Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Reviewing Two Months With A Nook Tablet

I don't have a clue about what's going on on this Nook's screen...
I don't often see too many "follow up" reviews on products after a period of use, so I thought I'd offer some more comments and experiences about my last two months with a Nook Tablet. Specifically, its strengths and weaknesses as a e-reader, as well as its usefulness as a gaming device for tabletop--because I'll be honest, the game apps selection for the Nook needs a bit of work before it gets anywhere beyond "trite and mildly amusing 5 minute games."

Okay, so the Pros/Cons of the Nook so far:

Pro: you read more. Or so I've been told. I read a lot, and I can say that the advantage of having a wide range of books on hand at any moment is helfpul in this regard.

Con: Real books don't run out of power. On a couple occasions I've read until I ran out of juice, and had to wait until I could get an opportunity to recharge. The battery seems to last somewhere between 8-11 hours.

Pro: Lots of storage. It comes with 16 GB of onboard storage. It has an SD slot for more, and I've got 16 GB of additional storage. The only way I'll run out of room on this is if I dump a ton of music or videos on it.

Con: DRM locked storage. 15 GB is DRM locked by Barnes & Noble for their own downloads, but I understand that this can be cracked if you want. Still, it is very annoying, as the rate at which I am filling that 15 GB is fractionally as large as the rate at which I'm filling up my add-on SD card.

Pro: Haul it almost anywhere. This is pretty obvious of all e-readers and tablets. You basically have a library with you wherever you go. If you're an atrocious biblioholic like I am with a penchant for juggling ten or twenty books at a time (I always have at least ten books going at a time) it means less back breaking work when you want to get away for the weekend but don't know which books to take with you that will strike your fancy while down at the beach or whatever.

Con: The Damned Sun. I'm going to buy an e-ink reader soon simply because I do like reading outdoors at times, and I have a nice back yard with a patio set that is fun to kick back and relax in. I have a kid who will eventually be cavorting about in the backyard as well, and the thought of being able to watch him play while reading a book that is legible in the sun is a nice idea. Sure, there are those quaint old real books that do the trick....but I like having "the library" with me too.

Pro: Few distractions built in. I have read articles by madmen suggesting that all the little ads, email notifications and other gimmicky bits built into most tablets are too distracting for the Short Attention Span Theater Crowd and that this actually means they get less reading done. The Nook may be a Tablet, but I have found that it does an admirable job of disguising any attempts to divert you from reading. About the only thing the Nook does that tests my mettle is make it too easy to pop into their store and browse around. But I'll get to that in a bit.

Con: Lending is different with e-readers. Like the Kindle you can also lend many (but not all) books on the Nook. The lending feature appears to be only available to officially purchased books through the Barnes & Noble store which also grant you permission to do so (so presumably that's a publisher decision, not a B&N one). It doesn't, say, give me the option to lend books I bought through out (although of course those are DRM free so that's a whole different subject anyway, and I thank Baen for their sales model, and will continue to buy everything they release that isn't urban fantasy). Anyway, the side effect of this is that unlike Real Books, you can't just hand your copy over when you're done and say, "read this, it's great!" which of course is fine with the book publishers.

Pro: You can share books within the family. This is pretty key, and this guy explains how, which was handy. I plan to get another e-reader, and if I end up with an e-ink Nook I'll be able to link it up for my wife and then we can share books accordingly.

Con: Pricing. A lot of  publishers on the B&N site are selling their books at lower cost (typically 10-20%, sometimes more) and a few publishers (like Orbit and Solaris) will have some really good markdowns on newer books for promotional purposes. Many more publishers, however, favor a price gouging structure, and also favor fairly static prices over time (so a book that's been out for several years remains the same price, unlike, say the digital download market for games where games can drop considerably in price with age. Still, different media and all that, I know.

Pro: Some PDFs work really well on the Nook. I've found that GURPS PDFs, among many others, read quickly and smoothly with fairly easy expansion/contraction options. The Pathfinder PDFs are still a pain, but it runs faster than all the other e-readers I've seen in use for them, for what its worth. I carry my Traveller, Tunnels & Trolls and C&C PDFs on this (and Pathfinder anyway, just for completion's sake) and have found them handy to reference at the game table.

Con: No recycling. You also can't recycle at the local used book shop, which is nothing unexpected given the medium. It does mean I will think twice before buying any book on B&N store that is sold at the same price as physical retail, as the total value-added component to that book simply isn't there. If I do pay full price now, it's because I damned well intend to read that book.

