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Nook : Underwhelmed :

I purchased a Barnes & Noble Nook on Tuesday evening and so far my user experience of the device and the website has been thoroughly underwhelming to say the least.

Where do I start? Okay, let’s begin with the device itself. It feels cheap and plastic and even though the screen is a smidgeon larger than the one on my SONY PRS-505 e-book reader it actually appears smaller due to the design of the bezel.

00424 Currently I have Oscar Wilde’s drug addled, half-lidded caricature staring back at me from the screen whilst it sits in standby mode. This is most certainly a feature I hope I can switch off – I remember seeing a related option under the configuration menu so I will be investigating that very soon.

Update: No way to switch off the feature completely, I can have “nature” or “authors” or “city scapes” but not actually just blank the screen. A minor annoyance but frankly I’d really like the option to switch off the background completely.

The packaging was utterly dreadful. It seems that Barnes & Noble went for a “unique user experience” but when I describe it as worse than the Windows Vista packaging you will hopefully understand what I mean. I have never in my life ever purchased a product that gave me pause for thought to actually consider using Google to locate instructions on how to get the stupid fucking device out of the box it came in. I cannot imagine an elderly Grandmother ever figuring out how to extract the e-book reader from the box. I swear I came close to snapping the device in half trying to remove the plastic backing mount from it.

God forbid that you should buy one of these devices for a journey, only to open the device up at the airport ready for some hot reading action to realise you need a computer, with internet connection, to actually be able to use it for what it was meant for, i.e. reading books. Why Barnes & Noble couldn’t have let you register for a B&N account directly on the device, without the need for a computer leaves me scratching my head.

As far as the Barnes & Noble website goes, I never thought I would encounter a more poorly implemented bookstore web application than the one that SONY has for their devices but Barnes & Nobles, I congratulate on utterly failing to be better than Borders/SONY bookstore.

Barnes & Noble’s website experience is sloooowww. I mean, really slow. Like, 56K modem slow. I’ve tried using it on a number of different computers, including my utter beast of a workstation, and various high-speed internet connections in different cities at different times and it just crawls. This isn’t a case of the website undergoing maintenance, this is just a slow, slow, slow website that needs some serious infrastructure work.

The user interface experience on the website is dreadful, requiring so many clicks to actually browse for and purchase a book that your impulse purchases will have utterly evaporated long before you ever click “download.”

The B&N bookstore website doesn’t work correctly in Firefox, many features are broken due to poor coding of CSS, including the search box. I suspect that it is geeks that are primarily buying the Nook and if that is the case, then they are most likely running Firefox or Safari, surely you should ensure your website actually works for the people who are buying your product?

Your personal book library on the website is managed through a Flash application which is rather poorly implemented. It frequently crashes, runs sluggishly slow, animates various pop-ups for no particular reason, forces you to navigate your library in a single small window – God forbid you should actually have, you know, a few hundred e-books – fails to remember options you have set such as zoom level, sort order, or many other settings. Again, because the website is so slow, the Flash application responds with appropriate sluggishness.

I’ve spent only a few hours with the device, and I am currently considering returning it to the bookstore where I purchased it and asking for a refund. It really is a sad little device with a poor end-user experience. I really was hoping for a better user experience than my SONY PRS-505 but unfortunately, this isn’t it.

I really wanted to like this device. I really wanted to replace my PRS-505, but I am really disappointed in the whole end-to-end user experience, from the packaging, to the device, to the website. Because of these problems it really colours my thoughts and final judgement of what the device is for: reading books. Yes, it lets me do that just fine, but the rest of the experience is just so poor that I would rather stick with the devil I know than use a new device that has questionable longevity and an even more questionable user-experience.

Maybe in a few years I will take another look at the Barnes & Noble Nook, but I will be returning the device to the store just a few days after purchase because it is plainly and simply a dreadful thing to inflict on anyone who loves reading books.

For now I will be sticking with the SONY PRS-505 and Calibre software until either the SONY Daily Edition or the Kindle DX prove themselves viable alternatives.

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