Running... Again?

  If you know me you know there was a time about 10 years ago or so where I was running. A lot. At least 5 days a week and at least 5 miles a run. I wasn’t training, I wasn’t preparing for a race or a marathon. I just found myself enjoying the time spent running. I wasn’t obsessed with numbers, but I kept track of them all and liked seeing improvements in time and distances. It was good physical health and mental health. Then I tweaked my knee. Not bad enough that I couldn’t walk on it, just a tweak that told me I needed to back off of running for a little bit. So I decided on 2 weeks. At the end of 2 weeks I aborted a run very early as the pain was still there. 2 weeks became 3, became a month, became 5 years. 

The Nook

This has been a long time coming, especially since I talked about it for awhile leading up to the iPad reveal. Honestly it took me a while to really get used to it before I felt comfortable giving my 2 cents about it, and I probably wouldn't be so happy about it if I wasn't using a companion piece of software which I'll highlight tomorrow, Calibre. So, do I like my nook? Yes!
The nook, if you're not familiar, is Barnes and Noble's answer to Amazon's Kindle e-reader. For the record I looked at the Kindle but that Tic-Tac like keyboard really annoyed me. The nook also runs on the openly available Android Google operating system. This appealed to me as a chance for some developers to potentially write other programs for it, and sure enough there are places where you can download programs for your nook, though with B&N's most recent software update I'm not really feeling the need to do it. More on that later.
The nook has 2 displays; a large-ish e-ink display which only displays in black and white, and a small LCD display that you use to navigate around the nook. And incase you're wondering, "nook" is spelled with the lowercase n. The LCD is a touchscreen, following what's all the rage in personal devices from phones to cameras to computers. I'm a fan of touchscreen technology done right, and the nook honestly just isn't as right as say my PrÄ“ or an iPhone. Scrolling in particular wasn't quite as nice, but once you get the hang of it it works well enough and since I'm not often needing to scroll around much I don't notice it much. I will say, even though I knew the top screen isn't a touch screen I did find myself touching I've still found myself reaching up to touch it to interact with the settings or book at the beginning.
The LCD houses the menu system which has the Daily (a handful of blogs by B&N and any newspaper subscriptions you have), my library (my books separated by books purchased through B&N and books I side-loaded onto the nook), shop (B&N online), reading now (takes you to the last place you were reading in the last book or newspaper you had open), games (as of 1.3 software with sudoku and chess), wi-fi (quick access to wi-fi and airplane mode), audio (a basic mp3 player), web (another 1.3 addition with a "if I had no other gadget to access the internet I guess I'd use this" browser), and settings.
Reading on the nook is great. It feels comfortable in the hand and you can change pages using either the buttons located on both sides of the e-ink screen or swiping on the LCD screen. Page turn, which seems to be the speed metric for e-readers, is fine for me, though I'll admit the software revisions (I've seen 2 since owning the nook) have steadily improved this. I've not had the chance to compare it to other devices, but it's my understanding that it's a smidgen slower than the Kindle. It doesn't annoy me one bit, and once you've read enough you can time when to make a page turn so it's a little quicker. 
Books are stored either on the 2gigabytes of storage built into the device, or on a micro-sd card which can come in sizes as large as 32 gigabytes. The nook can read epub files (same as iPad) and books from the B&N store come in a DRM'd epub format. It can also read PDB and PDF files, along with JPG files for use as screen savers or wall papers and MP3s for the MP3 player. I will say that PDF is kind of hit or miss depending on how the PDF was made and isn't really the fault of the nook. More about file types later.
So how often am I using my nook? All the time. Taking a break from work? I pull the nook out hit the "reading now" button and I'm in my book. So I'd say I'm using it a lot for both quick stints and longer periods. It's also pretty cool to have a number of books on the nook so I can easily ready multiple books at a time, or keep a library of books to be read on the nook without having to haul them all around. I would also say the amount of reading I'm doing has increased because it's just so easy to get books and read them.
A quick word about e-book pricing; I got to the party late. With Apple's foray into e-books with the iPad pricing has been pretty volatile. I've seen prices differ by $10 or more dollars from week to week in the same store, or between different stores. The day of picking up a New York Times Best Seller for under $10 seem to be behind us, for now at least. But the nice thing about the nook is that even though it easily connects with the B&N book store, you can purchase books from other sources such as kobo, or anyone else that supplies books in epub format with or without Adobe DRM. B&N seems to have a weekly free e-book, and has access to Google Books natively through the B&N store. Google Books are primarily scanned copies of out of copyright books (classics) that can have questionable quality sometimes. Also, if you know where to get free movies and music, you probably know how to get free e-books. 
Loading books purchased from other sources is pretty easy, though not quite iPod/iPhone easy. Connecting the nook to the USB cable provided you just drag the book file to the my documents folder in the nook. There's no software included to manage your books and media, which is fine for the first couple books you get, but as your library increases some kind of management is needed. Unfortunately the nook doesn't have much in the way of on device management. You can sort books by author, title, or date. This is maybe the worst point of the software because if you have a large on device library you are limited in how you get to the book you want and will find yourself paging through a list of books. This shortcoming changed how many books I keep on the nook to a reasonable number and hope a future revision will allow me to group books in some kind of folder structure. That's where a computer software management system comes in handy.
Calibre is an open source book management/conversion program that works directly with the nook. With over 300 e-books on my computer Calibre can easily sort them and keep track of what I've read, because nothing's worse than starting a book you're excited about only to realize after the first few pages you've already read it. I'm ging to go more in-depth about Calibre in another post, but I think it's fair to say that without it I might not be as happy with the nook as I am. 


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