Jun 15

Hands on with the new Nook Simple Touch e-reader

OK, I admit it…I can’t keep my hands off new tech toys. I picked up a new e-reader the other day with the intention of wrapping it and giving it to my son for his 8th grade graduation present Thursday. Needless to say, the wrapping never happened. I will say, unequivocally, that he WILL receive it for his graduation gift…but I just had to play around with it. And I came away so impressed (and jealous) I decided to do a quick write-up, side-by-side comparison with my Nook 1st gen.

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Click to enlarge

The first thing I saw in the Barnes & Noble (after happily hearing that a pre-order customer had never picked it up, so they had one in stock) was the size. I own both a Nook 1st generation (e-ink, not Color) and a Kobo, and a friend has a Kindle, so I’ve experienced all three of the ‘majors’ (no offense to Sony, et al.) The new Nook takes convenience, size, and portability to a whole new level.

It is flat-out tiny. Because it’s a touch screen (quite revolutionary in an e-ink package), it doesn’t need the extra inch or so at the bottom for navigation keys/screens. It’s just the screen with a frame around it. It’s close to the same thickness as the original Nook, which is slightly thicker than the Kindle 3, but other dimensions are significantly different. It measures 6.5″ in height, 5″ in width, and .47″ in depth. It also jumps ahead of Kindle on weight – now 7.48 ounces vs Kindle’s 8.5 ounces. It’s 35% lighter than the original Nook, and 21% more compact. It’s almost small enough to tuck into a (large) shirt pocket, or back pocket if you want to risk sitting on it.

Battery life? Huge shot across Kindle’s bow. With typical usage and wifi off, the Nook Simple Touch will last up to two months reading an hour per day, wifi off. As in, charge your Nook six times per year. There has been an argument between BN and Amazon about how they test the life – see more here – but in a nutshell, BN called Amazon out on faulty test conditions (originally the Kindle was listed at one month battery life reading an hour per day; magically overnight when the Nook was announced, they changed their stats to say two months at a half hour each day….). In side-by-side tests conducted by BN (caveat emptor), same reading conditions, the Nook lasted 150 hours, Kindle 56 hours. Having not used it more than an hour or so, I can’t speak to it, but most data I’ve read is calling the new Nook battery life at least twice that of Kindle.

Performance? Absolutely excellent. As you can see from this video I shot:

Page turning is noticeably quicker compared to the old Nook (which in my side-by-side tests previously, the 1st gen Nook was about the same as a Kindle 3). The page flicker everyone has probably gotten used to on any e-reader is minimized (it flickers every 6th page turn…apparently due to better buffering). Very quick when changing menus, flicking up through bookshelves…wait, did I say flicking? Yep, touch screen scrolling…

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The touch screen sells this device above any other feature. With the Kobo Touch not having shipped yet I can’t compare it, but as an iPhone user for over three years now, I can’t tell you how much I miss touching a screen to do something when that feature isn’t available. In today’s smartphone era, it’s just natural to point and touch to make something happen (no double enténdre intended, I swear). The Nook delivers. Menus, book selections, highlighting a word or phrase for notes or definitions…no more clicking and moving a cursor. And the on screen keyboard is exactly what one expects in 2011 for a device, not the chiclets of a circa-2004 cellphone. (However, I know the millions of Kindle users out there swear by the keyboard – feel free to flame me, but once you try an onscreen keyboard…come back to me and put the flame out please.)

Notifications from friends, integration with Twitter and Facebook, 6 inch 800DPI e-ink Pearl screen, all the standard features a new generation e-reader should have. The smaller Nook dropped the headphone port, which can be a significant loss for those who like to (a) hear audiobooks or (b) listen to MP3s while reading. Also, Nook does not offer a 3G version (then again, it has in-store free reading with their wifi, and AT&T free wifi hotspots everywhere).

Pricing is a difference if you look at it one way; the Nook Simple Touch is $139, as is the Kindle 3, but Amazon does have the ad-supported Kindle at $114. Honestly (opinion ahead, watch out) I feel that Amazon, if they wanted to go ad-supported, should have gone for the magic $100 barrier. I don’t know if seeing ads from time to time, while probably unobtrusive, is worth only a $25 savings.

Bookstores? Yes, this is an argument I’ve heard (“I don’t want to buy a device that won’t have a store behind it, and all bookstores are going bankrupt.”) But Barnes & Noble isn’t going anywhere. Unlike Borders, they embraced the e-book revolution, and they are currently mulling a $1 billion bid for purchase by a company who is interested in them almost solely for the Nook and Nook bookstore. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I feel, have really done it right in their e-book plan; Borders missed the boat, contracted a third party company, and barely supported it in-store. Technically Barnes & Noble actually has a larger selection of e-books than Amazon does (last data was 2 million vs. 950,000), but really any popular book will be in both.

Conclusion? Barnes & Noble has out-Kindled the Kindle hardware-wise, and has left the market leader an entire generation behind. Rumor has it that Amazon is readying a touch screen, Android-powered Kindle 4 for later this year, with the ability to possibly install apps (although having surfed the web on an e-ink device, that experience left a lot to be desired…you want apps, go iPad or Nook Color). So we’ll see. But right now, what’s available in the market? Maybe what Dad wants for Father’s Day? Take a close look at the Nook Simple Touch. Very exciting time to be both an author AND a reader!

Quick shameless plug (independent author’s bread and butter) – Gabriel’s Redemption scifi-adventure ebook is available for just $2.99 on the aforementioned Nook and Kindle. Book 2 of the trilogy is hitting in July!

