There was an interesting article and followup over on Seeking Alpha about the NookColor and Barnes & Nobel’s development strategy, or apparent lack thereof. The article, Nook Needs an App Store to Survive, is by Joel West. Since I’m not an investment community type, and they require registration to leave a comment (something I’m disinclined to do just to leave a comment) I thought I’d add my two cents to the conversation here.

Joel’s basic argument is that Barnes and Nobel delivered a very nice device, but a device filled with untapped potential. There is a fully function tablet hidden at the core of the NookColor, but B&N has hidden it away behind their own little shell. True, a user can root their Nook to unlock that potential, but Joel feels it should not be incumbent upon the user to do so. In short, Barnes and Nobel needs to launch an app store in order to keep the momentum started by the release of the NookColor growing. I completely agree.

He goes on to say, “I am much less enthusiastic about the nookColor than when I bought it, because without the basic apps that you would find in a 1995 Palm Pilot — like a synchronized address book, a calendar and a simple note-taking app — I still have to carry a laptop or smartphone to every place that I take my nook. (Or I can just carry the laptop and leave the nook at home).”

He has a point, but I’m still very enthusiastic. I suppose that is because I use it mainly as an ebook reader when away from the house rather than an all purpose device. The web browser works well (if you can find a hot spot) and the device tucks nicely into my jacket pocket. At home I often leave my laptop upstairs and check my email and do some web browsing downstairs, which is convenient as all get out. I absolutely love my non-rooted NookColor. I read more and have bought more books since getting it than I have in the past year.

Still, I must admit I do miss those apps.

One of his readers begged to differ, saying he saw no reason for Barnes & Noble to build an app store when there is already a fully functional Android store available but for the effort of rooting the device.

Here I disagree. The reason B&N needs an app store is because there are many uses like me who have no desire or inclination to root their Nook but who want some basic apps such as a calendar and notepad. If they don’t come out with an app store I will be very disappointed with them.

Related Post:

5 New Years Resolutions for Barnes and Noble


Party HatsI did not make any new year resolutions this year. I meant to, really, but somehow time just slipped away from me and I never got around to it. You know what? It’s a very liberating feeling.

Just because I failed to make resolutions for myself doesn’t mean I can’t make them for others, whether they want them or not. I’m very generous that way. No need to thank me, B&N, just meet these resolutions with… er, resolve.

My resolutions for you revolve around your new NOOKcolor, a terrific new ebook reader. I got one for Christmas and I love it. It is easily the best Christmas present I’ve received in years. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t use it, mostly as an ebook reader, though it makes for a nice web browser too. However, there are a few little things you can (and should) do that will make it even better.

I took my NOOKc to my book club meeting yesterday, along with my new Kindle 3G. Some people in the group still don’t own an ereader, but are considering one. I took both the Kindle and NOOK figuring once they saw them side-by-side they would obviously want the NOOK. Boy was I wrong. I hate to tell you this, but by the time the meeting broke up both Kim and Dianna said they’d probably go with the Kindle.

So here is a handy list of resolutions you should strive to implement before the end of 2011. You are very welcome.

1) Yes, of course, it’s a list of New Year’s resolutions so it’s bound to be there – lose weight. The first thing Kim and Dianna noticed when I handed them the NOOK and Kindle was that the NOOK was much heavier than the Kindle. It was downhill from there. You know what they say about first impressions. So please, find ways to shave off some weight without reducing screen size, even if it’s just an ounce or two.

2) Add 3G. One of my arguments when they objected to the weight was, sure it weighs more, but it does so much more than the Kindle. It’s really a tablet computer complete with a cool web browser. Alas, our restaurant of choice lacked free wi-fi. There were half a dozen networks within range, but every one of them was secure. How inconsiderate. Therefore I was unable to blow their socks off by surfing over to our book club website. Someone asked the inevitable question, “Does the Kindle have a web browser?” Unfortunately the answer is yes, so they considered it moot. It’s not moot. The Kindle web browser SUCKS. I tried demonstrating that to them, but poor performance trumps no performance in a table-side demo every time. Had the NOOK been 3G enabled I could have really made it shine. Yes I know, adding features does not help in the weight loss department. But you’re smart folks, figure it out.

Please note: I don’t mean the Kindle sucks, only it’s web browser.

3) Implement landscape reading for books. Landscape only works for magazines, the web, and children’s books – not regular books. What were you thinking, you knuckleheads?

4) Ship it with a little larger selection of free books. It does come with Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, and Dracula, all of which are fine choices. But throw in a half dozen other titles that might appeal to a broader audience. There are plenty of classics in the public domain so why not throw in a few more? Some collections would be nice – say of poetry, or short stories. A collection of poems by the fireside poets of the 19th century and the works of Edgar Allen Poe come to mind. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes would be a nice draw. And while you’re at it, add the cover art to the books themselves, not just as thumbnails on the library shelves. You have a fabulous color device here; for goodness sakes, showcase it.

5) I was very glad to see you have released an SDK (software developer’s kit for the none-geeks reading this). That puts you well ahead of the game in the “resolutions” department. Way to go. Now perhaps you, or some third party developer, can come out with a wireless stylus for use on the NOOK. Note taking, sudoko, and crossword puzzels would be so much more intuitive with a “pencil” interface. Perhaps someone will even come up with a nice sketching app to boot.

