle complaints and found they are far fewer than Nook complaints.  Next ebook will definitely NOT be Nook.

  • Lady Silhouette

    Here is a complaint email that I have found and here is a “customer relations” supervisor’s information Rasheed West-Ford . Rasheed is a very rude person but his boss (the first email address) is no nonsense. I don’t know if you Nookers are aware that B&N did a recent software update and it deleted whatever cards that were on file. So if it was a gift card and you don’t have it anymore you may want to let the emails begin. I actually keep a spreadsheet since I only deal with eGift cards now, but for those that have loaded the physical cards onto your accounts, saved them and then toss them-good luck.

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