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Goodbye books, hello Kindles and Nooks

Even the most voracious reader can enjoy turning pages electronically

I began looking into the pros and cons of these two e-readers several months ago.  I was looking for a gift for my son’s birthday.  As he is a voracious reader, I thought that he might have some fun with one of these devices.  While there are several e-readers that one may consider, such as the Borders Book Store Kobo and the Sony reader, I limited my investigation to the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes and Noble Nook.

In comparison, both of these devices employed the e-ink screens which enable the reader to view the text with little difficulty in the sun.  Both units are compatible with PCs and Macs, have 6-inch displays, read PDF files, play MP3 music files, and both come with 2 Gigabytes of memory.  This equates to a storage capacity of approximately 1,500 books.  The Nook has a slot for an SD card which allows for external storage of e-books, and other files. The kindle has a built-in keypad, while the Nook employs a virtual keypad.  Both readers come in Wi-Fi and 3G versions.  The Nook’s browser was reportedly much easier to use, and more versatile.  The kindle was about $10 cheaper per equivalent model, and scored a bit better on the life of the battery between recharges.  This was due to the Nook’s color navigation screen which consumed more power.  Both companies offer an extensive line of ebooks for their respective devices.  The Nook has an advantage in its recognition of ePub standard files, used by libraries in the US.

After going through this exercise of comparing the two e-readers, I came to the conclusion that, with a few minor exceptions, they were basically equivalent.  I realized that the Kindle would be best for my son, and the Nook would be the e-reader that I would buy.  My son had expressed an interest in a Kindle, some time earlier, and he was a big, and I mean a big, customer of Amazon’s.  He purchased everything from tools to books and I decided that it made sense to keep that comfortable relationship intact.  Consequently, I got him the Kindle and he loves it.  He found downloading ebooks from Amazon quick and easy.

The Nook appealed to the tightwad in me, for its capability of being able to download loaner ebooks from the local library.  I have always used the library much more than the other members of my family and that feature made a lot of sense to me.

My son must have remembered my discussion on the relative merits of both e-readers we had at the time of his birthday.  At Christmas, he gave me a NookColor e-reader.  The NookColor is really in a separate class than the Kindle, or the standard Nook.  It has 8 GB of memory, a 7-inch color, backlit screen, and will play color MP4 videos.  The NookColor employs the Android Operating System and comes with several Android apps installed.  It is somewhere between an e-reader and a tablet computer like the iPad, or the Samsung Galaxy, and costs $100 more than the standard WiFi Nook.   

After initially familiarizing myself with the NookColor (The user’s manual is a pre-loaded ebook), I was able to download public domain ebooks from the website www.gutenberg.org.  After successfully loading my NookColor with several free classics, I went to the Barnes and Noble website.  I have to say at this point that I found navigating any website with the 7-inch screen to be a bit of a challenge.  The buttons and links on some of the sites are too small for my stubby fingers.   Much of the time I would miss the button, on the touch screen, I wanted to hit, or hit the adjacent link.   I tried downloading some of the free books that B&N offers, with no success.  I thought that maybe money would talk, so I tried downloading a relatively inexpensive book.  Again, I had no luck.

This had become rather frustrating and after a day or so without being able to buy any ebooks, I was ready to have my son return it.  In desperation, I called the local B&N store.  After explaining what was happening, the young man on the other end of the line explained that I couldn’t download directly from the web, and that I must go to the “Shop” button on one of the Nookcolor’s menus.  This linked me directly to a Nook-friendly site that had big buttons.  Success at last.  I have to say that the B&N tech support was quick, knowledgeable and friendly.

The NookColor allows me to set the text size and the brightness of the display.   I chose a text size that fits approximately 1/3 of the printed page onto the display screen at a time, with a brightness for reading in the evening that is at bout ¼ of the range.  The Kindle has similar controls for varying the display settings.  Testing the NookColor in the direct sunlight, I found that I was able to read the screen with no difficulty.   This was never a problem with the e-ink screens of the Kindle and the standard Nook.

Pages are turned in the Kindle by the pressing of a button, whereas the Nook relies on the tapping or sliding of the finger across the page.   Sometimes, with the NookColor, I get an unwanted, and annoying, double or triple page turn per tap of my finger.  This is a really minor issue and as I gain more practice with the Nook, I’m sure I’ll have less of this.  I find the length of the NookColor’s battery life to be acceptable.  When I’m just reading, the battery discharges quite slowly, however when surfing the web, using the color display, it draws the battery down quicker.

The most interesting thing that I’ve found is that I tend to read faster with the Nook.  I verified this phenomenon with my son, he too reads faster with his Kindle.  I can only hypothesize that the e-reader presents blocks of text in chunks that are more readily scanned and absorbed by the mind of reader, as opposed to an entire page of printed text.  Being someone who reads at a near glacial pace, I find this unanticipated feature to be a huge benefit.

Another feature of my NookColor, that I’ve used several times, is the ability to go online and do a search on something I have just come across in my reading, and for which I may want more information.  All this may be done without getting out of bed and losing my place in the book.  I can also have  reference ebooks stored in my e-reader, that I can turn to when a question arises.  It’s like being able to carry a library.

Finally, the cost of an ebook is less than that of the hardback cost, and many are cheaper than the cost of a paperback,  as they move off the bestseller lists.  For someone who reads a good deal, the savings are not inconsequential.  When added to the additional utility and portability offered, these e-readers may be a good investment for many people. 

Barnes and Noble is located at 1271 Knapp Road, Montgomeryville. (215) 699-3099

Borders is located at 801 Bethlehem Pike, North Wales (Montgomery Township). (215) 412-2655

Brian Rox January 19, 2011 at 05:22 PM
I like the idea of the ebook, but I don't think it could ever replace physical books for me. Of course, I get most of my books from thrift stores and friends, so the concept of an ebook reader is odd for me. What about reading in the bathtub?
KateNerdRages January 19, 2011 at 10:02 PM
Brian (!), The ebook is fantastic, especially since you can find all kinds of free ones online. So, while I'm sure you're always going to be running through thrift stores to pick up books (as am I)...if you happen on hard times it is awesome in the long run. Also, the Kindle lets you share books with friends. I think it is 1 per book for like two weeks, don't quote me on that. As for reading in the bathtub, I know that the Kindle is super tough. I spend an absurd amount of time in the tub with my ipod touch and I'm pretty sure the smarter idea by leaps and bounds is to bring a Kindle into play instead for those moments. It just seems so much more protected, so when you get some water on your hands or something it really isn't an issue. Just don't drop it. :)
Brian Rox January 21, 2011 at 05:15 PM
I might get one in the far off future. When you could find one on ebay with a tons of books on it for little money.

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