Hands-On With The New Nook: Watch Out, Amazon


I have egg on my face, hands, and in my hair. Last year I called a premature end to the ereader race, stating that the Kindle was first to market and therefore in first place. I’m pleased to report that I was wrong.

The new Nook is without question the best standalone Wi-Fi ereader on the market. Note that I added a few weasel words there, and if you’re looking for 3G then the Kindle 3G is still a winner, but as a reading device the Nook is nonpareil.

What did I have against the Nook, way back when? I saw B&N as a company behind the curve. What a difference a year makes. B&N isn’t afraid to make changes to their hardware or interfaces and they’re happy to release multiple devices into the market at the same time, something Amazon has been historically loath to do. Rather than just having a Nook, B&N tried to make a tablet, they created an app, and they built a unique, two screen device that brought some of the best of mobile tech to an ereader. With this device they’ve distilled everything they’ve learned into a device the size and shape of a thin missal.

The new Nook has a 6-inch infrared eink touchscreen, which means, simply, it uses the same eink technology found in other ereaders (albeit much brighter and clearer) with a system that senses finger touches in a fairly unique way. You can scroll through books by sliding your finger across the screen or you press one of the buttons on the side of device. You can select books from your library, buy new books instantly, and you can connect your Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail accounts to see what your friends are reading. This feature alone is actually a goldmine of recommendations and, most important, a great way to share the news about a new book.

You can select book text and share it simply by holding a finger on the screen and selecting a block of text. You can then send this text as a Tweet or as a status update.

I haven’t been able to test battery life, but it apparently runs for two months on one charge, so unless I build a reading robot it’s going to be a bit tough.

I’ll have a bit more to say about this device next week but, as it stands, the Nook is the best ereader I’ve seen so far.

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