One week with the Nook color

So last week I was so excited about getting my nook color I just had to dash off a post about it and the e-ink nook ASAP to get some thoughts out there.  Now I’ve had a week living with this device and am still just as hyped so I thought I’d update some of my thoughts from last week.

Bottom line, I still enjoy the e-ink nook for actual reading much more.  But I spend a lot less time with it now that I have the color.  The color is just so addictive I can’t put it down unless the battery is ready for a charge – and even with “only” 8 hours of battery life only once have I had to put it down because the battery was in need of a charge (and even that time it was only at 35% but the battery indicator turned red so I figured it was low enough to need a charge – only when I plugged it in did I realize it was still at 35%.)

I do have a few corrections to my last post.  It turns out that the issue I had with things being too spread out was not due to the scaling/resolution issues I thought it was.  It was actually a simple option setting in the launcher I was using (ADW Launcher) that was quickly and easily changed in the Preferences so I could have a 5×6 grid instead of a 4×4 grid.  (I could actually pack even more in there, but 5×6 works well for me.)  I also learned that the ultra spiffy box it came in had another surprise in store.  I wondered why the bottom was filled with some kind of high density foam with a section missing.  Then I saw someone’s blog post about the nook color and realized that the box folds into a stand for displaying the device.  Slick.  Not really useful unless you’re selling them but still a very cool package with a lot of thought behind it.

So in the past week my nook has acquired over 60 apps, I’ve yet to find any apps that don’t work on it – though I have kept in mind that with no cell, no gps, no bluetooth and no camera some apps just aren’t worth trying 😉  I’ve also tried several other launchers (launchers are kind of like your “desktop”, it’s the main interface you use to launch apps from) and right now I’m favoring Launcher Pro, it seems a little quicker and more stable than ADW – though I did prefer the way ADW worked for customizing your screens.  ADW and LP can both do pretty much the same stuff – it’s just how you do it that’s different.  And it’s not like I’m constantly customizing things so the stability of LP is a much bigger plus for me.

Childrens Books

This surprised me.  As one of the big selling points of the nook color I expected quite a bit from the kids books selection.  And yes, the selection is pretty good with a lot of new books and a bunch of classics I remember from when I was a kid.  But the prices (like most kids book prices) are outrageous.  Pretty much any that support “read to me” start in the $10 range!  And even the non read to me books are in the $7 range which seems quite high given how small most of those books are.

But what really surprised me is how much better and more affordable the kids book in the android market are than the ones B&N sells.  Maybe this is a big part of why they’re dragging their feet on getting their own market launched and letting people use apps on non rooted nooks.  I was able to find a Mercer Meyer Little Critter book for $0.99 in the android market and it blows away the offerings from B&N.  Not only does it have read to me, but it also animates the pages with zoom effects and page turns, plus kids can touch various things on the page and it will show the word for them and speak them out loud.

I picked up a few other kids books that were cheap or free and our friend’s 4 year old Savannah had a blast with them last Wednesday.  In fact she spent more time reading kids books than she did playing games when I let her use the nook (though that may be mostly due to me not having many games loaded on it and her being bored with Angry Birds already 😉 )

So it’s a great device for kids books – but being rooted and getting them from the android market results in better books at a better price.


I also went ahead and got myself two magazine subscriptions to try out.  Rolling Stone and Food Network.  Again like the kids books I’m a little underwhelmed.  When you buy magazines on the Nook color you get two weeks free to see if you like them which is nice.  But when I started the trial for Food Network it just hung and never completed until I rebooted and tried again.  I was able to get the Rolling Stone subscription started before rebooting so I’m guessing it was an issue with the B&N server or the publishers server and not something on my nook.

With my two subscriptions up and going I gave reading them a try.  The overall experience I found lacking compared to reading a real magazine.  The amount you can zoom in is fairly limited so on Rolling Stone zoomed in full you’re still not seeing things as big as in the actual paper magazine.  Which is a bummer because there is some great photography in there than I really enjoy and it does look great on the nook color and I would love to zoom in just a bit more to see more detail.  You also end up doing a lot of zooming and panning.  Viewing a full page (or two full pages in landscape) text is too small to read so you pretty much have to zoom in.  Which due to the nook colors great multi-touch capacitive screen is quick and easy.  But once you’re zoomed in you do a lot of panning to follow an article – and quite frequently I found myself accidentally flipping to the next or previous page trying to pan which results in loosing your zoom and having to zoom again.  That got old quick.

They do offer an article view which strips out the text of an article and presents it in a strip overlayed on top of the display.  It is easier to read that way, but you don’t get any of the images or graphics to go with it which kind of defeats the point of reading a magazine on a full color device like this.

Overall for the price of subscription I’m not sure I’ll be keeping my magazines very long.  I’ll give them a few months to see if they grow on me, but I could probably get the paper versions delivered for the same price or less than what they cost on the nook and have a better final product.  But who knows B&N may have some improvements in store and the publishers may come up with some changes on their end to take better advantage of this kind of delivery.  So while I’m disappointed I’m also cautiously optimistic.

There is one other problem I’ve discovered with the nook color which is probably mainly due to my oily skin.  I have to clean the screen two or three times an evening.  The oils from my hands build up on the screen and eventually reach a point where it’s detecting touches that simply aren’t there.  At which point I have to put it to sleep and clean it.  I’ve washed my hands more this week than normal (and my hand washing has already been much higher than normal since Katie was born!) but my skin is just oily and washing only helps for a few minutes.  I may try a screen protector to see if it helps, but for now I just keep the nook wrapped in a nice microfiber lens cleaning cloth I was given by Canon and it works wonders for keeping the screen clean.

I also ran into a little software problem trying to do a full nand backup (for you non techies that’s a very low level backup of the entire “Drive” that the nook runs on.)  I installed a custom “recovery partition” which makes this possible – but apparently there’s a small bug in the install process I wasn’t aware of which resulted in me being unable to boot anything but the recovery software.  Uh oh.  Thankfully the fix was easy (just had to use the recovery software to install a special package that un-installs the custom recovery, which is simply a matter of putting the package on the micro SD card and selecting it.)  I was then able to find instructions on fixing the bug and got the recovery working correctly so I can do full system backups.  Don’t think I’m going to do a custom ROM install anytime soon though.  Since the color boots of bootable SD by default I’ll stick with testing custom ROM’s on SD when I want to experiment with Froyo, Gingerbread and Honeycomb (newer versions of android.)  If someone manages to get the stock nook color apps running on one of those then I may consider flashing to a custom ROM but for now I like the stock rooted setup better than the full custom.

So like I opened this post with I’m going to close on the same note – I love this thing.  I can’t put it down.  I still switch to the e-ink nook for reading in bed and when I want to just read.  But I’ve barely touched our notebook the past week since almost everything I did on it I can now do on the nook color.  While the nook color hasn’t replaced my e-ink nook it does seem to have mostly displaced my notebook and it does complement my e-ink reader very nicely.

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