This past Saturday I got myself a Color Nook as a late birthday present. I mentally justified this by telling myself I “needed” it to test my ePub books I’m selling through Barnes and Nobles, such as my 42 Fallacies. While this is sort of true, I mainly got it because I wanted to own an Android device and the Color Nook seemed like the best of the cheaper tablets.
While B&N sells the Color Nook as an eBook reader, it is actually an Android tablet with B&N’s own interface. Previous versions of the software were rather limited, but the latest (1.2) update adds much more functionality to the Nook, including access to B&N’s own app store. However, it is still rather locked down relative to a completely “free” Android tablet. You cannot, for example, acquire apps from any site other than B&N. As I write this, there are 138 apps available, which is miniscule compared to the total number of apps in existence. To be fair to B&N, locking out other sources of apps is a common practice. However, it is a practice I certainly disagree with (although I do understand the profit motive behind it). Fortunately, the Color Nook can be rooted to allow users to install other apps and do various other things. It can even run Honeycomb, with some effort.
If you would rather not go through the rooting process, the Color Nook still offers a considerable amount of functionality. As is to be expected, it allows the user to purchase and view ePub books as well as subscribe to magazines and newspapers. The latest update also provides a decent web browser (with Flash support) , an adequate email application, Pandora and some basic apps. While the tablet is not super fast, I found it to be up to the task of handling email and web browsing. I was even able to watch some full episodes of the Daily Show (although I think I’ll stick with my desktop for that). One useful trick is that you can change the web browser from being in mobile mode to desktop mode. This allows you to see the normal web pages as opposed to those that have been optimized for mobile browsers. In many cases the mobile optimized sites are inferior to the normal sites. For example, the mobile version of Comedy Central’s site is rather incomplete relative to the standard version. The Color Nook is large enough to handle normal web pages (and the screen is great), so you would only want to use the mobile option when you actually want to see the mobile versions of sites.
I have actually only purchased on app, QuickOffice Pro. This app is basically a mobile version of Office that allows the user to view and edit Word files, spreadsheets, and Powerpoint files. It also has a PDF viewer. While B&N does not have the Dropbox app available (yet), QuickOffice Pro allows you to link to your Dropbox account to access those files. This is rather handy given the limited memory of the Nook (although it does have a microSD slot that supports class 6 cards). Since the Nook has an effective browser, I have been able to use many browser based services, such as accessing my PogoPlug. This actually works very well and as long as I have wi-fi access it allows my Nook to access the 1 TB hard drive I have connected to my PogoPlug. I can view the files on the drive and even play music. This makes the Nook a handy portal to my files.
It is natural to compare the Nook to the Kindle. Fortunately, it is very easy to make the comparison. As a general purpose device, the Color Nook obviously demolishes the Kindle. True, the Kindle does have an experimental web browser and can run a few games, but it cannot really compete with the Nook in this area. However, it is somewhat unfair to make a comparison in this area given that the Kindle is not intended to be a tablet but an etext reader. In this regard, the Kindle is actually quite good. It has excellent battery life, the screen works in direct sunlight, and it handles books that are predominantly text very well. It is also cheaper than the Nook and, perhaps most importantly, allows you to read Kindle books (which the normal Nook does not do). As such, the Kindle is still quite viable. I do have a Kindle (and older one) and intend to keep using it to read books that are mostly text. It is great for that.
If you want to be able to read Kindle books and B&N books all on the same device, you can root the Nook or get a “general” device that can run both the Kindle and the B&N apps. For example, the iPod Touch and iPad can run both apps. Android devices that are not locked out of the general app store for Android can also get both apps. A such, if you want a single device that can function as a tablet, a Kindle and a Nook, then one of these devices would be a good choice. However, the Kindle and the Color Nook have their own strengths that do make them quite worthwhile.