One of the great things about birthdays are surprises, but as I age, I have to admit that it’s difficult to surprise me when it comes to gifts. Even before the age of Amazon wish lists, there was a very low tech wish list that people used when trying to get gift ideas. It really didn’t have a title, but I’m sure we all know it by the question: “Hey, what do you want for your birthday?” For many years now it’s been tougher and tougher to answer that question, but I have to say that Julie really surprised me this year. She bought me a Nook — the eReader that Barnes and Noble markets. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, this is what it looks like:
To be blunt, I was blown away by this gift. I had been looking at the Nook at our local B&N a few weeks ago, and thought it was pretty cool. I spent about 20 minutes with the B&N rep talking about all the things this new device could do, and I walked away impressed. Some highlights include:
- It can download books from non-B&N booksellers (except Amazon and Apple).
- It can annotate and highlight sections of a book (Handy if you’re in a class, book club, or are reviewing the book for a publication or blog).
- You can download/borrow books from the local library.
- It has 3G and WiFi connectivity that you don’t have to pay extra for.
- B&N is a brick and mortar store, so if you have a problem with the device, they will try and fix it for you at the store.
- You can upload mp3s to the device.
- You can buy/download books at B&N stores (and they will often have freebies that you can download, too).
- It’s small and light.
- It has eInk that’s easy on the eyes.
- It’s affordable.
Now, for those who know me, you know that I have a lot of brand loyalty to Apple. Since 1988, I’ve exclusively used Apple computers for all my computing needs, so when Apple announced the iPad as a Kindle killer alternative to the other eReaders on the market, I was pretty excited to see what Jobs and Co. came up with. Alas, it was an extra large iPod Touch with a book store and a tremendous amount of hype. I know, I know, Apple and hype go hand in hand, but many times the product does live up to the hype.
The day I was getting the lowdown on the Nook, I went over to the Apple store to check out the iPad. There were tons of people gawking at the new new thing. That was okay, because I had an iPhone, pretty much knew my way around the iPad OS, so I didn’t need anyone at the store to show me how it worked. What I wanted to see what how good the book section was.
I have to admit that the way the text rendered on the iPad was impressive, and to advance to the next page you simply take your finger and swipe the screen in the page direction you want to go. Given that cool swiping feature, I figured Apple would be light years ahead of the Kindle, the Sony eReader, and the Nook in terms of functionality. I presumed they would have some fancy way of marking up the text so serious readers could have notes and highlights that were easy to create. Nope and nope. Add to that, the screen is backlit –which can be really tough on the eyes after a long time. And finally, the real reason why I wanted the Nook? It’s a device for reading. Yes, the iPad has a book store, but it also has every other distraction that an iPod Touch has. Which means there’s a constant temptation to exit out of the book one is reading to check email, look at webpages, play video games, download apps, and do a billion other things other than read a book. Since I already have an iPhone, I really don’t need a duplicate device that would require me to purchase yet another contract with AT&T for 3G and WiFi connections.
Oh, and one last thing about the Nook that I like. For me, reading books (even electronic books) requires one to minimize distractions. And in this era when you can multitask yourself into pit of ADD dysfunctionality, having an iPad as an eReader will do much to diminish whatever sacred space a reader has with a book. Sure the Nook has distractions as well. They built in a web browser that makes it tempting to ditch the book you’re reading to check out something on the Internet. But the browser is incredibly slow and it’ll make you want to go back to your book. There are also some games loaded on the Nook, but they are pretty basic and wouldn’t interest most gamers in the age of Xbox and PS3.
So, the long and the short of it is this: if you want a cool eReader, buy a Nook. If you want the large print version of the iPod Touch, buy an iPad.