I love e-readers. I think they are a brilliant but young technology. This year is really the first where e-readers are inexpensive enough for everyone to own; they start as low as $60 for a brand new device. And the best e-reader I’ve tested thus far is the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight, a reader that combines the potency of touch-enabled e-ink with comfortable mechanical buttons and a backlight for night reading.
The Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight (we’ll call it the Nook from this point on) is the latest e-reader by the largest standalone book retailer in the world, Barnes & Noble. It features a fairly small 6″ display that is crisp and great for reading text. At smaller fonts some text does appear pixellated, but the 800×600 produces generally clear text and pictures that are completely suitable for reading.
The backlight, dubbed ‘GlowLight’, is reminiscent of basic green backlit screens for toy electronics from the 90’s. The Glowlight illuminates the e-ink screen very evenly across the display, producing a very clear, mellow light that isn’t cold like the blue of the Kindle Paperwhite, though it isn’t exactly warm. The level of brightness is extreme: at minimal brightness it’s easy to read in a pitch black environment. The only time I ever needed to increase the brightness from a point over minimum was for the picture you see below.
Thankfully, the backlight uses so little energy that many users will still be able to use the device regularly with only one charge per month. Without GlowLight the Nook should last two months of reading (for 30 minutes a day, or roughly 75 hours) plus downloading any magazine or newspaper subscriptions over Wi-Fi. In my testing I’ve only had to recharge it twice. The battery lasts so long that unless you read for several hours daily with the backlight on, you won’t have to charge it more than once every two weeks.
As I wrote about in our holiday gift guide, the B&N Nook is the best because of its mechanical buttons. Using the touchscreen to turn pages does not feel natural. More importantly, the touchscreen is very sensitive and it is very easy to accidentally turn the page to or fro without meaning to. Tapping the screen to turn the page also feels strange. Instead, the Nook has four buttons on the side – two for each hand – to flip pages back and forth no matter how you’re holding the Nook. This design has enough space on the bezel to comfortably hold the light 7oz Nook one-handed and turn pages without lifting a finger.
The Nook is quick and responsive. It doesn’t come with all of the features that the Kindle does, but the Nook is designed more as a reading device than a Swiss-army like gadget. That’s part of its charm, though it does have a number of social media functions like access to Facebook. However, one function that would actually benefit users – sharing a specific article or piece of text though social media – isn’t available. If you’re reading an article in the Wall Street Journal for instance, you can’t send the article from the Nook to a friend or colleague. It would be an incredibly useful feature to, if not to send the article as-is, to send a link to the article with a few simple taps.
The wireless feature to download all new subscriptions instantly is perfect. Since most subscription-based magazines and newspapers update early in the morning, users can wake up to the latest edition of Esquire or The New York Post, whatever you wish. Magazines are not best suited for the Nook, but bear in mind that the accompanying tablet/smartphone apps can sync with the Nook instantly.
Perhaps the most appealing thing about the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight is the low price of $120. It’s very inexpensive for an e-reader with a backlight. Of all current generation e-readers, the Nook is my favorite thanks to the warmer backlight and the mechanical buttons. The combination of the handheld size and weight, excellent technology, intelligent design, and speedy processing make it the best e-reader you can buy.
Bottom Line: It’s the most comfortable e-reader there is.
- Excellent page-turning button design
- Crisp display with a very good backlight
- Long battery life and solid Wi-Fi
- Lightweight and convenient to use anywhere, anytime
- Room for improvement regarding software
- It’s fast, but not quite the speed that an e-reader needs to be
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