Tuesday, December 8, 2009

5 Minute Nook Review

I spent 5 minutes with the Nook yesterday.  I'd had the benefit of having read one review with a decent video walkthrough so I knew what I was doing well enough so as to provide offer the following observations:

1. The interface is at first glance intuitive yet is hampered by slowness of UI and the weird mix of touchscreen and physical buttons.  Specifically, there are 3 modes of input: a color touchscreen separate from the reading screen, a set of left-right paging buttons and a home button.  Each has it's own set of quirks (the home button is inexplicably not a click-button yet the paging buttons are) that, combined with sluggish responses, are confusing and make the overall experience not all that great. 

2. The reading screen is about the size of a paperback, the total size is that of a hardcover, and yet the weight of the thing is more than both combined.  Using the thing single handed was difficult and not something I'd want to do during a commute for extended periods of time. 

That said: the concept behind the design terrific and the screen is a pleasure to read off of, but I still want to know: who needs this thing? 

It's obvious that the e-reader market is going after three market segments:
1. Voracious readers of mass-market books
2. Commuters and/or people who want a more convenient way to read newspapers and other periodicals 
3. Geeks that can (in theory) be turned into either or both of the above 

Are any of these markets very large?  As far as I can tell, NOT AT ALL.  At least, not among those willing to shell out 250$ for a marginal increase in convenience matched with a marginal increase in frustration and hand cramping.  Used books cost next to nothing and they're practically giving away magazine subscriptions these days.  If I want to browse online content, I have a smartphone. 

That said there will always be people too overwhelmed by gadget lust to care about the actual utility provided by a new device.  Those people will buy e-readers today, mythical apple tablets tomorrow and crazy alternate universe Apple tablets somewhere inbetween.