The advent of Amazon’s Kindle was a sea-change in the lives of millions of readers. Instead of carrying one book, avid readers could carry more than one thousand books in a package smaller than many trade paperbacks. Not to miss out on this exciting new market, other makers rushed to develop e-book readers of their own. Perhaps the most successful of these competitors has been Barnes & Noble, with their Nook color. The latest evolution of the Nook adds a full color display to the mix, and the device has some major advantages that make it a very attractive option. While the primary function is e-book support, the Nook adds many of the functions of a fully equipped tablet PC, at a much lower cost level.
The organization of the device is very user friendly, and navigation is done via an array of home screens. Users can manage their currently downloaded books and magazines on some screens, while others provide access to menus and settings. Users have the option to change the order of recently used documents or titles, allowing the creation of customized viewing orders. Refresh rates and responsiveness could be improved, but otherwise this interface is well-received. The intent of Barnes & Noble was to make the experience as close as possible to the tactile sense of handling physical books or magazines, and they’ve succeeded.
The Nook is equipped with a 7″ full color screen, running a 1024 x 600 resolution. The display has 16 million color capability and has been designed to provide extra-wide viewing angles. For users who share books (like parents reading to children), this is an important consideration. The casing consists of smoothed plastic on the sides, and a rubberized back to ensure a solid grip on the device. Portability and comfortable use are ensured by the low weight (below one pound) and slim profile (less than ½ inch thick). It is difficult to hit the “sweet spot” between a feeling of substantiality and maintaining a low weight for portability, but Barnes & Noble have done well. While the Nook is not running a very high-spec hardware set, it manages to handle applications quite well.
Users should not be concerned about the storage capacity of the Nook Color. While the device has 8GB of onboard storage, the surprise is that the device also supports microSD cards up to 32GB. This means your library can be virtually limitless.
In terms of applications, the Nook Color manages to integrate the applications most users will need. An onboard MP3 player means that you can load and listen to music while reading. All web-based mail applications, like Yahoo! Mail and Gmail, are supported, and the device also includes web-browsing. Finally, a solid selection of games for children and for adults ensures that users won’t get bored.
Barnes & Noble is aggressively pursuing a leadership experience in the e-book marketplace, and they seem well positioned to do so. If the primary purpose of the device is for reading, and if the user doesn’t need much else, this is a great device. It doesn’t carry the computing power or the application variety of a full-featured tablet PC, but it does carry a much lower price tag. The point here is that each user must define what is important and what is not in their digital devices. For avid readers, the Nook Color is sure to please. The ability to so easily carry so many volumes cannot be overstated. The ongoing efforts of Barnes & Noble to continually increase content availability, especially in newspapers and magazines, will ensure that the experience continues to impress users.