• I Want a Nook

    With my birthday and Christmas approaching, my wife always asks the inevitable question of what I’d like to receive as a gift. Due to the fact that I’m either totally spoiled or have meagre requirements for self-actualization, I’ve got pretty much everything that I could ever want, and it isn’t often that a material possession of any kind should take my fancy. However, with all these eBook readers coming out, now is one of those rare times.

    There’s been something of an electronic reading revolution going on for a while, which has continued to gather steam as more mobile devices appeared and laptops dropped in price. For a long time, I couldn’t get used to reading on a computer; there was just something about holding a book and learning to “know” where to open it for a piece of reference material (being a programmer, most of my books are technical and reference is my primary use case). However, in the last few years I’ve really come to love being able to search and annotate electronic documents, and the fact that my Macs print everything to PDF natively has facilitated this to the point where I’m completely paperless. Having an iPhone has allowed me to experience electronic reading on a small screen, which works, but has highlighted for me why a bigger screen would be better and a different device is needed.

    My boss got a Kindle shortly after they came out, and I definitely liked it, but it seemed limited in implementation. Now that B&N has come out with the Nook, the whole concept of a viable eBook reader seems to be getting off the ground.

    Nook vs. Kindle
    There are a few things I like better about the Nook when compared to the Kindle. Firstly, Nook has the Android OS. I can see B&N opening the device up to third party developers at some point, which would be pretty cool. Even if they don’t, I expect that future software revisions will have all sorts of cool stuff in them. Secondly, the Nook has WiFi access. Third, it has a memory expansion slot for a microSD card, and I intend to start using such a card to hold all my technical notes and reference materials as well as my eBooks. Fourth, it supports the EPUB format, which O’Reilly (the premier technical publisher) is embracing as one of their electronic book formats, which means I don’t need to wait for B&N to offer certain titles (and their programming reference library for eBooks is surprisingly poor considering the geek factor associated with eBooks). Finally, it has a replaceable battery.

    On the con side, the Nook doesn’t read .txt or .doc files, but these features seem well in the range of paltry software updates in future revisions. Also, there doesn’t appear to be a way to wirelessly get my self-generated content (such as files from work) on to the Nook, although you obviously can transfer documents via microSD or USB. I’d be willing to pay a small fee to get documents on to the device wirelessly, or to maintain my own online library of images and eBook content. Again, since the phone runs on Android, these are use cases that I see coming to fruition in the future – and if they don’t, it won’t be the end of the world.

    Use cases
    Almost immediately after getting a Nook, I can see myself writing a few handy AppleScripts to convert web pages, software design discussions in emails, technical documents from work and the web, and other stuff to PDF to be saved in a “pending transfer” directory on my computer, which I’ll copy over to my microSD card before powering down at the end of the day. I can then refer to this library of reference materials wherever I may be. Ideally, if the Nook offered a basic web browser one day, I could set the script up to FTP content to a location on my personal web site where I could retrieve it wirelessly on-demand; that would be the bomb.

    Why not wait?
    Of course, there are some other really interesting things happening in this space. The Plastic Logic QUE is not going to be released (or maybe just the details of it) until January 7th, 2010 (although there is a video of its prototype on YouTube). But since the QUE is aimed at business users, will probably be more expensive, is bigger than I would really like my eReader to be, and won’t run Android AFAIK, I’m not sure this is the device for me.

    And then there’s always the possibility that the ubiquitously non-existent Apple tablet should show up some time when we least expect it. We all know that the iPhone rumors took several years to come to fruition, but they finally did – and look at the impact that device has had on its market. Again, an Apple tablet is likely to cost a fortune; $200.00 to $300.00 all-in for a Nook with accessories seems like a good deal to me.

    Now, if only my wife read my blog… :)

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