Friday March 31 , 2017

nookColor Review - First Look

nookcaseI've had some time to play with my new nookColor and wanted to share my first impressions.

Packaging

I thought the "original" nook packaging was crazy. It was encased in a very special looking plastic box that required consulting the user guide to open it. B&N later changed over to a more common-sense packaging and the nookColor resembles it.  The hinged magnetic bottom that holds the accessories is very nice. I'd say it's a nice balance between "special" and wasting a lot of time and money on a disposable case.

Initial Charge and Use

The nookColor, just like the nook, warns the user to "fully charge" before first use.  Of course when you plug it in to charge it the device starts up so... So much for waiting. The first charge only took 20 minutes, it came mostly charged. The user experience of starting the nook for the first time includes an introductory video and a very straightforward setup/configuration wizard. Very nice and well done in my opinion.

Hardware

I'd have to say overall I like the device hardware. I'm a big fan of dark gray devices (love the look of the new graphite Kindle). The style cut out corner is "cute" but also serves as an easy access point for inserting an SD card.  The device is very solid, thin, and I like the screen.  The material quality is pretty decent and the back has a little bit of a grip to it so it shouldn't easily slide around. It's a quarter pound heavier than the nook - which is already a couple ounces heavier than the Kindle.  I think it's at the max size and weight for comfortable single hand use.  It seems to me the screen isn't as glossy as my iPad, which I think is a good thing.  The single 'n' button at the bottom has a nice feel to it and is very unique.  The side volume bottons work well and are easy to find and push.  I'm not as huge of a fan of the power button.  It's on the left hand side instead of the top and I think it's more awkward to shut off the device. Unlike the classic nook, the nookColor has no page turn buttons. While the screen click is sufficient, some may miss the tactile navigation. Page turns are instant.

nookcolorhomenookColor Operation

As most of you know the nook runs the Android mobile operating system for its base software. As I predicted when the nookColor was announced, the android OS is carefully hidden behind a book centric user interface (which is smart for an eReader IMHO).  The home screen has a list of your B&N books along the bottom (scrollable) and the page displays a custom set of book covers in user selected sizes (grab and pinch to adjust).  The top has a history bar with the last read item and a drop down box of recent history.  You might not even notice your options to run other programs on this capable device but the bottom arrow provides access to other features in a ribbon interface much like the original nook.  The web browser is on the bottom ribbon, and the other apps (Chess, Contacts, Crossword, Gallery, LendMe, Music, Pandora, Sudoku) are all under the "Extras" selection.

The library application works much like the iPad or iPhone. It has all the books covers listed and you can scroll up and down to find books or search the library.  People who are hard core book readers will likely just add the top couple books to the home page and pass on using the library application.  If you want to manage your books and periodicals or switch often between a large number of books you're likely to use the library view more than the home page view.

The games appear to be very well done. I was hoping for an email client and calendar application because I think that plus the browser may had been just enough for some folks that wanted some iPad like features in their eReader.

eReader Software

If you are using a device as an eReader you'll  likely spend most your time in one program - the eReader application.  There are no surprises here. The nookColor erReader app looks like a port of the iPad/iPhone/Android reader. It's very competent and if you use other nook apps you'll already be familiar with it. I thought the lookup options were nicely done and the new "sharing options" do not appear on the nook or nook apps on other devices.  The share options allow you to recommend, rate/review, and post reading status to your facebook and twitter social network. I'm a bit mystified why there are only a handful of font options. I'm not nuts about a single one of them and it seems silly to not provide a dozen fonts here (Really? Trebuchet MS). The list is the same as the iPhone/iPad.

While the page turns are instant there is no animation. I found reading it a few times I was confused if the page turn had happened. Maybe a short animation would be useful!

Another significant feature the nookColor eReader has over the mobile nook applications is the special in-store deals and the ability to read most books for free (for an hour) in any B&N store. B&N has been pretty good to nook owners with the perks and they generally these come only to the nook devices, not the nook apps.

There is no nookStudy integration into the nookColor. I would be shocked if that doesn't change in the next major firmware upgrade.

nookColor as a Tablet Device?

If you are hoping the nook is a dirt cheap tablet with eReader software you may be disappointed. The browser is decent, but not as dreamy as the iPhone or iPad. The ability to install apps is non-existent and the marketplace for nook applications isn't online yet. I suspect the nookColor will be rooted by Thanksgiving if history is any indication.

Let's be clear, the nookColor is a tablet in most every respect - except that it's locked down tight to be used as an eReader.  If you aren't primarily a book reader, but the nookColor interests you, it might be best to wait until the nook marketplace has applications or the nookColor is rooted and can install apps.  At $250 it could be a great middle ground between the low price junk Android tablets and the "rock-star" $600 Samsung Galaxy Tablet.  

iPad, nookColor, nook

I thought you might be interested just to see the size difference and base look of these three options.  The camera picks up the screen refresh more on the nook, but my son and I agree - the nookColor looks nicer and has better reading contrast than the iPad. The screen sizes are 10", 7", and 6".

readersside

"First Look" Bottom Line

I'm a big fan of the eInk because of the readability. I think that comes from two factors - natural light and pixel density.  While the nookColor has better pixel density than the iPad (pretty apparent side-by-side, or do math on pixels per inch) the backlight is still a bit of a distraction. I think the backlight of the nookColor may be a bit softer than the iPad in some way and handle glare better.  The software on the nookColor kills the other nook platforms and I think the homepage concept is very well executed. Besides the location of the power button I generally like the hardware and it feels like a solid device.

The weight of the nookColor is right at the limit for single handed reading (for me). I find my iPad is hard to hold for a long time. 

The battery life might be six hours based on my usage - which is far less than my iPad. The eInk nook gets probably closer to 20 hours of use thanks to the power-sipping eInk screen. If you use it for web, chess, and other applications you'll be charging this thing every other day.

