Money Matters - Simplified

Barnes and Noble's Nook: A review

You will not be disappointed if you have pre-ordered the Nook, but waiting a while would have been a better idea

Manhattan, NY, December 7 -- “Kindle Killer” is a popular name given to the new Barnes and Noble e-book reader Nook. Is it justified? Can it actually steal the market away from the e-book baron Amazon? Nook is out, and we test the truth in the claims of market analysts.

Yes, one can share books, it's true. There also is a provision for PDF files, and it supports EPUB and Wi-fi, but all this apart, Barnes and Noble has presented the Nook to us in a more or less raw form. This Android-powered machine is fascinating, but has a long way to go.

The two screens: Yay or nay?
Nook comes in with an extra LCD screen, a small but important one. It is not a revolutionary step in technology due to its slow processing speed, but it not a gimmick either. But one can see this as a threat to Kindle, as the latter's team is frantically developing a better user-interface to compete with Nook's.

The touchscreen turns out to be uncomfortably bright, which is not what you look for when you plan to stare at something for hours together. The automatic brightness adjustment does not work well, but the problem is taken care off by a manual control, which makes the late night reading sessions more retina-friendly.

Since you don't have to depend on the e-link panel for everything, the navigation through the LCD is faster. At 3.5 inches, it is as responsive as any smartphone. Due to a capacitive rather than a resistive touchscreen, the touch has to be light and swift. But this also means that a stylus cannot be used (it is “touch”, remember) and hand written notes are out of question.

There is a little 'n' logo which wakes up the asleep LCD screen, although sometimes its touch sensitivity is rather questionable. Also, the keyboard is only visible when required. This feature is similar to that of an iPhone and keeps the space clean.

This LCD screen can also display a directional pad for text movement during highlighting or checking out words in the dictionary, and can show the music player without leaving the page. Apart from that, it helps you in writing notations, and shows the book covers in the library and the store.

The LCD, sadly, is a battery hog instead of a saver. The interface is quite good, but cannot be called an upgrade, it is just an alternative.

Files and formats supported
The EPUB format that it supports has got everybody excited, since it brings 500,000 or more Google books at your disposal. Hanging on to DRM encrypted files, the formats supported are EPUB, PDF, and PDB. Part from that, one can also read non-DRM or Adobe DRM EPUB files, non-DRM PDB and PDF files.

The unsupported formats are Microsoft Word DOC files or plain text TXT formats, LIT format or Sony’s LRZ or LRX. Amazon's AMZ format is also not accessible, which does not come as a surprise, but is still disappointing.

On the other hand, Kindle comes with HTML, DOC, non DRM MOBI files, but the EPUB gives Nook an edge.

Other perks
The music player is a definite hit. One can play music in the background while reading, and does not have to navigate away from the page. The control of the player is easier and more straightforward than Kindle's due to the touch screen. The interface is easier to navigate too. One can scroll through one's songs and then pick the desired one. The volume button is absent, but there is a slider taking care of that function.

An irritating feature is that word-meanings from the dictionary or error messages that pop up are displayed in the e-link and not the touch screen. The logic behind is that the e-link is provided for all reading purposes, but that does not help when there is a climax in the book, and it gets blocked by an error message.

The Wi-Fi is a feature that has made many happy, and when you enter a Barnes and Noble store, it automatically connects to their network, providing you with little, but fun perks. It is a great way to see the difference between a real book, and the e-book edition that is being offered. Barnes and Noble are on their way to allow us to skim through the entire books when in the store.

Touch it to buy it
The only reason why people have been known to buy other e-book readers, and not Kindle (before Nook came into the market) is that they could touch and feel them at the retail stores. Nook, undoubtedly, will have this advantage too.

Another great thing that Barnes and Noble did was to allow the e-books to be read on Macs, PCs, iPhones, and BlackBerrys. In a few months time, they will be accessible through Android powered phones too.

Barnes and Noble books have always been known to be more expensive than Amazon's. They are planning to take care of that by leveling their prices.

Over all, the Nook might not be a Kindle killer, but it sure is providing a tough competition to the latter, and with a few tweakings left and right, it might very well cross Kindle's sales in a few months time.