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Old 12-14-2009, 09:29 AM   #1
frossie
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The nook as a first e-reader

Hey all, I note that a lot of people here are veterans of e-reader devices, so I thought I would post my impressions since this is my first e-reader.

I guess some background would be useful. While I am a self-identified geek, I have never been tempted before to jump on the e-reader bandwagon, partly from "Nothing will replace the feel of a book in your hands" snobbery, partly because none of the e-readers I had seen people have tickled my gadget fancy, partly because of all the standard concerns (DRM, pricing etc). However I had come to be convinced of the merits of not having the millstone of thousands of books hanging from my neck every time i moved, and had gone as far as asking Santa for an International Kindle. When the nook specs were released, I decided I liked those much better, and also was happy to encourage some competition to Amazon (not that I have anything against Amazon) so I cancelled my Kindle order and ordered the nook instead.

While I was waiting for the actual nook I did read a lot of the reviews and watch some of the unboxing videos. Now it is quite understandable that these kind of things focus on the user interface and showing the various features. When my nook arrived I had no interest in any of that - I just wanted to read a book, so I just started doing that ASAP. The bottom line is I am really happy with the device.

As for the main criticisms of the device:

Slow UI: I personally did not find the user interface annoyingly slow, given how little I actually interact with it - it seemed fine and it queues up input so it is not actually a problem (What I mean is that if you are typing in say I wi-fi password you can type as fast as you want, you don't have to do it at the rate of the e-ink re-fresh).

Confusing UI: I have no real idea what the problem here is, I had no trouble finding my way around (I did not read instructions or the manual though as I said I had watched a couple of unboxing videos so it was not a complete surprise).

Slow page-turn: This so did not bother me, I kept thinking "the so called 3 second page turn is rubbish!". However when I did time it, I can see where the 3 seconds comes from. Let me explain - if you time it with a stopwatch from the moment you decide to push the next button to the new page being rendered then it probably does take something of that order. However, it is not the case that the e-ink screen is refreshing for 3 seconds - the time when the screen is unreadable is 1 second or probably less. So very quickly I started doing what I do with a real book - just like when you are reading "in the flow" you start turning the page while you are still reading the bottom two lines, so I start paging at roughly the same time. So psychologically the screen is unreadable only while it is refreshing, which is okay, though obviously I wish it was either instant or at least less visually jarring (as the whole screen flickers briefly black which is rather distracting).

As an experiment (and bear in mind I have never read an e-book before), I started reading a book on the B&N reader on my iPhone, and when the nook arrived switched mid-stream to that. The difference really is night and day - while reading on the iPhone I had a lot of trouble "losing myself" into the book, whereas on the nook I could very quickly do so once I found the settings I liked (see below).

Now obviously the device is not perfect though I am hoping that some things can be fixed with a firmware upgrade. The thing I would like to see the most is the ability to synchronize the latest-place-read between the nook and the iPhone. Even though I moaned about the iPhone interface, it sure would be nice to be able to pick up the flow while stuck in the dentist's waiting room and so on. The only other thing that I would like to do (and for all I know I can do, but haven't figured out how) is to use the actual last page read as the "screensaver" - while the included screensavers (really set images) are very nice, I would like to be able to just pick up the device and start reading while also simultaneously getting it out of sleep.

So all in all I am really happy with my nook and I think I will get a lot of use out of it. I am also very happy that since I ordered it, my main reservation with going B&N, which was their significantly higher pricing, seems to have been resolved. I think provided B&N are responsive with firmware upgrades this will be a great platform - people actually forget how not-perfect the first iPhone was; what made the iPhone a success was the constant improvement.

Okay so for anybody who's still reading this, some minor notes on settings. I actually unboxed in Europe because I left on holiday before the nook arrived, and my husband brought it out to me a few days later (no I didn't make him stay in the US to wait for the nook! he had some business to take care of first). I had no problems setting up - obviously the first attempt to register did not work since I had no 3G data connection, but you can continue without registering, and then go on the settings, configure your WPA WiFi settings and then register - everything worked fine. So, no concerns operating the device outside cell coverage.

Of the actual device settings itself the most important for me was reducing the font size one down from the default. A critical part of getting lost in a book for me seems to be having enough text on the screen, which is why I had so much trouble on the iPhone. The smaller font worked great for that, and was still perfectly legible and easy on the eyes. I also set the lower screen to time-out after 10 seconds instead of the default 30, and reduced the lower screen brightness to about 1/3. After that, I had no issues with the lower screen being distracting. I also increased the device time out to the maximum (20 minutes or something) for the occasions where I get distracted or start wool-gathering. I also put the device in airplane mode to conserve power - not that I know what the battery life is, but I saw no need to be on the network since all I want to do is read my book.

Finally I ordered the turqoise Bronte cover and that looks good and works very well - the quality seems excellent though I guess on balance I would have liked a clasp or some other way to keep it shut for handbag use (but that can easily be improvised). I did also order the little Lyra light but it hasn't shipped yet.

Apologies for droning on, I hope somebody finds this useful.

