The Tablet and Me: The Nook Tablet

For the past few months, Barnes & Noble has been offering deals on their Nooks if you purchased a 1-year digital subscription to the New York Times. I have been a long-time subscriber to the print version of the Times, but have been unhappy at the regular price increases for the print subscription. Alas, as unhappy as I proclaim myself to be over the price increases, my unhappiness was not enough to get me to cancel the subscription.

The Nook deal looked good to me. The digital version of the Times costs $20 per month; the regular print subscription was costing me close to $50 per month. I went and looked at the Nook Touch, which was free with the subscription, but didn't buy it. I just couldn't figure out what I would do with another ereader, as I am very happy with my Sony devices, both of which still work perfectly after years of use. Besides, I could get the same digital subscription at the same price on my Sony.

The reason I bought my Sony 950 was to digitally subscribe to the Times. I gave it a trial run, and although I was happy and would have continued, my wife didn't like it; consequently, we went back to the print version. That was 18 months ago.

The Nook offer expired on April 5. My wife decided to give me an early birthday present and ordered the Nook Tablet (16GB version) with the Times subscription before the offer expired. I was pleasantly surprised. I had not considered the Nook Tablet, but her choice of device works perfectly for us. I'll get to the reasons a bit later, but I want to first describe the problems we had when the Nook arrived.

The device worked fine on arrival. I had a problem getting my network to recognize it so it would have WiFi access, and I couldn't get through to Nook support; they kept transferring me and hanging up. Ultimately, because we have Verizon FiOS Internet service, I called Verizon and within minutes I was connected to the WiFi. Apparently, Verizon gets a lot of calls from Nook owners with the problem, so they knew what to do immediately.

But this raises a question: Why is the Nook the only device to have to jump through hoops to get that initial connection? My Sony 950 connected without hesitation. Part of the problem is that the Nook asks for a network password when what it really wants is the network WEP key. Had I known what it wanted, I could have been up and running in seconds without a call to Verizon. My Sony asked for the WEP key, not a password.

Anyway, once connected to WiFi, I was able to complete registration of the device and link it to my Nook library. (Yes, I had a Nook library of books "bought" from B&N even though I didn't own a Nook device. I downloaded the books to my computer and then used Calibre to load them onto my Sonys.) But what I couldn't get was the New York Times, which was part of the purchase.

A call to B&N customer support, to which I was connected quickly, solved this mystery. Because my wife bought the device and used her credit card, the subscription was linked to her B&N account. Easy enough, I thought -- just move it to my account. Turns out, B&N has no method for dealing with gift purchases and couldn't transfer the subscription to my existing account.

I asked what was to me the obvious question: Doesn't B&N hope that people will buy Nooks and subscriptions as gifts for others? Why make it impossible to do so? It reminds me of the early fiasco when B&N wouldn't accept gift cards to pay for Nook books. Seems to be something missing in the thinking, which does not bode well for B&N's ultimate success.

Because of the impossibility of transferring the subscription, we had to cancel the purchase, return the Tablet to the local B&N store, and buy another Tablet under the deal but on my credit card. How illogical is this? Here I had to return a perfectly good Tablet that B&N will now have to sell as a refurbished unit simply because they couldn't transfer a subscription.

Even that, however, didn't go as smoothly as it should have. To set up the Times subscription, I needed the e-mail address and password for my B&N account. The e-mail address was not a problem, but I had no idea what the password was (I use RoboForm, a password manager, to manage my passwords and to log me in). So I had to return home, get the password, and return to the local store to conclude the transaction. Once again, B&N isn't thinking "customer first" service.

Truthfully, if this hadn't been a birthday gift, I probably would have simply canceled the original transaction and gone no further.

In the end, the Tablet is up and running and I have my Times subscription. I canceled the print version and am saving myself $30 a month. Plus I can carry the Times with me and read it on the go.

As it turns out, the Nook tablet has solved another problem for us. We rarely use our cell phones. In fact, our cell phones are about 6 years old and don't have any of the smartphone features so common today -- no Internet access, no e-mail, etc.

