Nook Simple Touch E-reader Update

A few months ago, I bought an e-reader. The decisions I made you can read about in that blog post, here. At the time, I suggested I’d be doing more reading, and also possibly hacking it to run Android apps on it. Since then, the price of it has dropped from the £59 price I paid (an apparent special offer), to what is apparently another special offer of just £29.

Anyway, a few months on, I haven’t hacked it, and here’s a few quick thoughts on it.

1. I haven’t done that much reading on it.

I had hoped to use Instapaper to save a load  of stuff I see on Twitter, and read a kind of compilation of it later in the day, on the Nook. I’ve done it a bit, but not as much as I thought I’d do. It doesn’t quite compile in the way I’d hope, and because I can’t just pick it up and read (I have to plug it into my computer first, and download to Calibre..which sometimes takes AGES), I haven’t really done so.

I also thought I’d get more books, but I haven’t really. I took it on holiday and my girlfriend used it to read Pride and Prejudice.

2. Everything seems a bit of a compromise.

Say I’d like to read the news on it. You can’t, really. Even if I wanted to pay for it, the choice is ridiculously limited. The “All Newspapers” section (as in not JUST the USA) has 15 titles. And they’re all a bit pricey really. The London Evening Standard is £1.50/issue or £3.99/month. But this is a free newspaper? The physical paper, in London, is free.

If you include just the British newspapers, you can have the Financial Times, The Independent, the Evening Standard, The Daily Star and the Daily Express. That’s it. There are no local newspapers, nor The Guardian. The two biggest newspapers in the country are The Sun and The Daily Mail. Not that I want to read either, but neither is present. A bit odd.

There is a much greater choice of magazines, to be fair.

I can download news to Calibre software and then transfer it later, but I could print out the whole Internet – it doesn’t mean it’s a good thing to do. Why can’t it come with a half baked RSS reader so that I could subscribe to the BBC news, or something?

You can’t access anything over wifi with it, except Nook’s own store. Sucks.

Anything you copy on to the device (that doesn’t go to the Nook store) can only be deleted when you plug it into your computer, by browsing it like a memory stick. That’s a bit rubbish really.

3. I hate DRM.

What a pain in the arse that’s been.

David Mitchell

Recently I bought David Mitchell’s autobiography. I bought it, opened it, read a few pages, and the book crashed. Or rather, the app did. It came up with very much of that sort of message about the book reading application having crashed. On a device specifically meant for reading books. Right – so now what?

I thought I’d delete it from the Nook and download it again. How the hell do you do that? There’s no option to delete it on the device. The website says you can delete the book from your account online, and then when you resync, it will disappear.

However, when you try to delete it, the website also says:


That’s a bit disconcerting. Does that mean I have to pay for it again? But how else can I remove the book from the bloody thing, and redownload it?

I tried to download the book onto my Mac to see if I could open it in Calibre. But you can’t open it in Calibre, because it’s got copy protection on it, so only official Nook apps and readers can open it. The Mac Nook app seemed to be able to open it fine, but it was an intermittent crash anyway, and I’m not going to sit and read the whole book on my Mac.

In case the download direct-to-device had been corrupted, I used Calibre to transfer another copy back to the Nook. And so I started reading David Mitchell’s popular book “Back story redownload test”. This just isn’t good enough, Nook.

And after all that, after a while of reading, the reading app crashed again. Given the device doesn’t do anything else, that’s a real pain.

The only thing I could find online to suggest the cause of this problem (although I found other people with the unsolved problem) is the size of the book. The David Mitchell book is huge. 30+mb. Presumably because (as it’s an autobiography), there are a load of pictures in there somewhere. But still, not good enough. If it doesn’t work on the Simple Touch, how about a warning of that before I buy it, much like you get on iTunes where it tells you whether the app you’re looking at is just for the iPad, or whatever.

That’s just one book, but it’s the first “non-free” book I’ve downloaded. The free ones have been fine. But then yesterday. My girlfriend, who has been watching the TV adaptation of The White Queen, asked if it was available in the Nook store.

The White Queen

So I bought it, downloaded it, and:


Oh for fuck’s sake. Come on. Just let me read the bloody thing. What’s wrong now? Cannot open this book?


