Adventures of a novice* Nook owner

* I am the novice, not the Nook

During the Christmas break I went to Hawaii and while I was there I was sucked into, by gravitational pull, a Barnes and Noble bookshop.  Barnes and Noble have their own e-book reader, the Nook, and they had a very nice display of them. I had been planning on getting Kindle Touch, but you couldn’t get one for love nor money in Australia and they were hard to come by in Hawaii as well, at least where I was and I didn’t plan to spend the holiday hunting one down. So I played around with a Nook for a bit, but left without buying one, but with an armful of books.

MyNigel then discovered that there was another B&N store in a nearby suburb, and as he was hunting non-fiction books which are much cheaper in the US and it was a bookstore so I was happy to go, we headed out there. This store had an even nicer display of Nooks plus a lovely sales person to show me how to use one. Unfortunately I didn’t ask and she didn’t tell me of some of the limitations of the Nook for people outside the US or UK. Firstly, I should say I love my Nook HD. It is very easy to read on it for hours, it has Wifi so if I am at home or somewhere with free wifi I can FB, tweet, check my email (but not respond strangely) and look stuff up on the net. Were I in the Continental US I would have access to the 3G wifi network for free with one of their big providers, but there is no equivalent arrangement in Australia. That I did know before I bought it.

What I didn’t realise was that I wouldn’t be able to access the Barnes and Noble store to buy stuff. The sales girl said that you used to be able to put in a US address and buy stuff that way. I tried this – it doesn’t work. Someone on the Internet said that you can put in a US address with a credit card from anywhere and buy stuff that way once you set up a B&N account. I tried this, but it won’t accept my credit card because it isn’t from a US bank.

Someone else suggested buying a B&N gift card and then using this to purchase stuff from the B&N store. I can buy the gift cards but can’t use them because it goes back to my B&N account which says my credit card is not from the US.

It is supposed to be relatively simple to ‘root’ a Nook so that you can put apps from other android providers on it. I haven’t tried this because I have looked at the instructions on line and they make no sense to me at all, despite people saying how easy it is and only took them about an hour when they tried it. Firstly, having an hour to myself where I will be uninterrupted is pretty rare and secondly I’m a bit worried that my Nook might end up ‘rooted’ in the more Australian vernacular meaning of the term.

It has also been suggested that I try a VPN thingy to hide where my computer is (or something). I haven’t done this either yet because I still have to sort out in my head how they work and if it is something I should be doing anyway (information security wise, not legal wise).

Another option is a ‘virtual’ credit card, but again I’m not sure if it is something I can get from a US bank or if one from an Australian bank would be accepted.

I haven’t tried buying through Amazon and using a conversion program such as Calibre, although I have heard it works well for other e-reader owners.

The final option to get around B&N is to try one of the US ‘ship it to me’ agents. I’m not that desperate yet. If the kids can’t play games on my Nook the world won’t end.

I did try buying e-books from another retailer – Waterstones – but again got the message that they couldn’t sell them to me because of regional restrictions, i.e. Australian publishers have rights to certain titles and the market is protected. Which is annoying because sometimes even e-books are cheaper through the US.

So at the moment I am buying books through Australian distributors and downloading from Project Gutenberg. The e-books for purchase are a little more expensive, but not too bad, the gap in price is less than with paper books. I had to download an Adobe exe which does something which didn’t want to work for a bit but seemed to resolved itself with only a bit of swearing from me and now my e-books are safely on the Nook.

So, knowing what I do now would I buy one again (you need to be in the US or UK to do so, they don’t ship outside those countries)? Yes. Absolutely. It is lightweight and easy to use. The battery lasts well and I have a travel converter so that I can charge it from an Australian powerpoint. It doesn’t charge via the USB cord which is annoying but not a deal breaker for me. I can get just as lost in a book, so much so that I still sometimes try to turn the page physically rather than dragging my finger across the screen. It does have little moments where the touch screen is a bit unresponsive but seems to wake up again after a few seconds. All in all I’m quite happy with what is effectively a small tablet which does everything that I need, and it was cheaper than the equivalent Kindle or iPad.

Anyone wanting to compare e-readers or offer hints or tips please feel free to do so either here (for HaT authors) or in comments. I can’t promise much in the way of IT support, but if you have a question I will do my best to anwer it.

Categories: fun & hobbies, technology

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12 replies

  1. Calibre and mobileread are the two essentials IMO. I’ve had a Sony e-ink reader for years and the weeks of battery life is excellent, especially compared to my phablet. Books I get from Tor etc, it’s worth looking around. My suggestion is only buy DRM free epub to avoid hassles (especially the ‘publisher deleted the book off my device’ sort).
    One way round the geography is to buy a visa gift card from the USA, use a VPN to fake being in the USA when you use the card to activate the account. But its a pain and the risk is that if you get caught they will block your device. Yo will probably get better advice about that on the Mobileread forums. I have never used the Sony store with my device, and it doesn’t have 3g or WiFi so I’m not worried.

