A year ago, I got a Kindle for Christmas from my family. Last March, I received a free nook for review. At the time, the jury was out for me on which was better. I personally use the Kindle, but that is because I didn't like the combination of the backlight for the nook's navigation and the paperless ink of the screen.
(I have no idea how I became a defacto ereader reviewer, but I have seriously had the nook vs. Kindle conversation at least 100 times in the past year since I now own both. Well, now, I have three. And so if you want to know more than this review, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com -- I think a lot of this is personal preference as both varieties are extremely solid products, and with a few questions, I can make a pretty solid recommendation for you.)
Recently, my friends at nook contacted me again to see if I would review and give away a NOOKColor. I thought about it for exactly no seconds and said YES. It arrived on Friday, and the Arens family has been test-driving it since then.
When I fired it up, I was amazed at its iPad-like-ness. Though it seems to not be app-based (and again, this is based on my analysis of the NOOKColor as an ereader and not anything else -- I did notice it has the ability to upload photos, play some games like chess and Sudoko, listen to Pandora and interact with social media), it is far more iPad-like than either the regular nook or the Kindle.
The real differentiator is the color and interactivity when it comes to picture books. I haven't downloaded any magazines yet, but I did give the picture books a good go.
When you load a picture book, you turn the NOOKColor horizontally instead of vertically. Most picture books give you the option to either read them yourself or have them read to you, and some of them have things you can touch that will animate and say things to you. I've heard that soon even more interactivity, such as videos, will be embedded into the books (a real bonus when it comes to something prescriptive like cookbooks), and that is a game-changer in my opinion.
On the flip side, for me personally? I admit that I am totally old-school. While I make my living on the Internet, when it comes to relaxation, I just want to read. Honestly, I like a stripped-down ereader because if there is the possibility of interacting with social media or, God forbid, my e-mail, I won't read, I'll work or socialize. So I wasn't so jazzed about a lot of the NOOKColor's features. My daughter? Had stars in her eyes, and she's never looked twice at the Kindle. I think the NOOKColor is for the next generation. Lord, yes, it's for the children.
I downloaded the two picture books I got for the purpose of review and a bunch of free ebooks available through the Barnes & Noble website. Then we took the NOOKColor for a test drive to our local Barnes & Noble store in order to get it a cover.
* An aside about covers. If you have an ereader, you should really just ante up and get a cover. There are a few reasons for this. 1) It feels very weird to read something you think is a book without using both hands. We're programmed (at least my generation) to hold both ends of a book. I was actually kind of angsty about using an ereader until I got a cover and bammo! It felt like reading a book again. 2) If you drop an ereader on a hard floor, it can break. ARGGGHHH!!! Covers protect. 3) If you throw your ereader into your bag or suitcase, the screen could get scratched or something could hold down a button and drain your power. Covers protect against this. 4) If you spent that much money on your ereader, what the hell is wrong with you that you can't pony up $30 more to protect your investment?
When I flipped it on at the store, not only was I immediately asked 35 questions by other holiday shoppers, I saw a coupon for a free smoothie in the B&N cafe, which was a nice touch. I also got a few special offers for ebooks. I downloaded two 99-cent Christmas books for my daughter, to whom we have given this ereader. It really makes the most sense for her, since although she can read chapter books, she still appreciates the beauty of a good picture book.
Then we went on three hours of errands. My daughter gamely sat in the backseat, headphones clamped on her ears, listening to her NOOKColor read her stories. She insisted on bringing it in while we bought cat food for Petunia and even schlepped it into the hardware store.
- Honestly, it's only been one day, but my girl couldn't look away. She's six and an advanced chapter book reader, so she's really in the sweet spot for something like this. Ordinarily, I wouldn't give her such expensive electronics at this age, but as it came to our family free through review, I didn't think twice about giving this lucky girl the literary equivalent of a portable DVD player or DS. If she had to grade it, she would give it an A+. She said it's like looking at books through a magnet-flying glass.
- It's pretty. Let's face it.
- Touch screens are fun. Paperless ink -- not touchscreen. I'm not even sure that paperless ink has the technical ability to be touchscreen. I had trouble with the keyboard on the original nook because it was so small -- I couldn't get it to type ever without having to backspace a million times. The touchscreen keyboard on the NOOKColor is much larger, eliminating one of my main gripes with the original nook.
- You can password protect purchases. I had this nightmare of my daughter somehow racking up a $1,000 bill downloading books, so I was relieved to see I could require a password for purchases. This is a total win for a child's electronic.
- The read-aloud feature is awesome. Again, normally I don't condone toys or electronics doing the parent's work for them, but this NOOKColor stood in for the portable DVD player in a way I could see it doing on one of our six-hour drives to Iowa to see family. I would a thousand times rather her be reading or even being read to than watching movies, because I am a lit snob. The Kindle has read-aloud, but no picture books.
- The lending feature. I have heard Kindle is moving to this, as it's been a big differentiator for nook for the past year. When you lend a digital book, it's just like lending a real book -- you can't read it while it's being lent to someone else. However, you CAN lend books, which is huge. You can even borrow them from the library if your library supports this. I haven't checked in to our library but I have heard from co-workers and family that they can do this in their area.
- I find the backlight hard to swallow. The NOOKColor is not a paperless ink product. It's total backlight. It doesn't seem to phase my girl, but after our three hours of errands, we went to a restaurant and as I was reading a book to her, I realized my eyes were squinting at the light even though it was only at 1/3 power. I'm old, but I much prefer the paperless ink of the original nook and the Kindle.
- Battery power. My girl was interacting with her NOOKColor for about four hours today, and the battery drained to less than 50% in that time. I turned the wireless off about halfway through, thinking that was causing the battery suck (that's the case with my nook and the Kindle), but it didn't seem to make a difference. Everyone I know that has an iPhone has to charge the dang thing twice a day, while my Blackberry can go for three days without a charge. I've been reading my Kindle for about a week without charging it, and the original nook is the same way -- the battery only drains when the wireless is on. I'm pretty sure it's the reading aloud combined with the backlight that started the drain, but it's just something to be aware of. The NOOKColor is charging now, as I'm sure my girl is going to be sucked in again tomorrow.
The great news for you is this: Just as before, the B&N folks have offered a NOOKColor to me to give away.
They had a ton of suggestions for what I should have you say to be entered, but I'm straight-up these days when it comes to giveaways.
You have until January 10th. Enter as many times as you want. Each comment on this post equals one entry. The more you enter, the better your chance to win.
I will close comments at 9 p.m. CT on January 10th and soon thereafter put the number of entries into a randomizer, which I will publish here. The comment number corresponding to the randomizer number wins, simple as that. Good luck! It's totally worth winning.