Tech Review: The Nook

I’ve never been much of a book reader. My mom would often say, “don’t worry, you’re not a slow reader, you read for content.” She was right. I loved all the details. Maybe too much so, as I could not satisfy the reading schedule for my English Literature professor my freshman year of college. But it has been many years since college and later grad school, and for some reason I’ve found only a slight urge to read a couple of books per year (whether for work or pleasure).

But something changed about a year ago. I had a few books suggested to me for business reading and they turned out to be great suggestions. Suddenly, I was thirsty for more, and now I have read more books in the last year than I have the previous 10 years. I don’t know what has gotten in to me, but I’m glad that I am getting time to read. Maybe it’s because my twin girls are now seven and too often sit blissfully quiet on the couch reading, which as a result, inspires me to do the same – could be, who knows.

About two months ago I began creating a reading list of books I was interested in. Most of these were business books. Most of Jim Collin’s books, a great book on not being a jerk, and management practice books. All good reads, but lugging around so many books has been more than a hassle. Ever want to finish one book on a flight and then start on the next? Sometimes mere weight and bulkiness can affect your decision to read. I know many of you have experienced this. I also know that unlike a lot of technology, for this, I am way late to the game. But this post isn’t about some new revelation, just some personal feedback from someone who has rekindled their love of reading.

Just a month ago one of my best friends bestowed on me a gift: the Barnes and Noble Nook. I love getting gadgets and recently had been thinking of getting a new tablet or e-reader. For weeks I didn’t use it. I had a backlog of paperbacks that I was working through. Suddenly, the books ran out. And so before I purchased another book I decided to give the Nook its first test ride. My friend, who was a part of the design team for the physical device, was right; this is a beautiful device.

Now, I have used and am familiar with many different tablets. I could have easily used an app on a tablet. But the e-reader is blissfully void of many of those features. In fact I might say it is crudely simplistic. Minimalist technology; Mr. Knoll you would be proud. To be blunt, the Nook sucks at Internet access, has no apps to install, no streaming video or any content, etc. Mind you, I’m working with the basic Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight. What it does is make reading incredibly easy and comfortable.

First, the feel of the device is exquisite. Instead of a completely flat and hard surface, there is a gentle evenly rounded deep lip on the back that gives it a good grip. My fingers just seem to naturally find their spot. The texture of the backing is something akin to micro suede. It isn’t soft exactly, but feels like it is soft.

The device has a nice, sharp edge. It doesn’t feel very substantive as it is plastic, and I’m not sure why it is shiny as I find that distracting. But for holding the device my thumb instinctively positions itself at a location that allows it to be comfortably balanced in my hand.  Holding it is easy compared to other tablets, which I have found to be too heavy to hold for any extended period. The weight of the Nook is excellent – better than a paperback, but not so light that it feels like tech and not like a book.

For reading, the e-ink from Adobe is excellent. Very soft on the eyes. Between the contrast settings and the use of the GlowLight, I’ve found I can read comfortably in almost every type of lighting situation. I can go from office, to plane, to the outdoors. I can understand why those who read prefer a device like this over other tablets.

Regarding the tech, I’m thankful that this device was designed to do one thing really well. Sure, there are plenty of areas where I think there could be improvements, but I still think it is an excellent substitute for a book. There is no web surfing. You can shop online and you can do some very basic search, but I found this feature clunky to use. It almost seemed liked it was designed to discourage me from attempting the task. If so, then, success! I’ll never do this again. Maslow would feel reassured in this predictable outcome.

The furthest I went to search was purchasing books online. The nook was not outstanding for this, but useable and reliable. On a recent trip, I was able to login, purchase, and download two books in a matter of about 10 minutes. Just enough time before my plane boarded. I think that is all one really needs out of this device.

As someone who has surrounded myself with tech for the better part of 20 years, I’m finding that there is a lot of value in technology that does something, even one thing, really well. It may mean I have more devices in the end, but at least I’ll know I can select the best device for the job and expect great results every time.