Why not? Any hint at all?

In the download list on the device it shows as ready to download. I click download, it downloads, the download button disappears, and then when I try and open it, back to that error message again. When I go back to the library list at that point, it gives me the option to download it again. And so on, the cycle continues.

I went on the Nook site and checked my account. Here it is:


Ordered a day ago (so far), being delivered electronically (it says on another screen), and order-status “in-progress”! Why in-progress? What are you waiting for? They haven’t emailed me to confirm acceptance of my purchase, but that seems to suggest it realises I HAVE bought it. Send me the fucking book.

I’m more patient than most, and I guess I’ll persist with it a bit longer, but so far, I wouldn’t bet on Nook winning the e-reader wars anytime soon. I haven’t heard of anyone with a Kindle complaining of random crashes

This post will likely be updated as and when I either fix these problems, or find more.

Update 30/07/13

Well, after waiting a couple of days and still not being able to read The White Queen, I contacted Nook support yesterday. They got me to do some stuff (basically just amounting to archiving/unarchiving the book, refreshing the device, turning it off and on again, redownloading it a couple of times, etc.), then apologised and offered me a refund. They don’t know what the fault is with that book. I enquired if it could have been corrupted during transfer/purchase, and they seemed to think not.

Yesterday I thought about what a user is meant to do in this situation. The official store has one copy and it doesn’t work. Well you just buy it from somewhere else, presumably. I’ll admit, I’m a little out of the technical loop, but WHSmiths’ website heavily sells the Kobo, and their ebook sales go through KoboBooks. And it wants you to buy it for a Kobo device, obviously. But even though I know there’s an epub standard and shared copy protection systems, after reading it for a while, I started to question whether a book I download from Kobo would read on anything other than a Kobo reader.

A colleague at work has a Sony Reader, and from memory, when Sony first launched their ereader, they neither had wifi on it, nor their own book store. Consequently, you had to download from *somewhere* else. Colleague recommended So this evening, I bought the book from them instead (although their site is a bit odd too. The only ereader they sell is the Kindle, but their ebooks don’t work on the Kindle because they’re all in epub – a format which Amazon choose not to let the Kindle read). While this is in itself is all a bit fiddly, I’ve now got a copy of this book I can open/read. Good news.

However, I can quite easily see why Kindle is the market leader. The Nook store is *meant* to work like the Kindle store. Sit on your sofa, order book from the device, read book. Or sit on any wifi connection, order book, etc. The system for transferring without using the store is not difficult, but might well put off people who don’t like computers. You have to download Adobe Digital Editions, register (lest you lose access to all your books in the future, or something), register with waterstones, download file, open it in Adobe Digital Editions. Then you have to authorise your Nook, Sony Reader, or whatever e-reader you have, with Digital Editions. It doesn’t auto transfer new purchases to your device, and all the buttons, and double-clicking, etc. just ends up with you viewing it on your computer. Fiddle with it and you can find an option to transfer the book to your device. But it’s not where you think it would be – say next to the option to read, or delete it. Then after all that, you can read it. It’s a shitty interface though. And it involves plugging in your device with a cable (sucks).

(Yes, I know that as I’ve done it once, the next time I just need to login, buy, download, transfer, but it’s still a shitty interface, and requires cables in a time when every modern ereader has wifi built in, because they’re all so locked to their chosen book-provider’s services.)

I guess at least by owning a Nook, I *can* download books from somewhere else when problems occur. Given all the epubs for sale (and all the UK library books) don’t work on a Kindle, you’ve got less choice there, really.

Note: There are ways around all of this. You can make UK library books work on the Kindle, and you can strip copy protection from books entirely if you’re willing to tinker or download a load of different dubious software, but from a pure usability standpoint, ereaders still seem a bit shit and badly integrated.

Update 05/09/13

So after all the above, I did two things. I rooted a Nook and trialled that for a bit, and then I bought a Kindle. I’ll be writing about both experiences, shortly, as well as doing a comparison between Nook and Kindle. I know everyone else has done it already, but a lot of these tests are based on older models of both.