Nook Review

The Barns & Noble Nook has been making splashes since the first Nook model was released a couple years ago. The two "Big" ebook reader players on the market right now are Barns & Noble and Amazon. Both readers features some interesting features and there is NO clear winner in terms of features just quite yet. T

This is ebookreader.org's review of the Barns & Noble Nook (1st Gen)

Note that there has been an upgrade to the original Nook. The new generation is called the Nook Simple Touch. This review is for the original nook, NOT the new Nook Simple Touch. We are currently reviewing the new model..

nook picture

Technical Specifications

  • Weight and Dimensions : 7.48 ounces,  Height x Width = 6.5" x 5.0", these dimensions are fairly small and light, a massive comparison to the previous version of the Nook, with Barnes and Noble quoting that it is 35% lighter, 6% thinner and an inch shorter than the 1st edition. Working out at about 21% more compact overall.
  • Battery Life: Up to 2 months with Wi-Fi connectivity disabled. Contains an installed rechargeable battery and can be charged through a USB port or a mains adaptor. This takes 3 hours if charged from a wall outlet however; it does take slightly longer if charged from a USB port.
  • Screen: eInk pearl display (6") 16 – level grey scale, high contrast. This means that the screen can be read in direct sunlight due to the eInk display, reading like paper and using contrast rather than a backlight to reduce glare on the screen. The 16 shade grey scale means that images on the screen will appear much crisper and clearer.
  • Wi-Fi Connectivity: Free Wi-Fi within Barnes and Noble stores, Can also be connected to Public Wi-Fi and hotspots. This feature allows users to be able to download books in seconds when out and about, not only this but it also allows web browsing, wherever you can find Wi-Fi, which is becoming increasingly common.
  • Memory: 2GB internal memory, Micro SD card slot for personal files, Expandable microSD+ card up to 32GB: User accessible is actually around 1GB, this is around 1500 books, and also the expandable memory is massive so storage is not really a problem. The Nook does limit storage of books not purchased from Barnes and Noble however.

 

Nook Models

There are really now four models, though you'll find the official Barns & Noble basically the new generation Nook and the Color:

  • Nook ebook Reader WiFi ($139) --- OLD model
  • Nook ebook Reader Wi-Fi + 3G ($169) -- OLD model
  • Nook ebook Reader Simple Touch -- 2011 Nook
  • Nook Color ($249)

The Color version does not feature the digital e-ink screen and the battery life is much reduced because of this. The Nook Color is basically an IPad dedicated for reading books. We feel the Nook non-color version is a better book reader. The newest Nook (Simple Touch) is a clear upgrade over the 1st generation nooks with a full touch screen.

 

What’s In The Box?

what's in the nook box

The Nook comes packaged within a plastic case very similar to that seen by apple when packaging the iPod range. Around the outside of this is a cardboard sleeve used to protect it. This seems a bit of a rip of apple, the box is pretty much an exact replica of apples packaging, and this is fairly disappointing as I have never seen the form of packaging used by any other companies. Further to this the box needed for the Nook was much larger than an iPod box and it is a massive waste of resources, after all this is none recyclable. There are also instructions on how to unpack the Nook, which I personally find very patronising. Other than this the Nook comes with a USB cable, an adaptor so that the Nook can be charged from the mains and also a little instruction sheet showing how to get started with the Nook.  All in all the basic accessories expected to come with an eReader.

Nook Versus...

Nook vs. Amazon Kindle 3

nook versus kindle

The Nook has been greatly compared with the Kindle 3 by Amazon (read our Amazon Kindle 3 review here). There are some main similarities between the two readers, one is that they both have their own online library where books can be purchased. This is an advantage as other readers such as Sony do not have this facility. This is an advantage for customers as they can easily access the stores knowing the formats they are buying will be compatible with their device.

One aspect that the Kindle does have over the Nook is the fact that it allows books to be downloaded from any online library whereas Barnes and Noble limit space on the device as only books purchased from the Barnes and Noble store.  On the other hand both of the displays use eInk pearl displays, therefore they are exactly the same, the main differences between the Kindle and the Nook are the designs.

The Kindle by Amazon has always incorporated a QWERTY keyboard whereas the Nook is a touch screen reader similar to the Sony PRS range.  The Kindle and the Nook are very similar in most respects, for example they both have Wi-Fi. However the Kindle gains the upper hand here due to the fact that Amazon have included both Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, meaning that users also get a free 3G connection alongside the ability to connect to existing Wi-Fi connections. This is a major advantage as it allows customers to feel confident in the knowledge that they can connect to any network at any time, allowing internet access and the ability to download and purchase books.

