Nook Feedback - Reading Textbooks

by Aaron 22. December 2011 07:24

I may have mentioned once or twice, I really like my Nook. I bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 not long ago. I installed the Nook app on there and use it as another reader on occasion. It's a fantastic compliment to the Nook. I'll get into that later.

Because I like the Nook so much for reading, I decided to take it a step further. I bought a technical book (textbook) to read on it. The book was "The Art of Unit Testing" by Roy Osherove. I reviewed it in my last post. My opinion of reading textbooks on the Nook wasn't as positive as my review of Mr. Osherove's book. Which, if you read my review, you're probably making a face right now. The kind of face like you just watched a video of some guy getting kicked in the nuts. That face!

Here are what I feel the pros and cons are for reading tech books on the Nook.

Pros

First of all, think of the biggest, thickest, heaviest tech book (or any kind of book for that matter) that you've read or own. If you have it handy, pick it up. try reading a page from it. If you don't have it handy, visualize it in your mind. Feel or picture the strain on your wrists. Maybe the book is so unwieldy that you have to set it down and read it on a table or desk.

Now picture reading that same book, except it's height and width are similar to a paperback. It's about 1/4" thick, and it's held easily in one hand. That's the major pro! On the Nook, a book that's wide, thick, 500 pounds, or some other undesirable attribute, is now easy to hold and read! Aching wrists and losing your place are things of the past!

Another pro, if the book is part of your Barnes & Noble library (read: you bought it from Barnes & Noble), you can read the same book on multiple devices: phone, tablet, laptop, Nook, whatever device there's an app for it. If you bought your eBook from, say, Manning for example, you don't have that page sync feature. I want to find something for that, but its not a priority yet.

Searching for keywords is another pro. It's not something that you can do easily on device though. I just tested it out on my tablet using the Android Nook app, and I got a nice listing of what chapter and page the keyword was on, and a snippet of the line that contains it. Very nice since if I'm searching for a keyword, I'm probably not going to do it from my Nook itself. I'm more likely to look for specific things while on my tablet or PC.

If you've got an eReader, or have read about them, then you're probably familiar with the other pros of using them. I'm not going to elaborate anymore on them here.

Cons

There are a couple of things that I don't really care for with reading textbooks on the Nook. After looking into it, I think they're probably just obstacles for a device like the Nook and probably the Kindle.

The first thing was the font. The font for the majority of the text is fine, but the code samples in the book I read were in a fixed width font that was really thin. It was like a really thin Courier New. It was difficult to read. I tried changing fonts without much, if any, improvement. It's not as bad in the Nook app on my tablet.

The other issue was with the code samples themselves. Most of them were fine, but there were a couple of samples that were so long they ran off the bottom of the screen. That would be fine if the sample continued on the next page, which happened with most of the samples. But a couple of them ran off the page and I'm assuming into oblivion. I'll never know how those code samples ended. I wish that I had kept track of them because I wanted to compare with the PC and Android versions to see if it was simply a device issue. I skimmed through the samples on my tablet and on the desktop to see if I could find the same kind of issue on the apps, but they appeared to be fine. I also compared the look to how the Kindle app rendered the mobi version, and while there were some differences, it rendered fine there too. So I think that it's a shortcoming of the device.

Another con is that you can't put your books on display. How are people going to know that you're smart if you can't put all of your tech books on display for them to see? Nobody's going to be able to "oh" and "ah" over your big brain made smrter by reading yor big books.

Summary

Initially I really had hoped for better. After finishing "The Art of Unit Testing", I vowed that I wasn't going to buy another tech book in eBook format! I swore that I was going to tell the world about how horrible it is to read a tech book on an eReader!

I bought two more eBooks from Manning a few days ago...

Since the initial read, I've played with the Nook apps for PC and Android. Now, I think the freely available Nook apps help overcome the pain I felt when reading on the Nook itself. And the reality is that I'm moving more toward the convenience and awesomeness of the Nook and the free Nook apps. I'm finding it harder and harder to justify having a physical book when I can carry so many books around in such a convenient package and be able to search through them easily like I would a white paper or the internet.

