There's been a spate of recent reviews on the Barnes & Noble nook, available for its first holiday season. It's a serious challenger to Amazon's Kindle, as well as the other e-readers on the market. The Kindle and nook have many similarities, including price ($259), screen size, E Ink display and wireless connections. But reviewers found plenty of differences. Generally, the nook seems like a 19-year-old fireballing pitcher rushed into a major league debut -- it has lots of promise, but triggers frustration with rookie mistakes. Some highlights:
-- New York Times: Every one of the Nook's vaunted distinctions comes fraught with buzz kill footnotes. That "color touch screen," for example, ... is exclusively for navigation and controls. Sometimes it makes sense; when you're viewing inch-tall book covers, for example, you can tap to open one. At other times, the color strip feels completely, awkwardly disconnected from what it's supposed to control on the big screen above. Worse, the touch screen is balky and nonresponsive ... .
-- USA Today: Barnes & Noble says you can read up to 10 days without charging the battery when wireless is turned off, compared with two weeks for the Kindle. But at least a user can replace the battery on the Nook, which you can't do on the Kindle. ... You can also virtually lend e-books to friends with a Nook (as well as to those who download free Barnes & Noble software onto a PC, Mac, iPhone, iPod Touch and, soon, select BlackBerrys).
-- Wall Street Journal: During my tests, I found the Nook slower, more cumbersome to use and less polished than the Kindle. I ran into various crashes and bugs. And, while the Kindle's navigation system isn't exactly world class, it ran circles around the Nook's, despite the great possibilities offered by the latter's use of the touch screen. The Nook may be wonderful one day, but, as of today, it's no match for the Kindle, despite advantages such as lending, because it's more annoying to use.
Gizmodo: When it comes to shopping for books (and reading them), the Nook is the Kindle's equal, and may soon leverage Barnes & Noble's 800 physical locations to knock it out of first place. I was not able to test these features, because they are only starting to roll out this week, but when you take a Nook to a B&N, it will automatically jump on the store's Wi-Fi network, and offer you free goodies—not just downloads but cookies from the café and other treats.
Engadget: In many ways the Nook has a leg up on the competition -- not just by its presence in Barnes & Noble stores (though that helps), but by providing an attractive package and feature set, offering personalization (via add ons and accessories), a huge selection of books, perks like the LendMe feature, that color screen, and the excellent buying experience. On the other hand, when it came to day to day use, we felt let down in a big way.