What the Nook? Second Thoughts on eReading

My e-reader quest started a few posts ago, leaning toward the Nook.Then there was the “reality in the form of DRM” post: so what if Nook uses an open format, if it also uses a DRM wrapper?

Slow learner I sometimes am, I installed Nook for Android. It struck out.

  1. The Nook app wouldn’t let me just read an EPUB already on the Android. It wanted me to sign on to Nook/Barnes & Noble first. Why? I just wanted to read an EPUB I already have.
  2. When I tried to sign on using the Barnes & Noble name/password I’d set up, and checked multiple times in Chrome, it rejected the login.
  3. When I reported this to support, I was sent a standard “Thank you for inquiring about Barnes & Noble’s policy regarding disclosure of customer information” email. Of course, that was irrelevant to my question.

I’m inclined to nix the Nook notion. I’m even relighting my Kindle consideration.

eBooks, Open and Closed

Wizard of EarthseaHere’s a book I bought decades ago, and thousands of miles away from Washington DC. I’ve read it more than once, my mother read it, and I’m currently reading it to my daughter.

If I buy an ebook today, will I be able to read it at a similar remove of time and distance: in 2040 in Sydney, for example? I doubt it. You may have gathered that I an among those who prefer paper books to eBooks. ReadWriteRichard provides 5 reasons to prefer paper, and comments on his post provide more.

This post is about ebooks. So isn’t just a rehash of the advantages of paper. That said, those decades with paper anchor my expectations about books,and those expectations carry over into the upstart format.

Make that upstart ebook formats, since there are many of them. In my previous post on ebooks, I decided that EPUB was the way to go, since almost everyone except Amazon uses it. The trouble is, almost everyone also uses DRM. So EPUB is an open standard that can be, and usually is, wrapped up in DRM, as Gizmodo explained earlier this year.

This means that I can’t buy an book in EPUB format and read it on my hardware or software EPUB reader of choice. Or rather, I can do so only under limited circumstances. For example, I can read a Sony B&N ebook on a Nook, but I can’t read a B&N ebook on a Sony reader. Or, when I Google anything to do with EPUB and DRM, I get a lot of links that seem to lead to instructions for stripping DRM.

This “Tower of eBabel” problem makes me think that my eBook era doesn’t need to start any time soon, unless I suddenly have to go on a long and bookstoreless trip. The prices of the books themselves aren’t particularly attractive, unless you have a free eReader. The selection has some surprising gaps, as well. For example, there seems to be no e-dition of A Wizard of Earthsea.

Even I Am an eReader Now

I love books, always have, and always will. So what about ebooks? I haven’t used them. I don’t like reading large amounts of text on a computer screen, and eReaders are too expensive for my taste: I like gadgets, but not enough to pay early adopter prices.

Now that eReader prices are moving down towards $99, I’m starting to consider which one to get, or at least to request for a present come December. Here are my main criteria.

  • EPUB format support.
  • Price.
  • Easy enough on the eyes to actually read a book. I’m going to rely on reviews for this, since a quick in-store test-read won’t prove much about prolonged use.

The first criterion rules out a Kindle, tempting though the new Kindle Wi-Fi is at $139 on the price criterion. I don’t want my eShelf to rest on a proprietary format.

Almost everything else on the market does support EPUB, according to Wikipedia’s comparison of e-book formats. So it’s time to do some research on Nook and the like, or at least keep my eyes and feed reader open over the next few months.

I’m hoping for “a sub-$100 device with no connectivity other than a USB port”. The quote is from Joe Wickert, even though he has a Kindle in mind.

Since I’m going EPUB, I’ve installed a software eReader on my Android. I went with Aldiko, after reading Matthew Miller’s comparison of apps. That’ll get its own post soon.

In the meantime, any comments on EPUB readers and content stores are most welcome.