Voice of the Industry
Color Nook: Ebook or Half a Tablet
By Howie Fenton
Published: November 11, 2010
I stopped into Barnes & Noble over the weekend hoping to see the new color e-reader. They did not have one but were talking about the Nook Color as a tablet as opposed to an e-reader. When I got back home I started reading the reviews. According to DigitalTrends, the new LCD screen offers a level of text readability and contrast unmatched on any monochrome E-Ink e-reader. It offers a multi-gesture touch screen, runs the Android OS, and can play digital music and video, which is unusual for e-reader.
AT $249 it’s slightly higher than some of the competing black and white devices but it has built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) and 8GB of storage, but no 3G at this point. Although not iPhone quality, the screen is good with 16 million colors and 1024 x 600 resolution. According to the Yallstore, the 7-inch giant VividView color touch screen is best-in-class. There’s a “full lamination screen film” on top of the LCD to reduce glare, apparently from the backlight not just from external light sources.
The Nook Color can read e-books, magazines from Conde Nast and Hearst as well as PDFs. Using Quickoffice software, you can also view Microsoft Office files including Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Personally I would like to see that functionality on the Kindle. Currently you can read Office files on the Kindle, but only if you convert them to PDFs. Some prolific readers may ask what the advantages are of the color screens considering that most books are black and white.
There are two reasons: reading your own computer generated documents and selling interactive color children’s books. For those of us who spend great amounts of time in Word, Excel and PowerPoint there is an advantage to seeing those charts or slide presentations in color. In addition, one of the target markets Barnes & Noble is hoping to attract with the color screen is kids. The color could be attractive for tech-savvy kids who grow up gaming on color screens.
The color screen enables a new library of “Nook Kids” children books, full-color magazine and newspaper subscriptions, and video playback. Nook Color offers the largest collection of popular children’s picture and chapter books, including more than 130 digital picture books and nearly 12,000 chapter books. So children can use the touch screen to interact with words and pictures, easily find a favorite story, and even have books read aloud to them via exclusive AliveTouch™ technology that has been adapted into the device.
Another advantage of the Nook for those considering reading is the free reading (for an hour a day) in the store option. While there were some reported problems with earlier versions, users who have the updated new firmware installed (version 1.3 should be automatically pushed to your device once you connect to a Wi-Fi network and check for new content in your library), will be able to read certain books from the company’s e-book catalog free of charge on your Nook when you’re in a Barnes & Noble store (free Wi-Fi is offered in stores). You can only access a title for up to an hour per day, but you could return on subsequent days to continue reading. And, like the Kindle but not the iPad, there is no cost for a data plan.
An article in Crave reports that the Nook is limited in web browsing much like the Kindle. And from personal experience I admit that the only web-thing I want to do from my Kindle is buy books or magazines because web browsing is painfully slow on 3G. The article reports that the Wi-Fi is much faster but sometimes doesn’t display content correctly, which is my experience with the Kindle too.
But is it a tablet? According to DigitalTrends, the answer is no and here is why. Stewart Wolpin says the Nook Color is a read-only device – you interact with existing content but you don’t input much, such as e-mail, instant messaging and word processing. So at about half the price of an iPad is it worth it for a device that does half as much or less? What do you think?