My Experiences with the Nook Color

A couple of my coworkers asked what I thought of my Nook Color, so I wrote this message. I thought it might be useful for someone else so here it is.

My Nook Color is pretty cool, but there were a few things that I thought you should know. Also, I've rooted (jailbroken) my Nook Color so some things may not apply to you. (Sorry it's long, but I don't want you to be surprised.)

The Hardware - Very comfortable to hold one handed. Light weight. About twice as heavy as my brother's Kindle, but not bad. Overall dimensions are nice, about 8.5 inches by 5 inches. That's just about the size of a sheet of paper folded in half. The screen is sharp and bright. It's also a fingerprint magnet, so I'd strongly recommend you get the screen protector/anti-glare covering. (Mine cost ~$17 from B&N, maybe they're cheaper elsewhere.)

The Signup Process - This was one of the most irritating aspects of the Nook Color. The signup associates your Barnes and Noble website account with the NC, which makes sense as that's how you actually buy stuff. The problem is that the NC doesn't always connect to WiFi if the WiFi network has any security. So you have to send your credit card info, name, etc. IN THE CLEAR for best results. That's a big fat FAIL in my opinion. Fortunately you can associate an existing B&N account with the NC. So if you buy a NC I'd suggest you create an account at (including setting up your credit card and shipping preferences) and then just use that account during the NC setup process. Then your personal information is more secure.

The Reading Experience - Buying books from Barnes and Noble is pretty easy to do. The reader itself does a good job of handling most novels and magazines. The only things I wish it did better were Tables of Contents and annotations. The TOC only shows one level which is fine in novels, but for programming books or technical references it sucks because you can't jump to a particular part of a chapter. So instead of going directly to Chapter 2, section 3, you get to go to Chapter 2 and then scroll ahead to Section 3. That gets old after a while. Annotations are kind of a pain because the NC doesn't always read the location of your finger accurately. So you end up highlighting the wrong part of the page. I also haven't found where the annotations are stored so I don't know if I can export them.

PDFs - The NC comes with a cruddy PDF viewer. It sucks. It doesn't support bookmarks. It doesn't offer search functions. Basically it's there so B&N can say "Yes it supports PDF." Do yourself a favor and get ezPDF from the marketplace. It's SO much better.

The Library - This is how you organize your books, files, magazines, etc. It's a nice interface, but I wish it offered more display options. I also wish it would display the cover art for PDF files like it does for ePubs.

Sideloading content - "Sideloading" is the process of taking content from third parties and installing it on the NC. When you plug the NC into a Windows computer, it looks like a USB drive. It just says "My NOOK color" on it. You can double click on it and it opens. You'll see a directory called "My Files" (I think). Opening it up shows several directories: Books, Documents, Magazines, Music, Newspapers, Pictures, Videos, and a couple others. Just copy the content into the appropriate folder. The cool part is that when you go into the Library, all that content will appear on appropriate screen. Stuff in "Books" will appear if you tap the "Books" icon at the top, Anything in "Magazines" will appear in the "Magazines" list, etc. And to see everything, just press the "My Files" icon. You get a file browser.

The Included Apps - The NC has always had a web browser. B&N introduced an update (1.2.0) that includes an email client and Flash in the browser. I'm not using these apps as I've rooted my NC and got better browsers. The web browser itself is adequate and based on Webkit (Safari/Chrome), but it's slow. For light reading/surfing it's OK, but for anything serious (like accessing a bank website) you'll want to gouge out your eyes with rusty spoons instead of using that browser. The real drawback to the browser is the fingertip-location problem I mentioned earlier. It's really easy to tap the wrong link and go to the wrong place. So you get to back up and try again. Turning the NC on its side to get into landscape mode makes it better, but it's not great. On the bright side, pinch to zoom works very well and you can double tap on the screen to magnify a part of the page. It just sucks that you have to do it all the time.

The only thing I know about Flash is that apparently it kills the battery on the NC. Again this is because Adobe didn't optimize the Flash Player for the Nook hardware. I think Apple has the same problem, but you'd know about that better than I would. (NOTE: My coworkers have iPads.)

I'm not reading email on my NC, so I can't speak to that.

Synchronizing books - B&N offers a Nook application for your computer. This means you can read on your NC, press the "Synchronize" button, and the NC will broadcast your progress information to the B&N servers. Then when you log in on your computer you can open up the same book at the same place you left off. When it works, it works very well. The problem is that I've had to hit the sync button several times to get the information uploaded off my NC. There's a lot of room for improvement on this service. (BTW, the sync button appears when you enter the Library app. It's the two arrows that are chasing their own tails that appears to the left of the search box.)

B&N Content - By and large it seems to be overpriced compared to Amazon. I recently bought two books from Amazon for $17. One of the titles wasn't available from B&N, and the other one cost $20. I've also heard that magazines and newspapers are similarly priced. (That is, more expensive than competitors.) So that's something to be aware of. (I cheated and installed the Amazon Kindle app for Android on my NC. Now I have the best of both worlds.)

Battery Life - It's OK. I can get about 3-4 days out of it if I have the wireless turned off. Wireless connectivity and a bright screen suck up a lot of power, so I'd suggest you keep the wireless turned off most of the time and drop the screen brightness down to something you can tolerate. The NC will charge if it's plugged into a computer's USB port, but it doesn't do it very quickly and the NC screen won't show you the updated battery charge. (If you plug in when battery is at 58%, the NC will say the battery is at 58% until you unplug the NC from the computer.)

Overall - I don't regret purchasing my NC, but I do see some areas for improvements. I'm not sure if that's because I'm fussy or if B&N just doesn't get it. (I'm leaning towards the "I'm fussy" angle.) So there you have it. Everything you never wanted to know. Hope it helps!

Update August 6, 2011

So my Nook Color's USB cable had been coming apart where it plugs into the Nook Color. The plastic around the stress relief boot was breaking and exposing the wires. I called 1-800-THE-BOOK, as this is a known issue and the website says that's what I should do.

The person I spoke to was sticking to the script and denying the issue and refused to replace it because I didn't buy the warranty. Even when I pointed out that the issue is known by B&N, and the Nook Color website and Nook Color discussion groups hosted by Barnes and Noble say that I'm supposed to call them and they'll replace it without any hassle.

After vigorously discussing this with the CSR for about twenty minutes, I felt a fury coming over me, so I thanked them for their time and hung up the phone. Life's too short to deal with this.

But this has a happy ending. I went to my local Barnes and Noble store and bought the car charger kit. While I was checking out, I mentioned to Michael my sub-optimal experience on the phone. Michael took it upon himself to apply a 25% discount to the car charger kit because "that sort of thing shouldn't happen, and I've had some problems with the phone team myself."

So I was screwed out of a replacement cable by B&N's phone team, but the store staff went out of their way to make it up to me. Sadly this has been my experience the whole time. The phone team sucks, but the store people are awesomely helpful.