Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review: Barnes & Noble eReader for iPhone

I love books. I love the feel of a trade paperback in my hand, the smell of an old book's pages, the look of a glossy cover. In fact, I love that last one so much that when I was a teen, I would hold my books as carefully as possible, so that I didn't put big fingerprints on the covers.

As much as I've always liked books, though, I've been really intrigued with the idea of an ebook reader since the Kindle first came out. I'm no friend of Amazon, though, so I was especially excited for the Nook (Barnes & Noble's ebook reader).

nookTM, the world's most advanced eBook Reader: access over 1 million eBooks


Recently I upgraded to a hand-me-down first generation iPhone, and I was elated to discover a little over a week ago that Barnes & Noble makes an eReader for the iPhone and iPad. Of course I downloaded it right away! I wanted to try it out, so in addition to several free classics, I bought my very first ebook. I always have so many books I want to read, so I chose one for which I had a long wait from the library: Dead Until Dark, the first of the True Blood books.

Of course, I finished the book in two days, which brings me to my first complaint of the eReader: I can't afford to buy every book I read! I get most of my books from the library, and usually only buy books that I'm pretty sure I'll want to read again, or will find some value in keeping on my shelf.

Luckily Barnes & Noble currently has a promotion going where you can download free ebooks every week. They are all classics, but hey, I love classics! (You can actually download tons of classics with expired copyrights thanks to Google Books, but these books are scanned, and lack fancy formatting such as bookmarked chapter headings. The promotional free classics, on the other hand, have been formatted for the eReader.)

With exception of the horrifying thought of having to buy all my books (gah), I actually really liked the eReader. Having something to read with me at all times, without having to carry anything additional with me, is almost liberating. I like to always have something to read, but it's not always convenient to carry a book, and I carry as small a purse as possible so there's not room for one there either.

In this respect, I actually think the iPhone eReader is superior to the Nook (or any other dedicated ebook reader). Granted, they are smaller and lighter than most books, but I have enough crap to carry in my purse — I don't need one more thing.

Everything about the eReader's software makes reading on the iPhone a pretty pleasant experience. I like the standard (medium) text size, but it is adjustable if you find it a bit small; and you can change the color scheme to a black, grey, parchment, or colored background if you don't like the glow of the white page. The ebooks are easy to navigate using the table of contents, and you can also bookmark pages, highlight text, and create notes. Plus, you can search in the ebook just like on the computer.

There are other things I like too. Reading in bed, it was nice to have my iPhone in my hand instead of a heavy hardback book. And I was able to sit on the front porch after dark and read without having to turn on the light. (Thanks to the iPhone's automatic dimming of the screen in the dark, it didn't give me a headache at all, either.)

I can't see switching entirely to the eReader, but I am certainly interested in reading a few books on it here and there, especially the free classics. Like I said, though, my biggest complaint is the cost of ebooks. I think someone ought to come up with an ebook lending library for the iPhone, with similar software as the Barnes & Noble eReader, which will allow you to read unlimited ebooks for a low monthly fee. Perhaps, like Netflix, they could have tiered memberships that would allow you to read one, two, or three ebooks at a time. I don't know if something like this is possible, but if someone set something like that up, I would totally join and pay a monthly fee for unlimited ebooks on the iPhone!

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