Nook Clarified: Really solid progress for e-readers

Nook Clarified: Really solid progress for e-readers

Summary: Yesterday, I posted a long analysis of what I thought was right and strangely wrong about the Barnes & Noble Nook. Matt Miller today got a clarification about my main concern, which was that Barnes & Noble seemed to have said, according to several published reports, that Wi-Fi would work only in its stores at launch and be "opened up.


Yesterday, I posted a long analysis of what I thought was right and strangely wrong about the Barnes & Noble Nook. Matt Miller today got a clarification about my main concern, which was that Barnes & Noble seemed to have said, according to several published reports, that Wi-Fi would work only in its stores at launch and be "opened up." A PR representative for Barnes & Noble's agency, Fleishman, attributed the Wi-Fi information to "an error, so we're glad to clarify it today."

Matt asked the question of William Lynch, president of Barnes & Noble on a press call this morning and got the clear answer: Nook Wi-Fi will work in stores and on Wi-Fi networks operated by third-parties and on home computer networks to allow shopping in the store. I've been able to get some additional details and, to some degree, my criticisms in yesterday's article have been addressed. I'm going to leave that article up, with clarifications and corrections as part of the public record. I have confirmed it, as well, though only on background.

Nook Wi-Fi will work at launch anywhere you want to use it.

That said, I still think the Nook has some flaws, which are fewer and less bizarre than I thought.

I also received clarification of another important point I raised yesterday: Shopping in the Barnes & Noble e-books store is free via 3G, but it was not clear that Google Books titles would be accessible via free 3G service. That would have raised a lot of synching issue for customers who, frankly, don't want to synch as much as early adopters are willing to do it.

Barnes & Noble, through its PR firm, said that Google Books will be downloadable from the eBookstore. So, B&N is subsidizing its customers wireless access to free out-of-print books offered by Google, which is a very good thing indeed.

If you are visiting, you will have access to more than one million e-books, more than twice the total available at There are issues of quality in Google Books, but the solution is for either volunteer or for-profit editorial fixes of those books. That means a lot less synching than I thought.

Finally, one of my disappointments (based on the potential for an Android device described in this pre-launch posting) was that the Android OS was not accessible to programmers (never mind the potential for cracking it, I want to see programming supported by B&N). It struck me as odd that, for example, there was no Android B&N e-reader client for smartphones with which a Nook owner could share an e-book downloaded on the Android-based Nook.

B&N, again via Fleishman, said that an Android e-reader client will be introduced soon. No specific date was given.

Several readers excoriated me via email, and they are welcome to criticize but not to deploy abuse. The process of reporting a story, especially as an unpaid blogger, is somewhat different than having a budget to fly to New York to attend a press event. So, I must rely in doing analysis on breaking news on what is written by people who do attend. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and TeleRead all reported that Wi-Fi worked in the stores but not outside, based on comments made by B&N people at the event. You will have to forgive me if, in trying to find out the truth by treating FAQs with skepticism when they use very vague language that seem to create exception situations, I raise questions for which I do not currently have an answer. I tend to trust people who cover an event more than the company holding the event, because that is our job as customers, to question until the truth is perfectly clear. It wasn't clear yesterday and it is more correct today.

Having gotten clarification, I believe what I wrote yesterday, that Nook enters the e-reader race in a dead heat with Kindle 2 for anyone not currently invested in a Kindle library. That's pretty good for a first try, a triumph for Barnes & Noble. I don't think it is a revolutionary device, particularly because an almost identical dual-screen Android-based device, from Spring Design, was announced the day before.

In addition to yesterday's non-Wi-Fi related criticisms, I'll add: Nook should allow books to be loaned more than once. It should be using the Web features of the Web-centric Android OS, it ought to open Nook to third-party development that could substantially enhance the reading experience. And, ultimately, all these hardware devices offered by booksellers are transient devices whose primary purpose is to get readers engaged with a bookseller's library management services.

In the long run, this is not about selling hardware but all about selling books. The Nook and Kindle will not likely be what we use to read in five years. We will, though, still want and use access to the titles we buy on those devices today.

Cross-posted to, which is where I blog about the future of reading.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Networking, Wi-Fi

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  • Reading PDF Files

    The Nook supports PDF files, downloaded from a PC via the USB connection. Will the PDF files be zoomable? The answer to that could enhance or limit the Nook's usefulness.
  • RE: "Access to the titles we buy"

    That's one reason why I'm leaning toward the Nook. I have a number of .pdb format e-books from eReader and Fictionwise, both now owned by Barnes and Noble. I want a "system," not just a piece of hardware, that will let me read the books I buy in multiple different ways. It is in B&N's best interest to make readers available for more platforms.
  • RE: Nook Clarified: Really solid progress for e-readers

    But how do PDFs look on screen? Are they crisp? Can you resize them? How well do color documents translate to the greyscale screen? I have plenty of technical docs and brochures that I'd love to load onto an eReader, but I've not read any review that goes into how well the Nook handles PDFs.
  • RE: Nook Clarified: Really solid progress for e-readers

    Mitch, to add more info:

    From the Nook User Guide online

    "Your nook can connect to Wi-Fi hotspots (places that offer wireless Internet access).

    Your nook cannot use Wi-Fi hotspots that require acceptance of terms and conditions or that have account authentication.

    Your nook will connect to the hotspots, but activities that us [sic] the network such as shopping are not possible. If you add such a hotspot, you should have your nook forget it."

    Since shopping is the main thrust of any bookstore, that makes sense.

    Here's page 66 and and the how-to there:

    Your nook?s wireless connectivity lets you shop for eBooks, magazines, and newspapers from the Barnes & Noble eBookstore from your nook. There is no need to visit a website.

    [ This is likely why they didn't make a web browser for the Nook (at least for now). One could be a revenue source in the future. ]

    What you buy is delivered to your online digital library immediately and downloaded to your nook within about a minute. For a subscription, the current issue is delivered and downloaded.
    Enter the Shop by tapping shop on the Home menu..."

    - Andrys