The Cranky Old Reader

I'm a Goodreads refugee, looking for a new home. Old books for children, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, and humor are my main areas of interest. I've little interest in books that were written after 1975 or so, and prefer books that are older still. There are, however, a few still-living authors that I respect.

Cooked with the Nook

My son and I got Nook Colors for Christmas a couple of years ago. His was okay. My first one was defective; it couldn't get online (wifi, the only option, didn't work).

So I sent it back for an exchange. The one that they mailed back had severe connectivity issues. Even literally next to the wifi router, it rarely got a signal - and when it did, the signal was incredibly weak. I took that one back to my local Barnes & Noble for an exchange, as I didn't want to wait for a return in the mail.

They exchanged the unit in the store. But now I was getting paranoid. So I tested it right there in the store, with their own wifi. And damned if that one couldn't connect, either! So they exchanged it yet a third time. The fourth Nook Color was able to connect to wifi and get a decent signal. But it was still badly made. Shortly after getting it home, I discovered that the case wasn't fastened together properly. Every time I held it firmly (for example, when using it to read), the case made an audible and palpable "click".

With three out of four Nooks having been so defective as to be unusable, I decided that I could live with the click. But it's not a quality piece of hardware.

Beyond that, I have three other criticisms to make: first, Barnes & Noble has been terrible about system updates. The Nook is based on the Android operating system, which has been updated many times in the past two years; the improvements have been remarkable. But in that same time, Barnes & Noble has released one, count them, ONE update. The OS is now so out of date that the most modern version of many apps can't run on the Nook Color.

Our Nooks can't even be recognized by my desktop any more - which means I can no longer side-load books, which was the only way that I could read e-books that I'd acquired elsewhere! I could root, of course, but that might jeopardize the few-hundred-plus dollars worth of books that I've purchased, or licensed, or whatever it is. To cap things off, the "Nook for PC" software on my desktop can no longer access my new purchases - even though my account is properly connected and I've synchronized over and over!

That said, I resent not being able to use the far more advanced and convenient input options and features of the latest version of Android. I write on my phone every day; it's almost as convenient as using the keyboard on my desktop. I never write on my Nook any more, and haven't for over a year.

Speaking of apps, the selection of apps that Barnes & Nobles allows for the Nook Color is absolutely terrible. Most of the apps that I use and enjoy on my phone simply aren't available for the Nook Color. And for others, the usual free versions aren't an option; for example, if you want to play Angry Birds, you must buy the pay version. There is no alternative allowed.

The web browser is likewise crippled. It can't display some sites, and others come up all jumbled. Trying to write a post of any kind via that browser is a nightmare. You're pretty much guaranteed to lose a lot of your posts, and the insertion-point jumps around randomly in some websites. You start typing, and then all of a sudden you find that you're suddenly inserting in the middle of a sentence three lines up! Infuriating.

Did I say three complaints? I guess there are four, although this is about Barnes & Noble's online store itself rather than the Nook proper: the selection of older books is incredibly limited. Over and over, I've searched for books; books that were very popular twenty years ago or more, but are rare or out of print now. They're almost never available for the Nook. If you want to buy the latest crappy bestseller, there's no shortage - but look for anything good that's not recent, and you're probably out of luck.

Even if they are available, prepare to pay through the nose. As I've written elsewhere, a book which I bought new for $1.95 in 1981 as a paperback in a brick-and-mortar store now costs $9.99 as an ebook - the price is the same from Amazon, as well. Is an ebook more expensive to make than a real, physical book? Are the costs of transmitting it online higher than the costs of printing, binding, shipping, and stocking it? I'm quite sure that the answer is "no" to both questions.

None of this is to say that the Kindle is better. I don't have one and won't buy one. I oppose what Amazon has done to books and ebooks, and will avoid doing business with them to the best of my ability. But at this point, the world of ebooks as I see it is a remarkably limited place, dominated by a ruthless monopoly. I can't say that it's an attractive prospect.

Currently reading

Basic Roleplaying: The Chaosium d100 system (Basic Roleplaying)
Sam Johnson, Charlie Krank
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Rebecca Solnit