It was just about a half a year ago I bought my Amazon Kindle 2. Six months later and I still love it. It’s a one trick pony, but hey, who doesn’t love ponies? Seriously, it’s just great at what it does. My Kindle’s index is about nine pages long, full of books I’ve read, books I plan to read, books that are partially read samples that I might take a look at some time, and articles saved through my own KClipper application. I know there are a lot more features it could have, but when you are reading a book, all those wished-for-but-nonexistent-features just seem to disappear.
So last week I caught wind of the hottest new competitor to hit the market. Or at least to be announced on the market, the Barnes and Noble Nook:
After laughing a bit about the name, I started watching the videos and checking out the specs. It looks pretty good on paper (or in the web browser to be accurate). If it’s close to as good as it seems to be, I’ll probably pick one up.
Features that have me interested:
- Additional storage through a micro SD slot. Not sure why this is cool, since I’m nowhere near the 2GB storage on my Kindle. But good to have the option. Also, you can use it to transfer files to the device.
- Removable battery. Batteries don’t last forever. Nice to be able to replace it without sending the whole unit in. Then again, the way technology moves, battery life probably outlasts how long you own any one device before upgrading to the next big thing. I mean, six months and I’m already considering giving up my Kindle. 🙂
- Wifi as well as 3G. I assume that means you can transfer stuff to the device over wifi. Good if you don’t always carry that sync cable with you everywhere. Also cool you live in an area with really bad 3G coverage.
- Another one of the hooks of having wifi is that if you are physically IN a Barnes and Noble store, you can get access to exclusive content only available on the free B&N wifi. Not sure what that is, but apparently there are also in-store discounts you can take advantage of, and coolest of all is that eventually you will be able to read entire books in-store without buying them. Fantastic if you live near a Barnes and Noble. It becomes a library. [edit – though on second thought, you can just do that with regular books in a bookstore as well. And I’ve never done it. 🙂 I still think it’s cool though.]
- Personalized screensavers. Not that I don’t respect the selection of famous authors Amazon has supplied us with, but I sometimes get a bit self conscious when I pull my Kindle out on the train and look like some kind of Emily Dickinson and Oscar Wilde fanboy. I know there’s a hack to use your own photos on the Kindle, but from what I understand, all those hacks have to be removed in order to install firmware updates. Too much trouble.
- Native PDF support. Say no more.
- And of course that nifty little color touch screen display on the bottom. Gimmicky perhaps, but seriously, anything has to be better than the e-ink/joybutton navigation on the Kindle. Well, who knows. Maybe they screwed it up royally and made something worse, but you have to hope.
Things that I don’t care about so much:
- The whole lending thing. This also pretty gimmicky. I suppose if I had a bunch of friends with Nooks, and we had similar tastes in books, it could be fantastic. But I’m guessing I probably won’t use that feature very often.
- They are making a huge deal about the line of covers available for it, but Kate Spade and Jack Spade. Yeah, covers are nice, but they are pushing them way too hard. Wrong focus.
Things that concern me:
- Performance. Both of the e-ink display and the color touch screen. The e-ink page refresh in the main video (“Hi I’m Katy and this is my Nook”) appears to be noticeably slower than the Kindle. And the scrolling and animation on the color screen looks pretty choppy. Hard to tell though, because all you are seeing is a compressed on-line video of a pre-release device. So I’m trying to withhold judgement there. However, I’ve read a number of blogs and reports from people who were at the event(s) where the Nook was shown, and all said that the B&N people would let no one touch the thing or experience it hands-on. Speculation is naturally that it just wasn’t ready for prime time – either buggy or slow.
- Um… I guess that’s about it.
So I would say that there’s a good chance that I’ll be a Nook owner come the beginning of December. I’m not preordering though. Still concerned about how the thing actually works in real life. Luckily, Barnes and Noble is a real brick and mortar store and will have displays where you can see and touch and interact with a real Nook in-store once they are released. I’ll hold out til I get my hands on one and read the reports of the early adopters.