Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
On December 12, I opened my email and found this message from Barnes & Noble waiting for me:
“Update Now! Your Nook Color is Now Even Better.”
Typically I’ll just wait for my device to update itself automatically, but it usually takes a couple of weeks after an update’s release for it to do so. Since the 1.4.1 update promised “over 100 enhancements,” I downloaded the update manually.
Though I haven’t had much time to explore all of the new features, nor have I discovered exactly what those “100 enhancements” are, I’ve had a chance to look into a few of the updates and wanted to share my initial thoughts.
Before getting into all of that though, I have to say that I am so pleased Barnes & Noble has decided to extend some of the Nook Tablet features to Nook Color users without forcing everyone to buy a whole new device because, really, you can’t expect consumers to buy a new ereader every year. (Whenever I hear a new device is coming out, I always think fondly of Best Buy’s commercial for their buyback program.)
The Reading Experience
The Nook’s new updates, at least in my opinion, really improve the overall reading experience.
I’ve always been impressed with the number of display options (font, size, margin width, color/background) the Nook offers, but it was fantastic to see even more choices.
Nook Color users can now also read a book either in landscape or portrait mode, and lock the screen to prevent auto-rotating from taking place.
The display of the text on the screen itself also seems to be a dramatic improvement. Just recently, I was reading an ebook that displayed quite poorly. For some reason, the capital letters and any emphasized text would display in my preferred font (Gill Sans), while the rest of the book was stuck in the publisher’s default. This strange issue also resulted in a forced line break in a word on the title page. The update seemed to fix all of this.
Other than that, page numbers now appear at the bottom (center), and if you pull up the options screen, it will tell you how many pages you have left to go in your chapter. This small detail goes a long way with me.
Users can now tap the “Discover” button, and Barnes & Noble will recommend related titles. I like that you can get recommendations for specific titles, but a lot of times they seem to miss the mark.
To be honest—this is one thing I haven’t really had a chance to mess around with. I’ll have to reserve my judgment for a later date, but I do see that the Pandora icon has been installed, and I also see that I can install Grooveshark, Showtime, and Rhapsody for free if I want. These apps have pretty low customer ratings so far (three stars or less), so I’m not terribly motivated to get them right away.
The “Updated” Storefront
I was happy to see a revamped storefront, but I still think there’s a lot of room for improvement.
On the home screen, there are six icons that represent books, magazines, newspapers, kids, apps, and music and video.
I have to say, I really wish these menu items could be customized, and I hope this is something Barnes & Noble will consider in the future. I don’t have kids, I don’t plan on having one anytime soon, and I don’t share my Nook with anyone else. I don’t need a dedicated icon for children’s books, and I cannot express how much I wish I could get rid of this. A small complaint, but I feel that the store wastes valuable screen space selling me things I will never buy.
Another problem that I have always had, and which I’m disappointed has not been changed with this update, is the content of the Nook store pages. I was really hoping to see something different on the store’s rotating screens. Here’s why.
The first page features books that my Nook “thinks” I’ll love, but I’ve yet to see one that I’m actually interested in. (For example, I downloaded the free Smashwords ebook manual to see what sort of guidelines it has in place, and now I’m getting all sorts of self-published recommendations with truly horrific covers that were clearly created by hand in MS Paint.)
The next two screens are for self-help titles, which is a category that I just don’t buy. Following that, there are two pages for biographies. I can’t say that I never buy these, but I wouldn’t exactly call myself an avid biography reader. After that there are fiction picks, which I absolutely read, but I think I’ve seen the same four or five titles there for at least a month. After fiction comes romance, which is another genre I don’t ever buy. I know that these are big ebook sellers, but they’re not me. The final page is dedicated to Nook Daily Deals, which I’m usually not interested in, but I at least understand that one.
On a more positive note, I do like that the categories in the Nook store are now front, center, and scrollable, as opposed to a clunky fly-out menu at the bottom of the screen. Definitely an improvement.
Overall, I am pleased with a lot of these updates, but I’d like to see more. Not to take a page from Amazon on this one, but I think it would really benefit Barnes & Noble to figure out a better way to create a customizable shopping experience that will resonate with customers.