Monday, December 7, 2009

First Nook Reviews - pros and cons - Update7

[You can jump to Latest Update, #6 done on 12/10/09.
  It includes reviews by ZDNet's Matt Miller, NY Times's David Pogue, and WSJ's Walter S. Mossberg.]

[Original post]
More later, but here's the Engadget review, which has a video, which you can access directly with this link.

UPDATE 12/06/09, 10:22 PM - Original Posting 12/6 at 9:52 PM
  It's not the kind of review that Barnes and Noble will have wanted, but it shows the Nook has promise, and some people may not mind the pauses and the confusion in learning how to use it.

To be fair to Engadget's thorough work and their obvious wish to be supportive on an e-reader they're very drawn to, I won't quote any of it yet but encourage reading of the full review.

UPDATE2 12/06/09, 11:05 PM - Original Posting 12/6 at 9:52 PM
  Several reviews are coming in, linked to at the Barnes and Noble forums in a specific thread. Upshot is similar in the ones I've read though Gizmodo recommended that anyone needing to decide now should go with the Kindle but all are also high on the Nook with regrets over some software issues which later firmware updates may solve.

UPDATE3 12/07/09, 6:18 AM
  So far, there are 5 reviews listed at the link I gave above plus another one I just saw.

  Of the six, 5 are cautious and mentioned slowness and delayed features.
    The 6th, Slashgear, loved it.
      One mentioned that more than once, when selecting a book
      to read, another book was displayed instead.  B&N told
      him they'd be fixing that one soon.
    [ How will they display 100+ books? Some have 1000+. ]

Key statements from reviews so far:
  "...the initial offering feels long on promises and short on delivery... performance feels stuck in mud."

  "Ease of use is the biggest element in the nook’s favor, with the touchscreen UI perhaps the most intuitive way of navigating the ebook experience that we’ve tried."

  "In fact, if you have to pick one right now, stick with the Kindle.  It's a tough call, because I see a lot of potential in Nook that might not be in Kindle, but damn if the Kindle hasn't grown to comfortably inhabit its e-ink skin.  As long as you don't expect apps and extras on a Kindle, it delivers the best ebook experience there is at this moment. And it just went international."

  CNet (with video):
  "...the Nook's off-white border is closer to gray than to white, and the finish is shiny (we prefer the Kindle's matte finish, but that's a small nitpick).
  ... The color touch screen at the bottom of the device creates an interesting dynamic. For better or worse, because it's bright and vibrant when turned on, it makes the upper E-ink screen appear bland and dull.
  ... we did notice that every time you load a book--even if you've already opened it before--you get a message that says 'Formatting...' and have to wait a few seconds for the book to load. That's slightly irritating. have a few fonts to choose from (Amasis, Helvetica Neue, and Light Classic), which is nice.
  ...the color LCD touch screen...negatively impacts battery life significantly.
  ...the Kindle--or, at least, Amazon's service--is more battle-tested, its battery life is better, and it does offer text-to-speech audio and basic Web browsing.  You also don't have to deal with some of the slow load times for books.
  ...Nook still has some kinks to work out and will require its fair share of tweaks and firmware upgrades to really shine.  But we have no problem recommending it as a worthy alternative to the current-generation Kindle."

  Technologizer: "It's an interesting and capable gadget in many ways, but the interface — which is sluggish and somewhat quirky — isn't polished enough to render it a Kindle killer."

  The Money Times:
  "...Barnes and Noble has presented the Nook to us in a more or less raw form.  This Android-powered machine is fascinating, but has a long way to go.
  The touchscreen turns out to be uncomfortably bright...The automatic brightness adjustment does not work well, but the problem is taken care off by a manual control...
  ...the navigation through the LCD is faster.  At 3.5 inches, it is as responsive as any smartphone.
  The LCD, sadly, is a battery hog instead of a saver. The interface is quite good, but cannot be called an upgrade, it is just an alternative.
  The unsupported formats are Microsoft Word DOC files or plain text TXT formats.. [and other vendors' proprietary ones of course].
  Kindle comes with HTML, DOC, non DRM MOBI files, but the EPUB gives Nook an edge.
  The control of the [music] player is easier and more straightforward than Kindle's due to the touch screen.
  Barnes and Noble books have always been known to be more expensive than Amazon's. They are planning to take care of that by leveling their prices.
  [Why not now?]
  Over all, the Nook might not be a Kindle killer, but it sure is providing a tough competition to the latter, and with a few tweakings left and right, it might very well cross Kindle's sales in a few months time."