Because our cell phones really do only one thing -- albeit they do it very well -- which is to make and receive phone calls, and because we are planning a vacation for this summer out to Utah and the national parks of the Utah-Arizona-Wyoming-Montana areas, we were thinking of upgrading our phones to smartphones. We think we need to have at least e-mail contact for business reasons. Alas, that would have meant a new 2-year commitment (currently, we have no commitment), something I was reluctant to do.

The Nook Tablet solves that problem for us. It gives us e-mail access and Internet access, assuming, of course, we can get a WiFi connection, which we should be able to do most of the time.

So far I am very pleased with the Nook Tablet. The screen is very good (although it is only 7 inches) and its functionality suits my needs. Although it doesn't have the functionality of an iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab, it provides the functionality we need at one-third to one-fourth the price of a more functional tablet. Even with my limited experience with the Nook Tablet, I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for basic tablet functionality.

31 Comments on The Tablet and Me: The Nook Tablet

  1. >>>It reminds me of the early fiasco when B&N wouldn’t accept gift cards to pay for Nook books. Seems to be something missing in the thinking, which does not bode well for B&N’s ultimate success.

    Look, B&N requires people to have *credit cards* in order to buy books. How stupid and elitist and anti-reading is that? So, yes, they’re screwed.

    >>>Alas, that would have meant a new 2-year commitment (currently, we have no commitment), something I was reluctant to do.

    OK, let me give you a tip I just learned about this weekend. It’s called Straight Talk. You can buy any smartphone that will work with them and then have a NO-commitment csmartphone service — voice, text, data. Check it out:

    People generally love the service — but like all “unlimited” plans, mind the amount of data you use. Some people have gotten cut off because they neglected to turn off YouTube in the background (Android users) and that ran up their meter unawares.

  2. I too tried B&N, with similar unsatisfactory results. I’ll never use B&N again, it’s just not worth the frustration. Now you can see why so many of us use Amazon, and love it…

  3. 1. The Nook asks for a Wifi password, not a network password. As you are trying to establish a Wifi connection that should be clear. There is no jumping through hoops involved. Making a Wifi connection with the Nook works the same as with any other device.
    2. Ebooks and subscriptions cannot be transferred from one account to another. As far as I know this is true for Kindle and every other ebook store. So no reason to blame B&N specifically. By the way you can gift ebooks and Nooks.
    3. You cannot blame B&N for the fact that you do not know the password of your B&N account. Would you like B&N employees to be able to buy ebooks and subscriptions on your B&N account without needing your password?
    4. You can use giftcards to buy ebooks. You need a credit card in your account for the DRM. B&N’s DRM is the least restrictive one available. Any B&N ebook file can be copied as many times as you want, to as many devices as you want. Try that with a Kindle file! (you cannot because the file is tied to hardware of one specific reader).

    I am glad you do like the Nook Tablet!

    • >>>B&N’s DRM is the least restrictive one available.

      Yeah, as long as you have plastic. What? You’d like to use a Gift Card, like you can with Sony, Kobo, or Amazon? NO! Stop pimping their DRM when they exclude people from being able to buy to begin with. That’s no selling point.

      • You can also use all kinds of pre-paid cards and debit cards. So even if you do not have a credit card there are ways to buy books from B&N.

        I like the fact that my ebooks can be read on any device supporting the DRM, and that I am not forced to use an DRM server any time I want to read my ebooks on another device.
        And that I can make backup copies that will work on any device supporting the DRM.
        And that I can copy my ebooks to as many devices as I want, as many times as I want, without any restricions, and without needing an online connection or DRM server.

  4. I have to agree with Geert at least on point #3… Blaming B&N because you don’t know your own password is kinda, well dumb. If I could just walk into an B&N say I was you and ask for your password wouldn’t that kinda defeat the purpose of a pass word?

