nook: not a gadget

Disclaimer: No, I don’t get any money from Barnes and Noble or anyone else for touting the nook. I spend most of my time giving money to them in exchange for still more books.

I wasn’t planning on writing a post about my nook for two reasons: first, I kinda already did with my rant about the iPad, and second, I think I’ve established my love for it such that anyone who reads this blog will not need reminded.

But then I saw the need.

I was explaining the nook (The people at B&N, for reasons entirely their own, do not capitalize “nook”…hence the title of this post, as capitalizing just the other words gave me nightmares.) to a friend over the phone who knew that I recommended it, when she stopped me with this statement:

“Yes, but you know, you’ve always been more of a gadget person than I am.”

I blinked. I very nearly dropped my phone. Of course the above statement is a correct one – I am a gadget person – however there was one glaring error.

The nook is not a gadget.

Now before you start getting technical about the definition of a gadget on me, think about how we use the term commonly. A gadget, generally, indicates a neat, shiny thing that is fun, but not really needed. It is usually expensive – meaning “costs more than most people would pay for it” – and it requires technical knowledge to use it to its full capacity. Which means that generally, geeks like gadgets. Essentially, a gadget is a toy. It’s almost a derogatory term.

In other words, a gadget is something that a geek may love, but a normal person would find unnecessary or even annoying.

Think of cell phones as an example. Pretty much everyone has one. But, although smart phones have become much more popular lately, most people would still consider them “gadgets”. The iPhone is wonderful, but very expensive with pitiful battery life and not strictly necessary if all you want is a phone. If you just want to make calls, the iPhone is just going to annoy you.

“But,” you say, “isn’t the Nook pretty much the same thing? An expensive toy that’s not necessary if all I want to do is read a book?”

In short, no. (and shame on you for capitalizing)

If we agree that a gadget is:

  1. Expensive
  2. Complicated and
  3. Annoying

then I think we will also be able to agree that the nook is not a gadget.

The expensive argument seems like it would be the hardest to get around. Why pay a few hundred for a nook and then buy a book when you can just buy a book? There are lots of reasons why a nook is worthwhile to invest that money (3G wireless for free, use of ePub format so can buy books almost anywhere, super portable, unlimited memory due to microSD card slot, access to full books/special offers/other cool things while in a B&N store, etc.) but let’s do a straight book-for-book comparison. Because the thing is, buying a nook gives you over 500,000 books for free, through the Google books system.

“Not fair!” you say “The books are already free via Google!” True enough, as long as you want to read them on the internet like a blog, staring into the lightbulb of your computer monitor. (and thus we’d have to add in the expensive of the computer and internet subscription to truly compare) What the nook does is make them readable like a book, downloaded onto your nook and nicely displayed on the eInk screen (which really does look like paper) so you can round out your knowledge of the classics while relaxing on the beach (eInk is beautiful in full sunlight, unlike any laptop or even the iPhone). Well worth the price.

Public domain books not your thing? Buying an ebook costs 2 to sometimes 30 dollars less than hardbacks, and usually 1-6 less than a paperback. The nook doesn’t lock you into a store either, so if you can find an ePub or PDF (or something that will convert if you do happen to want to get techy) cheaper elsewhere (even if it’s got Adobe DRM), go for it. And if that last sentence made no sense to you and you don’t care about book formats, you don’t have to. The B&N store alone has another over 500,000 books (more than Amazon, yes) beyond the Google offerings. Yep, that’s over a million total.

You only use library books? Many libraries in the US have ebook systems that use ePub, and work great with a nook (though not a Kindle…or iPad). There’s one right near my work that I joined. Bonus? No late fees.

What about complicated? Well, to go to the ebook store, you press the store button. To buy a book, you select the book and click the buy button. To see the books in your library, you press the library button. And to read a book, you select the book and click the read button. Sure, there are other things you can do with a nook (like set a screensaver or wallpaper, listen to music or read the B&N feeds of the day), but the fact is that it does one thing really well – let you read books. You really don’t have to worry about anything else. (Unless you do happen to be a geek, of course, and want to.)

Finally, you know what’s annoying? Having to drive to the store and search for a book I want to read. Getting a craving for a book I can’t find on my shelves – when the book store is already closed. Fumbling for a bookmark or folding down a page (gasp!) to keep your place in a book. My cat pulling said bookmark out of the book for fun. Paper cuts. Mis-cut, mis-bound or even missing pages. Trying to read one handed with a cat pinning down one arm. That look on my husband’s face when I come in the door with a bag full of books. (Ok, that last might be more my fault than his.)

What’s not annoying? Having near instant access to almost any book I want, any time, anywhere I am. Thinking of a book and being able to read it in seconds. Setting down the nook confident that it will remember on its own where I am next time I pick it up (and still having the option of setting instant bookmarks if I want). Taking notes and highlighting without destroying a book. Being able to easily read with one hand, comfortably even. Being able to check out 5 books while sitting with my husband who is playing a video game. (Although he might feel that’s more of a con than a pro.)

And most of all, the ability to just sit and read and read and read, with no interruptions from technology or paper.

Remember, I love books. I have 9 bookshelves in my house, and sleep on the floor. Granted, it’s a Japanese futon, but the concept still stands. When I first said I was getting a nook someone said to me “What? You’re giving up your beloved paperbacks?” Ha! Hardly. What I am doing is adding to them. My book budget just stretched like crazy, and my new purchases are mobile and will likely last much longer than 90% of my library thus far.

So call the nook a gadget? I would argue that it is too vital to the pursuit of reading to ever merit such shameful language. I’m not arguing for its absolute perfection, mind you – the battery is excellent but I can’t wait for the day when things like this can charge without being plugged in at all. But it has amazing potential, better than any other reader device (including dead trees) that I have seen yet.

PS While I was writing this, I talked to my husband about how much I was loving the nook. After listening for a while one evening, he suddenly became wide-eyed. “Hon,” he said with a mix of fear and awe, “It’s like you now live in a bookstore.” I smiled and nodded happily.

He then proceeded to go straight to the computer to check the bank account, which was, thankfully, doing much better than he had thought it would be. Libraries and free Google Books are good things.


Filed under Books, Gadgets/Code, Media