The nook is the new electronic reading device from Barnes & Noble.
It has a beauriful, 6-inch, e-ink screen as well as a separate color LCD touchscreen below, which is used for navigation, to view book covers, and as a virtual keyboard when necessary. You can shop for books and magazines and have them download immediatly via Wi-Fi or AT&T 3G wireless.
This e-book reader has 2 GB of internal storage, plus a microSD slot allows you to add more capacity, plus bring in your own personal content if you don't want to hook this device up to your computer.
The nook is $260, but any new orders won't ship until February 1 at the earliest; there will not be any nooks available at retail until after the beginning of the year. Orders placed now will receive a "holiday certificate" you can give to the recipient if you are ordering the nook as a holiday gift.
BUILD & DESIGN
The nook is very similar to the Amazon.com Kindle 2 (its closest competitor) in many ways. At 7.7 by 4.9 by 0.5 inches it is slightly shorter and narrower than the Kindle, though slightly thicker and one ounce heavier.
Aesthetically speaking, the nook is a nice-looking device. The entire look is very clean and understated; since there's a touchscreen for navigation there aren't any buttons or controls beyond the power button on the top of the device and the page forward and back buttons on each side of the device.
It feels solid and substantial, and after a week and a half of use I can say that it seems to be very sturdy and well-designed. It's curved in all the right places, and you can even read with just one hand, though the user guide suggests that using two to support the device is more comfortable.
I tend to hold the nook in my left hand, with my thumb resting on the page forward button. It's quite a stretch to use the back button, but that isn't much of an issue for me because I don't tend to "flip" back and forth when I'm reading.
The page advance keys aren't actually buttons, but specific areas of the case that you press to move through the text. I like the fact that these buttons are available on both sides of the screen, so I can alter my grip as I like without worrying about how I'm going to move forward in the book. There's also a home button between the e-ink display and the color LCD; it is also flush-mounted so I'd describe it more as a touch-sensitive area than a regular button.
The nook is made of plastic, and the front is very shiny and slick, except for the area right around the page keys, which is very slightly textured. The back is made covered with a rubberized material that feels really good in the hand -- soft to the touch and not slippery at all, so you won't have to hold it in a death-grip to prevent the device from falling to the floor. That back cover can be replaced with a colored cover if you choose, in order to personalize your device (though those replacement device backs aren't expected to be available for another few weeks).
Underneath the cover you'll find the user-replaceable battery and the microSD card slot, which supports cards up to 16GB in size. The microUSB charge/sync port and headphone jack are on the bottom edge of the unit.
The screen is crystal clear, and very impressive. It's the same screen as the one on the Kindle 2, since it's manufactured by the same company. You will still see the "flash" of black when the display is updated, but that's the nature of e-ink displays.
There are three fonts to choose from (Helvetica is my favorite), as well as five font sizes from very small to extra-large. No matter whether you want to cram it all on one page or spread it all out, you should be able to find a font and font size combination that works for you.
The screen contrast is great, and I have no problem at all reading whether I am outside in bright sunlight or inside at normal (and even low-) light situations. Since the screen doesn't have a backlight, you do need some sort of illumination if you want to read in the dark; B&N will soon be offering a booklight accessory, and third-party vendors such as M-Edge are also working on their own nook light products.
The secondary color LCD below the e-ink screen is small, but usable. Book covers look great, and it really is a nice way to surf through your electronic library. Making selections is as easy as using your finger, and I found the screen to be very responsive for scrolling through book covers, navigating menus, etc. I sometimes had trouble scrolling through menus if more than four choices were available, but I quickly learned to use a deliberate touch.
The virtual keyboard works well too, though you have to be careful to make sure that you hit the "keys" in the middle so that you enter what you want. The number pad in particular is quite small, though that would be easily fixable with a firmware update.
The nook comes with a printed quick start guide, a white USB cable, and travel charger. Additional accessories are available directly from Barnes & Noble, including a matte screen protector set (which I highly recommend), spare batteries and chargers, and a variety of cases.
One special note about the packaging: it looks great, it's definitely "Apple-inspired", but it's devilishly hard to open. There's a reason that the nook comes with a sheet of illustrated instructions for freeing it from its plastic prison, and I suggest that you follow them in order to avoid any unnecessary frustration.
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