    Also I would just point out you could have just registered the first Nook to your wife’s account sat back and enjoyed your reading. Much of your frustration was brought about because you wish to maintain 2 accounts with B&N (they let you register 6 devices on 1 account and share all those purchases freely).

    The wifi issues are B&N’s fault. They have more than once used poorly worded language in their menus. Perhaps they will fix it in future software updates (as they have with other similar issues). But then as you said this was an easy fix.

  5. I haven’t had any problems with the wifi on my Nook Tablet other than the occasional disconnect that I get with my laptop too.

    Barnes and Noble had a coupon stating that if I purchased a Nook Tablet with my credit card that I would receive a $25 gift card. When I got to the store, they used my Barnes and Noble membership to save $25 on the Tablet but then said they couldn’t give me the gift card. The saving of the $25 was something they suggested. I didn’t think about it when I got there. He actually did this at the end of the purchase and then charged me for the $25 gift card. So I used up my free $25 credit but ended up paying for a gift card that I shouldn’t have been charged for.

    I ended up making a big stink since nothing in the e-mail said anything of the kind. It took a lot longer to clear this up then it should have but eventually I did get the gift card. I hate it when a store offers something to you and then makes you fight to get it.

    I agree about the password issue. Barnes and Noble probably have to make sure that you are actually going to pay for your New York Times subscription.

    If your wife had read the details of the offer, it goes like this….

    The 1-year subscription will be billed in 12 monthly installments to the active credit card linked to the B&N account used at the time of sign up or default credit card on such account. If at any time within the year the subscription is cancelled or the monthly charge is unable to be processed, an early termination fee of $99 will be charged. The B&N account used at the time of sign-up is responsible for all 12 monthly installments regardless of the device registration. After the initial year, the B&N account holder will be notified that the subscription will continue automatically at the price then in effect and can be cancelled at any time.

    I agree that the stupid part is having to go to the store and getting a new Nook Tablet to return and redo the offer. They should be able to transfer it.

    @Geert, Barnes and Noble isn’t the most restrictive DRM since you can only read Barnes and Noble ebooks from the Nook or Nook Apps unless you remove the DRM. At least Kobo, lets you use your books in anyone’s Adobe DRM reader.

    • B&N has licensed its DRM to Adobe. Anyone using the Adobe software can support the B&N DRM. That is why there are several software ereaders supporting the B&N DRM. All the new ereader devices using the latest Aobe software could support the B&N DRM, but manufacturers have disabled this. Blame them, not B&N for the lack of support on ereader devices.

      This is still a big difference with Amazon, which allows no-one to use their DRM system.

      • Why should *anyone* use B&N’s DRM scheme when they broke ranks from what everyone else agreed to as a standard in order to be Amazon-like in capturing customers?

        • “Why should *anyone* use B&N’s DRM scheme?”.
          Because the B&N DRM is a lot easier to use for end-users. You do not need Adobe Digital Editions. There is no authorizing of devices. You can just download the ebook and copy it to any device you want it to read upon.

          Manufacturers could support both the Adobe DRM and the B&N DRM on their ereaders. That way ebook stores could choose which of the two to use.

  6. @Geert

    These are legitimate criticisms- the consumer experience for Barnes and Noble is disjointed. Some clever engineer should program up a workaround for these consumer issues.

    That being said- I find it odd that this is chalked up to Barnes and Noble’s “attitude” and not the simple fact that they are a MUCH smaller company than any of their competitors and simply don’t yet have the engineering resources to polish everything up like Amazon, Apple, or even Sony.

    Every complaint I’ve seen or encountered regarding the nook has been fixed with time- they are simple technical integration issues, and a quick look at all the open engineering positions (and new engineering hires) they have on Linkedin that tells me they’re working on fixing everything- although some things may take awhile.

    I certainly cannot say that about Amazon, because the complaints there truly are reflective of a problem with the management’s attitude.

    • >>>not the simple fact that they are a MUCH smaller company than any of their competitors

      Oh come on, that’s a ridiculous argument. You need X number of employees to achieve Y-levels of IQ? Just stop. How much smaller was Apple compared to Sony, to Microsoft, to Samsung — yet it kicked all their asses with the iPhone.

