by Savannah J. Foley
Last week I was given a surprise gift, as an appreciation for Administrative Professional’s Day: The Nook, from Barnes & Noble!!! (You can be sure the person who gave it to me received a very lovely thank-you note on Monday).
I was shocked. An e-book reader? Me? I had some Amazon gift cards left over from Christmas, and while I had considered purchasing a Kindle I ultimately decided to purchase real books instead. At the time, I figured, “Spend $200 of gift cards plus $60 of my own money on a Kindle, winding up with a Kindle and no books, OR spend all $200 on books and have many books!”
As some of you might remember, I chose ‘many books’. They are still trickling in as some were advanced purchases, and I’ve made it through three so far 🙂 Thanks again everyone for your suggestions!
Anyway, so I had decided against an e-book reader earlier this year. Plus, you know, I have a loyalty to books. Physical books are what put me where I am today. I believed in the romance of paper books; the smell, the sight, the touch, the dog-eared pages, the author’s picture in the jacket flap… I knew that e-book readers were the way of the future, and I knew that I would come around eventually, but I wanted to hold out for a more technologically advanced version (yes, even more advanced than the iPad). I believe in The Future.
But now that one fell into my lap, excitement gripped me! My own Nook! My own mini-computer with which to read books off of! What what! I couldn’t wait to get it home so I could play with it. I waited all day just to open it, but once I actual sat down to do it, I was faced with a problem: How?
(I’ll apologize right now that my MacBook takes pictures like it’s a mirror, so all of these pictures are backwards)
Seriously, this thing was bound so tight I’m surprised I could find seams in the white cardboard. Immediately I understood why they had such a strict return policy… the Nook was near impossible to open. I didn’t think I was going to get it out…
Then, I realized it was meant to slide out of its case *Facepalm*.
But even once it was freed from the cardboard, there was still a mass of plastic to negotiate.
The inside the cardboard was cool, however.
I pulled off the sealing plastic…
And began trying to pry the Nook out of its hard plastic protection case.
Free at last! But there was yet another piece of plastic to content with!
Finally, no more barriers. Just me and my Nook 🙂
These are the instructions and plug:
This I like a lot. A USB charger that can convert to wall adapter. NICE.
I pressed the power button (at the top) and it started up!
Immediately I liked the top screen (the reading screen). It was different from normal computer screens. I had been expecting something like a laptop, but this was surprisingly flat in depth. You know how white on a computer screen is like ice, or the sky? It has a depth. It has a graininess. This screen was like milk. It was flat. It synthesized paper very well, and continued to amaze me over the weekend.
The first thing the nook told me to do was how to adjust the dimness on the bottom screen (if it fades out either press the Nook logo above the bottom screen or press the power button at the top). Then it asked me to register. It connected to my house’s wireless network automatically (yes I know it should be password protected but I haven’t gotten around to it). Then it gave me the tour.
Those arrows on the side? They’re not touch-oriented. You have to press them. They make a clicking sound.
As I clicked through screens I noticed something else, something I had run across in my research of the Nook… its screen loading. For a second after I press the button it looks like the Nook has suddenly developed static, or its text is made of magnet fillings suddenly attracted to something else. Then it recovers.
As the tour progressed, the Nook started showing me neat things about itself:
- The Daily: A sort of news/blog site for Nook Users. Notifications for upgrades and downloads can be found here.
- Apparently I can also load PDFs to the Nook through the USB cable. Which means I can convert the word documents of myself and others into PDFs and take them with me. At LTWF we read one of our books a month, so this will be super handy.
- I can customize the font and font size when I’m reading something, as well as look up words without leaving the page I’m on (sorta like right-clicking in Microsoft Word).
- You can also load your own wallpaper and screensaver, or choose from pre-loaded ones. This is my favorite part so far 😀 (I later discovered that the top screen is black and white only. Lame).
- You can bookmark pages you want to visit in the future, and highlight passages. You can also rate an eBook.
- I can also listen to music! There’s even a headphone jack! Rock on!
THE DUAL SCREENS
The way this works is that the top screen is not touch-oriented. I can’t select or do anything by touching the top screen. I have to scroll through the top screen by using the bottom screen. There are options, and arrows for up and down, and a circle for ‘select’. You use the arrows to get to different things on the screen, and the circle to select your option.
I held it at an angle cause if I held it straight on my computer’s flash whitewashed the bottom screen.
