Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nook Color: the e-reader/tablet for the masses?

You've heard about the recent run on the HP Touchpad tablet, but users have to wonder, will this product be supported in the future? If you have problems, where can you turn?

Well, folks who actually purchased a tablet/ereader like, say, the Nook Color (NC for short), don't have such concerns, as Barnes and Noble stands behind its product, with both in-store help as well as telephone customer support. (In addition to other goodies for Nook users who use their tablets in a brick Barnes and Noble, such as discounts and free 1-hour reading of e-books, in addition to access to its free wi-fi.) Oh, and don't forget Free Friday!

Just as important, the Nook Color is itself a well built and designed device, which only costs $250 [brand new] at Barnes and Noble and other retail outlets; you can occasionally find refurbished ones cheaper at It has a gorgeous touch screen (touch capacitive), which is quite responsive, with pinch to zoom. Yes, it has web access via wi-fi, which means no extra monthly bills. Web and many apps can be seen in either portrait or landscape orientations. Frankly, it's been $250 well spent, as I've had a hard time putting it down the last few months. As its capacities have been increased, with access to flash as well as some apps made available (with a few useful ones), it's been easy to spend loads of time on it. All good reasons why the Nook Color is the only other tablet next to the iPad that's come even close to being a real success, with over 3 million shipped. (And this was before the Touchpad fire sale.)
nook color home screen
The screen generally looks as good as the photo of the home screen above, if not better. (Forgive my photographic skills.) Its backlit, with a high pixel density, so photos and text appear clear and bright. Makes me wonder why so many people on the (often dark) subway platforms put up with the similarly dark Kindle screen (and its weird flaking when the user turns from one page to the next).

Admittedly, I was inclined to view this product favorably when I first found out about it a few months ago, as I like the cute name, the logo, as well as the kiosk setup in Barnes and Noble (as well as a live salesperson) to answer questions and allow you to try it. My opinion of the device increased when I bought it home, and opened it. Its packaging is sane and does not inspire wrap rage, as I only had to crack open the (hard cardboard) box, and slide the tablet out. No risk of getting cut, or of breaking the Nook Color while attempting to open its box. All electronics should be packaged so smartly.

A screen that's close to 7 inches long is much easier on the eyes than a smartphone when attempting to view websites or read e-books, yet small enough to easily put in your purse.

ebook text
The text is quite clear when reading an e-book, and the pages turn swiftly with a flick of the finger. (No buttons needed for this.)app with navigation buttons at bottomOne of my favorite apps, Get It Done, a free one which I like better than Springpad (and some other similar list making apps), as this one does not require me to sign in to use it, and is quite intuitive. The American Airlines app is another nice free app.

In fact, using the Nook Color in general is quite intuitive and easy. The NC comes with a short (paper) user manual, and has a more extensive one pre-loaded, which can be accessed on the home screen.
youtube screen with navigation buttons displayed
The navigation buttons at the bottom of the above screen can be accessed by pressing that half circle with the arrow that's always in the middle of the screen, at the bottom.

The same screen (a youtube video) without the navigation buttons. Oh yeah, video runs pretty well. The browser in general, while not the fastest, is decently fast. (Faster than my smartphone browser, in fact.)

Downloading books takes only seconds. While I've purchased a number of books, Barnes and Noble also offers e-book samples (which also take only seconds to download), which can be stored on your device, and viewed as many times as you like; they tend to range from 20 to up to 50 pages. You can access PDFs, as well as the epub format used by libraries, but I haven't tried the latter yet, or the loan-me feature. (However, it's been noted that Kindle only recently allowed the epub format; it was the first popular e-book reader--what took so long?)

Many tech types have purchased a Nook Color because its stock operating system is based on Android, giving them an opportunity to have a cheap yet decent tablet that's completely to their liking. But as you can see, your Nook Color straight out of the box is an excellent value--an excellent e-book reader with instant access to Barnes and Noble's extensive online offerings, web/video access via wi-fi, and many fun and productive apps. (Oh, and the children's book features and online magazines are also highly rated, and more publications are being made available all the time.)

My only real beef is the battery life, which could be better. (Someone commented about the crappy battery life of Android products--perhaps this will be improved with the rumored upcoming Nook Color 2?) This becomes noticeable because the more the features improve, the more you use the NC, and the more the battery life goes down. The other, more minor, quibble is of the boring covers available for the Nook Color from Barnes and Noble; I choose to get mine from, which has a greater variety of pretty, useful covers, which is appropriate for my pretty, useful Nook Color.

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