Took the E-Book Reader Plunge

By Karen

After writing a magazine article about e-book readers last year, I decided they weren’t ripe yet. But last weekend I was in Barnes & Noble checking out The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham, even though I had no right; there isn’t an inch of bookshelf left in the house. It retails for $35, so I thought, “If I buy the e-book cheap, I could put the difference toward an e-book reader.”

So I forked over $149 for a Nook Wi-Fi (without 3G) and another $40 for a case.

Do I sound crazy yet?

“But a Nook?” you ask. “Why not Amazon Kindle?”

Two reasons: 1) Amazon’s trying to corner the market by publishing its e-books in a proprietary format and doesn’t accept EPUB format, which I believe will become the universal standard, and 2) Amazon tried to strong-arm publishers into price caps on e-books, which screws writers earning royalties.

My love affair with the Nook has yet to blossom. It has a touchscreen keyboard that appears when you need to type searches or other text. I have slim fingers, but it took me 45 minutes to type 2 passwords to register the Nook with and to connect it to my home Wi-Fi network.

The Nook was lucky it didn’t end up in a million pieces after severe impact with the wall.

Dracula, Little Women, and Pride and Prejudice came with it as free downloads. Dandy.

The B&N sales clerk told me  about half of B&N’s million+ e-ooks are public domain and free. None of the classics I wanted were less than 99 cents.

So there’s Project Gutenberg, where I downloaded 9 classics in EPUB format for free, no strings attached.

You can transfer books to the Nook via USB. B&N punishes your rogue e-books by segregating them in “My Documents” instead of adding them to “My B&N Library.”


The reading screen isn’t as bright as I expected. Virtually all e-book readers use E Ink® technology, which is supposed to be great, even in full sunlight. I feel like I need full sunlight to get anything close to the contrast of ink on paper.

And the battery, whose charge I was told would last 10 days, is down 82% on day 5 without even reading the first book. Maybe that’s because they didn’t tell me to disable Wi-Fi while it “sleeps.” B&N says there’s no need to shut Nook down completely. I now realize that’s because it takes forever to boot up.

And that Maugham book? B&N sells the eBook for $26 (it’s $19.25 at Amazon). Some day I may get over this, but for that kind of cash, I want a real book on my bookshelf, even if I have to cram it in.

There’s more, but I won’t bore you with details unless you ask.

At this point, I wish I’d left well enough alone. But knowing what I know now, in that moment of temporary insanity, would I still have bought a Nook over a Kindle?



9 Responses to Took the E-Book Reader Plunge

  1. C from Florida says:

    Karen, Congrats for keeping up with new technology even if it is less than perfect. My hard drive (the one between my ears) crashed several years ago. I don’t Tweet, am not Wi-Fied, I don’t own a Blackberry, laptop, IPod or even a cell phone. Personally speaking, I love the smell and feel of a new book and I like being the first one to turn the pages. I have developed a crazy habit in my old age. Whenever I get a card or photo from my kids or grands I stick it in any old book on my shelf. I am sure when I go to that big library in the sky and my kids go through my stuff they will have a blizzard of memories come floating out of my books. BTW, Project Gutenberg is the “bomb”–I love it. Check out my new essay, I tried to make this one humorous–Comestibles: A History. By from C

  2. catsworking says:

    C, I think once I have a book on the thing that I’m actively reading, I may warm up to it. And I think the case I got for it is cute. But I’m like you. I still like the feel of a REAL book. And there are some authors whose physical books I will always buy. Bourdain is one of them.

    I heard a rumor that my grandmother Wormald did what you’re doing, only with money, and she hid it all over the house, and when the family packed things up so my grandfather could sell it, they found several thousand dollars in small bills squirreled away. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds like something she’d do.

    I’m getting kind of addicted to Project Gutenberg — I think I have a collection addiction. I feel compelled to stock the Nook. Yesterday I downloaded 2 titles by D. H. Lawrence. I have this vision of getting stranded somewhere (like when I got stuck in San Juan in January) and the Nook being my only friend. I want it to have a lot of good reading on it.

    I’m sort of kicking myself that I didn’t put the money toward a netbook though. To get one now would make me feel electronically overloaded.

  3. MorganLF says:

    I have been wanting a reader for a while too. IGoogle has Google Reader which gives you all kinds of downloads for free. There is a library that lets you access books and magazines.

    I have always been a libray lover. I can take out books and read them and return them. No clutter, that’s an issue with me so the E book reader was something that seemed right up my alley, but thanks for the insight, I think I’ll wait.

  4. catsworking says:

    In case you ever have a weak moment and decide to take the plunge yourself…

    One of the selling points B&N made to me is that our county library lends out e-books and Nook can handle them. I assume that means they’re in the EPUB format. A Kindle can’t because it can only read Amazon’s proprietary format (forget what it’s called) and won’t recognize anything EPUB.

    Some Kindle users found this out only after they bought one and couldn’t access what they wanted.

  5. MorganLF says:

    Getting a whiff here of a certain redundancy in comments, must they all self reference? I thought that was largely a trait of our northern cousins…

  6. catsworking says:

    Sorry, Morgan, I’m not following you here. I haven’t seen any signs of our former pal in Winnipeg — and I’d better not. Cats never forget.

  7. Zappa says:

    I am trying to figure out Twitter.I am following you.Or maybe you are following me.I don’t think I could ever Nook,Kindle or i-anything.I count on my fingers and draw stick people.Sigh.

    Zappa’s mom

  8. Joanaroo says:

    Hi Karen! Thanks for writing this. I wondered what these readers were like and it sounds like I haven’t missed much. I have alot of books but was able to buy alot of them cheap thru Amazon, book clubs and at bargain prices at Waldenbooks and other stores. My sister and I have items in a climate controlled storage area and some of my books are taking little nappies there for now.

  9. catsworking says:

    Zappa, I’ve pretty much left Twitter to the cats and they are still trying to figure it out. They are actually accumulating a few followers — mostly cats, a few dogs, and one p*rn queen.

    I don’t get these people on Twitter who are following thousands of people. If their account is anything like ours, it means they are getting REAMS of tweets constantly. And 95% of that stuff is garbage. No to mention all the “retweets,” the unsolicited crap that people feel compelled to share with everybody.

    The Nook isn’t hard to use at all, but the software is kind of buggy, I’m learning. And once they put something on your Nook, like a free sample of a book, there doesn’t seem any way to get it off. I’m still working on that.

    UPDATE: I went through their “following” list this morning and weeded out a few that seem to put out a lot of junk (repeatedly — like “read my latest blog post!” If we cared to, we’d subscribe.) and retweets.

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