I’m not normally one for needing to get the next revision of a device I own as soon as it comes out, but in the case of the new Nook Simple Touch, I’ve made an exception. I was interested by it as soon as I heard it was coming, and what finally pushed me over to get a new one was discovering that the software on the original Nooks (now called Nook 1st Edition) is not going to be updated any more after the current rev, 1.6.
So I went out and grabbed one of the new Nooks yesterday. And I’ve gotta say, if you’re interested in the Nook at all as your reader of choice, the new one is a significant improvement over the old.
- It’s smaller. The actual screen size is comparable, but since they’ve lost the clunky color touchscreen on the bottom, the overall device is noticeably smaller and a bit lighter as well. This is a win, given all the stuff I typically carry in my backpack.
- It’s a full touchscreen device now. This was one of the things that always confused me about the first Nook–I’d keep forgetting that I’d have to tap on stuff in the bottom area to navigate around on the device, and would try to tap the e-ink portion of the screen instead. Now you can do that. And so far I’ve found it satisfyingly responsive, especially when turning pages, which actually works a bit better than the page-turning buttons on the side.
- Big big big win: they’ve combined the B&N and non-B&N book lists. So now all your B&N purchases and all your sideloaded content show up in the same overall index. This means that the Shelves functionality is now much less stupid. I’ll actually use Shelves on it now.
- They’ve ditched some of the superfluous stuff from the first Nook, like the “Nook Daily” icon I never read anything on, the games, and the browser. I cared absolutely zero about any of these things. I don’t need my ereader to play Sudoku or let me listen to music; I just want to read books on it. What icons are available now, Home, Library, Shop, Search, and Settings, seem much more intuitively arranged to me.
- The new Nook is significantly, and I mean significantly, less expensive than what I put down for the first one. It’s roughly $140. (But then, the prices on the 1st Edition Nooks have also come down hard, and B&N’s selling those still for cheaper than the new ones. So if your budget is tight, you may still want to look at the old ones. Just be aware that the software on them will not get any further updates.)
- The page turning buttons have been entirely redesigned. They’re a bit harder to press now but given how they’re set into the sides of the device, they should not have the same problem the first generation devices did with the buttons cracking under extensive use.
Potential minuses for previous Nook owners:
- PDB support has been dropped. This was mostly a problem for me since I have a couple hundred titles I’d bought from Fictionwise, which only sells in epub format if the titles are DRM-free. So I had to take Certain Steps to get those titles onto the new device. If you’re not a customer of a site that sells in PDB, this’ll be less of an issue.
- The Shelves functionality is still not as awesome as it could be. I can’t find any immediately obvious way to add a single title to a shelf; what I have to do right now is to edit the overall Shelf and then page through my entire list of books to find the one(s) I want. Given that I have several hundred books on the device, this takes a while! So they really need to add a way to just click on the options for a single book and choose what shelves, if any, you’d like to add it to.
- If you actually liked the segregation of B&N and non-B&N content, you’ll have to recreate it manually yourself via Shelves. Which, given the previous point, may take you a bit. There were times that I actually kind of liked having the lists separate, just because I like to keep track of what books I bought from what site.
- While much is being made of the improved screen contrast on the new device, so far I haven’t actually noticed much of a difference. I need to compare in different light conditions though, given that the only place I’ve compared so far was in my usual corner of the couch in the living room and that’s one of the dimmer parts of the house unless the lights are on. More on this as I have it.
- This device doesn’t talk 3G, so if that’s a dealbreaker for you, be aware. It’s wi-fi only.
Other stuff you may or may not like:
- Better selection of fonts for displaying a book’s text. The old Nook had only three to choose from; this one’s got six.
- There’s new social networking functionality that lets you hook into your Facebook or Twitter accounts to share data about what books you’re reading. You can also import Google contacts onto it.
- Relatedly, there’s also a new “Nook Friends” thing they’re setting up where you can make a little social network with other Nook-owning friends. This is supposed to let you see each other’s reading lists, lend books, and such. This will be interesting, I think, only if it means you can loan books more than once. One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from ebook readers all over the Net is the stupidity of being able to loan a book just once; I hope they have addressed this. I haven’t found out yet though.
- The settings for connecting to a Wi-Fi network seem better laid out; it was a lot easier to see what networks the new Nook had already memorized.
So overall: a significant win, I feel. and I will probably amuse ourselves with rootkitting the old Nook, unless somebody expresses interest in buying it off of me; if anybody wants to, let me know!