Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

Summary: The iPad is a decent ebook reading device, but you just can't beat a dedicated eInk device for the most immersive ebook experience and the all-new Nook is THE one to beat.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Mobility, Hardware
89

95% of my reading is now done on ebook readers and after using them for several years, starting with the Sony Reader, then a couple of Kindles, and a couple of Nooks, I have now found the ultimate ebook reader in the new Barnes & Noble Nook. I bought my Nook 1st Edition in 2009 and still use it every now and then. Back in early 2009 I wrote why ebooks were best for reading and now a couple years later after trying to read on the iPad, big screen smartphones, and other connected devices I have decided that nothing can beat a dedicated ebook device with eInk and limited connectivity for the near-book experience.

I read ebooks on my iPad and HTC Flyer, but notifications, the urge to check email or browse the web, and other distractions take away from the book experience. My eyes are not really bothered by color displays, but after reading ebooks on my new Nook the past couple of weeks there really is nothing that can beat eInk for reading.

In my opinion, the all-new Nook, also referred to as the Simple Touch Reader, offers the BEST ebook experience through the same size screen as others, the best eInk technology, an amazingly long battery life, support for standard ebook formats, access to a bookstore with over 2 million titles, small form factor without a keyboard or other unnecessary extras, functional touch screen, and software optimized for the reading experience. It is available for a very reasonable $139 and if you are an ebook fan then this is THE ebook reader to purchase.

I also took a few product photos that you can find in my image gallery where I compare the new Nook with the 1st Edition Nook. I also captured a video below of the Nook in action and included my top 5 reasons why I think it is the best current dedicated ebook reader.


Image Gallery: A walk around the new Barnes & Noble Nook ebook reader device and the screens available. Image Gallery: Old and new Nooks width= Image Gallery: Changing button functions

5 reasons the all-new Nook is the best ebook reader

Each of us has our own personal preferences and I can't tell you that any device is the very best for all of us. However, I sincerely believe there are several reasons that the all-new Nook is the best and offer the following 5 reasons for you to consider.

Reason #1: Form factor

Before this current Nook, my favorite ebook reader, in terms of form factor, was the Sony Reader 505. While the Kindle has a great ecosystem and has many strengths, I rarely ever used the QWERTY keyboard and found that having a hardware one that was always present and taking up valuable real estate was a major waste of space. The original Nook that I still own has a color touchscreen band at the bottom so there are reasons for using it, but it was a bit clunky and I often could be found tapping on the eInk display rather than the color band.

The all-new Nook has the same display size as the other ebook readers at 6 inches, yet there is nothing else to the device but a small bezel around the display so you can hold it in your hand. It seems a bit chunky, but is the same width as the first generation Nook and the shortness of it makes it seem a bit wide.

The Nook is also covered on the front bezel and complete back with soft touch material so it is easy to hold and presents you with a surface that is not slippery. It also only weighs 7.48 ounces and compared to the newest Kindle (8.5 ounces), Kobo Reader (7.8 ounces), and Nook Color (15.8 ounces) it is the lightest currently available.

Reason #2: Touchscreen interface

I tried touchscreen Sony Reader devices in the past and Sony did get better every generation so that the latest PRS-650 Touch Edition used the same infrared technology that we see on the Nook. However, their previous strategy was to place a touchscreen layer on top of the eInk display and thus they were always taking something away from the eInk reading experience. I believe that the eInk display is one of the most important aspects of device because without a crystal clear display you won't enjoy your reading experience. The upcoming Kobo Touch also offers an infrared touchscreen display so that your finger position is picked up by IR sensors embedded around the sides of the Nook bezel.

When I heard it was based on infrared I thought I would see lots of deadspots and lag, but so far I am amazed by the responsiveness of the display and if I didn't know that it was powered by IR I would swear that the actual display had a touchscreen layer on top of it.

The touchscreen user interface feels very natural and swiping or tapping on the display to turn pages is intuitive. The pop-up QWERTY keyboard works well too.

Reason #3: eInk display

The all-new Nook uses the latest Pearl eInk technology and the 6-inch 800x600 display looks fantastic. The contrast and clarity is amazing and I am able to even easily read books in low light and direct sunlight conditions.

