E-reader impressions: hey, who put this library in my pocket?

So, I’ve had my Nook Simple Touch Reader for about a month.  In that time, I’ve read ten books on it and now feel qualified to put my thoughts and impressions about owning an e-reader out into the world.

Overall, the Nook is a pretty big win in my book (no pun intended).  It’s small and easy to use.  It wasn’t too pricey.  The battery lasts forever (a month!).  It holds thousands of books without cluttering my apartment.

Is it exactly the same as reading a real book?  No.  Is it pretty damn close?  Yes.

My biggest fear was that reading from the Nook screen would not be like reading from a page in a print book.  This fear was unfounded.  The e-ink technology is truly amazing.  It looks just like printed ink.  Doesn’t matter what angle or distance you hold the Nook at, it’s still just like reading from a printed book and nothing like reading from a computer screen.  The device itself is also very lightweight, easy to hold in one hand, and has no keypad (there’s a pop-up touchscreen instead).

Downloading e-books takes less than a minute, so it’s great for impatient little me – no waiting to read what I want.  There are plenty of classics you can get for free (either from B & N or from online sources like Project Guttenburg) and transferring files from your computer to the Nook is pretty easy.  Prices on e-books bought directly from B & N are usually a buck or two cheaper than a print version would be and there is an ample selection.  This Nook has no 3G connectivity, which is only a problem if you don’t plan ahead (e.g. I only downloaded one new book for my trip to Boston…big mistake!  I couldn’t get on the wireless at the hotel and thus wasn’t able to download any new books for the journey home).

The Nook is really great for doing Beta reading projects, too.  You just transfer the .pdf over (caveat: I did have to fiddle with formatting those .pdfs to make reading them easier) and you can read through your crit partner’s novels.  It’s vastly preferable to reading on the computer screen or printing them out.  In addition, there are several nifty features, such as the ability to loan books to other Nook readers and to check e-books out from the library on your Nook.

It isn’t all wine and roses, though.  There are a few aspects of using the Nook that I don’t much like.

First, you really lose out on the cover.  The Nook Simple Touch is black and white and the cover art is hard to see and more like a thumbnail image than a real picture.  For me, that does detract from the reading experience.

Second, when reading a novel, I always enjoy that anticipated build towards the final page.  You’re clutching the book in your sweaty mitts, turning pages, and watching the fraction of the remaining pages grow smaller and smaller…until, voila!, you’ve turned the final page.  With the Nook, I never have any idea when the last page is coming.  Yes, yes.  There’s a little page counter at the bottom of the screen.  But, seriously, when you’re in the grip of a good story you don’t look down at the page counter.  Every single time I’ve read a book on the Nook I’ve gotten to the last page and been utterly shocked that there’s nothing more to read.  It feels like a bit of a let-down.

Also, I will admit that something about the instant gratification of being able to download and begin a novel within minutes diminishes a little bit of the anticipation and pleasure (though there’s two sides to this…and sometimes this feature is the best thing about the Nook, as in the case of sequels and series).  As soon as you finish one, you can download another and just keep going.  The specialness of each individual novel fades a bit and they tend to blur together more than if I was reading hard copies.

Finally, there is no meaningful shelf of trophies on which to display your beloved books.  I know.  This is one of the reasons I got a Nook in the first place, but still…I miss the tactile and visual pleasure of reading and shelving, of adding to a collection of books that reflect my tastes for all to see.

Despite these criticisms, I’m happy I’ve purchased the Nook.  It’s a clever, useful device.  I’ll probably still buy the print versions of books I know I want on my bookshelf, but using the Nook should help keep my avaricious book buying to a reasonable level while still letting me tear through five to ten books a month.  Not a shabby compromise, really.

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