I love my $149 nook Wi-Fi

With all the hype surrounding the Kindle DX and the rest of the Kindle line, for that matter, one might think Amazon and Apple had the e-book market cornered and trembling. But there still are other viable options out there. I’ve tried Borders’ Kobo with it’s sloppy little d-pad, and a couple of Sony’s older clunkers (though I have yet to hold their more promising their recent offerings). I’ve tested the Kindle 2, iPad, and a few other knock-offs, and the reader that sat right with me was nook. I don’t need to download books on the go, so the latest edition to the nook family, nook Wi-Fi, seemed like a perfect fit.

Now I can’t say for certain that I wasn’t in the least bit swayed by the fact that the gadget runs Android. In fact, I’ll admit that it helped me to justify the purchase. “It’s work related!” But, I am not one of those fanatics that advocates the use and purchase of Android devices for applications and gadgets it isn’t suited for. My final decision rested on usability and that dual-screen setup with a full color capacitive navigation display did the trick for me. (cont.)

I’ve read reviews that criticized nook for wasting battery life on what the authors equated to an awkward novelty but at this stage in the game, I’m more than satisfied with the experience my nook provides, even if it’s not the fastest gadget on the block and even if some find the nav screen unnatural. I don’t. For me, it’s one of the stronger aspects of the nook experience and I’m sure it’s part of the reason why I’m totally hooked on the thing; bringing it absolutely everyplace that might afford me a spare moment and trading off late night Netflix and Hulu Plus sessions for an hour or two with the nook. It’s forced me to make time where I didn’t have any; probably because I get to enjoy technology while indulging in a very “free time,” vacation type of activity. But don’t ask me to hack it for the site. I don’t need that much technology at night. My story time will not be overtaken by work.

I was also drawn in by the color-coordinated official nook accessories offered by B&N, I must admit. Although I returned my $50 Lyra Light Cover the day after purchase because a design flaw limiting the attached light-arm’s pivot left me twisting my nook around in the dark, trying to view text while dodging the faded glare of three, very bright LEDs. That’s OK, the clip-on isn’t that hard to keep track of, it looks fine, and happens to match the battery cover. Which, for those who didn’t know, protects a user-replaceable battery and SD Card slot. Yeah, I got the orange battery cover. Don’t judge me.

Nook has yet to see updated software allowing cross-device synching, though WhisperSync-like support is on the way (hopefully along with the option to delete books without leaving my library on the nook). Nook apps are available for iPad (really?), iPhone, Android, Windows, Blackberry, and Mac. And guess what: it even has an MP3 player and 3.5mm audio jack for the easily distracted and super dramatic opera readers. It has a web browser…but that’s hardly worth discussing. The most important selling point of any e-reader is the e-ink display, and while the nook’s refresh rate isn’t lightning fast, it’s quicker than my fingers at turning a page. The contrast is very good, and glare diffusion is decent. (cont.)

Nook Wi-Fi is an interesting piece of gadgetry indeed, and with over a million titles available, it now offers just about everything I could reasonably expect to find. Sure, there are times when a title I search for – a very well-known title – will turn up an empty result. But with thousands of free books, newspapers, magazines, lots of Google books on hand, lending, free samples, in-store browsing, notes, highlights, bookmarks, and a dictionary, I’m good to go. For now.

When nook 2 docs hit the FCC, and names like CR nook 3G and Bravo Delta 3G, and Project Encore were buzzing around, most were speculating the new “nook Lite” (the Wi-Fi version I own) would soon be running $199 and the nook 2 (with Wi-Fi and 3G) would be going head-to-head with the Kindle 3 this summer/fall. August was suspected. But the e-reader price wars are heating up and Kindle 3 runs just $139 for the Wi-Fi version and $189 for Wi-Fi and 3G. Nook’s current tags are at $149 and $200 for the same respective flavors but we have yet to see the latest generation, meant to compete with the latest Kindle. The mysterious name “CR nook 3G” has led some to guess at a color version of the reader, with just one, full color display. However, when submitting photos for FCC filings, the original nook body was presented. There is also a lot of talk about international support. My personal wish list is topped by a black matte version of the reader, as the glossy white frame of current models can become a distraction. Whatever B&N has in store, I do not believe the war is over, and I look forward to comparing and contrasting my next nook with the one I already own.