Your thoughts?



P.S. MacWorld just posted a review of the Kobo eReader Touch Edition, which comes in slightly smaller than the new Nook.





About the author

Steve Umstead

Steve Umstead has been the owner of a Caribbean & Mexico travel company for the past ten+ years, but never forgot his lifelong dream of becoming an author. After a successful stab at National Novel Writing Month, he decided to pursue his dream more vigorously…but hasn’t given up the traveling.
Steve lives in scenic (tongue-in-cheek) New Jersey with his wife, two kids, and several bookshelves full of other authors’ science fiction novels. Gabriel’s Redemption was his debut novel, published in February of 2011.


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  1. Towards Yesterday

    I love my Nook, and I’m very tempted by the new version, but I have to admit that I’m waiting for the new Kindle. There are rumors that it will be the first to implement color e-ink and it can’t help to have one of each.

    Great post Steve.

    1. Towards Yesterday

      by=buy … I’m not illiterate, honest!

    2. Steve Umstead

      I had heard the color e-ink also; not sure how I feel about that one. I’m sure it’s a logical progression of the technology, but e-ink by nature is a SLOW refresh rate, nothing like an LCD or LED type of screen. So while having color would be great, I’d be wanting to surf the web, watch video, etc. and I think e-ink has a LONG way to go to be able to do those jobs effectively.



  2. Karen DeLabar

    Why do I find the video the most amusing video I’ve seen in awhile? I couldn’t stop laughing. “Click. Click. Click. *pause* “Tap. Tap. Tap. *pause* Click. Click. Click.”

    *ahem* (Back to being professional… er, well, as close to professional as I can get)

    Great post! I have a Kindle and I love it, I love Amazon and all that, but I am seriously considering this new Nook. Kindle needs to step it up now. I love the fact that it’s a touch screen. I always wondered why they didn’t have that feature at first.

    1. Towards Yesterday

      Touch screens are great … unless you have sweaty paws like me. Things can get messy.

    2. Steve Umstead

      Ha ha, I was trying so hard to be quiet too! Silly little video…I’ve seen those on other sites and laughed, not sure why I decided to do my own!


  3. Catana

    I would love to have an ereader so I can get away from the computer, but it isn’t about to happen yet. I was seriously leaning toward the new Nook until I read a review on Teleread. The reader is fine, but you *have* to have a wifi connection and a B & N account just to set it up. I don’t have wifi (don’t have any need for it), and I’m not going to run around town, as one person suggested, trying to find a free wifi signal. I also don’t like being coerced, and being forced to sign up with B & N is a form of coercion, especially since I’ve never bought books from them and don’t plan to.

    1. Stephen

      You can skip the Registration and Account sign up and manually download epubs and pdf’s (ebooks) to your computer and then transfer them to your Nook with the included Data cable/Charger.

      I just downloaded all of Stephanie Meyers (Wife’s favorite author at the moment) books off of XXXXXXXX and transferred them to the Nook I just bought for her. No Wifi, Registration or account setup required to install your own downloaded material.


      1. Steve Umstead

        I removed the torrent site listing. I do not under any circumstances advocate sharing of pirated files. All authors, traditionally published or independent, deserve to be paid for their work. To download ebooks for free is simply wrong. If it’s the cost, there are thousands of self-published authors out there with books costing less than a cup of coffee, or who would sell their soul to give someone their book for free in exchange for an online review.


  4. Dannie C Hill

    Great post, Steve. I have a Kindle 3G because I live in Thailand. I also happen to love it for the font size change. Can the new Nook do that? One problem I have with my Kindle is: if I buy an ebook from say, Smashwords, then I have to pay Amazon to get it loaded on my Kindle. What about the new Nook?

    Not only do you write great scifi books, but you’re so smart in the real world too. Great blog!

    1. Steve Umstead

      Hi Dannie, thanks for the kind comments! Yes, and no* – the new Nook has choices of font sizes.

      As for loading a book, it’s the same for Nook 1st & 2nd, Kobo, AND Kindle. Plug into your PC via USB cable, it will appear as a hard drive. Simply drag the book file (.mobi for Kindle, .ePub for Nook) into that drive (I think Kindle calls it ‘documents’) and when you disconnect it will appear. *No need to email the file to the Amazon service and get charged.

      1. Dannie C Hill

        Do you see why I like you so much! I need smart people around me. I wrote Amazon complaining about the ‘ buying .mobi from another site” and they answered back with something totally off base.
        And I now I know how to do it! Thank you

  5. shayfabbro

    Now I want a NOOK!!!! :D That’s my next gadget I get ;)

  6. Robert "Sharky" Pruneda

    I’ve been happy with my Kindle so far, but since I’m also an iPhone user, I still find myself tapping or swiping my Kindle screen at times. Okay, enough with the laughing and finger pointing. You know you’ve done it at least once! :-)

    Anyway, I had no idea there was a device out there with an e-ink touch screen. Very cool!

  7. Lisa Nowak

    I saw a write-up about this in the local paper and was considering it. I have the original Nook, and a friend who’s not very technology-savvy is going to buy one, so I was thinking of offering her my old one for a great price and buying the new one. What do you think? Is it worth it?

  8. D. Ryan Leask

    I ♥ my Kobo
    That is all

  1. Converting a Kindle book to Nook format (or How I Synced My Life) « Steve Umstead: Writer, I think

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