The End of the Nook

I was given a first generation Nook by a friend of mine in 2010, and yesterday, after a week at sea and in the sun, the thing gave up the ghost. I got roughly three and a half years of use out of it. On one hand, for a piece of handheld electronics, that’s not a bad run. On the other hand, it’s a reminder that the life of electronic equipment, relative to a decently-produced physical book, is tragically evanescent. The mass market paperback of The Human Division which is sitting on my desk at the moment has the potential to outlive me and be accessible to anyone who has the ability to pick it up (and read English); the electronic version of it I have via B&N* lasts only as long, effectively speaking, as I keep a B&N account — or B&N exists at all.**

Be that as it may, I really do like e-ink readers; they’re easy on the eyes and on power supplies. So I went ahead an bought the latest generation of Nook e-ink reader (this one, specifically). Given the state of B&N’s Nook business, it might be the last e-reader of that brand I’ll have a chance to buy. But if it lasts at least as long as its predecessor I won’t have too much reason to complain. At this point, I think it’s clear that you buy these things with the understanding they don’t last forever.

* Yes, I buy finished electronic copies of my books. I can afford it.

** I am aware of course that I can strip off the DRM of any book I buy and just port it to another reader. But that takes work. I’m likely to avoid doing that work for as long as I possibly can.

45 thoughts on “The End of the Nook

  1. love my kindle apps
    thought about getting a kindle e-reader but i ended up trading my iphone 5 for a galaxy note 3 mostly because its about the size of a paperback

  2. I have one of the recentish nook-with-backlight models, and it is just an amazing device. I love the ability to have All The Books on it. I mean, just in terms of going someplace with books… I can carry a pretty complete set of Pratchett books as an ebook reader. I can’t actually lift that many hardcovers.

  3. Really, its not that much work. If you keep a library of electronic publications, you can strip the DRM about as fast as put the file into your library.

  4. The doomsaying that many people are doing of the Nook ebook business is premature. B&N has a higher percentage now of the ebook market than Apple has had of the PC market for decades.

    Amazon does have a dominant market position, but that doesn’t mean there won’t continue to be room for other players.

  5. I keep lusting after the Waterfi waterproofed Kindle Paperwhite. Not just water-resistant, waterproof. Thier website shows users washing it in the sink… That is the ticket.

  6. “** I am aware of course that I can strip off the DRM of any book I buy and just port it to another reader. But that takes work. I’m likely to avoid doing that work for as long as I possibly can.”

    THIS is why we are thankful that you, and publishers like Tor (and a few others) are insisting on DRM free copies of their e-books! THANK YOU!

  7. Just as a heads up, while B&N won’t sell you a replacement battery for Nooks, you can buy them from 3rd party websites, and they’re less expensive than buying a whole new Nook device. Of course, it’s also an excuse to get new hardware…

  8. My 1st Gen Nook still works – but I just found it easier to load the Nook app on my 3rd Gen iPad since I already have it with me, and I can load Kindle books on it from a Kindle app as well! Also, Baen’s entire SF library (which is DRM-free, thank you Baen!) using iBook, so I have NO LIMITS! Ahahahahahahahahaha!

    Anyway – while I agree w/you about the ephemeral nature of electronic media, I love its convenience. But, just in case the FCC in Association with Big Telco decides to jack up the prices of the Internet so much that it’s no longer viable to have eBooks? I still buy print editions of everything I want to keep….

  9. I’ve had to replace my 1st Gen twice. I recently got the previous gen Simple Touch w/ Glowlight because A) I like page turn buttons, and B) I like the microSD expandability. My only real complaint is the way the ebooks are organized on the Nook itself.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the newest Nook.

  10. I still have my 1st Gen Nook, but have also added a Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Simpletouch. E-Ink is the best way to read, outside of actual paper.

    I read Microsoft invested $600 million into Nook and we should see some new products out by the end of the year. Competition is important and readers need to keep Nook up and running to keep Amazon honest.

  11. At least that new one you ordered has a decent battery life (or so they claim). My first gen Nook, you so much as look at it funny and it tells you to connect to power.