Last edited by frossie; 12-14-2009 at 09:34 AM.
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Old 12-14-2009, 11:07 AM   #2
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Yeah, alot of international folks posting on the stickied thread are concerned they won't be able to activate with international IP so your post should be a relief for them.
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Old 12-14-2009, 05:59 PM   #3
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Thanks for that review.
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Old 12-17-2009, 04:08 PM   #4
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Okay, I have finished my first book on the nook (which by the way was 544 pages on the dead-tree paperback, and 1031 pages on the nook using the small font if anyone was wondering what the mapping is). The only thing I have to add to the above review is a complaint about the battery life - I actually had to charge the nook about halfway through the book, even though I had the airplane mode switched on for some of the time. I am going to do an experiment with the next one and keep airplane mode on all the time to see what the effective battery life really is. FWIW, it seems to take 3.5 hours to charge starting from practically empty. I certainly wish the battery lasted longer or at least took less time to charge.

Still happy I have one though - I can't imagine wanting to trade it in except for something significantly more advanced than what is currently available - maybe color e-ink.
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Old 12-17-2009, 04:25 PM   #5
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I actually had to charge the nook about halfway through the book.
Thank you for this. That ends *any* interest I might've had in getting a Nook. The only reason I switched from a PDA was battery life; I got tired of losing access mid-book.

If you can't turn off the battery-draining LCD screen, the Nook loses one of the substantial advantages of e-ink readers.
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Old 12-17-2009, 04:41 PM   #6
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It has been my experience with most electronic devices it takes a few cycles to get the battery up to its maximum potential.
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Old 12-17-2009, 04:53 PM   #7
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Just to be clear I do not think the LCD screen is to blame as I barely used it once I started reading. If I were to guess I would say that it is related maybe to the processor running all the time or some similar OS issue that can be fixed in firmware. Or Madam could be right and it could be a breaking in issue for all I know.

The LCD is great for its purpose and I don't begrudge its battery draw but as I said I doubt that it is directly responsible.
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Old 12-17-2009, 05:05 PM   #8
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Just to be clear I do not think the LCD screen is to blame as I barely used it once I started reading.
If it's on, it's eating battery. My Sony PRS-505 goes several days of heavy reading on one battery charge--possibly longer, but when it's down two notches, I charge it while I'm at work.

Quote:
If I were to guess I would say that it is related maybe to the processor running all the time or some similar OS issue that can be fixed in firmware. Or Madam could be right and it could be a breaking in issue for all I know.

The LCD is great for its purpose and I don't begrudge its battery draw but as I said I doubt that it is directly responsible.
E-ink takes almost nothing in battery to maintain; it only draws during page flips. Which is why e-ink readers are advertised at "7000 pages on one battery charge." Which is a bit of exaggeration; that's 7000 if started from a full charge and just flipped through; real use is more like 4k-5k pages/battery charge, allowing for some downtime & navigation panel pages.

LCD is a constant drain on the battery, while e-ink is only draining the battery during the actual page-turning time.
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Old 12-17-2009, 05:47 PM   #9
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Just for the sake of clarity and curiousity.

Did you charge the nook fully when you first got it or use the existing battery level it came with. It might be a quibble and then again it might make a whole world of difference. I would be curious to hear your comments after this next book and if it kept the same battery life.
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Old 12-17-2009, 08:21 PM   #10
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Well, 1000 flips/2 weeks sounds about right for the battery longevity in the e-ink device, I think it's possible that the uncalibrated battery would cut it in half.
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Old 12-17-2009, 08:43 PM   #11
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Elfwreck the LCD is not on while you are reading on the nook. It times out, as I said in my review after a user set interval. If you are just reading a book there is no backlight, similar to a computer monitor on powersave.

Propheus indeed I charged the device fully both times until the charge light went off. Also the second time I checked that the settings reported the battery level at 100%.

Since there is a lot of interest on this issue I will do an experiment and read the next book without wireless or the LCD on. The latter will require considerable discipline as you need the LCD for all the fun stuff including peeking at the battery level :-)

By the way I do like that the device uses USB for charging as that means I don't have to lug a dedicated charger.
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Old 12-18-2009, 10:28 AM   #12
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Very good review, nearly identical to my experiences and opinions.

The device is a little buggy, laggy and ugly... but it is more than usable to me.

It is also my first dedicated e-reader.



I should try and post on MR when I have had sleep in the past week..

zzZzzzzz
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Old 12-18-2009, 11:42 AM   #13
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LCD is a constant drain on the battery, while e-ink is only draining the battery during the actual page-turning time.
When it's off, it can't be draining much. It has a user-adjustable timeout. I doubt it draws much with the backlight off. I'd more readily suspect that airplane mode isn't as dormant as it should be.
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Old 12-18-2009, 12:27 PM   #14
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The Astak PocketPro was having problems with battery life two months ago. Half a book read and three days would kill it. A firmware update fixed it. Speculation is that the processor was always running in the background. Same device after the update goes for several books and two to three weeks between charges.
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Old 12-20-2009, 09:49 AM   #15
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Okay well experiment complete. I downloaded a new book, turned on airplane mode, went to the first page, charged the nook up to the gills, then started reading with no use of the LCD screen (except for the 10-second flicker-on when you bring the device out of sleep).

So at the start the battery level was 100%. 48 hours later as I had finished the book (about 650 pages in the small font) the battery level was 8% (I got the low batter warning about a chapter before the end). I think the odds are overwhelming that this is an implementation issue that can be fixed, just like Polly said was done with the Astak, so I am really looking forward to that.
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