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Ebooks and Ereaders

Ereader review: Samsung Galaxy S2 Nook, by Barnes and Noble

Gummy Drop on the S2

Gummy Drop on the S2

Those of you who’ve been following me for a while will know I’ve been eying Barnes and Noble askance for some time. I’ve taken major issue with their website thanks to their last round of changes, enough that I haven’t bought an ebook from them since. And I’ve also been looking askance at some of the changes they’ve been implementing in their brick-and-mortar stores as well.

Why did I buy another Nook tablet?

Given this, one would be justified in wondering why exactly I’d want to pick up another tablet from them. Simple: I wanted to upgrade from using the last tablet I’d bought from them, the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook, because it was still stuck on Android KitKat and I wanted something with a bit more power to it.

Plus, B&N has been running a trade-in promotion that let me bring in my old Nook HD and trade it in for a $50 credit off the price of a new device. So I decided to take them up on that offer, while wiping the Galaxy Tab 4 back to factory defaults so that I could give it to Dara and let her use it as an upstairs web-browsing type device when she didn’t feel like breaking out the laptop. (And also because we can get all Star-Trek:-The Next-Generation-y with the ability to just pick up a tablet and do stuff in our house.)

Thanks to the credit, not to mention the VISA gift card I’d gotten from the day job as my last work anniversary gift, I was able to get a new tablet from B&N more cheaply than I could from anywhere else. And even though I find Samsung frustrating in how long it takes them to deploy upgrades to the Android operating system, I did like the Tab 4. After playing around with an S2 in a B&N recently, I decided I’d probably like that tablet, too.

Which, at the end of the day, pretty much means I liked the idea of having a new Samsung Galaxy tablet more than I disliked buying anything else from B&N. So there ya go.

Main things that I like

So here’s what I like about the S2. You can take this as you like, if you want to consider buying a Samsung tablet–whether via B&N, via Samsung, or via some other vendor.

One, I like the size. It’s not quite as big as my iPad, and it’s ever so slightly lighter, which means a bit less weight in the backpack on the commute. And that’s always a good thing. It’s a little bit bigger than the Tab 4, but that’s offset by how it’s also thinner. Even with an 8-inch screen, it’s still well within the range of device sizes that are comfortable for me to handle.

Two, the processing ability is better than the Tab 4. Which means, for my purposes, that’s it’s a better gaming tablet. So I can happily play Gummy Drop and Dungeon Boss on it. Sometimes with both running at once, similar to what I can do on the iPad, a trick I don’t think I could have pulled off on the Tab 4.

Three, the adaptive screen is kind of neat, though I don’t know how much of this functionality is the tablet and how much of it is coming in with Android Lollipop. By adaptive screen, I mean that there are settings that can automatically adjust the brightness and color saturation for certain apps under certain conditions. I’ve actually turned this off since I find that it makes Gummy Drop and Dungeon Boss both look over saturated–but I appreciate that the tech is there. There are other settings I’ll have to try on it, like Reading Mode.

Four, it comes by default with 32GB on board, which means I no longer have to rely upon having an SD card in the device to carry a suitable portion of my digital library with me. Which also means a bit of a performance improvement as well, since the OS doesn’t have to read stuff off the card.

Engaging with content

In terms of engaging with content, the experience is much the same for me as it was on the Tab 4. This is, after all, a full-on Android tablet, so I can install whatever apps I want on it. So I’ve got the full fleet of book apps that I currently need for my arsenal–not only the Nook apps that come bundled with this build of the OS, but also Kobo, Kindle, Overdrive, and Calibre Companion. (Still working on deciding which app is best for reading my indie books that aren’t immediately accessible via the other apps.)

I’m not planning on using this as a device to watch movies or TV–that’s what I’ve got the iPad for. (All the video I buy is on my Apple account, anyway.) So I can’t really comment on whether this device would be good for that. If I get a chance to try that out, though, I will update this post with that data.

It was super-easy to get my previous apps back onto it, I’ll have to give it that. This is all on Google, though, since the Tab 4 had been backing up to my Google account. So when I set up the S2, it was all “OH HEY do you want me to restore everything from that backup?” So props for that.

Possibly of interest for my writing

The S2 came bundled with Microsoft Office apps for Android. To wit: there are now Microsoft Office apps for Android. And a bit of playing around with Word showed me that the free apps, even without an Office 365 subscription, will finally let you actually do things like edit and save documents. And, they’re even acknowledging the presence of other cloud services besides Microsoft’s. The Word app on this thing seems perfectly happy to talk to not only OneDrive, but also Google Drive and Dropbox.