  12. I just damaged my Nook Tablet a week ago and am in the middle of replacing it. It was my fault. I knew that it wouldn’t last forever, but I was hoping to replace it for being obsolete, after I had finished accumulating autographs on the back surface.

    The replacement unit (not purchased from B&N) had already been activated and contained the eBook library of someone other than me. I have no idea what other apps to which the original owner may still have been logged in before I hard reset it, and the device wasn’t locked at the power-on screen. I’m not sure what went on prior to my receipt of the unit, but I think it’s a good idea to hard reset a tablet before returning it.

  13. I don’t mind the non-permanent nature of ebooks, I mind paying as much for them as things that are permanent. To echo the person above, yay TOR and others who let me buy ebooks with a better expectation that I can continue to find ways to read them. The maybe-we’ll-stay-who-knows problem is why I continue to buy physical comics vs the way more convenient Comixology route. For physical books I just don’t end up reading it if I can’t get it electronically,

  14. I’m on my second Kindle. Just a word of advice, which I’m sure applies to Nooks (and any other tablet computer for that matter). It’s a good idea to get a cover for it, and when, you know, you say, are changing clothes, and you throw your tablet or Nook or Kindle on the bed, and you toss your belt on the bed, and the belt buckle hits the glass on the Kindle, you know, that’s not good. So, you know, cover, good idea. And, it’s a good idea, you know, to CLOSE the cover when they’re not in use.

  15. What’s the expected life of an owned and read (once or twice a year?) mass market paperback? Probably longer than 4 or five years, but I have many books being held together by faith and tape and rubber bands that are certainly less than 10 years old. and without acid free paper for the most part, I think, so even without frequent use, a certain amount of brittleness is going to kick in.

  16. I’m on my second Kindle – I have the old keyboard model and I now have a PaperWhite too. My partner had a Nook, which in some ways we liked. But then it broke – and their position was “tough”, When something similar happened with the Kindle, we got a replacement next day.

    Also included lifetime “whispernet” subscription.

    And unlike the Nook, (a) you can lock it and (b) when off, it doesn’t display the cover of what you were reading (both can be important for those with small children, for instance – or nosy parents, come to that!).

    So, Kindle for the win!

    It seems to be the best device at the moment, if you don’t want to use a tablet (I find back-illuminated devices to be more tiring than the e-ink, though the iPad is OK as a backup.

    I also back up all my books using Calibre, so if the whole ecosystem goes under (seems unlikely, but…) I can still convert them to another format.

    There’s also a plugin that allows you to follow stories on fanfic and download them as .mobi books.

  17. I could walk the three blocks to Barnes and Noble in the cold, walk through the shelves, pick up the book and carry it to the front, wait in line, cringe as I’m asked for the 300th time if I have a Barnes and Noble Super Preferred Customer Card, pay and walk home.

    Or I can do a quick search on Amazon, use the one click purchase button, do a couple of clicks in Calibre and have a DRM free copy of the book.

    The first seems like far more work to me.

  18. @brian ledford- I’ve read paperbacks from the 60s that were still in decent condition. They weren’t all read yearly, but they also weren’t stored in special conditions.

    There are also books of similar age, in the same collection, that are in horrible condition.

  19. I have the Nook Simple Touch (the version before the glow light). I’m out of room for storing books, so I’ll e-read whatever I don’t mind not keeping and be more selective about the paperbacks I buy. You say it’s easy to remove the DRM, but you have to first have a clue as to how to do that (which I don’t).

  20. I donate most of my once read books to the local library for either the library’s collection, or more likely, for their small resale shop. People who can’t afford to buy books should be able to read.

    It annoys me that I can’t pass on an e-book in the same way. Sometimes, I buy printed copies for the library, if it will be added to the collection.

  21. My first gen nook got replaced last December. It wasn’t as dead as yours seems to be, but it has a tendency to forget that it is on, and thus require a restart if you are not turning pages at a regular rate. As someone who reads and talks a lot, this got to be very annoying. I love the Nook Glowlight! Enjoy yours!

