Nook is available again, but is it worth it?

Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from the Today @ PC World blog at PCWorld.com.

After a long wait and gobs of frustration, Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-book reader is finally available. Online stock of the $259 e-reader disappeared over the holiday season as consumers sopped up the much-anticipated device that was hailed as strong competition against the current king of the heap, Amazon’s Kindle. The Nook is also expected to make a physical appearance at some Barnes and Noble stores by midweek (scope out locations using the Nook in-store locator). But after all the hubbub and hair-pulling, is the Nook worth it?

Poor reviews

Reviewers smashed the Nook apart when it was first released. David Pogue’s now infamous review sent razor sharp shivers down Barnes & Noble’s spine as he called it “a mess.” PC World’s Melissa J. Perenson said, “[The Nook’s] current sluggish performance, along with the caveats about the LCD’s interaction with the E-Ink screen, can’t be ignored.”

Despite the negativity, the general public, apparently tired of the Kindle’s reign and eager for new tech, emptied shelves.

Big holiday fail

But the disappointment continued. Barnes & Noble was forced to hand out $100 gift certificates to Nook buyers who placed orders to be delivered before the holidays and wouldn’t receive them until after Christmas.

Incomplete Patches?

Barnes & Noble released firmware update 1.1.0 in late December, claiming the refresh would solve the two-second page turns (compared to the Kindle’s speedy flips) and an LCD that shuffled as slow as a George Romero zombie. But even that didn’t appease. Gizmodo called it “no miracle” and asked for “one heck of a firmware update.” Slashgear posted a YouTube video illustrating its flaws. Frankly, the e-reader looked broken.

Now the Nook is looking at the release of firmware update 1.2. The latest updates, packaged with the now-shipping models and soon available for download, will apparently band-aid even more glitches, including (but not limited to):

  • Improved opening of eBooks and periodicals
  • Improved response to Reading Now & Settings buttons
  • Bookmarks display page number
  • Eligible LendMeTM eBooks in My Library include a LendMeTM flag
  • Improved “back” button functionality for navigating eBooks and periodicals
  • Overall system improvements and battery optimization

The future of apps

The Nook has awesome potential. A recent hack of the Nook’s Android operating system unearthed its potential to run Pandora, send MMS, handle speech recognition, and run more apps in the future. Amazon then took a whiff and invited app developers to work on the Kindle.

All of these app-centric improvements are reactions to Apple’s iPad, which is currently driving a stake through e-reader hearts by inciting publisher rebellion and raising e-book prices.

What now?

So now it comes down to this: now that you finally can, will you buy an “improved” Nook? Will firmware update 1.2 solve its bundle of problems? Can it withstand the onslaught of future e-readers? Will Apple turn eInk-based devices into a fad? There’s a lot working against the Nook right now, but you cannot deny customer demand.

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