In the financial world, companies and investments are upgraded and downgraded in a big ol grade scale, and I’ve been using a similar scale to try to track my interest in the Barnes and Noble reading device, the nook. Only instead of A or B or + and -, I’m a little less specific. Right now, I’m on the border between, “Meh” and “ORLY?” We’re a good ways off from “OH HELL YEAH,” in other words.
I’ve heard some folks bellowing from the rooftops that This is the Digital Reader that will SAVE CHRISTMAS, make EGGS, and maybe revolutionize digital reading to become….drumroll please…THE KINDLE KILLER.
*cue Wilhelm scream and the sound of a hundred hardbacks hitting the carpet*
To put the device in baseball terms, and I say this without having touched anyone’s nook yet (cue another Wilhelm scream from the nook in question at being approached by yours truly): it might be a triple but no one has brought in the run yet.
You can read about the nook at Wired and Engadget and DearAuthor and a whole mess of other places, so I’m going to do a list of what I think is awesome and what I think is meh about it. I’ll update with a more complete review once I, you know, actually touch it.
*cue Wilhelm scream again*
1. Sharing books. Ok, hyperventilating about sharing needs to stop. There’s a difference between file sharing, which is often piratical acts of uploading a file so a bazillion people can get their own copy for free, and the ebook sharing that’s being discussed regarding the nook.
With the nook, you’ll be able to lend a book for 14 days, and during that time you won’t be able to read the lent book yourself. Cool, but, really? Really really?
My first thoughts: “Have publishers given the ok on that? How many times can you lend? Is it a one-time thing?” because the resistance to any type of sharing, even the type that builds an audience for an author by allowing a single reader to lend her copy of a book to a friend, is enormous, and I’m not entirely sure BN can pull off the sharing as broadly (and vaguely) as they’ve promised:
Yes. With our new LendMe™ technology, you can now share from nook to nook. But it doesn’t stop there. Starting Nov. 30th, you can lend to and from any device with the Barnes & Noble eReader app, including PC, Mac OS®, BlackBerry®, iPhone™ and iPod® touch. All you need to know is your friend’s email address. You can lend many of your eBooks one time for a maximum of 14 days. When you use our LendMe™ technology, you will not be able to read your eBook while it is on loan, but you always get it back.
I hope it’s lending to more than one person. I hope I can lend a book I like more than one time. I’m not holding my breath on that hope, and that’s a damn shame.
As one Bitchery reader, Lil Deviant, emailed me after the nook announcement:
If my sister and I could swap out books I would definitely be interested. I like reselling my used books. But its the whole OMG YOU HAVE TO READ THIS that is so much fun. I would give up the resale if I can share something I really enjoyed.
Amen to that. The biggest loss with digital books is the loss of the “OMG YOU HAVE TO READ THIS” lending ability.
The promise of lending: WIN. The delivered reality? I’m witholding judgment until I see it in action, and I see how many titles feature the “LendMe” button.
2. In Store Browsing. I wrote about this back in July: shopping for digital books in a bookstore without feeling like a douchebag for browsing the paper then buying the digital? WIN.
With the WiFi on board (though, SOB, it’s from AT&T which means I would have better luck in some parts of my area knitting books out of air and dust bunnies) and the ability to browse in the local Barnes and Noble while buying digitally, I call that a big ol Winner Winner Chicken Dinner.
3. The name. Are you freaking kidding me? Which bonehead didn’t Google the word Nook?. Seriously, if the onboard bookstore has an erotica section, it had better be called “nookie.”
5. Library borrowing: This is my biggest fail with the Kindle: no library books. And this seems like a possibility that will come in the near future to the nook if it’s not clearly part of the plan already (and I missed it in the massive media blitz that repeated the same three points).
I think one of Sony’s greatest opportunities in their upcoming wireless device is to have a library access point on boad the device so folks can wirelessly download and read books from their local digital-book-enabled public library any time, any where. That would be so very very awesome.
6. Design: From the initial pictures, the color display that allows for book browsing and the eink above is pretty slick looking. But I’m hoping the color part is for more than just browsing.
7. Expandable memory: OH HELL YEAH. I am a ho for your SD Slot. (Hahaha – yer nook has a slot!)
8. Wireless: Hold up. Interesting: the wireless access is inside the Barnes & Noble store only. For the love of crap, what the hell is that about? Hackable or not, seriously, limitations= bad.
Judging by that initial limitation, in device-land comparisons on wireless access we have:
Kindle: wireless everywhere with shopping from Amazon only (unless you tether to a PC or Mac and engage in creative hackery)
nook: wireless in the Barnes & Noble store (unless you crack that mess or they open up access)
So, I’ve ordered a nook, and am awaiting its delivery, at which time I’ll head to the giant cavernous Barnes and Noble near me (seriously, this store couldn’t possibly be any bigger. It’s huge) and have some fun trying it out.
But my reaction until then, and until the specifics of the Sony Wireless device are released, remains somewhere between “meh” and “ORLY?” I count myself fortunate that because of the hot pink website you’re reading, I have the option to order one and try it out without hurting myself financially, so I’ll do my best to give as thorough a review as possible.
What I do like most, though, is that the examination of the Kindle and the nook and the devices in between have led to more questions on how readers read, and what digital reading folks want in a device. Which leads me to the biggest flaw so far:
1. No on board file organization on the nook.
WOE. The Kindle? A nightmare and a mess if you don’t keep it organized somehow. The pleasure I get out of organizing my books on the Sony is unparalleled, and it speaks volumes about the readers BN discussed this product with that there’s no file organization. Even with the wireless and the ease of purchase with Kindle, the lack of organization is a massive problem for me. I’ve got over 150 books on my Sony – nicely filed in several different classifications by genre, publication date, and source of file. So this is a big, honking screamer of a problem.
If you have questions about the nook (or you want to meet me in The Cavernous Barnes and Noble in Clifton NJ and fondle my nook—*CUE WILHELM SCREM*) let me know what they are.
ETA: Liz from the Test Drivers loop sent a link that reveals that the ebooks at BN.com are higher in price than Amazon (and likely Target, Sears, KMart, Walmart, Steinmart, Bennigan’s, Ruby Tuesday’s, and anywhere else books are sold at this point) and that the lending is available for one time, one loan only. To quote Joe Wilcox:
The difference between Kindle and Nook is the difference between the approach of a real bookseller versus a warehouser. Barnes & Noble is trying to anticipate the needs of the reading customer. Use of physical stores and ebook lending are great examples of Barnes & Noble leveraging its strengths and anticipating what its customers want. But do those needs include paying as much as 50 percent more for ebooks than Amazon?