March 3, 2010

A Look at nook

Here at The Tech Desk, we have been following the rise in popularity of ebook readers. Until recently, we have not had any hands-on experience with these devices. Because we have seen an increase in the number of questions about them, I decided to purchase one to better understand the technology involved and to better help patrons who have questions regarding them. After considering the pros and cons of the different ereaders available, I decided to purchase the nook from Barnes and Noble.

The nook features 2 display screens. For viewing ebooks, the nook features a 6” diagonal E-Ink screen that displays content in 16 shades of gray. It also features a smaller color LCD touch screen at the bottom of the device which is used to navigate through the nook’s contents. The nook supports many popular file formats, including EPUB, PDF, MP3, JPG, and GIF. It also supports DRM protected content, such as ebooks checked out through OverDrive, one of the Troy Library's suppliers of downloadable content.

Like the Kindle and the Sony Reader Daily Edition, the nook features free wireless connectivity so that you can purchase ebooks directly from the Barnes and Nobel website, and have them directly loaded into the ereader without having to sync with a computer. The nook uses AT&T’s 3G network. Firmware updates are also sent wirelessly.

Setting up the device was easy. The nook comes with a Micro-USB cable and also an AC adapter. After taking it out of its package I plugged it into a wall outlet. After the device started up, it walked me through a brief tutorial on how to use it. When plugged into a wall outlet it is available for use, so while it was charging I was able to access the Barnes and Noble eBook store and purchase an ebook. Within a minute I was reading a new ebook while my nook was finishing its initial charge.

Having finished reading a 400 page novel on the nook, I can say that reading is a pleasure. There are 3 font styles available, along with 5 different font sizes. Like most current ebook readers, the nook is not backlit so you need to have light in order to read. Additionally, it does take a second for text to refresh when you turn a page; however, recent firmware updates have reduced the time this takes.

The biggest drawback with the nook is that the main reading screen is not a touch screen. For example, if you need to look up a word (the nook comes with a copy of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary), you have to use arrows displayed on the touch screen to highlight the word. This process would be much easier if the main display screen was a touch screen.

As mentioned above, the nook is compatible with OverDrive. I was able to go to the Troy Library's website, and checkout and download a title. Transferring ebooks downloaded from OverDrive to the nook was straightforward. OverDrive content on the nook is DRM protected, and you will not be able to access it on your nook after the checkout time expires.

I have had some small problems with my nook. It has a tendency to freeze at times, especially when turning the wireless on and off. This is easily remedied by turning the device off and on again. It also seems that battery life does not last as long as indicated on the Barnes and Noble site. Again, this is a minor complaint.

Overall, I believe the nook is a great ereader, especially for someone who likes immediate gratification of being able to purchase books wirelessly and also wants to be able to download ebooks from a library.

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