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Ebooks and Ereaders

Kobo Mini vs. Nook SimpleTouch

ETA 6/19/2013: Hi, everybody who keeps hitting this post from search engines! Gracious, there are a lot of you. I’ve been seeing this post get something like 8-10 hits a day for a while now. So y’all say hi, won’t you? If there’s anything I don’t talk about in this post that you’d like to know about, or anything you’d like me to post about in a future post series on how to read ebooks, drop a comment and let me know!

ETA 6/20/2013: Also, if you haven’t seen this post yet on a few followup remarks I’ve got on the Mini, go check that, too.

Third Place Books, my indie bookstore of choice, has joined up with a bunch of other US indie bookstores to sell Kobo ereaders. And since Third Place currently has the Mini on sale for Valentine’s Day, I decided to scarf one and play around with it. This is partly an experiment to see whether I want to commit to making Kobo (and through them, Third Place) my primary ebook source, but it’s also general geeky interest in comparing ereaders. The Nook so far has been my only e-ink device I’ve had firsthand access to; I was quite interested in playing around with another one, just so that I can speak with at least a little more authority on what the various devices are like.

My first impression on pulling this thing out of the box is ZOMG tiny. It’s even smaller than the Nook and lighter as well. Weight-wise, it even feels lighter than my iPhone 5, though that may change once I find a cover for it.

Kobo and Nook Side by Side

Kobo and Nook Side by Side

Setup was super-easy. All I had to do was plug the thing into my computer with the provided USB cord, point a browser at, and download their desktop app. Then, running the desktop app, I had to log in with my Kobo account.

It promptly began syncing up with my existing Kobo library, pulling down my small number of purchases as well as a great number of samples I’d added. I noticed though that the Help button down at the bottom was cut off, and there didn’t seem to be a way to resize the window to make that button completely visible. (Hi, I’m a QA tester, I notice these things!)

But what if I want to click on Help?

But what if I want to click on Help?

Sideloading was just as easy as with the Nook, since I just had to launch Calibre and send files to the device, the same way as with the Nook. Also, Kobo’s site Help does confirm that you’re able to just drag and drop files directly onto the device if you want to.

The Kobo Help says this thing talks epub AND PDF, so I tried sideloading a PDF onto it as well as an epub. That worked just fine. I suspect though that this device would have the same issue that the Nook does with a PDF–i.e., that even if the device can read a PDF, depending on how it’s formatted, it may or may not look nice on the screen. The PDF I tried came through with the text showing up really tiny.

And, as I poke around Kobo’s Help, I see that you cannot in fact change the text size of a PDF on this thing the same way you can on a Nook. You CAN use a two-finger double-tap gesture to zoom in on the text–but then, the text is too big for the page to fit on the screen at once, and you have to drag the page around to see everything. This is a sub-optimal reading experience, so I’d have to say that when it comes to reading PDFs, the Nook wins slightly. (But I’d still not recommend reading PDFs on either device.)

Comparing Faerie Blood on both devices, Dara and I find that the Kobo renders the cover ever so slightly more smoothly. I’m also seeing that the Kobo device is a bit weirder about rendering the centering of the title page–it looks good on the Nook but a bit weird on the Kobo.

Response time seems to be slightly better on the Kobo but not enough to really notice. So far I’m liking the page transitions a bit better, though. Not as much obvious screen flash, and you can adjust the settings as to how often it does a full screen refresh. Right now mine’s set to the max of every six pages.

You can make custom shelves on the Kobo, like you can on the Nook. I note with pleasure that the shelf functionality on the Kobo includes the ability to let you search for specific titles or authors or keywords, when adding books to a shelf. This is extremely helpful if you don’t want to have to page through dozens of pages of books, as you would have to do in a library as large as mine.

I also note that if you kick over into the mode that shows a list of books rather than the cover grid, the books will show whether they are Read or Unread. COOL. I don’t see a way to make a shelf of books that are Read or Unread, but if there’s a way to do that, that would be awesome.

I notice that if you connect the device to your computer via USB, you have to remember to tap the Connect button on the screen before the computer acknowledges its presence. That’s an extra step to take that you don’t have to do on the Nook.

And hmm. As I add more books to the device, the response time slows down a bit. So yeah, it’s pretty much neck and neck with the Nook.

I’m seeing some screwiness in metadata on the Kobo that I don’t see on the Nook–some titles coming through in all caps, and one or two books that came down off my Kobo library that don’t have a known author shown. But that, I think, is a question of the store not being quite as thorough with its metadata as the B&N store is.

