Nook: A good Kindle alternative – but just for fun.

NookAs it was about time to replace my aging Kindle, I looked for an alternative e-reader. Although I enjoyed the Kindle experience, buying another Amazon product was out of the question for me. Therefore I tried to compare other readers to Kobo and Nook. The best part is that since I had my original Kindle things had moved on, and pretty much all are smaller (they almost fit into a pocket…), lighter, have touch screens (which isn’t always good), and offer a “light” function(a real selling point for me). I always wondered why the original Kindle didn’t have this, as it is a handy function for reading in bed, when traveling etc…

In the shop I tried out the Kobo, but found the device to be flimsy and hard to handle. Specifically, I found the Kobo to be hard to hold as it was quite thin and offered no support. Also, as the sides where your hands hold the Kobo are quite narrow: I ended up inadvertently turning pages by simply holding it – the downside of touch screens I guess. I also played with the Amazon Paperlight to compare it. The Kindle was a lot nicer than the Kobo, though I couldn’t really see many differences between the Nook and the Kindle (apart from the annoying Amazon “adverts” on the Kindle. Yes, you buy it and you still get adverts!). This made it somewhat easier to decide to say “bye bye” to Amazon (and next time, pay your taxes!).

The Nook experience so far has been quite good for me – at least for casual reading. Similar to the Kindle, the reading is easy and does not tire the eyes, as I find reading on an iPad or a computer for long periods quite tiring. The light function is a great addition, as it allows me to read in bed without disturbing my partner or in similar situations where it is inconveniencing to people around you to switch on the lights (I’m thinking especially of planes here… for example). Reading with the back-light on is a bit less “nice”, but still very comfortable. The weight difference is remarkable and makes reading quite a “light” experience – but the Nook does this without feeling flimsy.

I found the touch screen and various functions of the Nook to be pretty self-explanatory,  the main difference to my Kindle experience is that files are transferred directly onto the device via a cable (which also charges the Nook). I.e. the Nook is lacking the “email to send to device” functionality the Kindle has. That really isn’t terribly annoying for me, but it’s a feature that the Nook is definitely lacking.

Purchasing books can be done via the “build in” Nook store, which I assume is run by Barnes & Noble (?) in the UK. If you want to buy “local”, then Foyles and Waterstones offer “Nook-compatible” eBook stores – but you will have to download the book from the retailers website and transfer it onto your Nook. Prices seem to be pretty much the same across the three stores for the books that I checked, and comparable to Amazon prices for the Kindle for fiction items.

While the Nook (and previously the Kindle) are great for casual reading, as far as “academic reading” goes, however, both are quite useless. An advancement I noticed was that the Nook rendered journal article PDFs fairly well. My Kindle previously made a mess out of PDFs which made reading them pretty awkward. Reading articles “just for fun” is therefore quite possible on the Nook, but it is tedious to make notes – and worst of all, the Nook has no way I know of of getting notes back out of the device (preferably in the form of annotations). This functionality is still the domain of iPad and iAnnotate/Goodreader/Papers etc… see here for a “how to”. In fact, I  found that reading academic books on the Kindle (or the Nook I assume) is simply a waste of time. It is impossibly hard to annotate and tedious to check references – or quickly navigate to a specific section. Moreover, the price differential between academic ebooks and “real books” is quite small. Annoyingly though, I found that Kindle academic books are sometimes a lot cheaper than books for the Nook, despite the “competition” of Foyles, Waterstones and Barnes & Noble (I hope these companies are paying their tax from the price differences!).

To summarise, I’d say the Nook is small, convenient and almost the right size to fit into your pocket. I like it for “casual” reading, similar to the Kindle, but when it comes to serious “academic” reading the difficult to use annotating/note-taking and lacking exporting functionality is pretty much a deal breaker. So overall a great little device for some fun reading, maybe a lovely gift for the holidays and convenient for traveling – but not quite an all-round talent for academics.

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