Barnes & Noble has a new functionality, called Fast Page, where page turns are near instantaneous and you will only see page refreshes every 6 pages. The page turns are so fast that reading is completely unencumbered on the new Nook.

Reason #4: Battery life

I purchased my new Nook a month ago and charged it as soon as it arrived, but haven't put it on a charger since then and still have 25% battery life left. I have finished half of Tom Clancy's Dead or Alive and spent time creating notes, adding bookmarks, putting in highlights, and browsing the store. I did have WiFi off for the majority of the time, since you only need it for shopping or for delivery of your daily newspaper selection.

Barnes & Noble advertises that you can go 2 months with WiFi off and 3 weeks with WiFi on. It is so refreshing to have an ebook reader where I never have to even think about charging the battery and can just focus on reading books.

Reason #5: Content

There are over 2 million titles in the Barnes & Noble ebookstore, compared to the 950,000 titles in the Amazon ebookstore. In addition, you can transfer over DRM and non-DRM EPUB files through a USB connection or Adobe Digital Editions. This functionality let me bring over all of the books in my Sony Reader library and also check out ebooks from my local public library.

The original Nook let ebook readers who had books from Peanut Press read them on the device, but PDB formats are no longer supported. For those enthusiasts who still own these books I am sure they can figure out how to use Calibre to get these titles on their new device too.

Let's check out the specs and functionality details »

In the box

The Barnes & Noble Nook comes in a compact cardboard case and is much easier to open compared to the original Nook. Below the bottom of the package is a USB cable and A/C charger adapter. It really is ready to go right out of the box and the contents of the packaging is as simple as the Nook itself.

Specifications

The specifications for the new Barnes & Noble Nook include the following:

  • 6 inch Pearl eInk display with 16 grayscale
  • microUSB port
  • 2GB internal memory for approximately 1000 eBooks
  • microSD card slot for expandable memory options
  • 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
  • Dimensions of 6.5 x 5.0 x 0.47 inches and 7.48 ounces

There is no 3.5 mm headset jack, 3G wireless radio, experimental web browser or any extra feature that takes away from the dedicated reading experience. I applaud these things since I want my ebook reader available just for ebook reading and nothing else.

The new Nook supports EPUB, PDF, JPG, PNG, and BMP formats too. You can download and read magazines and newspapers on this new Nook and even have newspapers delivered to your Nook every morning.

Software and user experience

One cool button to remember as you are using your new Nook is to tap in the upper left corner to jump back into the last book you were reading from just about everywhere on the device.

Nook button functions

Your Nook display will time out and the method for turning it back on is to press the center Nook button and then to swipe your finger from the center of the display to the right bezel on the bottom. Pressing the Nook button brings up these five options:

  • Home: Takes you to the home screen where you will find what you are reading now in the top left, what content you have in the upper right corner, and what you can find in the ebook store in the bottom section of the Nook.
  • Library: Takes you to your library where you can toggle by list or grid view.
  • Shop: Takes you to the Barnes & Noble store where you can browse and find content by a number of means.
  • Search: Opens up a search box with the QWERTY keyboard popping up from the bottom.
  • Settings: Presents you with a list of settings to further personalize your experience. These options include device info, wireless, screen, time, reader, shop, social, and search. You can choose which of the buttons moves you forward or takes you backward within the book.

Social functions include linking and sharing to Facebook, Twitter, and Google. You can lend books to your friends and even enable a function where your friends can view the books you have available to lend to them.

The new Nook is based on Android 2.1, but you would never know it since there is no browser or app store like what you can see on the Nook Color.

Functions while reading a book

While you are reading your book you can press a button to advance pages or choose to tap or swipe on the display. You can tap the upper right corner to add a bookmark too. Your page number is shown at the bottom with the total pages too. Depending on the font size you are using you may not see the page number change as you change your viewable display.

You can tap and hold on a word you want to find out the meaning of or on an area where you want to highlight or add a note. You can drag the selection bars to increase the area to be highlighted too. There are options in the bottom menu for highlight, add note, share, and look up. Share lets you share a quote (your selected text) with your contacts, Facebook, or Twitter networks.