When I visited The Daily the Nook told me that it was ready for an update. For some reason it dropped off my wireless network, though my laptop was still connected, so I manually downloaded the file onto my laptop, plugged in the Nook, and did a drag and drop. Per the Support Guide on the B&N website, all I had to do was safely eject the Nook and it would begin updates on its own. And it did! Couldn’t have been easier.
The bottom screen got ‘computer text’ and the text turned blue, like something you might see in a hacker movie, as it ‘mounted partitions’ with a status bar. Mega cool.
This process did take several minutes.
I proceeded to explore the options on the bottom screen from the home page from left to right, starting with The Daily. The first option on the page was a blog entry called ‘Your New Nook.’ Don’t mind if I do…
Congratulations on your new nook! We’re sure it will give you many years of trouble-free enjoyment until next week, when we come out with a newer version.
No! We’re kidding! Sort of! But seriously, your nook is a wonderful product, and we’re certain you’re going to have a great, or as we like to say after we’ve had a few cocktails: “Nooktastic” experience with it.
I’m totally serious. The rest of the blog entry continued in a similar vein, this time interspersed with information. I never new B&N had a comedic side; I always thought they were serious titans of industry. My favorite part?
HOW TO OPERATE YOUR NOOK
If you’re reading this, you have already figured out how to operate your nook. So our advice is, just keep on doing whatever you’re doing.
I was also advised to keep the Nook away from blenders, raccoons, to brush its teeth, and to surrender it if I was ever in a hostage situation.
Song transfer took less than 3 seconds. I just dragged it from iTunes into the Media file on the Nook that appeared on my Desktop.
I can play Sudoku or Chess. I am a recent new fan of Sudoku, having discovered it on my new phone, and like to play it in the mornings in bed as a way to both wake myself up and be excited about waking up. I have yet to master Expert level, but baby steps.
When the bottom screen shows a long list, you have to scroll through the options. Contrary to instinct, you do not use the tiny scroll bar to the right. Instead you touch the screen, in the middle say, and scroll there. BUT, you must scroll opposite, like an iPhone.
The bottom screen is touch, obviously. I’ve never used a touch screen before for doing serious typing, and it was a little difficult to get used to. The keyboard was a little small, but bigger than my phone buttons. The Nook seemed to know what letter I wanted until I tried to go fast. Then user error kicked in and mistakes were made. Probably won’t be a primary email-composing device.
Owner and Nook Profile: Deep in the options you can tell your Nook who it belongs to and what its name is. I now had to name my Nook. Cue floundering. I asked my boyfriend, and he suggested Snookie. He’s evil, I tell you. Fine, Snookie it is.
Entering Contacts: There wasn’t a way to download or transfer contacts (that I’m aware), so I had to manually enter. I put all my writer friends in, instantly transforming into a hipster 😦 I’m now dying for something expensive from an independent coffee house. One you’ve never heard of.
Browsing in-store: When you go to a Barnes and Noble store you can browse e-books for free, just like you can do with physical books. This, is awesome.
WEB BROWSER (BETA)
This was a really weird experience. The full page showed in the top screen, but it also showed in the bottom screen, the exact same size, yet obviously because the bottom screen is smaller I had to do a lot of scrolling before I could click on anything. Weird concept. Other than that, the internet worked okay… the screen went extra fuzzy during page transitions, however.
The first thing I did was go to my gmail. When I wanted to enter my username/password to log in, the bottom screen converted to the keyboard again. Mega cool.
The clickable buttons on the web page were really small, but Snookie knew what I wanted. It became easier to just use the bottom screen for both viewing and navigation than wait for the top screen to load, however.
Okay, time to explore the Library. I already had three books loaded on there: Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, and Dracula. I’ve read Little Women, and have actually wanted to read the other two for some time. Score.
Oh, no wait. I didn’t actually have them. They wanted me to download them. I clicked ‘duh’ (not really). Then it told me my account didn’t have a credit card attached to it. Way to be teases, guys. Forget Jane Austen and Bram Stoker, I’m heading over to the free section… (It turns out that they are free, I just hadn’t registered my account yet… or something. I don’t know, anyway they became available later and I began reading P&P for the first time!)
Apparently B&N does not want you to download free books. There were many options in the ‘Shop’ feature, but none for free books. There was, however, a section for e-books under $5.00. Apparently you can buy many classics for only $0.99. I will keep that in mind for later.
Using my laptop, I went online to B&N and found the Free E-Books. I tried to download MY SOUL TO LOSE by Rachel Vincent, but it still wanted my credit card. Sooner or later I would have to give it, so I just gave it then.
