First in-person look at the Nook Color, my thoughts

Earlier today, I went to Barnes and Noble to see for myself the Nook Color, the bookstore chain’s 7″ color LCD screen ebook reader, which has some tablet functionality. I spent about an hour or so going over it, trying out various functions. My thoughts:

  • The Nook Color does weigh more than its plain black-and-white e-ink Nook counterpart (or the Kindle), though not as heavy as what an iPad weighs.
  • Text in ebooks was easy enough to read. Pictures and graphics (as seen in the sample magazines and children’s books) looked great. While there weren’t any comics to test out (though I suppose I should’ve pulled some comic strips up with the included web browser—more on the browser below), I imagine they’d look great on the Nook. Asking the clerk if there’d be any comics (or comics apps) got a generic response, though she cited manga being available through B&N’s ebooks bookstore. The generic response is presumably because B&N hasn’t finished setting up its Nook app store yet (no Android Market access, though a rooted Nook could access it). I’d hope (or would assume) that there’ll be some comics-related apps (such as the Android app Comixology has come up with) available, though since the Nook Color supports PDF files, I could convert some digital comics from .CBR/.CBZ to .PDF.
  • Buying books and magazines was quite easy to do. I “bought” an issue of “Consumer Reports,” and tried it out. It looked just like the print edition, though the electronic version’s several dollars cheaper than the newsstand version (and wouldn’t suck up shelf space like my pile of “Consumer Reports” does).
  • One issue, one that I assume might be lessened with the upcoming Android 2.2 upgrade (the Nook Color runs Android 2.1), is zooming in on text/pictures and pinch-to-zoom. On occasion, both of these features wasn’t so smooth.
  • Pandora and a basic music player are included, but there wasn’t any sample music to try out that features.
  • The built-in web browser worked quite well, accessing web sites just like any smartphone/iPod Touch/iPad browser.
  • The build quality seemed good, though I might not have had enough contact with ebook readers/tablets to compare its quality to. The front of the Nook Color feels sturdy, while the back is made of a rubberized material, making it easy to hold onto. Buttons on the Nook include the power button and a volume rocker switch. There’s also a micro-USB cable plug and a slide-open slot for a Micro SD card.
  • While I was trying out the Nook, I saw several people approach the kiosk to look at them. One told me she has the Nook Color, and loved it (she was there to buy a case for hers, so she could “take it outside”). Another, a younger male, noted how the Nook Color was more interesting/cheaper than the iPad (and wondered if it’d have Android Marketplace access, which it doesn’t). Finally, an elderly man and who I assumed were his grandchildren weren’t impressed; the man thought it was “too complicated.”
  • Cases and plastic screen protectors (like the protector I have on my Palm Pre) were on sale at the kiosk. However, B&N wanted, at the cheapest, $30 for a case and $15 for the screen protector, which would push the $249 Nook Color cost to $294 (and over $300 with sales tax included). Steeper than the Kindle/Sony Reader/black-and-white Nook, though I assume there’s cheaper cases/screen shields available elsewhere.

Overall, I was impressed by the Nook Color, and think it has much potential as a color ebook reader, especially if its own app store actually sees development for it (plus future Android updates). Currently, I’m strongly thinking about buying the Nook Color. I assume it’ll eventually be surpassed by color e-ink readers, if and when those become cost-effective and feasible (which is probably some distance in the future). For some digital comics (though I’d still also be purchasing paper ones), digital magazines, and some ebooks (including library ebooks), I could see the Nook Color being quite useful.

Still, the downside is spending $250 (or around $300 with a case/screen protector), and the worry of the Nook Color, or any ebook reader/tablet, being a redundant gadget. While I know it’s supposed to fill a perceived space in functionality between the smartphone and laptop (at least, that’s how Apple pitched the iPad originally), I can read comics on my laptop, as well as non-DRMed ebooks. Though the Nook would be more compact as an ebook reader, plus would allow me access to cheaper digital versions of magazines and could save some space on paper comics. I’d like to know how others decided an ebook reader was worth purchasing, and how it fits into their lives (versus just sticking with a laptop for the same functionality).

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