And once I actually opened one of my manuscript files in it, I found out that the free app does actually give me access to the Track Changes functionality of Word. Which, aside from the ability to just write and save documents, is what I use Word for.

All of which tells me that I could actually write on this thing in a pinch. Whether I’d want to edit on it without an actual keyboard is another matter entirely, though. To date, I’ve found that if I need to edit a story, I really need a full keyboard and mouse pointer to do it smoothly.

But hey, the apps are here, and a bit of googling on the part of a coworker indicated that non-B&N Samsungs are also coming bundled with these apps. Which means you’d get them if you bought the device from somewhere besides B&N. Which is worth thinking about in general if you’re in the market for an Android device, and you have any need to do work in Microsoft Office on it. Especially if you’re a writer. (I think I have fodder here for an entire other blog post!)


Since this is a tablet I expect to be carrying around on my commute, I did actually buy a cover for it as well from the B&N store I went into. Sure, it’s a Nook-branded cover, but I did like the color scheme on the one I chose. It lets me look at the tablet in both orientations. And it’s got a nice little magnet flap to hold the thing closed.

In short

Should you buy this tablet? So far it seems lovely to me, a reasonably small, light device that nonetheless has a decent amount of power for what I need it to do. I’d say that if your device needs are similar to mine, this one’s worth looking at.

Should you buy it from B&N? That’s another matter entirely. It’s worth considering if you have an older Nook you can trade in on. But if you’re not already a B&N customer, you may well be better served buying directly from Samsung or from other stores near you that sell electronics.

Ebooks and Ereaders

Barnes and Noble death rattle?

I had a bunch of articles build up in my RSS feeds while I was away at Fiddle Tunes, but I’ve been working on getting caught up–and today on Dear Author, I see this post that reports, among other things, that B&N is pulling out of trying to sell ebooks in international markets. They’ll be pulling back to US and UK only.

The Digital Reader reports that B&N had expanded into international markets through Windows 8, and that now they’re pulling back on that. Sales will continue only in the US and UK markets.

Except that apparently B&N launched an updated Nook site that is significantly broken. The Digital Reader reported on this on the 2nd, detailing several very worrisome ways that the new Nook site is very badly broken.

And now, as of tonight when I tried to get at my Nook account data, I couldn’t even log in in Safari. When I tried to click on the “Sign In” link in the upper left hand corner of the revamped site, the page grayed out. What I THINK tried to happen here is that they probably tried to load a sign-in overlay, and that overlay is not loading. I’m about to check this out on other browsers to see where else it might repro. Given their track record of stupid problems on their website, though, I’ll lay you even money that it’ll work on Windows browsers and not on Mac ones. LET’S FIND OUT, said the web page tester.

If you’re a Nook customer, what this tells me is that if you haven’t already, you’d damn well better try to make backup copies of all your purchases with them as soon as you can. If you’re a Mac user, the Nook desktop Mac app still works in Yosemite–I haven’t gotten rid of my copy yet, though I’m only using it for purposes of downloading purchases, since, annoyingly, they’d already also removed the ability to download your purchases from the website.

And if you’re an indie author, be keeping a sharp eye on this and what it may mean for your sales on the Nook platform.

I gotta say, at this point I wouldn’t object very hard if B&N sold its customer base to Kobo. Sony apparently already did that when they pulled out of the ebook market. And I wouldn’t mind condensing the two biggest parts of my fractured ebook library.

But dammit, B&N, why’d you have to go and screw this up so badly? I so wanted you to hang in there.

ETA: I have just now confirmed that I cannot log into my B&N account on any browser except Internet Explorer on Windows. This is pathetic. I’m offended not only as a Nook customer, but also as a QA professional who tests web pages for a living. I mean honestly, who okays “inability to log into customer accounts on most of the major current web browsers” as an acceptable bug to push out to your production site?! Furthermore, the Digital Reader’s report on the site launch was a week ago. If this bug has been in production on the site for a full week, somebody on their engineering team needs to be fired.

FWIW, at least, Dara’s mucking around a bit and has discovered that if you are on Safari on the Mac and you have the Developer menu turned on, you can set your User Agent to pretend to be IE 8 or IE 9 and get it to work. I have confirmed this on my own laptop. So there’s a workaround for Mac users, at least.