And… apparently I had just downloaded my first e-book. My email confirmation said that the book would be waiting on my nook for me, but it never seemed to arrive. Finally I figured out that I had to manually tell Snookie to check for new books. I would have preferred that it detected new boos automatically, but okay, that’s not too hard.
I kept scrolling through the list on the website, and downloaded another apparently-invisible e-book. But five pages in, the list of free e-books stopped. Huh? Where were the ‘thousands’ of free books offered by the Nook, as advertised?
However, back to MY SOUL TO LOSE… I opened it up in the Library and discovered that reading on the Nook was just lovely. The screen is so page-like that you wouldn’t think it’s a screen at all. I was able to adjust the font size and style to how I wanted, and I gotta say I am really looking forward to reading on this thing.
I later downloaded a book from books.google.com using my laptop (as downloading is not supported by the Nook. I know, unfair, right?) and transferred it to the My Documents folder of the Nook using the USB Cable. Success! After manually checking for new content (again), I was able to view the book I had downloaded.
And now, the part I was most curious about… reading for long periods on the Nook.
Reading a real E-Book: I decided to read Pride & Prejudice first. Despite my disappointment that it turns out P&P isn’t high literature, but rather Victorian chiklit, reading on the Nook was surprisingly easy, and very kind to my eyes. One thing though… the top screen does not have a backlight. It is the same brightness all the time, like a regular book. Points for authenticity, but I couldn’t read in the dark 😦
Scrolling through pages was time-consuming, but not impossible. You can skip to different sections and chapters, and the Nook can remember what page you were on last so you don’t have to find it, but flipping through physical books is definitely easier.
One complaint I have is that reading on the nook is like reading in a very tiny book. I felt somehow as if my thoughts were constrained because of the page size. Scenes felt slightly confused in my head, as if I wasn’t really taking in their full descriptions. This was further compounded by a problem I discovered with PDF files…
Reading with PDF’s: All of the LTWF contributors belong to a private google group. We keep in contact with each other (sometimes upwards of hundreds of emails a day!) and also every month we read one of our members’ books. This month we’re reading Jenn’s PRISCILLA THE EVIL (which you can find on her fictionpress profile)! I downloaded the last two sections that I hadn’t read yet onto my laptop, converted them to PDF, and placed them on the Nook.
I took a trip over the weekend and got to read for long periods in the car. It was then that I discovered something goes terribly wrong in the conversion process the Nook uses to read PDF: lines get re-arranged. Always with dashes and hyphens a line would plop down to the next line, or even two lines beyond that, making it confusing and difficult to keep up with precisely. However, I’m a fast reader and I take in meaning very quickly, so it wasn’t hard for me to figure out what was going on, but still, that kind of stuff shouldn’t happen.
Despite this, I was thrilled to be able to have access to all of these projects that I needed to read. Before I would have had to read them on my laptop, and comparatively speaking my laptop is bulky, more difficult to read on-screen, and stands a higher/more costly chance of getting damaged. The Nook was very easy to hold onto, didn’t make me car sick like I’ve been before when trying to read/work on my laptop, fits on my purse, and I didn’t have to worry about it’s screen getting separated from its keyboard (like what half-happened to my MacBook when I dropped it 😦 )
E-BOOK OR REAL BOOK?
Now that I’ve spent several days with the Nook, I feel ready to make a pronouncement on its worth in comparison to real books. And I gotta say that for my lifestyle and reading needs, the Nook is going to be traveling with me until its final days. One, easy-to-use, high-tec device that can store as many books as I need at a time, whose screen mimics real paper so well it’s almost creepy, that can store e-books AND PDF files? Hell yeah. The Nook is for me.
Will I ever go to a completely electronic library? Probably not. Physical books are like old friend, but you know that saying about old friends and new friends: One is silver, and the other gold. When I announced on my livejournal that I’d be blogging about the Nook, a lot of people got up in arms about the trend of electronic books, and what it will do to their beloved ‘real’ books. But I don’t think we have to devote all of our affection to either one exclusively, nor do I think that the future market will make us do this, either. The Book Industry wants to make money. It wants to entertain its readers. And I think that it’s going to be providing both formats to us for a long time.
However, because of my personal ease with using the Nook, and my personal lifestyle requirements, I’m probably going to be buying a lot of books on it from now on. The books are cheaper, will take up less space, and I can carry all of them around with me at once. At its current price tag I would probably have never bought one for myself, but I suspect that now that I have one, if I were to run over it with my car in the next few months or drop it in the bathtub, etc., I would probably save up to get myself another one. It’s just too awesome.
Anything you wanted to know about the Nook that I didn’t answer in the article? Let me know in the comments!
Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.