Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

First impressions: Barnes and Noble Nook

I read all the time, even when I should be doing other things. I take a ton of books with me on vacation, and as any student/or big-time reader can tell you, lugging around a lot of books gets really old, really quick. I’d been toying around with the idea of getting an e-book reader for a while, and even went so far as to compare the Amazon Kindle, which seems to be the industry standard, to e-readers from Sony and other companies. Nothing really screamed “buy me,” so I put that search on the back burner. I was surprised then, by how fascinated I became when Barnes and Noble announced their Nook. For some reason, it seemed like a better fit for me than a Kindle, which I’ve only briefly seen in action. Why? Now, I really can’t remember, but maybe it was the newness of it. It seemed to me that something newer, which reasonably stood to benefit from the examples of Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s e-book readers, would present the end user with a better product. Is this the case? I don’t know.

The wait

After an agonizing day of going over the pros and cons in my minds, and looking at comparison charts, I decided to buy the Nook the day after it was announced. I waited with baited breath until November 30 (the original estimated ship date), and got really angry when, at 4:30 that day, B&N sent out an email stating that the Nook wouldn’t be delivered until December 10. That was a week and a half away!!! I would have felt better if they’d been upfront about this earlier, as they had to have known that they wouldn’t make their initial market date.

They did try to placate those of us who’d expected a Nook on November 30 with a $10 credit to their online store, which was also an instance of epic failure since, at the time, the B&N online store didn’t allow credits to be used to buy e-books. Barnes and Noble’s real books are usually pricey without their $25/year membership, and I’m not a member; 99% of what I want is cheaper at Amazon, so why in the world would I want to buy a physical book from B&N?? Luckily, B&N finally realized how stupid it was not to allow e-reader owners to buy e-books with the “my bad” credit they’d received, and changed to policy to allow store credits to purchase e-books.

The reality

When I first got my Nook, I was in heaven. I was so happy it had arrived that I tore into the packaging as soon as I got home and saw it on my bed. Unfortunately, the people who made the Nook must have thought that a genius would be opening the package only after it was attacked by a band of feral animals, because the opening process was so difficult that it included instructions. And I still found it hard! Once I got over my worries that my troubles in opening the Nook meant I was too stupid to use it, I let it get fully charged and then started to play around with it.

The things I like about the Nook are manifold:

  • It’s insanely portable; I ordered  a case that was back-ordered and hasn’t arrived yet, but it fits perfectly into a quart-sized ziplock bag, so that’s how I’ve been moving it to and fro.
  • Changing from the default font to Helvetica Neue made a ton of difference for me, and now the text is perfect for extended periods of reading.
  • I like being able to browse B&N and Google Book collections on my Nook, and download items directly to it. Also, anything I buy on Barnes and Noble’s web site is automatically sent to my Nook.

The thing I don’t like about the Nook:

  • If I’d posted this yesterday, I would have started with the fact that turning pages on the Nook was noticeably slow. I didn’t want to complain about this, but three seconds to get from one page of a book to the next is certainly something that grows tiresome over the course of 800+ pages. Awesomely, the software on the Nook updated today to version 1.1, and now turning pages is much much faster.
  • Turning pages by swiping the touchscreen. I have to say that, for the first week or so that I had my Nook, I found this function almost completely useless. When I tried to change the page using the touchscreen, I would be successfully only about 25% of the time. The Nook guide was pretty useless in figuring out the specific movement that would work every time, as it just said to swipe your finger across the touchscreen (um, thanks). And the instructions didn’t mention that I had to swipe toward the left to turn to the next page. Maybe if most English-language books went from right to left, this would make sense, or even if the Nook’s directional buttons functioned in this way, but they don’t, so it doesn’t. Through trial and error, I finally figured out how to swipe in a way that almost always works, but this was no thanks to B&N.
  • Although I’m pleased with the now speedier page-turning process, it feels like Nook symbol has become less responsive with this software update. I wonder if that’s possible, but it seems like I have to press the symbol and the touchscreen harder now in order to awaken them after they’ve fallen asleep. This annoys me.

The verdict

I like my Nook a lot, I just don’t love every part about it. I agree with this Engadget review, that says it’s hard to use and lacks any sort of intuitive interface. I think that David Pogue’s review was overly negative, but that it brought up some valid points. I feel that there was a bit of a learning curve, and I’m now familiar enough with this gadget that I understand and like it for what it is. I don’t know if everybody would feel this way, but I’m glad that I bought my Nook.

