This review is based on the stock firmware, and it was not an easy review to write. It's not that the Nook is a bad ebook reader; it's just that I find it to be exceptionally unremarkable. I'm still looking for some feature that makes the Nook stand out. What I'm really looking for is the WOW Factor. I'm looking for something like the K2's browser and indexing, or the Sony Touch Edition's annotation abilities. I haven't found it yet.
As you probably know, the Nook runs Android OS, and has Wifi & a small touchscreen. This potentially makes the Nook a small Android tablet, and that's probably going to be the WOW Factor for the Nook – but only after someone figures out how to do something neat with it. When it comes to the stock firmware, the touchscreen is not used for anything more than a basic interface for the menu. It feels like they took a K2 and replaced the keyboard and joystick with the touchscreen and then did not bother to think up anything new to do with it.
I'm not expecting B&N to find the best use for the touchscreen, either. I have high hopes for the hackers at NookDevs (even though I haven't tried their work yet). They've already started working on most of the things I don't like about the Nook. As of the time I wrote this review, they are working on a number of apps, including:
- NookLibrary - a replacement for the lackluster default library
- NookBrowser - a web browser
- NookLauncher - from the video demos, it looks like a significant improvement over the original
- Trook - lets you read RSS feeds and download files from Stanza catalogs
The Nook is about the same size as the K2. In fact, the Nook feels like B&N replaced the keyboard on the K2 with a touchscreen. There are the page turn buttons on the front, the power button on the upper edge, and there is a fifth button hidden between the 2 screens. The “n” is actually a button, and it's how you wake the LCD screen when it's gone dark. Nice design, but I think it's hidden a little too well. There is a slight arch in the back of the Nook; it's thicker on the left and right edges than in the center. I think they did it to make the Nook easier to hold (it worked). Also, the back is slightly rubberized; it won't slide off an angled surface.
Footnote: I was at CES back in January, and I happened to run in to one of the engineers from Spring Design (makers of the Alex). He said he was in the meetings with the Nook developers, and it was his impression that the Nook devs hadn't really put much thought into the how they were using the touchscreen. Now that I've seen the Nook, I agree.
I'm really disappointed in what the Nook can do. Its competitors are significantly more capable. The Nook cannot sort by date or last read, nor can it search among the ebooks by title, author, or any other method. Nor can you reverse the sort. It also can't jump from one page in the library to another. The K2 and the Sony Touch Edition meet and exceed all of the Nook's abilities.
The Nook is a very good ebook reader, just so long as you don't want to jump around inside a book. It's missing a Goto page feature, which I hadn't realized how much I needed until it was gone. But I will say that I found the Nook pleasant to hold. It has good ergonomics.
The only reason to get the Nook is if you are planning to hack it and install new apps. The stock firmware is limited in features when compared to the K2 or the Sony Touch Edition. At the very least, the current problems with battery life should give you pause.
A Second Opinion
I've heard from a number of people who love their Nook. They're right; it is a nice ebook reader. I'm sure if you got one you would be happy with it. But there are a number of nice ebook readers on the market; you might be happy with any one of them.