In terms of battery life, the Nook quotes up to 2 months without wireless connections, this is a fair amount of time if you are just reading on the device, this is a very reliable amount of time. Any user should be happy for two months, my only problem with this quotation is that it is based on an assumed daily reading, which for all we know, may be a page a day, if you are reading a lot more than this then obviously the battery isn’t going to last as long. In comparison with the Kindle 3G by Amazon, who quote 3 weeks with wireless connections turned off. In this respect the Nook would win hands down, however I would be very wary of the reality of ‘2 months’ as if you are a heavy reader, this isn’t going to apply to you at all. Both of the devices battery lives drop to around 10 days with connectivity enabled, which is to be expected, if you have ever used a device with the option of connectivity, you will have noticed that the battery life is heavily affected by enabling these connections.

In terms of design I find the Kindle and the Nook very similar, obviously the Nook is touch screen, and therefore doesn’t include a QWERTY keyboard, which does make an initial difference to the design. However I feel the genuine overall look and feel of the Kindle and the Nook is very similar, they are both fairly minimalistic designs made mainly from plastic. However I do prefer the look of the Nook as the QWERTY on the Kindle makes the device look to crowded and confusing, in contrast to the Nook which looks simple and easy to use.

Another factor here is the Nook offers you the ability to swap out the battery for a new one while the Kindle does not. Once the battery dies after a couple years, you'll have to replace the device. With the Nook, you don't have this problem. For some people, this is a big deal.

Nook vs. Sony PRS 650

Another reader that has been compared to the Nook a fair deal is the Sony PRS 650 (read our Sony PRS 650 review here), mainly due to the fact that they are both touch screen readers, unlike the previous comparison, the Kindle. The first thing I notice when looking at the two readers next to each other is that the Nook is very clumsy looking compared to the very sleek and sophisticated Sony PRS 650. The Nook has a few advantages over the Sony.

For example, you can choose from a variety of fonts on the Nook, whereas the Sony PRs 650 has one pre-set typeface, a small factor, but it’s always nice to have the choice. Another advantage is that a wider range of eBooks can be read on the Nook, a prime example being that the Nook supports books purchased from Sony, however the PRS 650 does not support eBooks purchased from Barnes and Noble.

Yet another advantage the Nook has over the Sony PRS 650 is slightly faster page turns. All the advantages have been taken on small little details, however, the fact that the Nook possesses them makes it a nicer alternative to the Sony.

Some of the Nooks features are bettered by Sony too, as is to be expected. One major feature is the touch screen. The touch screen on the Nook can only be operated by finger touch, whereas on the Sony PRS 650 it can be operated by not only finger touch, but also using a stylus, one thing I feel is a major advantage as the one thing that puts me off touch screen readers is the fact that the screen would get extremely dirty from constantly being touched.  

Of course the biggest difference is that the Sony does not offer wireless connectivity like the Nook does. This can be a major issue for some users, it’s not that it is a necessary feature to include on a reader, but the fact that most reading devices do have the wireless capability; it is a shame not to put it in. Which brings me on to another point that lets the Sony down and makes me feel that the Nook is a better option, the price difference is huge, with the Sony being almost double the price of the Nook. When really, the only difference in favour of the Sony is the design, and this is still preference, many people may prefer the design of the Nook, however the Nook seems to include more features such as the Wi-Fi, which makes me wonder how Sony can justify such a large price gap.

Price aside, the Sony's touch screen is way better than the Nook (it's the full screen size). The design build it metal, which makes it more sturdy looking (and more beautifully, aesthetically). And it offers more support for a few more open formats. However, as we've discussed, the price is quite a bit more expensive and the lack of wi-fi is a blow. If having a touch screen for more intuitive navigation is important, than the Sony is the better option. For everything else, the Nook might be preferable.

Nook vs. Kobo Ereader

Another reader that has been compared to the Nook is the Kobo, I find the two readers very similar and the main deciding factor as to which to buy I feel is totally down to the design, as the two differ greatly, with the Nook being very plain and minimalistic, the Kobo offers a range of colors with a hatched pattern on the back, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Kobo’s design is better however as the colors are very pale shades which I could only explain as ‘baby blue’, which is not very popular, they seem to be aimed at a much more feminine market rather than the Nook which is very in descript and could be bought by any sex or age.  Other than that, they both offer Wi-Fi connectivity, the screen quality is the same, like a few other readers there is also a difference in the computer software, with the Nook being more advanced.