Overall though my impression of this device is positive. I’d say it’s a decent competitor with the Nook SimpleTouch, if you’re in the market for an e-ink device.

Anybody have any specific questions about either that you’d like to me to clarify, let me know! I’ll be happy to post updates in the comments or in future posts.

ETA: Ooh, this is an important thing to note. The Kobo Mini talks more file formats than the Nook does. To wit, it understands mobi, txt, html, xhtml, and rtf. VERY good to know.

Ebooks and Ereaders

Meet my new Nook!

I’m not normally one for needing to get the next revision of a device I own as soon as it comes out, but in the case of the new Nook Simple Touch, I’ve made an exception. I was interested by it as soon as I heard it was coming, and what finally pushed me over to get a new one was discovering that the software on the original Nooks (now called Nook 1st Edition) is not going to be updated any more after the current rev, 1.6.

So I went out and grabbed one of the new Nooks yesterday. And I’ve gotta say, if you’re interested in the Nook at all as your reader of choice, the new one is a significant improvement over the old.

Cool Things:

  • It’s smaller. The actual screen size is comparable, but since they’ve lost the clunky color touchscreen on the bottom, the overall device is noticeably smaller and a bit lighter as well. This is a win, given all the stuff I typically carry in my backpack.
  • It’s a full touchscreen device now. This was one of the things that always confused me about the first Nook–I’d keep forgetting that I’d have to tap on stuff in the bottom area to navigate around on the device, and would try to tap the e-ink portion of the screen instead. Now you can do that. And so far I’ve found it satisfyingly responsive, especially when turning pages, which actually works a bit better than the page-turning buttons on the side.
  • Big big big win: they’ve combined the B&N and non-B&N book lists. So now all your B&N purchases and all your sideloaded content show up in the same overall index. This means that the Shelves functionality is now much less stupid. I’ll actually use Shelves on it now.
  • They’ve ditched some of the superfluous stuff from the first Nook, like the “Nook Daily” icon I never read anything on, the games, and the browser. I cared absolutely zero about any of these things. I don’t need my ereader to play Sudoku or let me listen to music; I just want to read books on it. What icons are available now, Home, Library, Shop, Search, and Settings, seem much more intuitively arranged to me.
  • The new Nook is significantly, and I mean significantly, less expensive than what I put down for the first one. It’s roughly $140. (But then, the prices on the 1st Edition Nooks have also come down hard, and B&N’s selling those still for cheaper than the new ones. So if your budget is tight, you may still want to look at the old ones. Just be aware that the software on them will not get any further updates.)

  • The page turning buttons have been entirely redesigned. They’re a bit harder to press now but given how they’re set into the sides of the device, they should not have the same problem the first generation devices did with the buttons cracking under extensive use.

Potential minuses for previous Nook owners:

  • PDB support has been dropped. This was mostly a problem for me since I have a couple hundred titles I’d bought from Fictionwise, which only sells in epub format if the titles are DRM-free. So I had to take Certain Steps to get those titles onto the new device. If you’re not a customer of a site that sells in PDB, this’ll be less of an issue.
  • The Shelves functionality is still not as awesome as it could be. I can’t find any immediately obvious way to add a single title to a shelf; what I have to do right now is to edit the overall Shelf and then page through my entire list of books to find the one(s) I want. Given that I have several hundred books on the device, this takes a while! So they really need to add a way to just click on the options for a single book and choose what shelves, if any, you’d like to add it to.
  • If you actually liked the segregation of B&N and non-B&N content, you’ll have to recreate it manually yourself via Shelves. Which, given the previous point, may take you a bit. There were times that I actually kind of liked having the lists separate, just because I like to keep track of what books I bought from what site.
  • While much is being made of the improved screen contrast on the new device, so far I haven’t actually noticed much of a difference. I need to compare in different light conditions though, given that the only place I’ve compared so far was in my usual corner of the couch in the living room and that’s one of the dimmer parts of the house unless the lights are on. More on this as I have it.

  • This device doesn’t talk 3G, so if that’s a dealbreaker for you, be aware. It’s wi-fi only.

Other stuff you may or may not like:

  • Better selection of fonts for displaying a book’s text. The old Nook had only three to choose from; this one’s got six.
  • There’s new social networking functionality that lets you hook into your Facebook or Twitter accounts to share data about what books you’re reading. You can also import Google contacts onto it.
  • Relatedly, there’s also a new “Nook Friends” thing they’re setting up where you can make a little social network with other Nook-owning friends. This is supposed to let you see each other’s reading lists, lend books, and such. This will be interesting, I think, only if it means you can loan books more than once. One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from ebook readers all over the Net is the stupidity of being able to loan a book just once; I hope they have addressed this. I haven’t found out yet though.