  22. @timeliebe — for DRM-free epubs, you might look at the Marvin app for the iPad/iPhone. It’s for-pay, not a free app, but it has a more effective author-sort (a bit like Stanza had) once you find it up at the right-hand upper-side. I like it better than iBooks for formatting and author-sort. *huggles author-sort*

  23. I’m definitely a fan of e-ink readers. They cause me significantly less eye-strain than actual paper books, and they solve the problem I’ve always had of “WHERE am I going to put more books!?”. The DRM thing doesn’t bother me terribly because my time constraints in life dictate that I’m probably only going to read _most_ books once. So, their permanence is really not a big factor for me. There will always be a handful of books I love enough to re-read often, and I tend to acquire good, hard-cover copies of those. But for everything else, I’m okay with risking that they will one day go away.

  24. Jessi, Exactly. I get flack from my reading friends for preferring my ereader to real books. But honestly, real or digital, most of what I read is one time use. I get it from the library, read it, and return it anyway. With digital, I can check out from home. I can load up my nook with the 600 page book I want to read, and carry it everywhere with me. I don’t have the eyestrain of backlit screen reading. I can adjust the text size to make it easier to read as a passenger on car trips. Real books have their place, and I have the shelves to prove it, but for everyday reading, digital it is.

  25. They just don’t make anything like they used to, John. I’m not ashamed to admit I still have a Speak & Spell from my childhood that still works like the day I got it for Christmas. Thats gotta be about 32 years ago or more. Nowadays everything is made as cheaply as possible. It’s basically crap, and we pay a lot of money to buy this crap, but it’s still crap.

  26. Let’s be correct here. It is not THE end of the nook, it is the end of YOUR current Nook especially since you are getting another one.

  27. @brian ledford: I definitely discovered most of the SF/F that got me into the genre by raiding my dad’s bookcases full of his circa 1960s/70s mass market paperbacks when I was a teenager. I definitely don’t imagine he’d be as fine with me stealing his e-reader and keeping it until he forgot it wasn’t mine. One of the things I love about hard-copy books is that it’s easier to share them with fellow readers. Even if they’re a little beat-up, they’re still useful.

    I think what we see every single time this topic comes up is that everybody loves having more options to tailor their reading material to their needs. I don’t care at all that e-readers are around, but I do think it would be a huge shame to lose paper copy books.

  28. ERose writes:

    I definitely discovered most of the SF/F that got me into the genre by raiding my dad’s bookcases full of his circa 1960s/70s mass market paperbacks when I was a teenager.

    I’m largely a convert to eBooks, but I do wonder about that from time to time.

    My parents didn’t own any SF. I didn’t find much fiction on their shelves, and none of it was tempting to me. What they did have was a a big heap of books. I spent a fair amount of time exploring them, if not actually reading very much of any particular volume. Those books probably influenced my attitude about books. The knowledge that my parents considered them worth keeping around probably influenced my attitude about books.

    If my parents had iPads, they probably wouldn’t have worn baseball caps that said “I’m currently reading a book”.

  29. I used to frequently purchase ebooks and do the whole shebang of stripping the DRM for use on my other devices. After several years of this, I’m kind of on an anti-ebook kick.

    Something about a hardback book that emits permanence. Gives an assurance that I can read in comfort no matter what or when. Think this might have been brought on by an ice storm several years ago that killed the power for a week. My physical bookshelf was near-empty and my devices lost all power. I’ve remedied that problem. :)

    To each his own.

  30. I really wanted to buy the new Nook, but I have purchased thousands of ebooks, not all of them from B&N, and the new one doesn’t let me store them all on it like my Nook Simple Touch does with an external micro SDHC card. While I still need to have some way to charge it every now and then, I can’t carry my entire physical bookshelf wherever I go. Enjoy your new Nook!

  31. Have you considered donating the broken nook to your local hackspace? There might be a financially disadvantaged young maker who’d be delighted to gut it for parts and experiment with. e-ink screens are not cheap.

  32. I’m on my third Kindle, but #2 and #3 were warranty replacements. (The first one had some sort of massive battery-related failure; the second one had the screen randomly die.)

