Last Friday I was able to buy nook at Barnes & Noble on Upper East Side. Turns out, they are already available in that store and in the one at Union Square. I have never had an electronic book reader before, so the following are my impressions being a first time electronic reader user. The software version I have now is 1.1.1, so all my nagging below is pertains to that particular version, unless otherwise noted.
Exterior and Packaging:
I really like the way it was packaged – it’s not quite like unpacking some Apple product, but it’s definitely better than average electronic device. The packaging is minimalistic yet elegant.
The feel of the unit itself is very nice – good size, fits well in my hands. I like that buttons allowing you to move forward and back are on both sides of the unit, but I keep wanting to use the forward button on the left side to go back, when I’m holding nook with both hands, but that’s a minor detail.
It seems that the interface was developed with simplicity in mind, which is great, but it looks like implementation is where the problems are (as is often the case). Navigation is not very smooth, has a lot of glitches (example: navigation going back out of a blue). But again, this is a new product on a new OS, so they can probably work it out later – Blackberry Storm wasn’t very smooth either at the beginning, but two serious firmware updates later, the look and feel has definitely improved. I’m just hoping B&N will do it for the current nook model, not for next one, so that we spend another $250 to upgrade
Well, the whole idea of the unit is to enable the user to read a book, and it does so relatively well. It’s not quite a paper, yet it’s definitely not a computer screen, so I enjoy reading on this unit. Once the book is loaded, you have simple controls: you can go forward and go back using the two pairs of buttons on each side and some additional functionality via the touch screen: search within the book, go to furthest reading point/cover/chapter, bookmark control (add, go to, remove all), control the font, add highlights and notes, look up definition of a word (neat!) or Open Audio Player (see below)
Interestingly enough Go To lacks ability to go to a certain page, only chapter. I think this would be a worthy addition.
I liked how quickly the reader loaded a 100Mb pdf monstrosity named Pilot’s Handbook Of Aeronautical Knowledge – even FAA on its site posts it broken up by chapters, so I downloaded it and combined.
Organization: I was particularly excited about being able to load my 1.2 Gb pdf library onto the reader to have all those books readily available. And here is where I found out that nook does not support folders on the memory card! Imagine over a 100 books all listed alphabetically. Yes, this is not a sight for the weak of heart. There is no search either! No tags, no “read”, no categories – no way to classify them. Well, in my opinion, that really decreases the value of the reader. Essentially, the reader simply becomes a “screen” for reading versus a device that helps you organize and keep track of books. Now, from what I learned about Amazon’s Kindle, it’s suffering from the same flaw, yet there is talk about having folders.
It’s odd that such feature was not thought of to begin with. If you are developing a unit with replaceable memory card and advertising thousands of books that can be stored on it – you should REALLY think about how you are going to organize them.
I like to read books while listening to music, especially classical music. So, one of the first things I did was load music files onto the memory card (as to not to fill up the scarce space on the unit itself). After I went to audioplayer, I could not see the files. The Nook Guide says:
“Your nook looks for audio files in these places:
- In the folders my music and my audiobooks in the internal memory. Optionally, you can place audio files in subfolders of my music and my audiobooks if you want to organize files hierarchically
- Anywhere on a supplemental microSD or microSDHC card, if present
Audio files placed anywhere else in the internal memory are not discovered by the audio player”
Strange, I’ve even placed few files onto the unit itself, but it still would not see the After restarting the unit and waiting for a while, I come to conclusion that it simply takes the player a long time to load the list of files. At the same time, when I went to audio player after a long period of inactivity it showed me an empty list! Better yet, when I kept on reading a book periodically checking whether or not audio player had a chance to look up the mp3 files, after 2 or 3 “checks”, the unit simply froze on me. So, when you wake up your nook, let it do it’s stuff. Don’t rush, or it will go into stupor.
GSM: I got to play a little with the Shop section of the interface. Very simple and very effective – run a search for the book, and get a choice of purchasing or downloading a free sample. The ability to do this is of course subject to AT&T coverage.
Wi-Fi: The initial attempt of connecting the nook to my home Wi-Fi failed miserably – nook cowardly refused to connect to my WPA network. I will have to work on this a little more.
B&N Hotspots: I have yet to test that capability.
When connected to a computer via USB cable (btw, it uses micro-USB on unit’s end, which is great – when I travel, I will not have to haul a separate cable for it – i can use sync cable from my Storm and Tour), nook displays a message that says that if i want to use nook and continue charging i should unmount (eject) the drive(s) associated with it. Lies!!! I’ve done it. The message stays, and no reaction from the unit.
Despite all the rant, I still like my nook. Call it idealism, hopeful rationalization, or whatever you want. I like the fact that it’s made by my favorite bookstore and ties into its library. As far as glitches and bugs are concerned, I realize that this is a new product for Barnes & Noble, and they need to iron out wrinkles. If I had to guess, in the past few months they were primarily concerned not with how the units perform, but if they have enough of them. So, now that they are rolling them out into the stores in the next few weeks, I hope the company will have an opportunity to take a deep breath and address the issues. I will leave out the discussion on whether a company should iron out glitches before rolling out the product, or deliver the product to the market asap, creating interest, demand and dealing with issues later.
To summarize, these are the issues i’d like to see addressed, and preferably in the current model via firmware upgrade:
- Interface bugs – smooth ’em out – the touch screen is a good idea, don’t let it down now.
- Book Organization and Classification – folders are must would be great if it also had tags, categories, etc.
- Audio Player – definitely needs improvement. If it’s searching for files on the memory card a message saying that it’s searching would probably be nice.
Barnes & Noble, you have a good potential product, you have a shot at capturing market – don’t let it slip away!