  • The settings for connecting to a Wi-Fi network seem better laid out; it was a lot easier to see what networks the new Nook had already memorized.

So overall: a significant win, I feel. userinfosolarbird and I will probably amuse ourselves with rootkitting the old Nook, unless somebody expresses interest in buying it off of me; if anybody wants to, let me know!

Book Log

Shiny big bonus ebook roundup!

It will or at least SHOULD surprise none of you that since I was handed a raise and a review bonus, in addition to getting my shiny new guitar, I also cut a big swath through my ebook wishlist! Drum roll, if you please:

  • Flirting With Danger, Don’t Look Down, Billionaires Prefer Blondes, Twice the Temptation, and Touch of Minx, by Suzanne Enoch. Romantic suspense. userinfomamishka got me started on these by loaning me a paperback copy of Book 1, so I decided to re-read that one as well as getting the rest!
  • Running Scared, Die in Plain Sight, Innocent as Sin, The Wrong Hostage, and Always Time to Die, by Elizabeth Lowell. Romantic suspense. Re-buys of various Lowell books previously owned in print.
  • Living With Ghosts, by Kari Sperring. Fantasy. Picked up because it was recommended to me!
  • The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters. General fiction.
  • Darkborn, by Alison Sinclair. Fantasy.
  • Homicide in Hardcover, by Kate Carlisle. Mystery. Picked up because I’m a sucker for mystery series where the protagonist is involved with books and because I saw it sitting on the shelf at Third Place near another author’s books. (There is quite a bit of irony in electronically reading a mystery series focused on physical books and their making and selling, but hey!)
  • Stranger, by Zoe Archer. Paranormal romance. This is the fourth of her Blades of the Rose series and I’m looking forward to ripping through this one!
  • State of Decay, by James Knapp. Urban fantasy. Re-buy of something previously owned in print which I didn’t actually read yet, and also, ZOMBIES!
  • Vicious Circle, by Linda Robertson. Urban fantasy. Bought because Juno Books is a pretty reliable source of urban fantasy with decent heroines.
  • Wilderness, by Dennis Danvers. Urban fantasy (?). Bought because I have previously enjoyed at least one of Danvers’ books and the premise sounded interesting: grad student has to prove to her bio prof that she is, in fact, a werewolf.
  • Territory, by Emma Bull. Fantasy. Bought because it was recommended to me, and because the sample I yoinked down onto my Nook was quite entertaining.

Also, although this is an audiobook it does IMO count:

  • The Truelove, by Patrick O’Brian. Book #15 of the mighty Aubrey-Maturin series, bought because userinfosksouth had loaned me MP3s of this during my breast cancer recovery. I still haven’t listened to it because I haven’t caught up to Book 15 in the series yet, but I wanted to go ahead and buy the actual audiobook. Patrick Tull did an awesome job narrating the audiobook Sarah loaned me of Treason’s Harbour, so I’ll be buying more of these.

That gives me a grand total of 20 books acquired, and brings the yearly total to 363. Also, for the record, my Nook is still not full!


Fictionwise ain’t quite dead to me yet

It seems Fictionwise is still capable of grabbing my attention, even if a lot of their inventory vanished once the agency model of ebook pricing took effect this past April. This weekend, though, they’re having a big ol’ 50 percent off sale, in effect through Sunday. (Use the coupon ‘spooky2010′.)

Turns out several of the titles on my ebook wishlist were still in their database, so I’ve nabbed ’em. To wit:

  • A Far and Deadly Cry, by Teri Holbrook. Mystery, re-buy to replace previously owned print copy.
  • Recursion, by Tony Ballantyne
  • Measuring the World, by Daniel Kehlmann. General fiction, was recommended by userinfojanne.
  • Blue Moon, by Cindy Lynn Speer. Ebook re-buy of a print copy I already own, since the print copy is large and unwieldy and I can read the ebook better.
  • Morevi: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana, by Tee Morris & Lisa Lee. Another ebook re-buy of a print copy I still own, again because large and unwieldy print book I don’t want to carry around.
  • Blood Engines, by T.A. Pratt. Actual purchase of a free PDF I’d gotten before from when came online; decided to go ahead and buy this copy since the PDF is 5 MB in size.
  • Mob Rules, by Cameron Haley. Urban fantasy, a recent release from Luna.
  • The Mysteries, by Lisa Tuttle. Fantasy. Picked it up due to a review by Jo Walton on
  • Spellbent, by Lucy A. Snyder. Urban fantasy. Picked up because of her participation in the CoyoteCon panels run by Drollerie Press earlier this year!
  • Total Oblivion, More or Less: A Novel, by Alan DeNiro. This one got a good amount of buzz a while back so I’m finally checking it out.
  • The Tomb of Zeus, by Barbara Cleverly. Re-buy of a book I’d previously owned. Mystery.
  • Deadly Slipper, by Michelle Wan. Mystery.
  • Black and White, by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge. Because SUPERHEROES, and because I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while now!

