First Look: Nook Color

Book lovers and journalists across New York City gathered at Barnes & Noble’s massive flagship store in Union Square for their “Very Special Event” to launch the new Nook Color, and of course Pocket-lint was there to cover it. The new 7-inch tablet is the company’s first full-colour touch reader and a follow up to the popular black and white Nook already on sale in the US.

At first glance, the reader looks, like a standard tablet. Similar to the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Nook Color isn’t designed to look much different to other 7-inch tablets. The tablet’s screen integrates “VividView” technology, which basically means it has a 16 million colour 1024 x 600 LCD IPS display as well as a full lamination screen film, designed to reduce glare from the backlight and external light. The Nook Color’s screen is as vivid as its competitors, but that’s not really the feature that makes the Nook Color stand out from competitors. 

The first feature that really stood out was the price point. At $249, this tablet is much more accessible than the iPad and functions on Wi-Fi rather than expensive 3G that might require a data plan and/or monthly fee. The device runs on the Android platform and once connected to Wi-Fi, users can browse the web, shop book titles, magazines, and newspapers, and share or “loan” books to friends via email, Facebook, or Twitter. 



The other thing that stands out about the Nook Color is that Barnes & Noble offers its users a very “curated experience” through different "nooks" like Nook Kids, Nook Newstand, book titles, recommendations from Barnes & Noble's master booksellers, and apps from Pandora and Dictionary.com.

This curated experience also applied to the Barnes and Noble's demos at the launch in New York. We could see, ask questions, get the product demonstrators to do things for us, but weren't able to physically touch the devices ourselves away from the eyes of Barnes and Noble.

Once you start exploring the Nook Color, you’ll see that pretty much everything is stored in your library. Within the library, titles are separated into books, newspapers, magazines, and then other types of files like pictures and personal documents (Microsoft Office docs, JPGs, MP3s, etc.) With 8GB of storage, you can store a good amount of content on the reader itself. The Nook Color currently features over 2 million book titles ranging from classics to new releases and even independent books featured in the Nook’s PubIt section for independent publishers all for around $9.99 per title.

When you open up a book, you can scroll through the pages by swiping the screen or simply tapping the sidebar. You can also bring up a view of multiple pages like the table of contents and cover minimised in the middle of the screen for easy navigation. The Nook Color also offers users a customisable experience where they can change the font size, which is useful for multiple users. We liked that the Nook Color had a section for recommendations based on your previous book choices and that the device immediately picked up from where you left off when you open up a book.

Some of the other journalists we spoke to at the launch event mentioned that there was some lag when turning the pages, but this is simply not a noticeable enough flaw to make us dislike the device. 

Aside from reading books, you can also access magazines and newspapers in the Nook Newstand. Most major magazines and newspapers were represented with options to purchase single issues, a subscription, or try a 14-day trial. The magazine reading feature really stood out because it not only highlights the Nook Color’s screen with full screen pictures, but it also showed off the elegant UI.

For us, the best part about reading a magazine is appreciating the pictures and diving into the articles from time to time. The Nook Color does not make you sacrifice this magazine reading experience simply because you are reading the magazine on an reader device. Instead, the Nook Color features “Article View,” which allows you to flip through full screen pictures and access full articles when and where you want to.



The newspaper reading experience was similar to magazine reading and integrates some rich content like videos and colour pictures. Reading these online periodicals was certainly not the same experience as reading these same stories online, since videos and pictures aren’t really integrated into the story itself as they are online. Only certain stories feature rich media like videos, and these are only located at the top of the article. If you use the Nook Color’s web browser to go online and read periodicals, the device will not support Flash, which is a limiting feature. 

The Nook Color also has a stocked Nook Kids department that allows parents to download classic kids stories and newbies for their kids. The best part? If the parents don’t feel like reading the story to their kids, the Nook Color features recorded versions of the story narrated by professional storytellers. Nice. 

Verdict

When our family goes on a holiday, our mum packs a duffel bag filled with books. Not only is this the heaviest bag that we have to lug up the stairs, but it’s simply outdated. This is the first tablet that we could seeing buying our mums for the holidays.

At $249, this device is accessible and isn’t the kind of gift that requires the recipient to spend an arm and a leg to actually use it, simply because it doesn't use 3G. This is something that we really like because it’s truly a gift. 

This device is an ereader with a focus on reading. Yes, you can go online; yes, you can share stories and quotes on Facebook and Twitter, but overall, the emphasis is on reading books, magazines, and periodicals. If that’s what you’re interested in doing, then this is the ereader for you. The book recommendation feature was also an interesting tool for readers since the Nook Color has custom recommendations based on your previous choices.

Overall, the Nook Color is a great ereader. If you’re looking for more apps and more web accessibility, then maybe the Nook Color is not for you.  

The Nook Color is available for pre-order from BestBuy.com, Wal-Mart, and Books-a-Million. It should be available for purchase on 19 November.



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