So it’s Friday, the day when I like to talk about reading. I like reading ebooks. That’s probably an understatement. I’ve had an ereader for a few years now. I have hundreds of ebooks. I’ve finally parted with probably 400-500 of my paperbacks in the last year. (I donated most of them to a women’s prison through a woman who volunteers there.) I am one of those people who will pretty much always choose digital over paper, to the point where I’ll pass on a paper-only book now.
This spring I upgraded from my Sony Reader to the NOOK Color. I had been wanting to do this, and I finally broke down when Barnes and Noble FINALLY opened up their app store. Unfortunately, their app store was pathetic and hugely disappointing, prompting me to root my new NOOK Color to function as an android tablet. Which is pretty freaking awesome.
See, first of all, I get pissy about the being told where to shop. I HATE proprietary formats. I don’t want to be bound to one shopping experience, one inventory, at the mercy of one store’s prices. I know that other places sell Kindle-compatible formats, but I’m very turned off by the fact that Kindle doesn’t read EPUB and when they decided to move forward with their exclusivity, I took them off my consideration list. I knew I wanted a device that would read EPUB.
I loved my Sony Reader, and when the cat knocked it off a table and busted the screen, I got a new (refurb) replacement device for maybe 1/6th the cost of a new one at that time, with very quick turnaround. Kudos to Sony for that customer service experience. Demerits for the Sony ebookstore which has never been thrilling and, even before the agency pricing model, didn’t have impressive sales and pricing. Tech was getting far ahead of the device I had, and, let’s face it, I’m a serious ebook girl. It was time to start looking around.
One thing that I really looked into were digital comics. And let me tell you, those guys are still a mess. But they’re working on it. So far there’s an been an issue (with the WORLD) of forgetting that there’s life beyond Apple, and I’m not about to buy and iAnything, but there are plenty of Android peeps screaming at them and hopefully they’re going to get their acts together. But anyway, with reading that includes comics and magazines on my agenda, a color device was definitely a draw.
Great Things about the NOOK Color
It is beautiful. I am not one of those people who are bothered by looking at the screen. But then, I don’t always have the brightness turned all the way up and I change the text depending on the my environment. The NOOK Color even has a setting for reading in bed where the text is white against a dark background so there’s less light to keep your partner awake.
Basically what I tell people is that it’s bright and beautiful. Everything is very clear and crisp. I can read in any light and I can make the text as large as I need it. (I’m about to be 40 remember.) And the range of sizes is much about twice what I had on the Sony.
I really enjoy the touch screen and turning pages with swipe or just by tapping the edge of the screen. I like being able to highlight text and make notes, especially when proofreading my own work.
The size works for me. It’s a little tall, but not outside purse-carrying size. I don’t WANT anything bigger than this. It’s also a little heavier than my Sony Reader–it’s bigger and the screen is longer by probably 1.5 inches. I do get tired holding it in the same hand for extended periods. I’ve also had severe carpal tunnel and have lost a lot of muscle, so factor that in. I’ve got it in a third-party leather cover that latches and has pockets. I think the cover is actually made for e-ink NOOK and this one just barely fits. But it’s the size of a planner or trade paperback and easy to tote around, holdable with one hand, and not ungainly to whip out on the checkout line.
With basic NOOK you get Library, Shop, Apps, and Web.
Library and Reading
The library, the reading application on the NOOK Color, is very nice and I’m happy with the way it functions. It also uses real page numbers which I vastly prefer over the Kindle’s percentage/location system. It may take me 2-4 screens of text to read one page (depending on the size I’ve made the text), but it just makes more sense to me, personally.
The NOOK Color has this awesomely impressive kids function: read-aloud books. They’re basically enhanced picture ebooks with an option of having an audio track read on each page. The bummer is that it seems to be hard for kids to get the pages to turn, so you’re having to sit there and turn the pages and you may as well be reading the book yourself. And then some people don’t want a preschooler to touch their pricey ereader. (Not me, mine’s insured.) However, other people are putting out enhanced ebooks as individual apps, so NOOK Color hardly has a corner on this.
The NOOK book Shop is well integrated with the Library and buying a book or getting a sample is relatively quick and easy. Because the browser is a little slow, I’m not a good thumb-typist, and because I like to shop around, I do tend to do more shopping on the laptop, but the NOOK Color updates with my new purchases or samples right away.
Maybe the BN App Store has gotten better since I looked at it. When I first got my NOOK in the spring, the selection was pathetic. It was clear that BN would allow no apps that might compete with its own sales. So even though they don’t sell digital comics, no Comixology app, for example. (There were a few graphic novels available as apps. I think of individual book apps as just ebooks in a different format. Not quite the same thing and selection is poor.) And at the rate BN moves on anything, it was just damned depressing to think about having to wait for them to develop these things on their own.
Web browsing is okay. Slow and I’m not good at the virtual keyboard, so putting in addresses and searching is annoying for me. I don’t use it much.
What’s on my rooted NOOK
I don’t actually know how to explain what rooting is and get it right. Basically, after @techsurgeons and my husband defined a few terms for me, I followed a set of instructions, downloaded some stuff, and now the NOOK is half what it was before and half Android tablet. So I have this whole other menu of stuff I can add whatever I want to.
