8 Reasons You Can Finally Love Ebook Readers (Thanks to Nook)

By | October 21, 2009

I’m an avid reader, studied literature in school, and nerd out over tech, yet past ebook readers have left me cold. The Nook is the first reader I really want, and I won’t be alone. Here’s why.


It’s cost-effective. Yeah, at $260 it’s the same price as the Kindle 2, but you’re getting so much more for your money: Wi-Fi, native PDF support, an SD slot and that crazy second screen makes it seem out of the Kindle’s league. It makes the Sony Reader and iRex look absurdly overpriced and the Plastic Logic Que look like a shot in the dark.


Lending and Sharing. One of my main objections to the Kindle and other readers is that most of my books come from friends, rather than bookstores. The Nook realizes that and integrates a 2-week lending period—plenty of time for a quick read. Plus, you can lend to tons of different devices: Mac, PC, iPhone, iPod Touch, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or Windows Mobile (soon).

Sharing is also done really well: As opposed to the Kindle, which only lets you read purchased ebooks on a same-account iPhone or iPod Touch, the Nook lets you read on any device supported, the most important of which are PC and Mac. So you and your significant other could read the same book at the same time, on whatever devices you each prefer. The Kindle, in contrast, doesn’t support PC and Mac at all—but we’d be willing to bet Amazon is rethinking that decision right about now. Plus, the Nook syncs both your place in the book and any highlights or annotations you’ve made, which could be great for students.


Free in-store reading. You’ll be able to take the Nook to any of Barnes & Noble‘s gajillion stores and read one ebook, for free, each time—the same way you might wander into the store, pick up a book and read it for an hour or two. Barnes & Noble is really thinking about how people actually read, which is a great sign: This kind of feature makes the Kindle feel like it’s forcing you to change your reading habits rather than adapting to them.

And potential Nook customers will be able to go into a retail store with which they’re comfortable and play around with the actual device, an advantage not shared by the Kindle or any other reader. Given Matt’s impressions of the Nook, I think seeing the hardware in person will convince a lot of people to buy it.


Head-turning looks. The Kindle 1 was, um, distinctive, and the Kindle 2 is inoffensive and sleek enough, but the Nook has legitimate style. As Matt said, “it makes even the relatively benign-looking Kindle 2 seem like it was beaten with an ugly stick.” It was clear from the first leak that we were dealing with something very different.


Android. There are two things to be excited about when it comes to Android. First is the legit apps, which B&N seems open to—in today’s presentation, John wrote “They, ahem, “haven’t announced” anything about app development, but they’re comfortable using the phrase “when we do,” which is veeeery promising.” My personal most-wanted app? Pandora (or Slacker, or Last.FM).

Secondly, there’s the more, well, illicit possibilities: The Nook both runs Android (which we already know is easily and enthusiastically modified) and has a microUSB jack, which should make for easy hacking. Imagine user-created skins, apps, games (in case reading gets boring)—the possibilities are just about endless. The Nook already supports PDF natively (yes!) but we could definitely see it hacked to embrace other formats like DOC.


The second screen. Yeah, it’s weird, and we wouldn’t have believed it if it didn’t, you know, exist, but it just makes so much sense: Browsing for books on e-ink is an exercise in frustration, and touchscreen e-ink is even worse. With its capacitive touchscreen, the Nook offers a keyboard and Cover-Flow-esque browsing without the awkwardness and lethargy of e-ink, but it also opens the door for multitasking. You’ll be able to read a book and control your music at the same time, and because the music browser will be on the LCD screen, it won’t look like e-inked crap. It should also support photo browsing and the ability to set your own wallpaper.


Battery life. The Nook’s 10-day battery life may not be quite as long as the Kindle 2′s 14 days, but 10 days is still insane—especially if we think about the tablets that will vie to make ebook readers obsolete. Whenever the Apple tablet is announced, you can bet its battery life will be measured in hours, not days. Plus, the Nook’s battery is replaceable, always a welcome decision (you could have a spare battery, and when yours does eventually die, it’s easy to replace).


Both 3G and Wi-Fi. I’m not exactly sure about the benefits of Wi-Fi right now (besides international travel, where AT&T may not work), but given the possibilities of Android, it’s essential that the Nook includes it. In the future, we may want to download files bigger than ebooks—apps, games, videos, whatever—and Wi-Fi will be vital once the potential of the Nook is unlocked. Plus, there could well be Wi-Fi-only features of the kind AT&T wouldn’t support: Streaming content, web browsing, VoIP, whatever. Wi-Fi is a killer feature not for what it does right now, but for what it could allow the Nook could do in the future.

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