Vs. Kobo Touch

Note that Kobo has recently released the Kobo Touch that pretty much matches all the Nook features and tosses on a full blown touch screen (similar to the Sony ereader 650 one) to the mix.

The Kobo wins in the screen department because of this (unless you prefer the mini thumb touch of the Nook). The Nook still wins with battery life though, with 2 months opposed to the Kobo 1 month. The Nook also turns pages faster and has a better user interface. The nook also includes a dictionary to look up words while the Kobo doesn't. So for many, the (old) Nook still may be a better device, despite the lack of the full touch screen.

Although this is a review about the original Nook, the new Nook Simple Touch edition more than matches the Kobo reader by introducing a touch screen of its own.

 

PC Software

The Nook computer software resembles apple iTunes a fair bit (as does their packaging) besides this, I think it is a very good piece of software, and the most advanced I have seen to be used with a reading device, as I find this aspect of development is usually neglected slightly, however Nook have done a brilliant job on the Nook software, which hosts a range of uses. Firstly, as you open it, it is very easy to navigate. From the programme you can browse and shop the Barnes and Noble online store, allowing access to millions of books, which allows you to browse through at ease and download them straight into the programme. Alongside this it allows you to access the free Nook book samples and any other samples available.

One of the things I love about the Nook is that they have designed the software to be used fairly widespread by developing platforms for apple and other phones, as you can download the Nook app for many other devices. Very cleverly, the Nook software automatically saves your bookmarks and syncs these to the other devices you may want to read from. You can also read your books through the software, which offers an alternative to the reader, possibly a bigger screen and so on. You can also add notes and highlights to the texts you are reading through the software, very useful if you are trying to study from a text or analyze it. There is also the ‘LendMe’ facility which allows you to share books with your friends, not only this but you can also lend from local libraries if the facility is supported by them.
Supported File Formats

The Nook supports the expected formats. Mainly, ePUB, this is the most common format found within eBooks and is the format designed specifically for eBooks, and is supported by every reading device. The Nook is one of the readers that offer PDF (Presentation Display Format) this allows files that have been created in programmes such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe InDesign to be viewed on the reader. This can be very useful, particularly if the reader is going to be used by students studying or any use in education as this is a very popular format. I feel this also opens up the reader into the use of displaying design work, which can be very useful for users in this profession.  The Nook also supports a range of imagery formats, for example Jpeg, GIF and BMP, this means that the reader can display photographs and other imagery, which is expected as most readers do this, for example a book cover would be one of these formats. There are a few areas of support that the Nook is lacking, particularly in comparison to some of its competitors. Firstly, they have completely opted out of including audio files support on the Nook (mp3) which could explain its lower price. I don’t see this is much of a problem as personally I don’t see how people can read, and take it in whilst listening to music. However I feel that the choice for some people is obviously nice, but is not a necessity, and therefore it is not detrimental that the Nook does not include it. The Nook also misses out some formats such as HTML which have been seen in other readers. I do not feel these are greatly used and as a result the Nook has covered the basics and this is fine.

 

Memory

The Nook claims to have 2GB internal storage; however this is not quite true. Out of the overall 2GB only 1.5GB is actually user accessible, as the rest is taken up with software and so on. To further this, when looking at the storage device, the Nook only quotes 240mb, this is before anything has been added to the device, very concerning as this is an extremely small amount of memory. The reason for this is because Barnes & Noble have partitioned the devices memory. The 240mb refers to the memory where the user can store whatever they like, including imagery, and annoyingly, books that were not purchased from Barnes & Noble. Therefore, if you had a Kindle before, and were planning on transferring all your purchases from Amazon, think again. Barnes & Noble have set aside the larger portion of memory for books that you have purchased from the Barnes & Noble store.

I hate the way Barnes and Noble have tried to confine people to buying their books, however I feel this is why they have been able to keep the price of the reader so low, as if they are guaranteed to have a large amount of purchases coming from their stores, they will easily make up the difference, however it is not particularly fair on users, who just wanted to purchase a device  and then they find out that everything they have to buy in future has to be a ‘NookBook’. The Nook has however clawed itself back slightly at the inclusion of expandable memory up to 32GB. This is a massive amount, and it is not limited as the actual devices memory is. Therefore it isn’t that much of a problem that the Device doesn’t contain a great deal of memory, however it is annoying that Barnes And Noble made out that there was so much more than there actually was.