Unfortunately, many apps are only “conventionally” available via the Android Market, and because I have a device that’s not supposed to be able to get this stuff, Android Market often tells me my device is incompatible and won’t let me download stuff. I use the Amazon App Store a lot, and I look other places to find work-arounds.
Kindle app– If I want to buy something specifically to increase someone’s Kindle rank, I can buy it on Kindle. Or if it’s only available in ebook on Kindle. Or if the price is less on Kindle. And I have to say that I do enjoy just the mischief value of it.
Interweave Knits Magazine– Interweave has had digital back issues for a while now, but when they finally made new issues available by subscription and said it was available for Android, I jumped. Unfortunately I then found that Zinio, the company actually handling the digital version, did not provide their Android app directly and it was one of those Android Market said was incompatible with my device. After I had already bought the subscription and customer service wouldn’t let me have the app to even try it on my device and had no solution for me at this time, I went around them and got it myself. Incompatible my ass. Interweave Knits looks BEAUTIFUL on the NOOK Color, and I can refer to those patterns when I’m actually in the yarn shop now.
Comixology– I finally got the Comixology app. Again it’s one that I had to track down because Android Market hates my device. I haven’t done a lot of reading with it yet, but, again, it looks beautiful.
Cozi– I think I’ve mentioned before that I use the Cozi Family Planner to remind me about stuff. It reminds primarily through texts to my phone (my not a smartphone yet), which is good. But having the app in the NOOK allows me to use it as a date book. I can pull it out and add things offline, and then sync later.
Springpad– Springpad is something I find hand for making notes for myself on the go. I thumb-typed most of the structure of Heroes Under Siege in the car one day when a song particularly inspired me. (No, I wasn’t driving.) I can never find a working pen in those moments, so had it not been for the NOOK in my bag, I probably would have forgotten half of that by the time I got home. Again, the kind of thing you can work offline and sync later, which is great for wi-fi only devices.
Dropbox-I was already a Dropbox user because of Kait. We trade manuscripts and stuff like that through Dropbox often. She uses it heavily for transferring between work and home computers. Taking my cue from her, I’m finding it’s great for transferring things easily from laptop to tablet. It’s also all but essential for installing some apps. (I need to point out, btw, that nearly all the apps I use are free. I never go looking elsewhere for an app to avoid paying for it, and don’t install apps without paying for them if there’s a charge. There’s no reason to, and honestly it’s too much trouble to go hunting something down if I can just pay a few dollars and install right there.)
Fun and Useful Stuff and Things
Chuzzle– Yes, we’ve covered that I’m Pop Cap’s bitch. I try not to put too many games on NOOK, but this is my fav.
Pandora– I think Pandora might have been part of the original NOOK Color setup. But whatever. Who doesn’t love Pandora? Speaker on the device isn’t great, but whatever. I’m not picky. (about that)
Stopwatch and timer– because sometimes that’s damned useful.
Netflix– !!! Is finally here. Another one I had to go hunt down because it’s incompatible, and another one that seems to work just fine.
Battery life is an issue. I don’t know how well it works as just the basic reader. Running apps drains a battery and the fact that some of them are running when you don’t it can be problematic. A task manager app with a kill function is a must. I rarely have a problem, but when I was reading The Tipping Point like a mad woman over the weekend, I did have to read with it plugged in for a while.
There are some apps it would be cool to have that will never be compatible with the NOOK Color. No camera, no GPS, etc. I often think that, for the way I’m using it, as a date book through which I can also read books from anywhere, magazines, comics, proofreading and annotate my documents, IM my bestie from the McDonald’s playland… for all that stuff a genuine tablet might have been a better choice for me, especially if it meant that the Android Market would play nicer, though there’s certainly no guarantee of that–rooted NOOKs aren’t the only tablets tohave these issues, I believe.
I would have paid less for an e-ink device, but I’ve had one of those. I like this better and I’m getting a ton more use out of it. I paid less for this than an actual tablet. I’m getting a lot of use of out it, but also a lot of hassle.
I’d say that if you’re just going to use it for reading, you should consider your reading needs. Do you like e-ink? Is color a big part of your reading?
If you’re more like me and have the shop-anywhere issue, or the I want one device to rule them all issue, then it’s partly a matter of cost and what you can afford to put into it. The NOOK Color is definitely an less expensive alternative at this time.
But it’s also a matter of tech savvy, confidence, and tolerance for frustration. Rooting the NOOK Color isn’t hard, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s pretty freakin’ intimidating. I’m the kind of person who likes to learn stuff, and the kind who finds it rewarding to make things work that weren’t supposed to. So after the hair-pulling frustration, I get a lot of lasting satisfaction out of having made the world bend to my will. I’ll enjoy Interweave Knits more because Zinio’s customer service wouldn’t help me. (Which is very wrong.) However, if you don’t have that thing that I have, then it might not be worth it.
This is a pretty non-standard ereader device review. If you have any questions about the device, please feel free to ask me. I’m sorry that I’m able to provide info on everything I’ve read or a clear understanding of what I did. But perhaps knowing that understanding it all is not required may be helpful. I can no longer find the exact link(s) I used (I’ve changed computers since then), but I believe that everything you’d need can be found here.