RSM Review: Barnes & Nobel Wi-Fi + 3G nook

Over the holidays, I decided to treat myself to an eReader. You might wonder why I needed an eReader if I already have an iPad. Can’t I download all of the free eReaders out there (Kindle, Nook, iBooks) and buy eBooks and just read them on the iPad? In theory, I could. The only trouble is that I don’t ever get to use it when my kids are around and awake. By the time they finally go to bed, I’m usually too tired to read and end up turning in myself.

This was the story when my sister told me she was considering an eReader. She’s a book collector, but is quickly running out of room to keep all of her books. (We have a lot in common there) So, she’s thinking going eBooks for those one-time reads, and only purchase the coffee table books, or something she wants to keep. She, like me, loves the feel of a book in our hands, so the transition to eBooks won’t be exclusive for either of us.

Since I am an engineer, I immediately set about to doing research on the options. I’ve used the Amazon Kindle app on my iPad, and I buy a lot of things from (you can’t beat their prices), so I was immediately thinking the Kindle was the obvious choice. The Kindle currently comes in graphite with three models: Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi + 3G, and the Kindle DX with a larger screen as well as the Wi-Fi + 3G. With the new models that were released last year, I was almost 100% sure the Kindle was the one to buy. I already had a number of free books in my Amazon Kindle bookshelf, and had been reading them on my iPhone and iPad, so I’d be ready to go.

Borrowing books
Then I started to look into borrowing eBooks from our local library and found that the Kindle didn’t support the ePub format that the nation’s libraries have standardized on. IN addition, if my sister was also going to get an eReader, I wanted to be able to lend and borrow books with her. This led me to the Barnes and Nobel’s nook. The nook, also uses the black and white E Ink technology, has been out for a year now. An additional color nook was released last fall.

While doing this research, I decided I, too, wanted to be able to check eBooks out of the library to read. There are a number of popular books out these days that I’d like to read, but don’t want to buy and sit on my already full bookshelves. Since I just wanted to read regular books, I wasn’t considering the color Nook. At the time of this purchase, the Nook was the only eReader with this Lending technology. (After I purchased the nook, Amazon announced a Kindle Lending function, reducing the differences between the two).

Since I wanted this to be a backup for when I wanted to read and couldn’t use my iPad, I wasn’t interested in spending a lot of money. The nook comes in three models similar to the Kindle: Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi + 3G, and Color. The Wi-Fi model starts retail at $149. In doing research on pricing, I found that Barnes & Nobel has an eBay shop where they sell their refurbished models. Just like Apple, the refurbished models are tested and come with the same warranty as a new model. The only difference is that it is a preowned model, with everything that entails. I decided to take a chance and purchased the Wi-Fi + 3G model off of the eBay store for $125 with free shipping (at the time of this writing, that model had come down in price to $119).

Initial Impressions
The nook arrived in perfect condition, in the original packaging, with all of the cables and a small users guide. It was already fully charged, so I didn’t have to do anything other than turn it on. It’s much smaller and lighter than the iPad. At 11.6 oz I immediately understand how this is easier to hold and read for hours at a time. I finally understand what the eReader proponents have meant when they said the iPad was just too large and too heavy to be an eReader. I needed a case or cover to protect it while it travels with me to and from work, so I ended up buying a home made one from the online craft storefront “etsy” from a talented young woman at the store nerdypop. She made fabric covers for eReaders and happened to have one with astronaut themed fabric.

Since I bought the model with the free 3G, it was immediately able to connect to the Barnes & Nobel servers and once I put my B&N login information into it, it accessed the B&N library I had set up the week before. Like Amazon, B&N has a number of free public domain titles available, so I loaded up some of them and began to test out this E Ink screen.

B&N came out with a system software update last November, which, the Nook told me, had not been applied. So, after entering the password for our home’s Wi-Fi network, the nook connected to B&N’s servers and ran the update, rebooted and was ready to go.

The speed of page flips increased but it is still much slower than what I had been used to on the eReader applications (Kindle, iBooks, GoodReader) on my iPad. The E Ink display is amazing. It looks just like paper, and is very easy on the eyes. For reading, I am going to enjoy the nook experience almost as much as actual paper. Hopefully, with future system updates, speeds can increase more.

Getting Content onto the nook
The nook comes with a mini-USB port and cable to connect to your computer. This is how you add content to the nook outside of what you purchase through the B&N store. I was surprised at how simple this was on my Mac. When you connect the nook, it mounts like another drive and shows up in the finder. You can drag and drop files to it with ease: images for the wallpaper, audio files to listen to songs of audio books, pdf documents in the “My Documents” folder, etc.

In addition to dragging and dropping, in order to get content checked out from the library with the associated DRM onto the nook, you use an Adobe application called Adobe Digital Editions. ADE is much like iTunes, in that it manages a library of digital book files and can be used to pull content on and off of the nook. To use it, you have to sign up for an ADE account, and authorize your computer with that account. You can authorize multiple computers/devices to that account. When you launch ADE, with the nook plugged into your USB port on your Mac, it loads as one of the folders you can put content into within ADE. I have already “borrowed” a book from the Cuyahoga County Library and have put it onto the nook with no trouble. Since you can authorize multiple devices, I have authorized both my home and work computers so I can move technical pdfs onto the nook from work to take with me to read.

So far, I’ve found the nook very easy to use. I don’t think I’d pay $200+ for one, but the refurbished price at around $120 was a better fit. The speed of the processor and page turning is noticeably slow, but not so much so that it’s unusable. It feels less sophisticated than the iPad, but it’s not trying to be a tablet. As an eReader, it does a good job. I like the ability to borrow books from the library but wish that Cuyahoga County had more copies and more titles available. If you are in the market, a nook or a Kindle would probably fill the same need; it depends on where you want to get the eBook content. For me, the nook and use of the ePub format was a better fit for the things I wanted to read in eBook form.

References for public domain and other eBooks
Library Books on you eReader
Project Gutenberg
mobileread forum

Links for the tools and hardware

Adobe Digital Editions

About rocketsciencemom
I am a rocket scientist in my day job, and a mother of two all the time. I'm a pop culture addict and amateur artist in my spare time. My typical preferences tend toward sci-fi and fantasy genres but I love a good drama or comedy. Reading the blogs of fellow Lost fans over the years has motivated me to finally write my own. All drawings and images on this blog are property of RocketScienceMom

3 Responses to RSM Review: Barnes & Nobel Wi-Fi + 3G nook

  1. Pingback: Checking out an electronic epub formatted library book: part 1 – to read on my nook « Rocket Science and kids

  2. Pingback: The end of my iPad only experiment « Rocket Science and kids

  3. Pingback: Checking out an electronic epub formatted library book: part 2 – to read on my iPad « Rocket Science and kids

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