31 Jul

The Traveler’s Nook

We bought a Nook Simple Touch with backlight (the book reader, not the tablet). It’s small, surprisingly solid for its size, easy to hold, and flickers the page when you read forward or back–can’t call it turning the page–it’s a screen, where the text and margin settings determine how much you see at once, and page numbers are based on the page length set in the source.

This Nook cost $139, or $61 less than the new fullblown Google tablet coming soon now. We didn’t debate on which to buy though–we’re headed to Spain child-free this September and the Nook is meant to travel, to tuck into a pack or bag, weighs little, and as a generic little thing that looks like a squashed PDA, not look attractive to thieves. The battery lasts up to a month if we’re really, really judicious–realistically, we’ll probably get two weeks between charges.  The Google tablet would provide possibly up to a week without a recharge. Most importantly, there’s not much else to do with the Nook except read (or, of course, buy books from B&N). The tablet is loaded with distractions.

Done with the justifying. More about the reading. or, the getting of stuff to read.

The Nook’s native format is epub (which displays best), although it can display PDF, HTML, plain text, and eReader, too. I spent several hours (in between crashes and tire sabotage in the Tour de France) at Project Gutenberg and other sites with free books or stories, periodicals, and articles (including some publisher sites), saving items to my laptop then copying them to my personal storage on the Nook (without an SD card, I still have 250 MB space for items not purchased from B&N–that’s still a lot of books, periodicals, articles, and stories).

Some of the PDF’s are ugly on the Nook, like reading through a screen door or squinting at a remote screen. I’m guessing this has more to do with the options used to create the files than anything else. It also enforces the PDF page breaks instead of letting the document flow from one page to the next. Basically, the Nook was doing its best with the information it was given.

Fortunately, the Calibre e-book manager can convert several formats, including most PDF, to epub. Unfortunately, PDF conversion success relies on how the PDF was created. I’ve had a leave a few documents in PDF format after Calibre failed to convert anything past the title. (There are ways around this, including copying text into Word and saving as RTF, but I also don’t have to read everything electronic on the Nook.)

7/20/2012: Yesterday my friend Steve shared his Dropbox folder of delicious ebooks with me, including Bujold’s tasty Vorkosigan series from the Baen Free Library, which I’ve been snacking on since (and will buy in print form in the coming year).

7/28/2012: After a two weeks, I’m hooked. Never thought I’d say that. The Nook’s a completely inoffensive companion to the hundreds of physical books on my shelves at home. I’ve taken it camping and used it daily on my bus and train commute. I’ve always held onto books as a security blanket. Now that I have a Nook, I feel safe wherever I travel.

And now, a riff:

We took a look
We saw a nook.
On his head, he had a hook
On his hook, he had a book
On his book was “How to cook”

We saw him sit and try to cook
He took a look at the book on the hook
But a nook can’t read so a nook can’t cook, SO…

What good to a nook is a hook cook book?

– Dr. Seuss, Red Fish, Blue Fish

7/31/2012:  I don’t notice the page flicker anymore, just like I stopped smelling the neighbor’s cows in high summer when I was a kid.