Battery Life

At first look, the battery life for the Nook seems amazing, as Barnes and Noble quote up to 2 months. This is a mass amount of time! To put it into perspective, imagine only having to charge your device 6 times a year! As expected this is obviously not completely realistic. This quote is based upon a ‘daily average’ which has been set by Barnes and Noble, which has never actually been released to the public, therefore all we know is that they have considered a daily average at a page a day. Which in many cases would be completely unrealistic, and reading more would obviously lessen this battery life significantly. Another aspect that needs to be looked at with the Nooks battery life is that this is the battery life quote with the Wi-Fi connections completely disabled. With them enabled, battery life has been reported at around 10 days, a massive drop from two months, however wireless connectivity does drain battery by a large portion, a well-known fact. In reality, if you are using the reader regularly and reading every day, you can expect the device to last around 20 days with connections disabled and around 10 days if you are using the wireless. Still not bad, which makes me wonder why Barnes and Noble feel the need to try and make it seem like so much more.

Screen Quality

The screen quality of The Nook is at the top of its game, matching all of its competitors with top of the range eInk pearl display. This promotes ‘Just like paper reading’, the eInk pearl displays have been seen on the Sony and the Kindle as well as the Nook, and seems to be the most sought after screen technology when it comes to eReaders. The screen works on the principle of contrast in order to be able to see the display rather than a backlight; this stops the glare that would normally come from a screen using a backlight when caught in the sun. This is a massive advantage and the biggest selling point of eInk displays as it reads just like paper and can be read in direct sunlight without a glare on the screen. Just like paper.

The eInk pearl screen uses a 16 shade grey scale; this is the amount of shades used within the display. 16 is fairly high, and as a result the display shows crisp and clear text and images which are easy on the users eyes, and the higher grey scale means greater detail can be viewed on the display. The Nook simple touch also has a much higher contrast than seen on the earlier models released by Barnes and Noble, which makes the display even clearer. The Nook is also touch screen, a downside being that the touch only operates with finger touch and not with a stylus, as a result, the screen can get fairly grubby from regular touching, as a result make sure you have something with you to clean the screen with, otherwise it could obscure the display and what you’re trying to read.

Build Quality and Design

The Nook has a very basic and minimalistic design, and the only word I feel describes it is ‘cute’. Its main body is made from plastic and it is a fairly square shape, only slightly longer in height than width. The design is very different to other readers in the market, and I feel it does look slightly childish, particularly in comparison with the Sony PRS range. The design of the Nook is much more comparable to the Kindle due to the fact that the main material used is plastic. Overall the build quality is fairly sound as the Nook feels fairly solid rather than cheap, and you can tell that the device has been constructed well and isn’t about to fall apart! It may have been nice if the Nook explored the design aspect of the Nook a bit more and played around with different colors and materials. Although the use of plastic works well, the device feels sturdy, will not scratch as easy as aluminium would and is fairly light, and therefore easy to hold and use for fairly long periods of time.

A big PRO for the Nook is that the battery is changeable and you can add more memory via a SD card. The Kindle 3 does not offer this feature.

The Good

The Nook has a lot going for it. On the whole I think the Nook is a very good device and has been built for purpose, in terms of using the device to read books, it will do this for you beautifully. It has worked on page turns which now slide seamlessly from page to page so as not to disturb reading and at the moment is the best amongst its competitors; being the fastest and also not ‘flashy’ making you lose your place. The higher contrast within the screen makes reading even easier as the text is much clearer and crisper, therefore easier on the eye. The higher shade grey scale enforces this even more and also means that imagery on the device shows up in greater detail. The design works well for reading with Barnes & Noble leaving a lip of plastic all around the reader giving an area for the user to hold the device, fairly important, especially considering the touch screen.

As the Nook does not include a QWERTY keyboard an on screen touch screen has been incorporated into the device. This is useful as it preserves space on the device, still giving the option to search through files but also allowing the device to be kept as compact as possible. This means it is easier to store and transport, a massive advantage with an eReader. I feel the strongest point on the Nook which has set it apart from its competitors is the computer software that has been developed by Barnes and Noble, the software is much superior to any other on the market, with some devices, such as the Cybook gen 3 not even offering a software and just working like a mass storage device. It makes the overall experience much better and allows browsing for books to be much more pleasant as it is always nice to be able to use a computer at times, alongside the fact that Nook have developed platforms on other devices, gives you choice that I have not yet seen on another reader.

