Saturday, August 06, 2011

A Colour Nook!!

The wonderful AG, the Keeper of the Books, allowed me to get a new eReader a couple of weeks ago to replace the Pocket PC (picture, right, from Wikipedia) I've had since about 2001. Don't get me wrong, now: the HP Jornada 568 has lasted a very long time for any piece of electronics, was relatively easy to program, has a nice clear screen for reading (a little small, I'll admit), and, recently, has been frequently the object of great curiosity from many people, asking if that was a prototype for a new Apple machine. To be honest, a piece of electronics that lasts 10 years of fairly continuous use definitely gets my respect.

Anyhow, it's coming to the end of its life, with the batteries starting to lose their ability to hold a decent charge and the beast as a whole becoming prone to testy reboots, so I finally decided that a new reader was needed. The problem was, as many have found, one of choice. Many people never moved to an eReader until Amazon introduced the Kindle, so their choice was easy, as they had no history of books to bring forward. I, on the other hand, have around 200 books in a variety of formats - .LIT, .EPB, .PDF, .CHM, .ePub, etc. - that I would really rather not buy all over again.

So, I looked around and found that the Nook Color is really a kind of mini-tablet, running Android 2.2. You could get an emulation on a PC in 2010, so I started playing with it there back then. I also started looking for ways of converting my eBooks (very few of which are Secure, or locked, luckily). I found a program called calibre, billing itself as an eBook manager program, that runs on Linux and Windows, and which will convert a number of formats into ePub, which is the Nook's "native" or preferred format.

Anyhow, I got my new toy a couple of weeks ago, and a few extras that I, for one, really consider necessary. These include a cover, of course, but one that can, as you can see, be used as a stand to hold the Nook at a convenient reading angle.

The next extra, equally important in the short term, but essential for the long term, is a supply of film screen covers to protect the capacitative screen from damage.

Finally, as I have used the small HP for some ten years and am totally accustomed to using a stylus to work the on-screen keyboard, a stylus. The one you see to the left is a rooCase, and comes in the form of a foam tip to an otherwise rather attractive ball-point.

So, it was a few days of play to explore the Nook, get used to expanding and shrinking the screen (annoying, that - web sites used to be written to self-adjust in the days of the old HP!). Anyway, it's certainly got some nice features. One thing I could do with is a set of smaller keys (as I'm not using my fat fingertips) with some extras, rather than having to continually hit an alt key to switch to another keyboard full of numbers and symbols. The text presentation is, on the whole, very good and at least the equal of that in the Microsoft Reader software on the Jornada, and the idea of swiping ones fingers on the screen to turn pages very quickly becomes natural. Then, after getting well stuck in to The Art of SQL, it was time to convert books from other formats. I can only say that calibre worked without any fuss or problems. It uses all the cpu power it can get its fingers on, and definitely isn't the fastest program on the planet, but the output (ePub in my case) is just as good as the originals that I fed it.  

Do I have any grouses about the Nook Color? Well, one or two. I'd like to be able to see the list of books that I have to select from in the equivalent of Windows Explorer's Detail view, instead of icons with only a quarter of the title in view. Of course, that may be possible - just a feature that I haven't found yet.
The other thing that surprised me to start with was the sheer weight of the thing! 654 grammes (with the cover that I bought), 1.44 pounds. Compared to the HP, which only weighed a few ounces, the Nook is a huge monster, and definitely takes getting used to - when reading in bed, for example.

Overall opinion: very favourable. I'd definitely recommend it to people with existing eBooks: ePub and PDF are readable immediately. I'm very happy, and can see the end of paper book purchases in this house looming closer.

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