If you want to read outside, have a dirt cheap device you charge weekly, and like very clear text get a refurb nook 3G for $100 (or the new Kindle Graphite for $139)
If you want to read at night, like the idea of tablet features, and don't mind charging often get the nookColor for $250
If you want a tablet that can be used as an eReader with a great battery life get an iPad for $499. 

   

nookcolor, the B&N iPad?

Meet_Nook_3Today B&N announced a new eReader device in the nook family - nookColor. From a hardware perspective, the new nookColor is really more like the iPad than the current nook device. It has a backlit color touchscreen and is powered to run a variety of applications. The current nook is focused on being an eReader device with an "easy on the eyes" screen and a long battery life. As much as B&N tried, the current nook is really only good for reading books. It turns out that's why most of us bought it!

While the new nookColor shares more in common with the iPad from a device perspective it has a smaller screen and a highly customized B&N interface (built around the Android platform). Make no mistake the nookColor will not function just like an iPad or Samsung Tab - it will have a very strong focus and tie to being an eReader.

Here are some of the known benefits over the nook:

Works with the new "Nook Kids" technology for kids interactive eBooks.
Highly optimized interface for reading magazines and periodicals. 
Will likely work with nookStudy (but no word on that yet).
New social apps including sharing LendMe books (very nice feature).
Manage & View other files (PDF, Word, Powerpoint). 
Includes more non-reader apps than the nook.
Special screen cover to reduce glare (maybe from the screen itself)
A promised "App Store" for developers to add new apps.
More memory for storing books, music, etc. 

All that color and extra functionality may not be your thing. Here are some disadvantages of the nookColor:

Cost. The nook will probably be $99 for the Wifi version soon - that's a big price difference.
You'll find yourself wasting the 6-8 hours of battery on non-book reading (if my iPad usage is any clue!)
Distractions. Since it's more than a book reader and that may distract you from enjoying books.
Applications will only be from B&N now, not as full-featured as a tablet.
No free 3G to buy books.
Backlit screen. It's not going to be as easy on the eyes - it's a computer screen. 

So the question is ... would you rather spend $500 for an iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab and have something potentially "bigger and better" with some of the same B&N apps? Do you like the idea of the current nook with the long battery life, simple interface, and clear screen? I think if you are looking for a great eReader the B&N nook and the new Kindle are the best deals for the money. I'll be honest I'm not sure what I think of this new nook yet!

It's available for pre-order now and should begin shipping November 19th. It may get back-ordered so if you really think this is "your thing" I'd order today with FREE shipping. They are planning on having it available by December at Best Buy and Walmart.

Ok, So besides the "Gee I wish I didn't just buy a nook" reactions... what do you think of the new device?  Ebay the nook and pre-order nookColor? Happy with what you have?

   

B&N nookStudy Review

nookstudyiconTextbooks for my nook?

Nope, B&N rebranded all electronic book products to the "nook" brand.  nookStudy is a computer program for reading and annotating eTextbooks. You can't read any of the textbooks B&N sells on your nook for a few reasons I won't go into here.  We've added a new forum and FAQ for nookStudy users.

Is it revolutionary?

Most of my current work revolves around social media, so the prospect of integrating study with social networks is quite interesting to me.  When nookStudy arrived on the scene I had a list of features I hoped I might find in the product.  Maybe nookStudy would facilitate killer note & highlight sharing with your social network. Why not share notes with other students of the same text around the world - or at very least with your classmates. What if readers could share content recommendations with other nookStudy users by having related material funneled into a recommended resources page "in the book"!  Well, nookStudy does none of that, so let's talk about what it does do.

nookStudy is an eReader desktop-only application that works with both DRM and unprotected PDF and ePub formats. It offers the ability to categorize books into courses and augment those books with notes and highlighting that is backed up on the B&N "cloud". Sadly that about covers it what nookStudy 1.0 has to offer.

Installation

nookstudyschoolLooking for the nookStudy iPad application on the App Store? Look no further.  nookStudy can only be used on Apple and Windows computers. If you are a Mac user you'll be quite surprised it requires Snow Leopard.  B&N claims it is because nookStudy is so advanced but I suspect it has something to do with the development team relying on libraries that are only available in the latest OS (big mistake).  I got the mac version for my new MacBook Pro and found the install to be quite simple (as are most Mac installs).  One of the post installation steps included putting in your college and setting up an Adobe account to be tied to your B&N account (more on this later). My hopes were it would show me textbooks for currently offered courses at the University I selected!

First Look

When I started the application the first thing I noticed was that it was decidedly not "Mac". The user interface has the feel of an Adobe Air application like Tweetdeck. Initially it was just an annoyance, but later I realized it was a detriment when I couldn't use my trackpad to control zoom in a textbook. My first in my evaluation was to get a sample eTextbooks.  I hoped to find a nice in-app browsing experience based on textbooks at the college I selected after install. Instead I was dumped to the B&N website which didn't even have a filter for my selected school.  

To make things "easy" I got the "Exploring Engineering" and things worked pretty well.  I pulled in some of my fiction novels and a few ePub files from my hard drive (they give you the impression you can't use study features with non B&N books but seems to work).  The display of the book was about what I expected for nookStudy.  Adding notes and highlighting was functional. Navigation was a pain. Scrolling with my trackpad wasn't reliable and I had to resort to full page turns with the arrow keys or mouse navigation.

The tab style interface and dual book view were nice. So far it hasn't crashed and the features it does have, while sparse, seem to work well so far.

We'll see if nookStudy 2.0 takes it to the next level on social network and OS integration! IMHO eTextbooks are going nowhere until they can be used on the iPad and Samsung Galaxy (and other Android tablets).   

   

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