I'm going to continue to grow my eBook collection and eventually stop buying printed books. Though for tech books, I might use my tablet more for reading instead of the Nook itself. Unfortunately, I won't be able to show off my growing book collection, but my officemate has died or moved away (spiders hate cold weather?) and wouldn't appreciate what he was seeing anyway.

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Review - Barnes & Noble Nook Firmware v1.5

by Aaron 18. December 2010 00:20

My conclusion on the recent (November 2010) Nook update: kick-ass!

I was pretty excited when I got the email saying that the update was available.  I didn't know what to expect.  Faster page turns.  How much faster?  Other stuff.  What other stuff?

The Good

There are several features that I think are great in this most recent update.  The first is faster page turns.  I decided to do a little timing to do a comparison.  The old firmware for Nook had page turns at 2 Mississippis.  It was consistently 2 Mississippis.  I updated the Nook.  After it booted up, I opened the book I was reading.  I turned the page...2 Mississippis.  I was pissed, but of course, you have to try things multiple times to get a real sampling.

The second page turn wasn't lightning fast, but it was fast.  It took half the time to change pages.  That's right, it was a single Mississippi.  Reading a book became a little difficult for a couple of nights because my habit was to press the button to change pages before I got to the end of the last sentence.  The page would change as I was finishing the sentence and I could shift my consuming gaze to the top of the page and continue on with little interruption.  Now though...I had to go BACK multiple times because I missed the last few words of the page.  Of course I've adjusted, and I love it.  Quick response.  Well done Barnes & Noble.

Also in the update, you can now organize your books with a virtual bookshelf.  I like this because now I can organize things in such a way that keep my professional books separated from my murder mystery novels which are also separated from my fantasy fiction novels.  I see that look on your face.  Don't judge me.

Finally, of the features that I've noticed and care about, there's an online sync for your books.  The one thing that I know about is syncing the page that you're on so when you go to another device, you can pick up where you left off.  I believe this is a feature that the Kindle has had for a while.  I don't know, but I hope that it syncs bookmarks and notes as well.  I'll look into whether or not those features sync if I ever use them.

To use the syncing capability, you have to have a network connection.  That means that if you typically use your Nook in airplane mode to conserve battery (like I do), then you have to enable wi-fi.  That leads me to the first thing I don't like.

The Bad

One of my gripes was that it's not easy to enable wi-fi.  I would like to do it from anywhere so that now I can sync my page number.  I don't want to go to the home screen, w-fi, then enable wi-fi.  I want to get to that wi-fi menu from anywhere.  I still can't, and it bugs the crap out of me.  Fortunately, one of the issues I always had is that it wouldn't enable wi-fi easily when going to the store.  It seems to connect to wi-fi more readily now.  But I still have to go through all the steps of putting it in airplane mode.  Not a fan of the number of steps here.

My second gripe is the on-screen keyboard.  It's still slow.  A handful of keys into typing, I see the letters start popping up, and I have to wait to make sure I didn't fat finger anything.

My third gripe is the web browser.  It's no longer beta (hurray?), but I still find it rather pointless.  Again, it chews through battery life, it's still black and white, and it's still slow.  I would be just as happy if it didn't exist on my Nook.

Conclusion

I already said it: kick-ass!  The Nook was already a worthy competitor to the Kindle.  Now with the most recent firmware update, it's a more worthy competitor.

It's not perfect, nor will it ever be.  I'm one of those people that nothing is ever perfect.  I'm not perfect either, so don't think I'm elevating myself to a higher plane of existence here.  Back to my point though, it's good enough.  Good enough for who?  Or is it "good enough for whom?"  Me.  And probably you.  And probably most people that are interested in an ebook reader.

So, if you're still wondering if you should get a Nook, go to Barnes & Noble, play with the Nook, listen to the sales pitch, and decide for yourself.

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Review - Barnes and Noble Nook

by Aaron 24. October 2010 07:46

This year for Sarah's 3rd 29th birthday (yes, I said that correctly), I bought her a Nook.  I got her the 3G version instead of just the wi-fi version.  While I have a rooted Android phone that I can use for a mi-fi, she doesn't and wouldn't know how to.  I wanted her to be able to connect and get a book wherever she was regardless of wi-fi.  Several weeks later I bought myself the wi-fi version.