A few days later
UPDATE6,   12/10 at 1:53 AM (not moved by datestamp, intentionally).
ZDNet's Matt Miller had recommended the Nook over the Kindle in October and now has the Nook. His article title is B&N Nook is the king of connectivity and content.
  " probably can’t find a happier ebook fan today. I recorded a 25 minute video walk through most all aspects of the device.
  IMHO it is the best ebook reader for my needs...
  I get MAJOR eReader rewards on the eReader site so I can get a lot of free ebook content.
  The Nook gives you the flexibility to obtain content from multiple sources with both convenient and not so convenient methods. [So does the Kindle.]
  ....the color display doesn’t take away at all from the ebook reading experience.
  ...the Nook is definitely slower than the [Sony PRS] 505.
  I also am pleased with both the AT&T and WiFi connectivity options that really unshackle wireless connectivity options you have to get content onto your Nook."
  [ He plans to do an updated report after more working with it more. ]

On the other hand, The NY Times's David Pogue, in Not Yet The Season For a Nook writes a devastating review of the Nook today.  Problems include the troubling fine-print, extreme slowness, crashes.  He describes it as "a mess."
  ' Unfortunately, we, the salivating public, might be afflicted with a little holiday disease of our own: Sucker Syndrome. Every one of the Nook’s vaunted distinctions comes fraught with buzz kill footnotes...
  ...At other times, the color strip feels completely, awkwardly disconnected from what it’s supposed to control on the big screen above.
  ...the Nook’s screen is achingly slower than the Kindle’s.
  Often, you tap some button on the color strip — and nothing happens. You wait for the Nook to respond, but there’s no progress bar, no hourglass, no indication that the Nook “heard” you. So you tap again — but now you’ve just triggered a second command that you didn’t want.
  It takes four seconds for the Settings panel to open, 18 seconds for the bookstore to appear (over Wi-Fi), and 8 to 15 seconds to open a book or newspaper for the first time, during which you stare at a message that says “Formatting.”
 ...missing features are symptoms of B&N’s bad case of Ship-at-All-Costs-itis. But the biggest one of all is the Nook’s half-baked software.’s slower than an anesthetized slug in winter.  And it's buggy.
 ...the Kindle is still a better machine. It’s faster, thinner, lighter and much easier to figure out.  Its battery lasts more than three times as long (seven days versus two).
  [With Kindle]...Any notes and highlighting you’ve added to your books also appear magically on your other gadgets.  (Barnes & Noble says that these features will arrive — yes, you guessed it — next year.)
  ...the Kindle offers a few things that Nook lacks, like playback of audio books from, a basic Web browser, a synthesized voice that reads your books out loud and the ability to rotate the device 90 degrees for a wider “page.” '

And Wall Street Journal's Walter S. Mossberg adds his awaited review as a moderate reviewer.  His article is titled ...Has Potential, but Needs Work.
  "Overall, after testing the Nook for about a week, I don't think it's as good as the Kindle, at least not yet. At launch, the Nook has the feel of a product with great potential that was rushed to market before it was fully ready.
  ...over half of the Nook catalog is made up of free out-of-copyright titles published before 1923, the vast majority of which are likely to be of little interest to average readers. Barnes & Noble refuses to say how many modern commercial titles it offers, or even whether it has more or fewer of these than Amazon.
  During my tests, I found the Nook slower, more cumbersome to use and less polished than the Kindle. I ran into various crashes and bugs. And, while the Kindle's navigation system isn't exactly world class, it ran circles around the Nook's...
  The Nook may be wonderful one day, but, as of today, it's no match for the Kindle, despite advantages such as lending, because it's more annoying to use.
  ...the Nook constantly delayed taking me to books while the main screen displayed a message that said "formatting."
  ...Turning pages inside books was slower than on the Kindle. Looking up a word in the built-in dictionary, a quick process on the Kindle, was far harder on the Nook. Even swiping the touch screen to turn pages would suddenly stop working for periods of time.
  ...its software can be updated, and Barnes & Noble is promising to fix the problems... also adds Wi-Fi, which is free at Barnes & Noble stores, though mostly unusable at other commercial hotspots, because the Nook lacks a Web browser that would allow you to log in.
  The Kindle has a crude Web browser, but no Wi-Fi.
  ...battery life, the Nook's is worse than the Kindle's.
  The Nook beats the Kindle in a few areas. Lending is a key one, though only about half of the commercial titles are eligible for lending, you can lend each one only once to a given person [only once, ever, actually], and loans expire after two weeks. In my tests, lending worked OK after a couple of false starts.
  [Interesting as others were told it wasn't quite ready yet and would start soon.  Maybe it works sporadically.]
  Unlike the Kindle, the Nook also has a slot for expandable memory cards and a replaceable battery.
 ...while Amazon will synchronize your last page read if you switch from reading a book on one device to using another, Barnes & Noble lacks that capability yet, though it says it will have it soon.
  The latest standard-size Kindle allows wireless book purchasing in multiple countries. The Nook does so only in the U.S.
  My recommendation on the Nook is to wait, even if you prefer its features to the Kindle's.  It's not fully baked yet."

UPDATE 6a - OTHER   12/10 (included here from another post)
SOME GOOD NEWS from there for Nookers. See the public library thread.  Some have confirmed that they can download to their computers e-books from the library and that they are readable on their Nooks if they move the book file VIA ADOBE feature (which is the rights-protection).

Missing File Format Support for TXT and WORD DOCs
What's odd to me is that the Nook doesn't support Microsoft Word doc files nor even text or .txt files.  Since many of us highlight info on the web sites and copy/paste them into Word docs, we can have them converted for free by Amazon for our Kindles. Obviously, it's nice to be able to put one's own Doc or text files on our ereaders. The Kindle even supports basic HTML renamed .txt
For best balance, be sure to visit the Barnes and Noble Nook Help Forum discussions.