The Bad

There are some downsides to the Nook however, the main one for me being the marketing, rather than the actual device. The way Barnes and Noble have designed their whole marketing campaign is very poor, they have hyped up areas of the device far much more than is rightful. For example the memory being partitioned for 750mb to be allowed only for use with Barnes and Noble purchases. None of the consumers particularly realized this until they had bought the device due to this being highlighted in the small print, and also stating that up to 750mb may be used, not 750mb will actually be taken and kept solely for ‘NookBooks’. There are other aspects of the device that they, in my opinion, falsely sold, for example, the Nook has nowhere near 2 months battery life in reality, I feel that Barnes and Noble have really patronized their consumers by doing this, and in respect it has put a lot of people off either buying the device, or using Barnes and Noble in the future. It’s a shame because the Nook is a good little device; however the trickery has annoyed people to an extent.
Another weakness on the Nook is that it does exclude a few features that other readers include, for example, the Nook does not support audio files, which has been seen included in many other readers on the market. This has been fairly popular as many consumers like the idea of the ability to use their reader as an mp3 device too. Which is understandable, however I do not feel that the lack of audio is a major problem, as the device is designed for reading, not listening to music, and quite frankly, I can’t understand how people can listen to music and read at the same time.

The Bottom Line

Out of all the readers on the market, The Nook is priced very low, at almost a 3rd of the Sony PRS range and about the same price as the Kobo Touch (and 40 dollars more than the Kobo Wi-Fi); it really is a massive difference.

Bearing this in mind, many of the features are still of the same standard if not better than the Sony and the Kobo. The Nook offers wireless with this price, alongside the inclusion of an eInk pearl screen, which is top of the range and also seen in much more expensive readers on the market. You also get THE LONGEST battery life out of all the major ereading devices, and pretty good support for open format ebooks.

The only reason I can see that you should stay away from the Nook is if you are not looking to use the Barnes and Noble online community, as they really try to tie you into this. The Kobo Touch is a nice alternative in that you get a full touch screen, but most people agree from a user interface and software perspective, the origional Nook is better.

The new Nook Simple Touch offers the same touch screen as the Kobo Touch and is superior.

On the whole the Nook is a brilliant device for its price and can still compete with many of its more expensive alternatives.

Which Nook To Buy?

So what Nook should you buy? Well right now it's sort of confusing. Barns & Noble is in the middle of rolling out their new 2011 Nook Model (called the Nook Simple Touch) which upgrades a bunch of the features of the older nooks and tosses in a full blown touch screen.

Nook Simple Touch (NEW 2011)

nook simple touch

This is the NEW 2011 Nook. The review was written about the Nook Wi-Fi model, but we thought it best to point out that the new model has been released. Chances are, this is the Nook you'll buy if you buy one now. We are currently writing a review.

 

Nook Wi-Fi (1st Generation)

The classic Nook. You can still buy it from Amazon.com right now, but the new version (Nook Simple Touch) was released a couple months ago. Barns & Noble is no longer selling the Nook Wi-Fi since it's a legacy version.

nook wi-fi

 

Nook Wi-Fi + 3G (1st Generation)

nook 3gnook color

B&N's answer to the Kindle 3's Wi-Fi + 3G. We're not that big of fan of the 3G. With all the wi-fi, you don't need this feature or the extra drain it puts on the battery. Note that with the new release of the Nook Simple Touch, the Nook Wi-Fi + 3G is the only (now legacy) model that has 3G. The new Simple Touch Nook includes Wi-Fi, but not 3G. Expect at version to come out within a few months that includes 3G, but for now, this legacy model is the only Nook that has 3G.

 

Nook Color

 

 

The Nook Color is Barns & Noble's version of an IPAD that's more geared for book reading. Frankly, if you are interested in the Nook Color, we say just skip it pay the difference and just get the IPAD -- you can do a lot more with the IPAD and read books on it too.

Read our review of the Nook Color

YOU WANT to have the special digital e-ink screen because you can get 1-2 months without having to charge the battery (as opposed to 5-10 hours) AND the digital e-ink screen doesn't strain your eyes and is readable outside.

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Nook Wi-Fi

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