2010: The year of the nook (sort of)

As I noted at the time, I broke down and bought a nook about six months ago. Overall, I’d say I’m pleased with it (especially since the latest software upgrade allows you to create bookshelves) but can’t say I’m in love with it. I read 18 e-books this year, 16 on the nook. Here’s my personal balance sheet on it:

Travel: The nook (or other portable ereader) is tremendous for travel. It’s wonderful when stuck in an airport or sitting on an airplane to have the equivalent of a suitcase of books in your hand. On the other hand, I’ve never had to turn off a printed book or magazine prior to takeoff and landing.

Readability: The ability to change the typeface and size to suit individual preference is quite handy, particularly for e-books from Project Gutenberg or the Google e-bookstore that aren’t specifically formatted for the nook. At the same time, one of the biggest drawbacks — and one that may be almost entirely personal — is that I don’t know how carefully I read. Given the relatively small amount of text on one screen, I at times feel like I am skimming more than I am actually reading. This can be problematic given that a number of publishers provide their review copies in ebook format now.

Features: I like having the dictionary hadnily built it. While I’m not a fan of the number of steps it might take, depending on where the word is located on the screen, it is probably equivalent timewise to looking it up in a printed dictionary — assuming you have one handy. I would, though, like to choose which dictionary it uses.

Technical-type stuff: I an VERY impressed with the nook’s battery. It has a far longer battery life than any other portable electronic device I’ve used. At the same time, it takes longer than I like to start up. I don’t expect or need instant gratification but the nook’s start-up time is akin to a Windows PC, not a MacBook. Additionally, the fact part of the device is a touch screen but the reading area is not can be a bit frustrating when paging through or in the device’s electronic bookshelves, particularly for those of us who use touch screen smart phones. Downloads from the Barnes & Noble online store are fairly quick but transferring other books is a bit of a pain. (The browser also leaves much to be desired, which will likely remain something the iPad will exploit.)

Economics: I also struggle a bit with pricing and it seems to present a real conundrum. I don’t understand why e-books should cost so much since it is a digital download. At the same time, authors have to make a living, too. Likewise, an ebook basically just gives me a license for the book. If I like it, I can’t go put it on the bookshelves. Vice versa, I can’t just donate it or take it down to the used bookstore. Major kudos, though, to the local library for making e-books available for check out. I just wish cost allowed it to have a greater selection or more licenses.

What’s on my nook: Likely related to the cost issue, the vast majority of the books on my nook are free ones, books, whether Barnes & Noble classics or give-aways or public domain books from Project Gutenberg or Google. The problem with this is whether I will ever really get around to reading some of the books I’ve put on there. It’s great to have Moby Dick and Crime and Punishment at hand — but if I haven’t read them this far into my life, how likely am I to read them now just cause I can tote them around on an electronic device? It could well become a huge electronic “to be read” shelf.

Bottom line: I can’t say the nook has changed my reading habits or ever will. It’s got some handy features but clearly falls in the “toy” category. than a necessity. There’s no buyer’s remorse but other than traveling or review copies, I don’t see it playing a major role in my reading in the foreseeable future.

Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. … Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

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