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That was unexpected

Thursday was a friend’s birthday, and so last night I treated him to dinner and a movie. I told him that he could pick whatever movie he wanted to see, and I wouldn’t make any sort of jokes about it or be a bad sport at all, but despite having been given carte blanche, his first choice, 500 Days of Summer, was something that I would really have enjoyed seeing. Unfortunately, it isn’t playing anywhere in NJ, so he had to pick another movie. He said he wanted to see I Love You Beth Cooper, but that he couldn’t do that to me. Since I still don’t really have any idea what that is, I was sort of like, “Whatever, thanks,” but it really can’t be worse than some of the other movies he’s gotten me to see, such as Hot Rod. Two years later, and I still shudder when I think of that horrible excuse for a film.

He decided that he wanted to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I’ve never read the books, but I have seen the whole or parts of the previous movies in this series, and have have never really minded the experience. I wasn’t expecting much, but I quite enjoyed the movie. I haven’t seen the previous movies recently, but this was much, much better. The was believable teen-romance angst, and a level of violence that I had not anticipated at all. The only thing that kept bugging me was how easily Harry & Co. gave up searching for the identity of the Half-Blood Prince or the meaning of his name. I think that I am eventually going to read the books, so I’ll check to see if this part of the story plays out the same way in the novels. To revive an old tradition of mine, here’s an excerpt from a couple of reviews that most closely mirror my thoughts on this film.

The strangest thing about the new Harry Potter movie is not that it’s unusually good, which it is, but that it unequivocally illustrates just how poorly we’ve been served by the previous five instalments in the franchise. — Kevin Maher, The Times Online

Harry Potter is getting darker, angrier, distinctly more wicked. It has an edge. Scary Potter?  — Gary Wolcott, Tri-City Herald

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La, la, la, {skip}

I have no idea why, but I’m so happy today. It’s not the usual, “It’s a Friday and I don’t have to work” kind of deal. I’m just really really happy. I actually caught myself singing “La la la” and skipping down the hall from my room to the living room. I know that’s abnormal, but there you go. I did just finish a really interesting book (nonfiction even!), and that always excites me. The book is entitled The Unlikely Disciple and written by Kevin Roose, a young journalist from Brown University who spends a semester at Liberty University. I appreciated the nuanced view; it wasn’t LOLXtians at all. I finished that much quicker than I expected to (nonfiction tends to languish in piles until I can’t take the guilt anymore and just return them, unread, to the library), so maybe I’ll start on my Newsweek Top 100 books challenge earlier than I though. I believe that I shall ease myself into it by rereading Pride and Prejudice tomorrow while I’m at work.

This afternoon, though, I’m going to hang out with my parents, and just generally enjoy this lovely day!

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Books, books, books

I find Top 100 (or 10, 50, etc) of anything lists fascinating to read but generally meaningless. Tastes are so subjective, and even when I’m familiar with the subject being evaulated, I don’t always agree with the items that are chosen for inclusion. Still, I’ve found out about good books, movies, music, and web sites this way, so I’d be crazy to discount Top whatever lists. Today, while reading Newsweek’s Top 100 Books, I thought it might be interesting to work my way through the list and read everything on it, even books that I’d already read before. I used to hate classic literature, but now  I realize that I just hated the way that a lot of it was taught in schools, with all the joy removed and too much focus on minute, boring analyses. Then I read books like Anna Karenina and Pride and Prejudice on my own, and realized that a book doesn’t have to be terrible just because it’s considered classic literature.

At first I was going to give myself a time frame in which to do this, but there are few things in life that I enjoy as much as completely ignoring deadlines, so I’m not even going to bother to assign an end date for this. I’m in the middle of a fun, lighthearted Jennifer Cruisie novel right now, and I have a few other things lined up for the rest of the week, but I’ll get started on this at least by the end of the month. I’ll keep track of my progress.

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Where I’ve been

I disappeared for a bit, mostly due to the fact that I wanted to finish up the pair of socks I was knitting (for me!). I realized that I’ve really been knitting a lot in September. I’ve only read four books this whole month, and usually I read that many books in a week. So yeah, I’ve been knitting a lot, which means that I’ve also been watching a lot of tv on dvd. I still can’t believe how much I’d forgotten about Veronica Mars and Grey’s Anatomy. I’m not just talking about specific events in individual episodes. I’d forgotten love interests, major plot points, and really important instances of character development. If you’d given me a pop quiz on Veronica Mars two weeks ago, I would have failed miserably. Troy? Forgot him. Piz? How could I have forgotten Piz? Plus, I’d actually forgotten who had planted the bomb on the bus, although I did remember that that character was a bad guy.

So far, I’m not finding that I forgot the same amount of stuff in relation to Grey’s Anatomy. I wonder why this is. Perhaps it’s because Grey’s is much more present in general pop culture, so I had a better chance of being reminded of things that might otherwise be forgotten. I started with season two, since that’s what I had, and am now going back through season one. I liked Meredith better when she had some bite, and I think that the return of her spark is what made me enjoy the second half of season four as much as I did.

I went to the Andiamo Motorcycle Run this past Sunday, September 14, and I will be posting pictures of that tomorrow.

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