      • “How much smaller was Apple compared to Sony, to Microsoft, to Samsung — yet it kicked all their asses with the iPhone.”

        And BN kicked Dell, HP, and Sony’s asses with the nook color in spite of being small. I’m not saying small is always a handicap, all things considered.

        Rich is not complaining about the nook concept- using a newspaper subscription to subsidize a tablet purchase is a good idea. Epub support is a good idea. He’s not even saying it is a bad product or that he is taking it back. I believe I once predicted Rich would eventually turn to the nook.

        The complaints here are regarding more detailed execution issues like feature requests (gift subscriptions are a simple concept, but they still don’t code themselves) and customer service issues (tied up phone lines can’t be answered by an executive, clueless retail workers). Those are the type of things that simply take a type of manpower that Barnes and Noble doesn’t have right now- does Jeff Bezos personally answer every call at Amazon or code every feature? Hopefully they will be able to rapidly acquire those types of workers.

        Kobo has similar problems- the management is genius, but 49% of users vote customer service as “abysmal”. This is just because they can’t afford their own call centers, not because they don’t care or don’t get it. Although I don’t think Rakuten gets it.

        FWIW, in a lot of ways I’m splitting hairs. The typical consumer doesn’t care if the problem is truly clueless management or just that the company is understaffed compared to consumer expectations. In the end, you just want things to work.

        But I seek to be better than the typical consumer.

        How’s that for elitist?

  7. Geert is correct, although your local B&N should have been able to help with all the issues completely in some way. Any store selling technology should have persons who can answer all those questions.

  8. As I read the comments, I think there are a couple of misunderstandings. First, regarding my password to my B&N account. My complaint is not that they asked me for it but that I wasn’t told I would need it BEFORE I made the trip to the store. It was in discussion with B&N’s customer service people (via telephone) that it was determined I needed to return the Tablet to the local store and start over.

    Second, we weren’t trying to setup 2 accounts; we wanted everything merged into 1 account. When my wife purchased the Tablet with the subscription, she wasn’t told that accessing the subscription would be linked to her credit card. She was buying the gift and so expected to be billed for the subscription but thought, as I would have thought, that the gift recipient would simply have to register the gift to his/her account. I had thought about buying the TAblet with the subscription as a gift for my sister in Virginia until my troubles. There is no reason why either the Times or B&N could not have issued a code that the gift recipient would enter to have delivery made to his/her account. Many companies find themselves capable of separating payment from gift access. This seems to me to be a no-brainer. And because Amazon doesn’t do it doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be done.

    As for the WiFi password, I tried to give it my password, which I do know, but it wouldn’t accept it. Because it was a secured network, it wanted the WEP key but never said so.

    @Mike Cane — Thanks for the tip about Straight Talk. The only problem is that it solves a problem I currently do not have :). If I were going to buy a smartphone I would consider using Straight Talk but now that I have the Nook Tablet, I do not need the smartphone. Our 8-year-old cell phones work just fine and I have no contract.

    • Logan Kennelly // 9 April, 2012 at 5:52 pm // Reply

      I agree with Rich in that I would not expect an employee to ask me for my password at a store. In fact, I couldn’t actually read out my password if asked; I’d have to type it using their keyboard (human memory is strange).

      If you actually are still using WEP, then you are simply being bit as an early adopter. Although there are a number of WEP devices that support network “passwords”, it wasn’t until WPA that there was actually a standard for converting these passwords into keys. If you were on the newer standard, it would have worked (assuming, of course, that you didn’t confuse your network password with your router password 😛 ).

      (A quick word to support Geert, B&N DRM is the best system that actually includes DRM. Mike Cane vehemently puts the status quo above customer rights and convenience, but I prefer pro-customer technologies even if it involves (at this point, longer than expected) transition periods.)

      As for the credit card, isn’t it funny how a feature (in this case, B&N is presumably making it “easy” to set up an account for purchased devices by using the purchasing card) can turn ugly so quickly. B&N needs to get the account transfer work completed.

