The B&N Nook Reader Review Roundup

Dave Zatz —  December 7, 2009

In theory, Barnes & Noble’s Nook digital reader ($260) begins shipping today (and possibly also making appearances at select brick and mortar retail locations). As such, the first reviews have hit the blogosphere. B&N’s Kindle ($260) competitor appears to have a promising future featuring solid hardware, which consists of the requisite eInk display and a secondary capacitive color touchscreen for interaction, but the current software experience is lacking. B&N has promised updates to their sluggish Android-based device and to finish building out their cloud-based Nook services over the next couple months, but it’s always a crapshoot with new technology. Which is a bummer really, as the Nook generates lustful emotions in me that the pedestrian-looking Kindle never has. Guess I’ll continue to sit on the eReader sidelines, periodically reading books on my iPhone while awaiting the Apple Tablet.

SlashGearEase of use is the biggest element in the nook’s favor, with the touchscreen UI perhaps the most intuitive way of navigating the ebook experience that we’ve tried.

TechnologizerThe Nook isn’t a Kindle killer–not in this initial form, at least.

EngadgetIn the end, the Nook is an intriguing product launched by a powerful force in the world of booksellers, but the initial offering feels long on promises and short on delivery.

GizmodoAs long as you don’t expect apps and extras on a Kindle, it delivers the best ebook experience there is at this moment.

8 responses to The B&N Nook Reader Review Roundup

  1. Reviews cited above sound exactly like the pundits of Android phone circa 2007.

    I am sensitive to Dave ( everyone for that matter ) being hesitant to making an expensive gadget purchase, but that hesitancy should be founded on the company’s ( B&N ) ability to deliver on its promise – not the chosen operating system.

    Excluding Apple’s iPad( which will be utterly closed and outrageously expensive, $1,000+ ) in the race for e-reader market winner, my money is on the product that is built with *open* standards – the Nook.

    Open beats closed every time, without exception.

    References:

    4 Scenarios for Android, Minus the Phones
    http://gigaom.com/2009/11/10/4-scenarios-for-android-minus-the-phones/

    Nook vs. Kindle Portends the Next Wave of Android Disruption
    http://seekingalpha.com/article/170896-nook-vs-kindle-portends-the-next-wave-of-android-disruption

  2. Those pretty much confirm what I was thinking.

    The touchscreen is a gimmick, and using Android is a gimmick (yes, I said it – B&N is using Android only because it gives them some sort of cred in the geek community).

    Let me be clear: I don’t think it’s the OS, but rather the implementation of the OS. B&N seems to be approaching the market in the wrong direction – going for “cool” as opposed to “functional.”

    That’s why my money is not on the Nook. Not in its current incarnation, and not with B&N’s current direction. Maybe Nook 2 will change my mind.

  3. Todd,
    How is the Nook open? Still has DRM, still locks down control of the books, still tied to one store etc etc. The sharing aspect looks to be extremely limited although I guess we could say it’s a tiny step in the right direction. I do like the WiFi addition, but the free reading in stores isn’t here yet and when it arrives will be limited to 1 hour.

    I’m not saying the Nook is worse (or better) than the Kindle or Sony eReaders since I haven’t had the Nook in my hands yet, but I don’t understand how it’s really “open”.

  4. Agreed. TiVo may provide a good analogy. Their experience is built upon Linux, but you’re not loading any custom apps or drivers onto it. Probably TiVo and B&N choose their core OSes to save dev time and money. Not out of any goodwill for their consumers or open source community. Although, one review I read implied Android apps could be built for the Nook. But I’ll believe it when I see it deployed to all. (I think Roku’s player is built on Linux as well.)

  5. This one does look sexier than Kindle. Why does the Kindle have to be so butt-ugly anyway?

    Also, the only thing that an open OS like Android brings to bear here is the fact that it should reduce the overall cost of the device. Open is better, but that doesn’t mean that a device that uses an open OS is going to be automatically better than something on a closed OS. Apple has done pretty well with it’s closed echo-system. (Disclosure: I am a Droid fan-boy).

    Single use tech like this should stay away from all the widgets and apps regardless of OS. eBook readers should be cheap, portable, uber-simple to use, allow grabbing of content from the cloud, and have extra-long battery life. Everything else is in the way, IMHO. I am surprised that B&N and Amazon don’t give this thing away for a “Columbia Record & Tape Cub”- type commitment to buy a certain amount of content. I am sure they both are taking a loss, but if they want to win the adoption war, they are going to have make this thing dirt-cheap.

  6. @Brent

    Android is Open Source under a very liberal license, its about as open as you can get short of assigning it a public domain license. Extending Nook to accept a wider source of content, like the millions of books in the library of congress, universities and scholarly work of eons past over at Google Books is an afternoons worth of work ( as opposed to reformatting all of Google Books to a new closed proprietary schema ).

    @Dave

    TiVo is not a good analogy, but Roku *is*. You personally can attest to integration of your Netflix account, how easy it is, and why is that? because Roku uses oauth, which is Open Source.

    Rather than re-invent the wheel, as well as saving you from giving Roku your Netflix username and password, they simply adopted an open standard.

    Got a important pdf over on your Boxnet account? No problem, the Nook can access it ( those kind of API calls to the cloud are already in Android ). Need that critical business email inside your Zoho account, you got it.

    Kindle will take months of contract negociations first, then scratch code work to extend itself to those third party resources, not tomention they will all have to be re-formatted to comply with the closed Kindle OS/file format….and there will you will be charged extra to do so, so Amazon can recoup all those costs.

  7. We got a Nook and so far so good. We don’t have a lot of experience with a Kindle or Sony Reader, so it’s hard to compare. But we don’t have too many problems with the Nook so far. The screen is very nice and the color touch-screen is actually quite usable, including the surprisingly easy-to-use keyboard.

    I think it’s great that there’s competition for the Kindle now. Maybe they’ll keep adding more features, push new things like color and touch e-Ink screens, and generally give us more for our money.

    I am not yet convinced that the “open” platform of the Nook will be any better than the Kindle, but I am crossing my fingers. It may take time, but maybe they’ll allow more third-party integration than the Kindle which may open up more possibilities down the road. Maybe other wireless store integration*? eNewspaper and eMagazine apps for a better experience? Other new ideas we haven’t thought of before?

    BTW, my wife keeps wanting to touch the e-Ink screen while selecting articles. Just takes some getting used to. Would be nice to navigate the newspaper like a newspaper instead of a Netscape 1.0 web page.

    * Yeah, yeah. B&N probably doesn’t want to open the wireless store up to others. But maybe they want to, to open up more possibilities for readers to acquire content directly from the Nook instead of requiring a computer? This would differentiate them from the Kindle even more.

  8. We bought a Nook and set it up last night. By 10:00 the screen is messed up and you can’t see anything. Maybe we got a dud. I am going to exchange it today but I am leary.