If all goes well for the retailer, Nooks should be available for sale in Barnes & Noble stores starting today, as well as online. That means customers will be able to buy the dual-screen eReader the instant they fall in love with it following an in-store demo. That assumes, of course, that the demo wows them.
If you haven’t had a chance to see the eReader in person, check out our full review here. The reading experience is pretty much the same as the Kindle, and eBook prices will likely remain on a par with Amazon, even with the recent dust-up with publishers. Plenty of consumers will choose the Nook because it isn’t locked into Barnes & Noble’s online store (thanks to EPUB format support) and is more open and agile than the Kindle, but user experience will be the deciding factor for most. We weren’t impressed with the Nook’s ergonomics as compared to the Kindle, though the design is almost there.
Consumers have a chance to try a Nook and feel the difference for themselves in many B&N stores across the country. It’s admirable that the bookseller took the step of adding a dedicated Nook kiosk in stores; so many eReaders are only available online or kept behind glass when retail locations carry them. Desire hits when you actually take the device in hand and see how awesome it is for yourself. Then there’s the flip side: growing so frustrated after less than five minutes of use that you walk away, never to return.
I took our Nook review unit on a little field trip to check out the More In Store content at one of the Manhattan locations. I wasn’t impressed with the free download, though each week brings something new. In honor of Valentine’s Day, February’s selections will include a short story by Adriana Trigiani and a red velvet cake recipe by Anne Byrn, the Cake Mix Doctor.
Unfortunately, staying online to get these was a challenge. Though the Nook is supposed to connect to the store’s Wi-Fi automatically, I had to manually connect and reconnect several times as the signal dropped when I moved around the store.
You may wonder why I didn’t ask for help from the friendly staffer whose job it is to stand in the Nook kiosk and demonstrate the eReader for customers. The reason is that in the short time I was there I very surreptitiously observed him and noticed that he did not seem familiar with the product. Doing anything beyond turning pages and choosing new books stumped him. I think he may have even had to reboot the Nook at one point.
Part of the B&N staffer’s problem, so far as I could tell, was the same one other reviewers and Nook users have encountered: the reader’s sluggishness. This is not only evident when navigating the small LCD touchscreen underneath the E-Ink screen, but also when turning pages in a book. Thankfully, B&N released their first software update to the Nook last week. Once we applied it to our review unit things sped up a little overall and page turn times went from around 3 seconds to around 2. Check it out in the video below.
Here’s the Nook before the update:
And here’s the Nook after:
This shows that Barnes & Noble is listening, at least. With Android as the base OS, the company has an easy way to update and improve the device for both existing and new customers. Maybe it will even improve the life of that poor demo guy!
Read our full review here and let us know in the comments if you’ve had a chance to play with the Nook in a store. What impressions did you come away with?