      • >>>Mike Cane vehemently puts the status quo above customer rights and convenience,

        Oh, that’s funny. Me, defending status quo? In fact, the status quo until B&N upset it was that no one needed plastic to buy a *print* book. And you can use Gift Cards for Amazon, Sony, and Kobo. You can also get FREE ebooks from those stores, while you need plastic even for *that* with B&N.

        And while it seems I might be saying one DRM is better than another, I’m not. They should all go away. And none of them should prevent people who don’t have or can’t get plastic from reading.

        • Logan Kennelly // 9 April, 2012 at 9:31 pm // Reply

          Above, you shrug off B&N’s nice DRM scheme by calling all such systems “an annoying speedbump”. However, the concept of paying a one-time fee of $4 to get a cash card to create an account is a total failure for you. Or you could provide them with a bank’s debit card. B&N needs sixteen digits to create the password, but, and you know this, you can pay for books in-store with cash or buy gift cards at other retailers with cash. No credit cards are necessary.

          And yes, B&N still expects you to create an account even if you simply want to use their servers only to download free books. If you want to download your own free books (such as those from Project Gutenberg), you don’t even need to do that. Heck, buy a Nook and purchase your books from Sony and Kobo!

          I always think companies can do better, but I find it so alien that _this_ is your sticking point.

          At least we agree that DRM is an unnecessary annoyance. 🙂

          • >>>And yes, B&N still expects you to create an account even if you simply want to use their servers only to download free books.

            Incorrect. B&N wants an account with a *CC* (or other debiting) number for free eBooks. I have a non-transactional acct at B&N and thought — like at Amazon, Sony, and Kobo — I would be able to get free eBooks. Not so. Even “free” requires plastic.

            And you can’t even use B&N Gift Cards to buy eBooks from them unless your acct is linked to plastic to begin with.

            >>>Above, you shrug off B&N’s nice DRM scheme by calling all such systems “an annoying speedbump”.

            Yes, for people like me. Who says I can’t advocate for people NOT like me?

            >>>However, the concept of paying a one-time fee of $4 to get a cash card to create an account is a total failure for you.

            How much do you know about those pre-pay cards? Some of them have $2-$5 fees for *each* transaction. So you’d buy a 99-cent eBook with a $2-$5 fee attached to it? I don’t think so.

            >>>At least we agree that DRM is an unnecessary annoyance.

            Only publishers seem to disagree with us on that!

          • Logan Kennelly // 10 April, 2012 at 10:52 am //

            Some of the pre-paid cards you found may have that fee, but I have never encountered it. Regardless, that misses the point. The goal is to use a cash-purchased card to open an account, and then use cash (or gift cards) to pay for books. There should never be a reason to charge on the card. (B&N will occasionally (with every purchase?) authorize a $1 charge but not actually charge it to ensure the card is active.)

            As you replied to someone else, customer service does not support this. However, it works for almost everyone that has tried it.

          • Thanks for that info. Maybe I will be adventurous one day and actually try it firsthand.

  9. I love my Nook Tablet. It has never been a headache at all. I personally love the Barnes and Noble experience. I’ve been a B&N customer long before I even considered going digital. I am and forever will be a book person. Gift cards are not difficult to use. Any who… I only have two complaints about the Nook experience. First, the shop search is silly. If I click on apps and then search I expect to only search apps. It should be contextual. Secondly I wish there was better functionality with Nook Friends. It would be nice if it had more social networking type integration. Like sending a message to a buddy.

    I recently read an article on Barnes and Nobles forums that mentioned ways of sharing your content on another users Nook. Pretty neat. I’m not sure if it applies for subscriptions, but it does apply if there are two nook owners in one house that want to maintain separate accounts.

  10. @anti Search for Apprentice Alf.

  11. ok, now i’m totally confused (suprise, surprise). B&N epubs CAN be loaded onto Sony e-readers via Calibre? I thought not?

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