To access reading customizations tap in the middle of the display to bring up the bottom menu options that include accessing the table of contents, search function, go to a page, and access text options. Tapping the more… option opens up the book details with access to an overview, reviews, related titles, and button to share different aspects with your social networks. These including liking the book on Facebook or sharing your reading status on Twitter.

Text options including choosing from seven different text styles and six different font types. You can also adjust line spacing and margins with the text setup.

Why should you get this new Nook?

The newest Amazon Kindle is a nice device, but I rarely ever use the keyboard on my ebook readers and in my opinion having a dedicated QWERTY keyboard is a waste of space. I also appreciate that I can simply transfer my old EPUB files and public library books to my new Nook without having to worry about proprietary Kindle formats.

The form factor, battery life, and easy user interface have me reading more than I have in a long time and I personally think this is the BEST dedicated ebook reader available today. The simple, yet effective social networking function is also slick and serves as a motivation tool to get you to read more as well.

Back to the beginning »

Topics: Mobility, Hardware

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

89 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

    Great review Matt. As a frequent flyer and avid reader I have owned a both of the first two Kindles and have Kindle software on both my smartphones, my iPad and the HTC Flyer. I've not gone back to a dedicated e-reader for over a year, but your review has me reconsidering. A question, how does a dedicated e-reader interfere with the evolution of e-books into multimedia experiences? I really enjoy the embedded videos and expandable pics/graphs in the Wall Street Journal on iPad and Android.
    lichmd
    • RE: Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

      @lichmd The problem of freezing on THE NEW KOOK; I just got done talking to a supervisor today with B&N named Audrey about the problem with THE NEW NOOK, we have gone thru 2 new NOOKS with the same problem in the last 3 weeks. I took her there was a software problem and asked when it was going to be fixed and are they going to make a RE-CALL on THE NEW NOOK. She put me on hold for about 4 min. and came back and said they don't know yet when the software problem is going to be fixed, I stopped her and said "then you do admit there is a software problem with THE NEW KOONS" she responded I guess !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and I have it recorded
      We are getting a FULL REFUND, they don't work !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And B&N admits to it.
      danholm57
  • RE: Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

    Unlike the author, I use the keyboard quite a lot, and the Kindle allows one to simply start typing from whereever you are at. Reading a book and want to refresh one's memory about a character...just start typing. Shopping and want to see all of an author's offerings...just start typing.<br>Although the Nook is shorter and about 1 ounce lighter, it is also wider and thicker than the Kindle.<br>But the biggest issue is no 3G. For me, that's a dealbreaker.
    dprozzo
    • RE: Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

      @dprozzo The problem of freezing on THE NEW KOOK; I just got done talking to a supervisor today with B&N named Audrey about the problem with THE NEW NOOK, we have gone thru 2 new NOOKS with the same problem in the last 3 weeks. I took her there was a software problem and asked when it was going to be fixed and are they going to make a RE-CALL on THE NEW NOOK. She put me on hold for about 4 min. and came back and said they don't know yet when the software problem is going to be fixed, I stopped her and said "then you do admit there is a software problem with THE NEW KOONS" she responded I guess !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and I have it recorded
      We are getting a FULL REFUND, they don't work !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And B&N admits to it.
      danholm57
    • re: blakepedersen

      Scarborough Ontario Canada forms the eastern part of the city of Toronto, Canada. It was named for it's resemblance to the white cliffs in England. http://www.scarboroughhouses.ca/

      Scrapbooking is known to be a popular hobby that is growing fast today. It is a mixture of photos, memorabilia and stories created in a scrapbook style album. http://www.scrapbookingideas.ca/

      Imagine being able to actually see all the features of a potential house you wish to buy without dealing with the headaches of talking to a realtor or even traveling to the house to walk through it. http://www.seehouses.ca/
      blakepedersen
  • RE: Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

    The Nook is good as long as you don't have to read it in the sun or bright day light. Try to read it in broad day light and you'll struggle to see anything on that screen.
    edifeldman
    • RE: Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

      @edifeldman Er, what? It's an eInk display, you can see fine in the daylight. You must be thinking of the nook COLOR, which uses an LCD.
      Aerowind
      • RE: Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

        @Aerowind From what I understand one can change the screen to the "night" setting on the Nook Color and be able to read in full sunlight - I have yet to test this but on my beach trip in a couple of weeks I'll see for myself if this works...
        athynz
    • Wrong, it is even better in full sunlight

      @edifeldman This new Nook looks FANTASTIC in full sun and is perfect for taking to the beach this summer.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
    • RE: Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

      @edifeldman
      You have OBVIOUSLY never used a Nook, or any EInk reader for that matter.
      BrewmanNH
  • Some questions

    How easy is it to transfer books from your original Nook to the new one? I'm talking about DRM'ed books, not ones from places like Project Gutenburg.