And meanwhile, because it was Absolutely Necessary, I picked up userinfojimbutcher‘s shiny new Dresden Files anthology, Side Jobs, from Barnes and Noble! I bought it in both ebook and hardback, actually–ebook for me, and hardback to give as a present to userinfokathrynt, who will need it to occupy herself before her baby boy makes his arrival in the world Any Day Now, and hopefully as she’s resting after as well. So I get to count that one twice! 😀

And OH OH OH I must also add this, since it showed up in my mailbox today: Writing Out the Notes, the new book by Bob Hallett, is another acquisition! That would be the Bob Hallett of my very own beloved Great Big Sea, who’s written himself a combination memoir and musical portrait of St. John’s. I’m quite looking forward to reading it, as Mr. Hallett’s always been the most thoughtful and introspective of the B’ys, based on what they’ve all posted in their various posts on their site.

Grand total for the year: 334!


The only acceptable use for DRM

I’d been aware for some time that a lot of libraries had embraced the ability to check out ebooks, but not until this weekend did I get around to actually trying it. I was quite pleased to discover that both of our local libraries, the Seattle Public Library and the King County Library System, provide the ability to do electronic checkouts.

Since KCLS is the one I have a card with, I gave that a shot over the weekend and succeeded in checking out both Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood and Justin Cronin’s The Passage. I selected both of these novels because they were specifically available in Adobe Digital Editions ePUB format, and therefore were friendly to my nook.

The process of getting the books onto my nook was less friendly than it should have been, and pretty much went like this:

  1. Check out the book from the library web site and download a small file.
  2. Open up Adobe Digital Editions and then actually launch that small file so ADE could see it. If I tried to doubleclick the file without launching ADE first, then I got an error message that claimed ADE wanted an update it didn’t actually need. The file then opened up the actual ebook so ADE could see it, complete with the timestamp for how many days I was allowed to keep it.
  3. Close ADE and then plug my nook into my Mac via USB, then re-launch ADE so it can see the nook. (This is because I’ve had trouble getting ADE to recognize the nook’s been plugged in if I launch it first. In retrospect I could have saved this step by just plugging in the nook first thing and then launching ADE and keeping it open, but I didn’t think of that at the time.)
  4. Copy the book onto my nook.
  5. Profit Reading!

I’ve been working on reading the Atwood and it looks just lovely on the nook, just like all the other ebooks I’ve read. And I honestly am fine with the DRM in this case, since if you’re going to do electronic library checkout, there needs to be some way of keeping track of how long the library patron is allowed to keep the content. I have no problems whatsoever with DRM in this case telling me “HEY YOU HAVE 18 DAYS LEFT ON THIS KTHX” and then making the book magically go away if I run out of time.

There are still issues here of device compatibility, though. I cannot check out ebooks to my iPhone just because Adobe Digital Editions does not like the iPhone; as I understand it, it’s a matter of ADE being a Flash app and iOS doesn’t do Flash. Or something to that effect. I can however check out to the computer, and from there, as described above, I can copy down to the nook. So that’s all fine.

Less fine is the question of file format. ADE does PDFs as well as ePUBs, and while the nook in theory talks PDF, in actual practice so far PDFs I’ve looked at on my nook come across sloppily formatted. They’re still readable, but it’s a clumsy reading experience and just not as pleasant as reading an ePUB, or a PDF on a device that’s capable of showing it to me as it was actually formatted. This is the nook’s fault, though, not ADE’s. (I suspect that Kindle owners would have a better time with an ADE PDF but I have no firsthand experience with that.)

Anyway, though, once I got the books checked out, that was awesome and I plan to make use of this ability more in the future. I expect it will help a great deal in whittling down my Enormous Reading List of Enormousness.

As a general FYI to Seattle-area folks, here are the pertinent links if you’d like to try out this shiny ebook checkout thing for yourselves:

You do of course need a library card for either system, but hey, library cards are Awesome Things and should be had regardless. 🙂 Enjoy!