Like so many others I ended up doing some last-minute Christmas shopping this year. One of the few refuges against the relentless onslaught of crowds, crowds, and more crowds is the comfort of a hot coffee in the Starbucks at Barnes and Noble. One of the advantages to being out shopping so close to Christmas was that Barnes and Noble had demo units of their Nook out that people could play with. I haven’t laid my hands on a Kindle yet, so my impressions here are solely based on what I thought of the Nook and I can’t yet compare the two.
First and foremost the thing I noticed was that the device was terribly slow. I usually have a pretty high tolerance for low speed devices and I know that eReaders are not PDAs and are not meant to be treated like the iPhone (where you yell at the device when it takes more than .0005 seconds to come up with a Google Map). That said, the device still felt really sluggish. Searching through the book catalog felt slow, even skimming through search results felt slow. Additionally, I was actually confused at times trying to navigate through search results and local catalogs. If the device can confuse and confound me, I can’t imagine what the device would do to my father, a self-professed luddite but one who might actually like an eReader.
The other thing that really bothered me was that while reading, the device would do what I can only imagine is some kind of e-ink refresh. The entire screen reversed itself into the negative and then back again, but it did so at a snail’s pace. I sat down and tried to read a few pages this way and I found that I was continually drawn out of the reading experience by this refresh as well as the lack of responsiveness. If I have to sit around and tap my shoe waiting for the page to turn, then the eReader certainly offers me nothing over the traditional piece of printed paper where I typically have little to no trouble turning the page.
The bottom line here is that I was so upset by my use of the Nook that I decided I’m not getting my wife one for Christmas and I’m not getting myself one. I will seek out some friends who might have a Kindle. If the Kindle’s reading experience is even marginally better than the Nook then that’s the device I’ll be buying. If it’s on par, then I’m just going to have to stick with printed paper for another year or so until the technology gets better.