  2. I bought my Kindle last year from of all places Big W!
    I routinely crack the DRM via calibre not to share or to use elsewhere but so I have a backup.
    I buy from Amazon or load from my PC via USB. The Kindle also suffers from the rights restriction problem, I’ve more than once wanted to buy a book and couldn’t. Although once I tried to buy from iTunes to read on the iPad and couldn’t because it wasn’t available to me, but Amazon sold it to me OK, so no idea what’s happening there!
    Much as I find the Amazon ecosystem troubling, the Kindle does what all computer gear should: allows me to get on with it without getting in the way.
    I do wish the organisation of books on the Kindle was better though. Collections are a very clunky way of managing a lot of books.

  3. Zebee, I find keeping only a few books on the device and managing the collection in calibre works better. I have a few thousand books and only about 100 on the liseuse at a time. There’s a mod that let me delete books once I’ve read them that I find quite handy, and I suspect more modern devices do that out of the box. Although the nook is LCD I think, so dealing with menus and big lists should be easier

  4. I have a Kindle Fire and I love it. Too much so by looking at my credit card statement…

  5. My local library hires out the Kobo pre-loaded with out-of-copyright books, so I took one home for a week to try. Then I saved up and got my own, a Kobo Touch more modern than the library’s push-button clunker, but still with a black-and-white e-ink screen rather than a full-colour fancy job that plays games and everything.
    My research suggested that the Kobo would be the best option for usability and range of supported formats. So far I’ve never tried actually buying a book on it, only downloaded free ones from the Kobo store (Bronte and Conan Doyle will keep me going for a while, plus there are new books which the authors are offering for free at times) but I think it will be possible to get them to accept my money. I’ve also used Calibre to load it with DRM-free ebooks from family’s collections and epub-format fanfic packaged with the AO3’s handy tool.
    My only issue is that sometimes the page-turning is slow to respond and I can’t tell the difference between the touch screen not noticing my finger and the processor being slow to deliver the next page: sometimes I sit waiting for the page to turn when it hasn’t received the instruction at all, and sometimes I touch it again and again and when the processor catches up it moves me on several pages at once.

  6. Mindy – it’s doubtful that a VPN will fix your problems if you don’t fix the CC address issue first. Are you able to create another B&N account with a fake US address but with no credit card details? Then try to use the gift card. At that point you might discover that you need to use a VPN so it also appears that you are coming from the US.
    Zebee – you can change your address for amazon to a US one which gives you access a bigger collection of books. However they are getting a bit smarter about detecting whether you are really in the US or not (you probably need to use a VPN).

    Much as I find the Amazon ecosystem troubling, the Kindle does what all computer gear should: allows me to get on with it without getting in the way.

    I totally agree. I used to buy e-books from other stores, download them to a PC, then upload them up to a generic e-reader. But its so much easier with a kindle (or the kindle app on an iPad which I mostly use).

  7. Thanks Chris I will have to try that.
    Welcome to HaT commenters who haven’t commented before, nice to see you.

  8. Thanks Mindy, I’ve been enjoying reading here for a long time.

  9. I have a very cheap no-name brand e-reader (it’s so bland it doesn’t even have wireless capability) which I currently use mainly to read ebooks from either Project Gutenberg or AO3 (An Archive Of Our Own – a fan-run multi-fandom fanfiction archive). I use Calibre as my management tool of choice, mostly because I’d heard other ebook users sing its praises. For what I need it to do (manage my ebook library, and handle the whole process of copying new files from the computer to the e-reader) it does it very easily.
    Due to various monetary issues (namely, being broke for most of the past few years) I’ve not really looked into buying that many commercial ebooks. However, I’ve had a bit of a dekko around Booktopia locally, and I think if I ever need to be buying commercial ebooks, they’re who I’ll go through, mainly because I just cannot be bothered with the amount of faffing around one would have to do in order to purchase ebooks from the UK or US.

  10. Megpie71 – the two man reasons for buying ebooks from the US are range of titles available (some simply aren’t available as ebooks in Australia) and price as you avoid the “Australia tax” (and that’s not the GST). 50% price differences or more are common. That’s generally worth a bit of faffing around 🙂

  11. You can buy quite a lot of Kindle books from Amazon US as an openly Australian user without the address/credit card/VPN type faffing, just not all of them. (This was a major factor in my joining the Kindle ecosystem.)
    Generally, books that have a separate Australian publishing/distribution deal are less likely to have sold Amazon rights to distribute to Australian users, but many books exist where Amazon US does have the right to sell to Australians. Unfortunately the type of books that have separate Australian distribution deals are precisely those that are of especial interest to the Australian market, so it is rather perverse: as an openly Australian user, you can buy a lot of books from Amazon that aren’t aimed at the Australian market and not as many of those that are.
    Luckily, my tastes run to US-authored (or at least, not very often Australian-authored) non-fiction reading, so it’s pretty rare for me to discover that the book I want for my Kindle is not sold to Australians.

  12. Generally, books that have a separate Australian publishing/distribution deal are less likely to have sold Amazon rights to distribute to Australian users, but many books exist where Amazon US does have the right to sell to Australians.

    Rather annoyingly its not even consistent within a single author’s range of books. I’ve encountered cases where early books in a series weren’t available to Australians or more commonly the most recent titles aren’t. I suspect the publishers do the latter deliberately to boost hardcover sales to Australians who are desperate. It’s what finally pushed me over the edge to using a US address.
    The range of really cheap amateur sci fi books on Amazon is amazing though and they all seem to have worldwide availability. Quality is rather variable though and sadly it appears the rating system is being corrupted by people paying for good reviews.

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