Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Before Thanksgiving my mom was thinking about getting an e-reader, and she asked my advice on what kind she should get. Based on what she was using it for (PDFs)--and against my personal choice--I recommended she buy a Kindle.

And I have to say, it is nice.

I had only ever seen the newest-generation Kindles in stores, never in the wild, and the units I saw in store were demo units that didn't work. You could get a sense of the Kindle's heft and button interface, but not how it operated. And I watched the Amazon videos of demonstrations, but I figured that, as with those "As Seen on TV" products on infomercials, what you see is not what you get.

Well, over Thanksgiving, my mom asked me to help her set it up, and I was impressed with how zippy it worked and with the screen's contrast and readability. I was also impressed with how responsive and quickly the buttons worked. The Kindle is a nice piece of hardware, and if I were picking a reader on hardware alone, I might choose a Kindle.

However, I think I would still choose the Barnes & Noble Nook, and not just to make myself feel better about having chosen a Nook. Kindle has nice hardware, but it is still too closed for my tastes. It does not support the industry standard file type (ePub), which means that you can only buy books from Amazon. It also means that you don't have access to the public library's e-book selection, which grows each month. I've read several books from the library on my Nook. I'll also say that Barnes & Noble implemented an update a few weeks ago that corrected most of my gripes about it, taking advantage of its hardware almost as well as the Kindle does.

Amazon's closed system is particularly unattractive given that Google announced its ebookstore on Monday. Google's e-books work with the Nook, Sony Reader, and almost every other reader, but not with the Kindle. Google boasts the largest collection of e-books (though the quality of their scans is dubious), which could be a game-changer. Just because Amazon is at the top now doesn't mean they have to stay that way, and while I don't know how much more power we should give to Google, they seem to have the clout that could drive Amazon toward opening the Kindle.

While I'm on the subject of e-reading, I'll point out that reading the Bible on an e-reading device is excellent. (This has not always been the case with the Nook, since it used to take a long time to boot the large file a Bible necessarily was. This has been corrected in the Nook's update.) In order to save pages in print, most Bibles are printed in columns. I don't like reading column text usually, but I tolerate it, especially to save my arm the burden of carrying around a larger Bible. But my ePub Bible (the HCSB, since it was free and formatted well, has become the Bible I read on my Nook--at least for now) displays in one column with readable text, and I find myself reading more of it at once than I do in its printed form.


  1. I'm glad they fixed the issues with laaarge books on the nook.

    I remember when I used the Nook and tried to open up the Bible, not only was it incredibly slow but I couldn't even get to later chapters - I was trying to get to John but half the time the table of contents didn't even load completely, and the other half the time I'd select John and the entire Nook would crash, requiring a hard shutoff.

  2. It had never been that bad for me, but they were so sluggish that reading was a chore (a bad thing for a dedicated reading device). The new 1.5 update is fantastic--faster page turns, better battery life, and better handling of large files. Now if Nook would only support landscape mode... (Landscape mode is the only reason I suggested my mom get a Kindle, and the only reason I sent her to Kindle instead of Sony is the price difference.)