    Second, how does the screen size of the new one compare to the screen size of the old one? I get the Pearl part (which is *nice*) but what about the actual screen real-estate? My eyes aren't what they were so I use a larger font, which already increases my page turns.

    Also, do you have to swipe or does the bezel still have page turn buttons?
    wolf_z
    • RE: Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

      @wolf_z The problem of freezing on THE NEW KOOK; I just got done talking to a supervisor today with B&N named Audrey about the problem with THE NEW NOOK, we have gone thru 2 new NOOKS with the same problem in the last 3 weeks. I took her there was a software problem and asked when it was going to be fixed and are they going to make a RE-CALL on THE NEW NOOK. She put me on hold for about 4 min. and came back and said they don't know yet when the software problem is going to be fixed, I stopped her and said "then you do admit there is a software problem with THE NEW KOONS" she responded I guess !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and I have it recorded
      We are getting a FULL REFUND, they don't work !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And B&N admits to it.
      danholm57
  • RE: Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

    Have you even looked at the new Kobo Touch?
    It's hard to beat.....
    drmawyer
    • Not yet, but I will try to get one soon

      @drmawyer@... I like the original Kobo and am sure the Kobo Touch will be a good alternative too. The specs look the same with a slightly lighter weight and lower price on the Kobo Touch. I may have to call a new winner :)
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • RE: Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

        @palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
        Um, Yes it is.
        http://www.borders.com/online/store/MediaView_kobotouch
        drmawyer
      • RE: Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

        @palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)

        I've picked up a Kobo Touch to replace my original Kobo. Slightly smaller and lighter than the Nook Touch (6.5 x 4.5 x .4, 7.05 ounces). Same Pearl display which I find doesn't look much better on text but does look better on the book covers and illustrations. Same ability to set the full display refresh delay which does speed up page turns on the average.

        I've noticed some issues with the touch screen and books that were not from the Kobo bookstore. Some of the issues disappeared after I ran the problem books through Sigil and cleaned up the errors that the FlightCrew validator located.

        I can't speak to using the Pearl screen in bright sunlight but I'm almost certain Vancouver will have a sunny weekend in the next month or two.

        In Vancouver, you don't tan, you rust.
        DNSB
      • RE: Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

        @palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller) The problem of freezing on THE NEW KOOK; I just got done talking to a supervisor today with B&N named Audrey about the problem with THE NEW NOOK, we have gone thru 2 new NOOKS with the same problem in the last 3 weeks. I took her there was a software problem and asked when it was going to be fixed and are they going to make a RE-CALL on THE NEW NOOK. She put me on hold for about 4 min. and came back and said they don't know yet when the software problem is going to be fixed, I stopped her and said "then you do admit there is a software problem with THE NEW KOONS" she responded I guess !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and I have it recorded
        We are getting a FULL REFUND, they don't work !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And B&N admits to it.
        danholm57
  • RE: Review: 5 reasons the new Nook is the best dedicated ebook reader

    Good review, except for the last item about the number of books available at B&N and Amazon. B&N counts public domain titles in their count, Amazon does not. So B&N's number is actually meaningless.
    srichard3817
    • So?

      @srichard3817

      Why do public domain titles render the numbers meaningless? A lot of really good books are in the public domain you know. :)
      wolf_z
      • The comment was about unfair comparisons

        @wolf_z The comment was about the fact that it is an unfair comparison in terms of numbers of books, if one bookstore counts the public domain ones and the other doesn't. Amazon has massive numbers of public domain books too (probably the same ones!), so a fair comparison would show either just priced books, or priced+public books for both stores.
        Indulis