ETA #2: I’m getting told by a few friends across the Net tonight that they can confirm ability to log in on non-IE browsers on Windows. But on the other hand, one fellow NIWA author reported that while she was able to log in via Chrome on Windows, she is reproducing the behavior I’m seeing on her laptop. I also note that at least twice when trying to hit the B&N index, I have triggered an error message in general rather than actually reaching the page. So just trying to hit the site at all appears to be chancy. And you may or may not be able to log in from the Sign In link.

Additionally, once I was actually able to log in on IE and get to my Nook library, I was able to confirm what the Digital Reader reported. You can do fuck all with any of the books in your library except archive or delete them. You can’t read them. You can’t download them. reports that B&N has been getting swarms of angry customer feedback about how you can’t even get at your past purchases, but I hadn’t realized there was an inability to get at samples either. Which, yeah. I can add a sample to my library via the website, but since I can’t actually read it on the site, that’s kinda useless, at least if I don’t actually happen to have my device with me.

I specifically have to jump over to my actual physical Nook to read the thing. I can at least confirm that a sample added to my library is downloadable and readable on the actual device, so that’s something.

ETA #3: Checking this morning, I’m finding I am able to log in via Safari on the B&N site. For now.

Bone Walker, Faerie Blood

Updates to Faerie Blood and Bone Walker pages!

FYI to all:

Since I am moving over to using Smashwords to deploy Faerie Blood and Bone Walker out to B&N, Kobo, and iBooks, this means the purchase links for the books at these locations are changing.

I have new viable links for both books at B&N and iBooks, and both of their pages have been updated accordingly. Kobo has a new working link for Bone Walker, but Faerie Blood‘s new link hasn’t shown up yet in their system; once it does, I’ll update the FB page with that, too.

All new links I have are now in place on the Faerie Blood and Bone Walker pages, and they’re added to my full Books page as well. But the most immediately useful ones are:

Faerie Blood:

Nook | iBooks

Bone Walker:

Nook | iBooks | Kobo

ALSO of paramount interest: since Smashwords does deploy out to Overdrive, OH HEY LOOK! Bone Walker is now actually on Overdrive, which means in theory it COULD actually show up in libraries! I’m not seeing it at the two Seattle library systems, but if Overdrive has it, that means libraries can get it. So if you’re a library fan, talk to your library and ask them if they might want to consider adding the book to their digital systems.

AND! This also means that I can take advantage of Overdrive’s pretty capabilities for reading ebook samples, like I did with Valor of the Healer and Vengeance of the Hunter. I have accordingly added a link to read an excerpt of Bone Walker at Overdrive to the book’s page!

Ebooks and Ereaders

Ereader review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 7.0, by Barnes and Noble

Since I got a bonus from work, I have elected to add another ereader to my collection: this time, one of the new Samsung Galaxy Nooks from Barnes and Noble. Since I’m an established B&N member, I was able to get one at a bit of a discount, and the devices were on sale aside from that this past weekend as well. So I got one for considerably cheaper than normal.

Y’all may recall that I acquired a Nook HD not terribly long ago, and by and large, I rather liked it. And for those of you keep score, I have a Kindle Fire HDX too. So how does the new Samsung Nook 7 stack up against those?

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Ebooks and Ereaders

Ereader review: The Nook HD, by Barnes and Noble

As y’all know, my day job is QA Engineer at Big Fish Games. But what you may not know, even if you’re a regular player of our stuff, is that we’ve been pushing out hard into the mobile arena–and that now we have not only iOS games, but Android games as well!

I mention this because a) that shiny new Android page of ours was tested by yours truly (woo!), and b) since we’re having more of an emphasis on Android devices at work, I felt it was time for me to acquire one. We have a store of devices to use to test on when I’m at work, but I periodically do work from home. Therefore I wanted a device around to have handy in case I needed to test on it.

Which raised for me the question of what to actually get. So far I’ve had experience with Nexus and Samsung devices, neither of which really stood up and said “buy me”. What I ultimately decided upon was a thing that’ll be useful to me not only as a testing device, but also as an ereader and a tablet: a Nook HD. This is the smaller, 7-inch version of B&N’s current tablet, which I wanted because that particular size is more comfortable to me for reading purposes, and also because I’ve got my still-perfectly-delightful iPad covering the larger 10-inch form factor.