There is of course the problematical as is shown in this thread about books being blank when downloaded, or skipping pages.

UPDATE7,   12/18 at 11:52 PM (not moved by datestamp, intentionally).
PC World's Melissa J. Perenson posted today a very moderate, detailed review, the gist of which (bottom-controller interface problems in addition to slowness) matched my own experience during my 1/2 hr. second visit at Barnes & Noble's Nook counter this afternoon.
  I still liked the look and feel of the unit and would buy it if I didn't know how direct, and how fast, basic reading & searching access can be on an e-reader.  She describes well the too-often awkward, delayed response of the controller as it is now.  She'll report again after a firmware update.

A few of her thoughts:
  "...when browsing my book library, I was often stymied by having to put my finger just so on the touchscreen strip of up/down arrows and then having to look up above as my selection moved.  When I found something to choose, I would press the nondescript radio dial button on the right of the LCD, look above to see what the E-Ink screen now had on it, and then look below to see what additional navigation choices were available.  And all of these recalibrations would occur with a lag... the end, having two screens in play simultaneously was a jarring experience:  It meant that my eyes had to dart continually from the too-bright lower screen to the more muted, easy-on-the-eyes E-Ink screen.  The auto-brightness feature lowers the brightness, but not enough;  I had to dial the brightness down manually to as low as 4 to 10 percent to get to passable contrast with the E-Ink screen above.
  The Nook's LCD screen makes it easy to jump into the type of content you want, including your daily content, your library, shopping options, what you last read, and settings. You get the sense that no important features are buried in a hidden menu item (in contrast, Amazon has its store link as a menu item, not as something visible on the screen)
  I also appreciate the page-forward and page-backward navigation buttons...
  And the Nook's fonts (you can choose from a set of two to three fonts, depending on the book) are easier on the eyes than the Kindle 2's, with more clarity and definition...
  At least for now, though, I can't confidently the [sic] recommend Nook.  If the promised software update dramatically improves performance, the Nook could emerge as a worthy competitor to the Kindle 2.  But it's current sluggish performance, along with the caveats about the LCD's interaction with the E-Ink screen, can't be ignored.  I'll revisit this review after Barnes and Noble pushes out its firmware update. "

So, for those who've been trying to decide between the Nook or a Kindle -- outside of slowness problems and some bugs, the Nook has:
  No books playing capability, a mono speaker instead of stereo, no web browser, no text-to-speech capability.
  The Nook does read ePub file format and allows you to loan a book once, for 14 days if the publisher approves this (50% are said not to).
  The color navigator shows the books very nicely but the light may be distracting.  Many will prefer the Nook's touch screen navigation though.

Also, Barnes and Noble staff have confirmed that, unlike Amazon's international travel policy since the first days, a Nook owner cannot buy B&N e-books while travelling outside the U.S., not even for download to the computer.
  The exception will be Canada sometime this month but Canadians won't be able to purchase the Nook itself, only B&N Nook books.

In-store WiFi access to B&N books and alerts or coffee shop offers won't begin until probably January.  As mentioned Saturday, the WiFi for the Nook will access only Barnes & Noble's store and can't access via a home/office WiFi network if WEP or similar security keys are protecting the network.

UPDATE5, 12/7 at 2:50PM
  See a previous update on the WiFi and security-input changes or differences from B&N Forum administrator statements in November that security-info input wouldn't be possible.  The User Guide is online today and they've made a menu option to provide it, so this will make home/office WiFi network doable although the lack of a web browser will mean no web surfing but good additional access to Barnes and Noble's store if cellular wireless doesn't work well or is unavailable.  (There are additional quotes and links for the B&N forum Wifi thread there also.)

UPDATE4, 7:05 AM

  The Nook has a 14-day return policy, with 10% restocking fee if it's been opened.
  The Kindle has a 30-day return policy, with full refund, even if it's been used.

  (The Sony Daily Edition coming soon will be too expensive at $400 now, without a web browser or text-to-speech but with a touch screen, using an extra display layer that results in less contrast and some glare for many.  The other Sony models don't have wireless book-downloads.)

[Edit added] CBS's The Early Show today took a look at the e-readers.  Interesting conclusions.

[Edit - added 1/20/10] There is one note on the Barnes & Noble Nook forum that illustrates better than most what the problems have been after the 2nd firmware update, version 1.11, which has proved more troublesome than 1.10.  The posting stood out because it also shows the extreme patience and understanding of some customers who remain optimistic and may well be proved right that future updates may remove the problems being experienced.  The entire thread, pro and con, and the forum are an interesting read.

Also see
1. Follow up to David Pogue's NYT review - Q&A
Collected feedback to the review, with David Pogue's responses
2. A very thorough, more recent review by Dave Slusher, who has concerns but remains interested.  He put together an inline-Spanish-to-English dictionary for the Kindle and is interested in doing the same for the Nook.
3. Nook-Kindle comparison info
4. Nook User Guide online Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

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