Nook Glowlight Plus Review: If It Were Made By Anyone Other than B&N …

nook glowlight plusIt's been just over a week since Barnes & Noble released their latest (and probably final) ereader, the Nook Glowlight Plus. As I sit here, getting ready to box it up and take it back, I thought I would bang on the keyboard for a few minutes and express my opinion.

  • In spite of everything, I like this ereader.
  • If it belonged to anyone other than B&N, a company which we don't know will be in ebooks this time next year, I would keep it.
  • If managing my Nook library on the device weren't such a pain in the ass, I would keep it.

I know that the above sounds like damning with faint praise. but honest to goodness I seriously considered keeping my Glowlight Plus.

Physical Experience

With a gold colored metal rear shell and a cream-colored bezel, the Glowlight Plus doesn't look like your average ereader (which is usually available in your choice of black, black, or black).

It runs Android 4.4 on a 1GHz Freescale i.MX6 CPU with 512MB RAM, 4GB internal storage (3.1GB available to the user), and Wifi. The 6" screen sports a resolution of 1448 x 1072 with frontlight and touchscreen.Weighing in at 195 grams, the Glowlight Plus is certified to meet the IP67 standard for water and dust proofing.

All those specs could be found in the fact sheet (PDF) or in my post on hacking the Plus, but here's a detail that you could only see first-hand.

The Plus has the same screen resolution as the new Kindle Paperwhite, the Kobo Glo HD, and the Kindle Voyage, so you would think that (after allowing for software differences) the Plus would have about the same reading experience as the other ereaders.

But it doesn't, and we can attribute the difference to the Plus's unique design. Where the Kindle and other ereaders have a black shell which is intended to emphasize the white on the E-ink screen, the Plus has a cream-colored bezel which was chosen for the subtle effect it has on the E-ink screen.

The cream-colored bezel, when combined with a frontlight set to 50%, give me the feeling that I'm looking at the yellowed page of an old book. This might not appeal to you, but I love it. It makes up for the gold-colored shell, which I don't like (I find bare metal unappealing) and it's a trick I would like to see copied on other ereaders.

Reading Experience

When it comes to ebooks, I am not your average reader. I have been buying ebooks for long enough that I have far more ebooks that have been set free of any platform than I do in any single platform.

In fact, Barnes & Noble is the one and only ebook platform where I have a huge native library thanks to my Fictionwise purchases having been migrated to the Nook platform. I have around 450 ebooks in the Nook system, and that's a problem for B&N because it's made me aware of just how horrible the library management is on the Nook Glowlight Plus.

It's not just that the software lacks basic and obvious features like only showing the ebooks on the device, but also that simple acts like downloading an ebook doesn't move said ebook to the front of the library. As a result, the ten or fifteen ebooks I want to read are lost in a cloud of ebooks that I have no interest in.

And that's a shame because I do want to read on the Glowlight Plus. The ebooks don't display consistently, but they are close enough that I am fine with it - if only they were easier to find and load.

There are three options for margins and three options for line spacing, but no option for justification (the Nook iOS app has this). But on the plus side, the Plus does have typography about on par with the new "improved" typography that Amazon is only now adding to the Kindle platform. And in fact, it's had it for some time.

Speaking of loading ebooks, there have been numerous reports concerning USB issues. The Glowlight Plus doesn't like working with the USB port on Windows or OSX machines. Most people have been able to resolve their problems, but the sheer number of complaints is unusual.

Furthermore, the Plus does not work with Adobe DE, which means no support for library ebooks or ebooks bought elsewhere. B&N swears there is a fix in the works, but that doesn't do us any good.


Do you know what I wish?

I wish the Glowlight Plus was running a Kobo firmware.  That would combine the screen I like with software features I like, and it would allay concerns that the Plus might be turned off tomorrow.

This is a far nicer looking mid-range ereader than the Kobo Glo HD, which even though it was supplied from the same Chinese OEM (Netronix) looked and felt cheap compared to the Paperwhite or the Glowlight Plus. Combining the better aspects of the Glo HD and the Plus device would be the best of all worlds, but alas it's just not going to happen.

About Nate Hoffelder (11480 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

19 Comments on Nook Glowlight Plus Review: If It Were Made By Anyone Other than B&N …

  1. It seems a repetition of common problems with the Nook platform (reasons that I left them behind). The display is solid and similarly the hardware (the same applied to the in-house made tablets), if we discount the last generation Glowlight; I thought the previous Glowlight had a better quality screen than both Kobo & Paperwhite (before 300 ppi). What lets it down is the firmware that is horribly buggy, limited and never ever gets fixed with firmware updates. Shouldn’t B&N, for example, enter a partnership with Readability, similar to Kobo and Pocket? How about syncing a side-loaded book to the cloud? Can I access my own notes and highlights for a change or will they disappear due to a firmware glitch? Will the book I am reading, even if it is side-loaded, just sync the right page whether I access it from the front-end or my library? I could go on and on!