It was rather fun going into the B&N at Pacific Place downtown, where I started experimenting with one of the display models, with my srs bznz Testing Face on. The staffer in charge of selling Nooks took a moment to lock in on me–he was busy delivering his “so, are you interested in buying a tablet?” spiel to another customer when I walked in. But it didn’t take him long to get over to me to start the same spiel. At which point I promptly spieled right back at him as to what I wanted the device for (i.e., web page testing as well as reading, and why yes, I AM a current Nook customer), and to his credit, he immediately went into “oh okay this is an informed consumer” mode. So he cheerfully let me be as I gave serious thought between the smoke-colored model and the white one, and whether I wanted 8GB or 16GB. Final verdict: I got the smoke-colored, 16GB one. This is what it looks like.

(Pics and more behind the fold!)

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Faerie Blood

Faerie Blood finally available for the Nook again

After several frustrating days of fighting with this, I am relieved to report that Faerie Blood is finally available for the Nook again. Apologies to any Nook owners who might have tried to get it while it was unavailable on the B&N sites!

You can grab it again finally here for the US and here for the UK. And the book’s currently set nice and cheap to price-match Valor of the Healer! This price will remain in effect for the time being as well, at least until Bone Walker finally drops, if not sooner! So if you don’t have it already and you want it, consider picking it up!

And as always, you can find all the rest of the places the book can be found on Faerie Blood’s official page.

(But side note and fair warning to fellow self-pubbers: for the love of all that’s holy, the NookPress site was not ready to go live yet. If you’re on PubIt with your work, I do NOT recommend jumping over yet. Make ’em work all the bugs out first!)


The oh HEY I have a whole new ereader book roundup

But this is not to say I haven’t bought books lately in print as well, because I have!

Picked up in print from Third Place:

  • Cold Days by Jim Butcher, which I have of course already read, but I hadn’t yet picked up my paperback copy to add to my collection. Because oh my YES Mr. Butcher is on the “must have both electronically and in print in case of zombie apocalypse and OHNOEZ NO MORE ELECTRICITY” list.
  • The Inexplicables, by Cherie Priest. The latest one in her Clockwork Century series–looking forward to this one since it takes the action back to steampunky, zombie-infested Seattle!

Meanwhile, as I have posted about earlier, I’ve picked up a Kobo Mini in my effort to start shifting my ebook purchases over to support Third Place. A big part of this is motivated by the desire to support said store, though there’s a considerable amount here as well of being disgruntled with Barnes and Nobles’ customer service. I’ve never had any particular issues with the Nook as a device; the hardware is lovely and the current edition of the software on mine is simple and doesn’t screw up what I want it to do, i.e., let me read books. But I’ve never been happy with B&N’s customer support, especially in regards to supporting Mac users.

(The Nook desktop app is still broken on Mountain Lion, for example, and I’ve never heard yet if they’re planning to bother to fix it any time in the next few years. Every time I google about it, I see a whole bunch of cranky Mac users posting to the B&N forums.)

So yeah. That I can support Third Place now with my purchases is lovely and from what I’ve seen so far, responsive customer support on Kobo’s part is bonus. These things together have combined to get several shiny new ebooks showing up on my shiny new Kobo Mini, several of which have been on the Rebuy list for a while. But not all!

So, picked up from Third Place/Kobo:

  • The Duchess War, by Courtney Milan. Grabbing this one because I’ve quite liked her historical romances, and this one’s starting a whole new series. ALSO, Kobo’s selling it for real cheap right now, but if you act super-fast, i.e., by the 20th, you can use a coupon to knock 50% off the price. How shiny is that? Thank you, Smart Bitches Trashy Books!
  • The Wounded Sky, by Diane Duane. Because this is one of my favorite Star Trek novels from the first big run of them. We have a physical copy in our library but I wanted an ebook too.
  • Strangers from the Sky, by Margaret Wander Bonanno. Another Trek novel. This is one I’d actually grabbed a German edition of when I’d grabbed a compilation from the Kobo set, one which included Vonda McIntyre’s Enterprise: The First Adventure–so I wanted the original English edition of this too!
  • Murder with Peacocks and Murder with Puffins, by Donna Andrews. These are rebuys, the first two books of her Meg Lanslow series. Decided I wanted them back in ebook form.

But–it’s important to note that I’m not actually going to bail entirely on my B&N account for now. For organizational purposes, if I started buying a series on B&N, I’m going to continue to do so. Like, say:

  • Victory of Eagles, by Naomi Novik. This is book five of the Temeraire series. Which I did actually already own in hardback, so I clearly needed an ebook copy! Once I finish doing some beta reading for userinfokisanthe, I’m going to jump back into my mad dash through the rest of this series, prepping for Book 8 to drop this summer!

Total of 11 for the year, so far.