I long resisted the Cult of the e-Reader. I defended my choice with the cliched reasons usually trotted out by bookworms such as myself. I love the smell of books, the rough texture of a page between your fingers. I enjoy browsing a bookstore or library and selecting an actual book. I spend enough time staring at screens. I like penciling my notations in the margin.
I reveled in my position as a sort of literary Luddite. Resist the machines! They will turn against us one dark day, and I will defend myself behind a sturdy barricade of books!
But resistance was futile, really. I still plan on purchasing an honest-to-goodness book now and then, but a few weeks ago I decided that an e-reader would be… well… convenient. Most of the books I use for primary research, long out of copyright, are free online. And traveling for a conference or for research often entails lugging a suitcase stacked with books. I often had a very tense moment at the scales at the airport, hoping my luggage didn’t exceed the weight limit. Best to avoid the baggage fees.
Once I’d waved the white flag, I began my research. While there are many options out there, I limited my options to the nook and the Kindle, the two dominant products in the e-reader market. I read a lot of online reviews, consulted with friends, watched corny online promotional videos, and tried out the Kindle at Target, where I discovered its buttons mashed beyond repair by barbaric Target shoppers. By then, however, I had decided that I would adopt the Kindle, seduced by its wee keyboard.
Then, during a recent trip to Charlotte, my Dad, the inimitable Mike “Boots” Ford, offered to purchase me the e-reader of my choice as an early birthday gift. With this incentive, we headed out to the closest Barnes & Noble, where I planned to confirm my pro-Kindle conviction.
But oh, carrots readers. I was seduced by the nook. While the first generation nook was not to my liking, I realized, while sampling the newest version, that the features that had given the Kindle its edge were matched by the nook.* A quick run-down comparing nook and Kindle:
- Both feature non-glare screens that use e-Ink for readability. I’ve been delighted to discover that my nook allows me to change not only the size of the type on the screen but also the font and line spacing. The Kindle may do this as well. I’m not sure.
- Most nook readers use touch-screen gestures to navigate through the device, but both the nook and the Kindle allow users to navigate from page to page with side buttons. The nook people praise their one-button interface, but really there are hidden side-scroll buttons, as well.
- The Kindle includes a small keyboard, while the nook includes a touchpad keyboard. I thought this would be a problem, but I found I could enter text more quickly using the touchpad. And I’m not going to lie. It’s prettier.
- Both include adequate contemporary titles at reasonable prices and free out-of-copyright texts, a boon for a nineteenth-century scholar like myself. Both boast an impressive battery life (although each claims theirs is better.)
- Both accommodate word look-up, highlighting, bookmarking, and note-taking, and both allow readers to export their notes to a PC or other mobile device, despite some online chatter that the nook cannot do this. I’ve already done it. It can.
- The Kindle is available with built-in 3G as well as WiFi. The nook is not. I decided this was not a problem, as I am usually near enough to my own wireless network or another hotspot when the urge to buy a book hits.
- Both support quote-sharing and recommendation through social media, including facebook and Twitter.
- The nook currently supports lending privileges from public libraries. I’ve tested this and found it pretty intuitive and easy to manage. Most ebook titles are available for 14-day check-out from Houston Public Library. The Kindle plans on initiating a library lending program within the year.
* I am describing the latest black-and-white nook. I had already decided against a color e-reader.