  2. Essentially, you’re saying that the parts made by Netronix are top-notch and the parts supplied by B&N generally suck.

  3. Do you know if the issue with the screen tears have been fixed? I have had two Nook Glows do this & found other reviews that said it was a chronic problem. Just wondering if the weakness was address or its too soon to know?

  4. I just returned my Glow Light Plus. Why? The fact that you can’t borrow library books is a deal breaker. Too bad B&N isn’t up front about this. The device is unpleasant to hold due to the aluminum case’s hard edges and physical coldness. An added bonus of the slick aluminum case is that if you’re not careful, the device slides across the table or spins in place. The battery drained way too quickly, even when not using the light. The upside? The new “gapless” screen will prevent dust from causing the thing to freeze up (I’ve had that problem). I’m back to using my Simple Touch with a reading light clamped on it and making sure I store it face down to avoid the dust problem.

  5. I tried out the GlowLight at the store. I didn’t like the metal back and there is lag when just opening an ebook (took 2-5 seconds). Also, it seems the E Ink refresh is set to every page, that was annoying.
    I am glad I never got a Nook.

  6. I’d been thinking about getting one of these, but now I wonder.

    Why is it that no manufacturer seems to have worked out good library management? For example, dealing with series. Using Calibre, it’s possible to handle this with folder titles, but why not build in real search and catalog features?

    (The Nook Simple Touch does have search, but – sometimes opening the searched book seems to open a different iteration than via the main interface.)

    • My main gripe in terms of library management is the lack of author, genre, and subject indexes, but yes I share your frustration.

      As for why no platform offers these features, my guess is that it is because the average customer is a reader, and not a librarian. So long as the Kindle can find the couple books you’re reading, most people are happy.

      • I have a Nook Glowlight Plus, and the option to sort by author last name should be up at the top of the library, where there’s a drop down menu with a default setting of “Most Recent”. You can also create shelves to sort by genre as you download books, though granted, it doesn’t have an option to sort by genre in that sort menu. The shelves are pretty handy though and easy to make.

  7. I’m just gobsmacked how much lighter it feels compared to the Paperwhite. Now I admit that could be because the Kindle cases are so heavy (it feels heavier than my iPad mini!) but I found that surprising nevertheless.

  8. Nate,

    Re library management, the Kindle may be able to find the books you are currently reading but how do you find the next book to read when there are hundreds to choose from? Do “most people” not have hundreds of books, given that things like Bookbub make them so easy to acquire?

    I don’t have a problem, but only because my account is also used by my wife and her 90 year old – a bit computer phobic – mother. I’ve ended up being pretty anal about this with lots of collections and printed out book lists which tell mother-in-law exactly which books are where and whether or not she’s read them. I suspect that I’m pretty unusual in doing this (it takes a lot of work to say nothing of paper and printer ink for the monthly updates) and that there are an awful lot of e-readers filled with a disorganised mass of – mostly free – books.

  9. One of the great features of e-readers is their ability to contain an entire library. In theory, you can choose from among thousands of books, any time. In practice, without a decent way to organize them, it’s pretty hard to find what you want – scrolling through dozens of screens, six books at a time, is pretty tedious.

    I’d like to see tags and series fields, so that I filter by genre, and so that it was obvious which book in a series was next.

  10. Okay, I was going to buy a new Glowlight plus but I too have hundreds of books and the library issue is a concern. I was also looking for a front light ereader that is easy to check out library books on. Do you have any suggestions?

  11. I decided to buy one of these anyway, mainly for price ($99) and waterproofing. I returned it and went back to my Nook SimpleTouch, largely because a) the new one was very uncomfortable to hold (sharp edges), and b) it wasn’t easy to turn pages one handed (no buttons). My Simple Touch may be old and tired (one button doesn’t work), but it is much more comfortable to use. I’m thinking a Tolino or Kobo next time I try.

  12. Got the Nook Glowlight Plus for my 10 year old daughter, mainly to get books from public library. To make a very long horrible story short I HATE THIS THING!!!!!!!!!!! I’m very computer savvy, and if there is a way to get a freaking library book on here, I haven’t figured it out in the 10 hours I’ve spent trying. The B&N Support desk is about as supportive as a 10 year old bra. My first device was defective, wouldn’t do a software update, then froze up during the procedure the support desk told me to do. They swapped for a new one at the B&N store, and now many hours later, still no library book, even with the current update. Returning it tonight. NIGHTMARE

  13. I feel we need to support our real physical bookstores than the Amazon behemoth. I own all the Kindles and I have the Nook Glowlight Plus and love it! Yes it is slower than a kindle but feels better in the hands, better to look at and is classier than the Kindle. I am really bored with the kindle color. I also like going to the book store in person. Just a lot more fun than a website. We also need to support the local independent book stores as well. It will be a shame if Amazon runs Barnes and Noble and the smaller bookstores out of business. I lover going to a barnes and noble for coffee or a piece of cheesecake and reading on my Nook.

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