We went all out getting the screen protectors and covers for them.  The screen protector seems kinda pointless now that I don't touch the reader screen anymore, but the cover is great.  If I had to do it again, I wouldn't bother with the screen protectors (about $20), but I definitely would want the cover still.

I've been using my Nook for several weeks now.  At first I had a "meh" attitude about it.  Now though, I think it's great.  Let me tell you about the things I like and those things that I don't like.

The Good

Let's start with the good.  I love the screen itself.  I tend to read in low-light situations so that I don't bother Sarah anymore than necessary with my light while I'm reading.  This screen is great in low light situations.  It's noticeably better than actual paper itself.

I like holding it versus a real book.  A real book, the pages sometimes slip from my finger causing a reading distraction.  There are no pages on this!  No distraction.  I also don't feel nervous about breaking the spine on it.  There is no spine!

I should follow that up with one of my obsessive issues: I do my best to keep my books looking new.  I don't dog-ear the pages, I don't bend the spine so much that it'll break it.  I try not to get water or dirt, or oil on the pages.  I wouldn't even write or highlight in my college textbooks.  I don't have any of these worries with the Nook.

The touch screen is nice.  It's small and not obtrusive.  It turns off after a few minutes so that I don't get the glare when I'm reading.  It's in color.

Getting new books is a breeze!  You can either do it from the comfort of your Nook, or you can buy it online and begin reading it on the Nook.  The phone apps integrate with your online library so you can use your phone to read your library too.

There's a lending feature available.  It's a bit limited, and only available for books that the publisher give the OK.  But, this feature allows you to check out books from the public library.  The library here in Columbus, OH allows members to download books and put them on their Nook.

The Bad

There are a few things that I don't care for with the Nook.  I'm going to preface this part with: there's an update coming that will improve some of the things I'm griping about.  More of that later.  First off, turning pages is a little slow.  I don't really notice it anymore, but I still try to time hitting the next page button a few words before the end of the current page so I can move to the top with very little "interruption".

The search feature sucks.  It's slow, and it's like Notepad: goes to each instance of the word as you find next or previous.  It doesn't give you a listing/summary of instances of the search terms found.  You also can only search in the current book, and not through the entire library.  I understand some of the issues that the developers might encounter with a library search, so I can live with this.

There's a web browser.  It's kinda cool, but really: why?  It's slow.  It renders black and white, except for the touch screen area.  It chews through the battery life quickly.  It serves very little purpose.

I would like to be able to turn airplane mode on and off more easily.  Right now, I have to go out to the main menu, into the Wifi menu, and then back out after toggling airplane mode.  I want airplane mode on except when I need to do something online (download or buy a book).  That's not very often because I'm a slow reader.

The on-screen keyboard is slow!  I can't emphasize that enough.  I'll type half a dozen characters, look at the screen, and I'll see them render one about every second or two.  That kind of thing makes me appreciate the physical keyboard on the Kindle and hate touchscreen keyboards more than I already do.

The Awesome

November is going to be an awesome month!  A new season of Burn Notice starting.  A new season of Psych is starting.  And the Nook is getting an update!

Like I mentioned, some of my complaints are being remedied.  Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of details on the improvements themselves, I just know that page turns will be faster, and the search will be improved.  Two things that I really want!  I hope the keyboard works better too.  We'll see though.

Conclusion

I don't want anybody to think that the Kindle is a bad choice.  I personally find the Kindle to be a nice device.  I don't like having a physical keyboard always around.  I would prefer if it slid out or something.  The screen and features are very comparable, and at least the search works on the Kindle in a manner that I find acceptable.

I made my decision based on two things: I didn't have to buy it online, and word of mouth.  People that I know that have both devices prefer their Nook.  At the time that we bought our Nooks, the Kindle wasn't available in local stores.  We were able to go to Barnes and Noble and play with the Nook.  We didn't have to go to a friend's house to check it out, or hope that the information online was enough to base our decision on.

Of course now the Kindle can be purchased at local stores, and you can check it out in person.  Too late!  We already made our choice, and we're both very happy.

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