    I go back and forth between wanting to read ebooks and wanting to read physical books. There are things that hard copy is WAY better for, like flipping through looking for the good bits; I got a free Kindle version of a cookbook and wound up deleting it because it was so irritatingly useless. On the other hand, I love being able to carry a selection of books in my purse at all times, and it is GREAT not having to carry a whole heavy stack of books when I travel. My Kindle is pleasantly lightweight, I can turn pages while wearing gloves if I want to read outdoors on a cold day, and with the lighted case, it’s excellent for reading in bed. Also, I can hoard books without taking up space in my house.

  33. As frequent insomniacs, my wife (Nook) and I (iPad/Kindle app) love our e-readers for those moments when we’ve had enough tossing and turning, but don’t dare risk turning on the light ’cause the other has managed to fall asleep.

  34. I’m on my second Kobo, having dropped a heavy thing on my first and shattered the screen. Then again I’ve certainly dropped paper books in the bath to disastrous effect before…

    I like the eInk screen for reading off, I like being able to search my books with a computer rather than having to flick through them, I love being able to take 100 books on holiday “just in case” I read them all (or hate some of them), but most of all I LOVE LOVE LOVE the fact that I don’t have to find house room (at exorbitant expense) for all the many books I want to keep access to.

  35. On that tangent: I buy a copy of EVERY ONE of my ebooks from both Amazon and B&N when they are released. I have found that on rare occasions, somehow a glitch can be totally undetectable no matter how many ways you preview the book and yet becomes glaringly obvious in the commercial download file. (I suspect it’s the conversion process itself.) This is a habit I highly recommend.

    I don’t have that many books in paper but I do the same thing with those.

  36. I am currently on my fourth nook. I started with a first-gen e-ink reader, then graduated to a Nook Tablet. Then when Nook opened the HD model to the google play store, I upgraded to that. The older nooks got passed down the chain to my kids. We all share the same account with different profiles. My only complaint is that I wish it were a faster android device. I love it unreservedly.

    That said, I still have five filled bookshelves at home and still love to walk the stacks, particularly at the used bookstore. I like to hang around at B&N, too. But when I wanted to read Stephen King’s “Under the Dome”, the ebook version was a heckuva lot nicer to read than the physical monstrosity someone gave to us. When ‘The Human Division’ came out in pieces, I pre-ordered them so I’d have them on my lunch breaks the day they were released. There is a certain joy to being able to one-touch buy a book when you think of it. I only wish ebook prices were more rational and market guided. On the flip-side, the nook store always has a copy of a book if B&N carries it, unlike physical stores.

    There are advantages to both and hopefully will remain so.

  37. I’ve said it here before, but my Nook HD+ is now my favorite and most-used tablet, having replaced my iPad in my affections. The screen display is better than any iPad without retina display, and the cost savings is substantial (my Nook cost $149 brand-new). Finally, I added a 64 GB micro SD card and have 80 GB of storage, far more than my iPad.

    That’s all by way of saying I hope Nooks and B&N don’t go anywhere.

  38. Probably little relevance value to this, but I have my first – which was the initial model – WALKMAN, the Walkman 1. Still works just fine, if I dig out a cassette. But the more complicated and delicate (and powerful) devices get the shorter their life seems to be.

  39. For those who are curious, B&N said just a few days ago that while the market has definitely declined from a couple of years ago (device saturation has occurred), B&N is not abandoning the nook. They plan to introduce a new model early in fiscal year 2015, which for them will start in April. No details on the specs of the model: personally I’m hoping for another open tablet model in the same mold as the HD or HD+. Like Byran L, my nook HD is my favorite, having surpassed my iPad.

  40. I love my Nook Glowlight. It is the only device on the market that has a combination of features I find vital:

    It has a light, and it has physical page-turn buttons.

    This means I can read books in the dark, with gloves on, while walking home from work.

    Can’t do that on any other device because all the other lit e-readers (and all tablets) are touch-screen only.

  41. @Bruce: No, I don’t own any suspenders. :) I do, however, button ALL the pants-keeping-up-things in my dress slacks. Even absent suspenders, I have had as many as five things engaged in keeping my pants in their closed and upright position.

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