Pro: Magazine subscription formats are very accessible. There are a couple magazines that I was less impressed with when checking them out but by and large the way the Nook handles them is great. I'm subscribing to Astronomy and Analog right now, and this is a perfect format for magazines. There's a special "article" format in the PDF reader that lets you expand specific articles to an easy to read format so you're not required to navigate the magazine pages all the time. It's a smart solution that makes subcribing to magazines in electronic format worthwhile.

Con: Shovelware ebook style, plus poor navigational features. This problem would be easily solved if B&N provided better search parameters for their site, and also offered more customization options and maybe even the same technology Amazon uses to spookily figure out exactly what sort of books you're into no matter how freakishly obscure. That said, the site is fairly basic, and as a result looking for new stuff often entails wading through vast reams of crap that people are busy scanning into the store to sell, usually in the form of smashwords specials where everyone thinks they're an A grade author because their aunt told them so, or people farming for out-of-copyright vintage fiction, or people selling books of plain old dubious poorly-OCR scanned crap quality, or...well, I wonder if Amazon also has this issue, but its damned annoying. I would rather pay $6-8 for one good book I enjoy than buy eight .99 books that are pure grade garbage. Quality over quantity, please. B&N's store feels like it needs the Xbox Live equivalent of an "Indie" section where you can dump all the garbage and let people paw through it if they feel like to find the occasional rare gem (and there are rare gems, but boy are they hard to find).

Pro: Lots of Non-Gaming Apps. I've enjoyed Penny Arcade TV, Netflix and other curiosities on the Nook Tablet with ease, so long as I have a wi fi connection.

Con: Dearth of Good Apps for Gamers. There's only one tabletop gaming app on the Nook right now, and it's a basic no frills D20 system initiative tracker that is more of a hassle to use than pencil and paper. The medium is ripe for useful gaming tools on this thing, and for all I know Android Apps may be plentiful of this nature, but for some reason no one's selling them for the Nook. And without cracking the Nook Tablet there's no way to buy and use Android Apps on it (that I am aware of) even though I think the majority of them will run on the Nook, or so I have been led to believe.

Pro and Con: Comics on the Nook. Basically, DC Comics are not on the Nook. Marvel has graphic novels, and they just got Dark Horse (thankfully!) but the quality of scans/PDFs can be all over the place, depending on how the individual publishers do it, apparently. I've got a couple comics which offer no expansion or contraction and so are a pain to read, and others which are very user friendly. All said, though, the best comics I've found on it are black & white which is easier to focus in with a small screen like this, or a handful of comics by savvy publishers who have specifically designed their books to be read on a tablet like this. Most, however, seem to be struggling with the medium, which is a shame, as there's a huge amount of potential here. Also, for reasons probably related to the difficulty of this medium in digital pricing on most comics is pretty decent (99 cents for single issues), but fair warning, a majority of the titles you'll see here are obscure comics I've never heard of before. The graphic novels are from more prominent publishers, and with Dark Horse joining the mix I anticipate good things for the future (fingers crossed on all the Conan and Savage Sword of Conan GN collections making it to digital).
   One thing I don't understand is why the magazine section is so well done, but few of the comic vendors seem to use that method of approach.

   I like the Nook Tablet, and I plan to buy another Tablet as well as an e-ink reader soon. However, because the Nook Tablet is so restrictive with B&N's subpar store, I don't plan to buy another Nook Tablet in the future (but I am glad to have one....its just not worth having two.) Instead, I'll shop around and look for a good, open and customizable Android tablet out there that I can do a lot with and that doesn't try to DRM lock me to one vendor. As for the e-ink, we'll see. I just need it to read books out in the park or the back yard basically, so I could reasonably get a Nook basic reader which I can then share my primary account books with easily enough, and they're pretty cheap these days. In the meantime, I think I'll continue to avoid the Kindle and anything with an apple on it, if only because I've had my fill of locked content with the Nook Tablet and would like a measure of freedom in the next tablet.


  1. I was told a month or so ago that B&N had changed the policy on the 15GB/1GB partition and if you take it into a store they will reset it for you. I think 7GB/8GB iirc.

    As for a new tablet, check out Visual Land's Prestige 7. I haven't been able to get my hands on one to check it out, so I can't actually recommend it. But for the price it looks good. Android 4.0, 8GB $150.


  2. Thanks for the info! I will definitely check out the Prestige 7...and also will head in to B&N this weekend and see if they have lessened the locked portion of the memory.

  3. Really a great review about this interesting device. I also have one and I have only praise words regarding it. As long as, I can read my eBooks downloaded from All you can books, every e-reader is great for me... it really doesn't matter, because they are quite the same.