Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Is it for "Reading Nook" or "New Book"?

So for Christmas last year my wife (surprise) got me a Nook from B&N. I wasn't planning on doing the e-book thing until the market had shaken out some, but I was pleasantly surprised. That was eight months ago, and I've used the device extensively in that time, so I thought I'd do a little sum-up/review/rumination thing. That's right. This post will have actual content. Amazing.

First, I'd like to talk a little about ebooks in general. I'm a big fan of the format. I'm in the process of moving, and I gave away something like fifteen boxes of books and still had to move another fifteen. It's ridiculous. I'm at the stage of trying to reduce the baggage in my life, and this is some pretty bulky baggage. Having a single item that could be my entire library? Awesome.

Also, I like being able to just buy a book wherever I am. I have no patience for bad books, so a great number of those books that I gave away were things that I only read half of before I lost patience and threw it (quite violently, on occassion) to start another. Being able to browse, buy and download a new book while sitting in my living room is all kinds of wonderful. Oh, and I can download samples, so maybe I buy fewer books that I'm just going to end up hating. My record on that isn't so good so far. But the theory is good.

The only bad thing I'm going to say about ebooks in general is that they're a single use device. I don't remember where I saw it, but someone pointed out that we used to have standalone word processors. Kind of a transition between typewriters and computers. I think ebooks, ultimately, are a transitory form of the ebook between paper and... something else. Maybe the iPad, or something similar. But I don't think this market is settled yet.

As to the Nook specifically, I experienced a lot of the stuff that you've heard about. Slow page turn. Awkward and counter-logical user interface. I had some network issues. It was definitely rushed to market, but that's all behind us. There have been several software updates, and I think the page thing is mostly hashed out. Download speeds have definitely improved. They've implemented a page turning feature with the touchscreen that lets you flick from page to page. It's not perfect. If you do it too slowly, nothing happens. Too fast, nothing happens. If you don't drag your finger over enough of the screen, it opens up the menu instead of turning the page. It's touchy. I spend too much time thinking about how exactly I should strike the screen, and then end up using the button instead. Hopefully they'll work it out.

I'm not entirely convinced about the ability to browse covers. Postage stamp sized covers don't cut it. And even when I filter my search pretty tightly, I end up having to flip through hundreds of books, squinting at these tiny covers that don't really speak to the book that well. It's a nice idea, but I'm just not feeling it.

The other thing that annoys me is how hard it is to flip through a book. If there's a cast of characters or a map or something at the beginning of a book, it's really tough to stop and flip to that and then come back to where I was reading. Right now, that's a failing of the format, and the Nook's still awkward user interface.

Final thought about the format. I read books, and I read manga. I can read all the books I want on the Nook. Manga, I have to buy the real thing. This has me thinking about the iPad, and I'm sure my brothers in the comic books world think the same thing. That's something the Nook (and its e-ink brethren) will never be able to do. So there's that.

But understand. I've got a lot of complaints on here. I haven't bought a single physical book in the last six months. The technology is still figuring itself out, but we as an industry need to accept that this is how we're going forward. There's a lot of infrastructure in place to support the paper book market. It's all going away. Adjust your expectations, and advance.

*Edited to add* Joshua has noted that the whole "word processors were popular for a while, too" thing came from this article in the NYT. Read and enjoy.


At 8:26 AM , Blogger Maria said...

I looked for a long while at the choices--and ended up buying a netbook. It's about 7 inches-folded, it's the same size as a kindle, just a bit thicker.

I bought it because I wanted email and web access AND books when traveling. I had to have "real" windows, not CE so that I could download Nook for PC and Kindle for PC, etc.

Works great. It's small, portable and does a few things fairly well. The keyboard isn't a full keyboard, but it's better than touch screen. I can see the covers in color. Backlighting doesn't really bother me (I type all day on my laptop so what's the difference.)

The price (refurb) was the same as the new Kindle--130 out of box, 140 with added memory.

Can't complain. I like it so far and like you, I've been reading almost exclusively ebooks the last...9 months. I *love* the sample feature.

At 8:41 AM , Anonymous Mike Alexander said...

I'm one of those easily-distracted people, so I'd love a dedicated word processor instead of a laptop or netbook or whatever. The internet killed my productivity. Closest thing I've found is the Alphasmart Neo, but the small screen (8 lines of text max) makes it unsuitable for a lot of jobs (fine for drafting, crap for editing).

Not jumped to e-readers yet. I like the theory, but not the current tech (or cost!). Like you, I could do with reducing my book collection though!

At 12:14 PM , Blogger Maria said...

Ah yes, distractions. When I really need to get writing done, the internet has to go. There is an off switch you know...just disconnect ye ole wireless...



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