Well, there you have it, Barnes & Noble, five new year’s resolutions with my complements. Please release this new model of your wonderful NOOKcolor in time for Christmas, 2011. You’ll be glad you did.

Photo by Holly Occhipinti, via Flickr Creative Commons


and Kindle too.

The Nook and Kindle side by side.

The Nook and Kindle side by side.

My cup runneth over. Two days after my wife bought me a NOOKcolor (or is that a nookCOLOR?) for Christmas I won a Kindle via an online contest over at Publetariate. (Thanks again, April Hamilton). When I told Cyndi I won a Kindle there was a pregnant pause from the other room, then a rather terse, “Isn’t that one of those ereaders?” I knew the unasked question – Should I take the NOOKc back? (Nooksee? – really, something has to change here in the name department.) Before she could even form the words I let her know I still wanted a NOOKY for Christmas.

Why? she wanted to know.

Because, while they are both ereaders, they both fill two separate niches, and this way I would be able to compare them. She gave a very doubtful “un-huh” but like a trooper did not tamper with the gifts under the tree. So for Christmas this year I got both a NOOK-C and a Kindle.

Now that I’ve had them both for a few days I can tell you I like the Kindle – but I love the NOOK.

Both do an admirable job in the ebook reader department. More on that later.

The Kindle is substantially lighter than the NOOK. Sore, Kindle.

The NOOK has a backlit display, which is supposed to be hard on your eyes and can’t be read in bright sunlight. The Kindle has an eInk display, which can be read in bright sunlight (something I virtually never do) and looks kind of dull. Despite all the talk, that eInk background is not white and the Nook looks much more page-like. It’s not white either, but the backlighting makes the black letters stand out from the background much more like in a book. Plus, the NOOK has a very high resolution display that I think more than makes up for the eInk display in the eye fatigue department. Let’s call it a draw.

The NOOK color display makes for a fantastic web browsing experience. This really is a tablet, a palm sized alternative to the iPad. As good as an iPad? Probably not, unless you factor in the price. If you do, I think the NOOK actually wins in the web browsing arena. The NOOK’s small size ensures you can pack it along anywhere whereas the iPad’s size is kind of awkward for a mobile device. (The iPad still wins in the tablet computer department for the other stuff it does so well, but this is not a NOOK vs. iPad post.) And the Kindle as a web browser? Well let’s just say, Score NOOK!

Mad Utopia on the Nook

Mad Utopia on the Nook

The Kindle is encumbered with buttons buttons, everywhere buttons. It has a real keyboard vs the NOOKsee’s virtual keyboard. The virtual keyboard is a pain in the rear to use. It seems to be overly sensitive meannnnnnnnnnnnniing you might type words like that, or worse, passwords where you can’t even see what you’ve •••••••• but you know it’s three characters too long. The NOOKy needs a virtual keyboard upgrade, like pronto.

But the Kindle’s real keyboard is nothing to write home about. Yes, it has real keys, and you tend to get what you type. But it is a keyboard sans numbers, which means looking for the books Child 44 or 1984 can be a real challenge. You can do it. There is a Sym key (for symbols), but this brings up a little virtual keyboard on the Kindle which you select numbers and symbols from by moving the cursor around over them with the “5 way” controller and then hitting the big middle button on it. Think, typing with a joystick. No joy. Right now I’d have to call the keyboards a draw.

Then there is the whole touch screen thing. NOOK has it. Kindle doesn’t. Once you use a touch screen hand-held device you find you try touching other devices (like the Kindle) to try and make menu selections and turn the page. For touch screen – NOOK, score score score Score SCORE!

Come on, how hard can it be to change the page on the Kindle with the handy buttons right under your thumbs?

Uh, actually too easy. Call me fumble fingers, but I tend to hit those damned buttons inadvertently and suddenly find myself on the next page, or the last. Worse still, I sometimes hit the cluster of keys below the screen (ok, I shift around a lot while I’m reading, so my hands change position a lot) and God knows where that will take you. You can hit the menu key and suddenly be presented with a menu you don’t want, one of the arrow keys on the “5 way” and get thrown to the start of the next or previous chapters (trust me, I’ve done both), or the Home key and be thrown completely out of the book you are reading (been there, done that too). Everything I’ve ever read about reading and writing says you never want to throw your reader out of the story. Alas, with the Kindle that is all too easy to do. This does not happen to me on the NOOKy. It is much harder to accidentally swipe for a page change.

Why is this? Because the NOOK-C is not encumbered with all those stinking buttons. I can hold the NOOK much more naturally, as if holding a book, than I can the Kindle. Yes, I could get used to the Kindle with but a little practice. But I don’t have to practice holding a book – not since my mom convinced me using crayons while reading was a no-no. To me the NOOKcolor just feels much more natural, albeit, just a tad on the heavy side.

So who wins the NOOKc vs Kindle debate? That, my friend is going a to a matter of personal preference. Right now I’ll cast my lot with the NOOK. If they fix that virtual keyboard it would win hands down. Still, I’ll keep the Kindle too.

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