I borrowed a friend's Nook for a few days last week to give the much-talked about ebook reader a try.
Nook, is Barnes & Noble's entry into the ebook hardware market that started with Amazon's Kindle and has now expanded to include the Sony Reader, the Borders Kobo and others. ZD Net does a good job of rounding them up.
All use E Ink technology displays, which read just like a paperback and are easy on the eyes.
The Nook has an E Ink display on top and a rectangular touch screen below. You use the touch screen for managing your library and ordering material and for navigation on the page.
The Nook I borrowed was the full fledged $199 model that included both WiFi and 3G connectivity. The 3G options allows you to purchase and download material from anywhere you have cell phone coverage. For my purposes, the 3G option is overkill. Since I have a WiFi network at home and free hotspots are fairly pervasive, you can save $60 by purchasing a WiFi-only version.
The book experience with the Nook was impressive. Ordering and purchasing was a breeze, and the download was fast, even over the 3G network. The device was relatively light (about the weight of a Robert Jordan paperback), but narrower than an open a book. I read for about an hour before I felt the need to set it down for a rest.
Turning the E Ink page is slow if you compare it to the response of today's computer screens or mobile phones, but it really takes no longer than physically turning the page of a book.
I was interested in how the Nook would work with a newspaper or magazine, so I downloaded single editions of the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and the Star Tribune. Each cost 50-75 cents. While the text display was fine, moving from article to article and from section to section was painfully slow.
Halfway through a lengthy NYT piece, I lost interest. But to get back to the article directory, I had to page through the entire article, one pokey page at a time.
Navigating the article directory is also a bit perplexing at first. Once you get to the directory, each page displays one or two article headlines and summaries. You select your desired article by using the touchpad, then use the navigation buttons on the Nook's bezel to turn pages. But if you spend some time on the article, the touchscreen goes to sleep (likely to save battery life) and you have to tap a button to bring it back to life. It's not bad once you get used to it, but it's painfully slow when compared to leafing through a print edition.
One bonus: None of the periodicals I downloaded included any advertising.
Bottom line: If you travel a lot, an ebook is a no-brainer. If you're a stay-at-home reader, you can buy a lot of Stephen King paperbacks for $150!