The Nook Nearly Nails It

Nook Simple Touch

I bought a Nook Simple Touch a couple weeks ago, just in time for a vacation reading binge.

I can’t improve much on John Abell’s review for Wired, The Nook Nails It, as I agree with everything he says there.

This is the best reading machine I’ve come across so far: It’s light, easy to read, compact, and elegant. There’s no ugly keyboard reminding you that you should probably be writing something instead of just kicking back with a book, or a magazine: It’s just a reading device, plain and simple.

With it, I’m reading far more than I was before, and I look forward to continuing that trend when vacation ends, by reading on the train and in the evenings at home. I even got a clip-on book light for reading in bed or in the tent: Works great.

The Nook’s touchscreen works very well. It’s easy to highlight passages, somewhat less easy to make annotations, and page-turning is a breeze with left or right hand buttons, or swipes or taps on the touchscreen. Like John, I wish there were some kind of “back” function, as it’s occasionally easy to get lost among the endnotes, but that’s a minor quibble.

In all, an excellent e-reader.

There are a couple of more serious drawbacks that keep the Nook Simple Touch from perfection:

Very limited wireless delivery. The Nook has Wi-Fi, which you can use to purchase books and magazines and newspapers. (And you can read the full text of any e-books in B&N stores, a nice touch.) Periodicals are delivered to you automatically. But to get anything else onto your Nook, like PDFs, you need to plug it into a computer via USB and sync. There’s no wireless sync, and there’s no way — as there is with the Kindle — to e-mail documents to your reader. That’s a big drawback for one of my main uses for the Nook, which is reading articles I’ve saved to Instapaper. I use Calibre to fetch those stories, which works very well (although I feel compelled to add that Calibre is the ugliest piece of software I’ve come across in a long time). But I have to remember to dock and sync the Nook whenever I want to get the latest Instapapered stories. Bummer.

Text rendering is a little buggy. For instance, superscripts (like footnotes) add a bit of extra leading to the line spacing above them, which is distracting and sloppy-looking. Occasionally hyphens just disappear, so instead of “twenty-four” it displays “twentyfour.” (This happens with both PDFs and with e-books purchased from Barnes & Noble, so I think it’s some kind of intermittent rendering bug.) Text resizing doesn’t work all that well on some PDFs, with a huge jump from “pretty small letters” to “gigantic headline type” and nothing in between.

Both of these should be straightforward to fix through a firmware update and, in the case of e-mailing to your Nook, the addition of some kind of back-end support. If not, I’m hoping that someone will soon hack the Simple Touch’s Android-based OS and figure out how to make it happen.

The Nook Nearly Nails It