Help with a new nook
December 3, 2010 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Give me your best tips and tricks for the nook!

My teenage daughter is getting a Barnes & Noble nook for her birthday this weekend. This will be the first e-book reader for our family. I looked it over and set it up for her, but there wasn't a lot of documentation, so I am looking for some tips and tricks to help her make the most of it.

I am looking for advice on both usability and content.

posted by I am the Walrus to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Be certain to keep abreast of firmware updates. This most recent update (only about a week old) improves pretty much everything about the reader - faster page turns, better battery life, browser tweaks, improved organization, et-cetera. The updates are automatic so long as you "Check for new B&N Content" or somesuch, but if you're like me and don't do that very much because you don't buy much directly from B&N you might miss it.

On a related note, take full advantage of the public domain. There are countless "free ebook" sites out there of varying quality. Project Gutenberg and Google Books are particularly phenomenal, and there's something really cool about having a ton of classic texts handy at any time. (Though IANATG - I am not a teenage girl - so I may be mistaken, and having a ton of classic texts may be the lamest thing ever.)
posted by Rallon at 11:55 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, check to see if your local library has eBooks available for checkout! Mine does, and it was one of the reasons why I went with a Sony Reader instead of a Kindle, since their system doesn't support Kindle use. With the system my library uses, you have to download some special (free) software to grant your eReader access, so you might want to pre-emptively install it now so it's ready to go when she receives the gift.
posted by scarykarrey at 11:59 AM on December 3, 2010

I just got a nookColor and really like it. In 2 weeks I've read more long style fiction / non-fiction than I have in the last 5 years!

I've signed up with the local library for ebooks and have found that to be an excellent source of good things to read.

Since I have the nookColor I moved a bunch of photos to it to use as a slide show to show off the baby to relatives.

I signed up for the nook developer program which will allow me to create or port new applications to it (may not work for classic nook)

Get a label maker and label it with your name and phone number. Everyone I know goes throw multiple Kindles / Nooks since they are small enough to leave behind on the bus or plane.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:10 PM on December 3, 2010

Yay nook! I love my nook.

First thing's first, a book light and some kind of cover are absolutely indispensable. Seconding to make sure you keep up with firmware upgrades--every time someone complains about the nook's page turn time I know they're working with firmware about three revisions old.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:45 PM on December 3, 2010

Response by poster: I bought her a book to encourage her to use it, and got the latest firmware. How often do they do updates?
posted by I am the Walrus at 12:59 PM on December 3, 2010

Response by poster: although looking at it now, I see this particular book was $6.29 online for a dead tree version (free shipping with my membership), but I paid $6.99 for the electronic version.


Do they do electronic returns?
posted by I am the Walrus at 1:01 PM on December 3, 2010

It happens. Ebook pricing is independent of dead tree pricing.

A good thing to know: you can download a sample of any nookbook for free. These will usually be 30 pages or so, and will help your daughter decide if she wants to buy/read the whole thing (warning: this is addictive. I buy . . . lots of books these days. Though I sample way more). You should also check out their deals under $5 page. If she likes paranormal stuff, Evermore, Need and Marked are all pretty popular teen reads (in fact, if you want a whole list of recommendations for her, I'd be happy to chew your ear off via MeMail) that you can get for less than $5.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:11 PM on December 3, 2010

There is also a bunch of FREE ebooks on the BN site.

Most are crap but there are some good ones there (like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies)

It's a good way to get a bunch of good books there quickly (though I found the libraries free ebooks to have a better selection)
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:15 PM on December 3, 2010

NookDevs has anything you need to know about hacking/rooting the old nook. You can run Pandora on it, which is pretty awesome.
posted by lattiboy at 1:57 PM on December 3, 2010

I am the Walrus Re: pricing. That, plus looming obsolescence with the rise of tablet computing, is what I've yet to buy a dedicated ebook reader. And mostly that, I'd have no trouble buying a dedicated ebook reader, even knowing that it would be as obsolescent as a PDA in 5 or so years, if it weren't for the horrible pricing.

I hate feeling like a sucker, and paying more for an ebook than I would for a paperback makes me feel like a sucker. Ebooks should be around 20% less than paperbacks, as around 20% of the price of a paperback is in the shipping, printing, and other costs associated with dead tree format.

Mostly I read the free stuff, what few titles I can find that don't have pricing designed to make me feel like a sucker, or pirated ebook copies of books I already physically own. Can't say I feel even slightly bad about that last.
posted by sotonohito at 2:41 PM on December 3, 2010

I know this might be too late, but I would avoid the nook color in favor of the original nook. They are 2 different products aimed at different markets that unfortunately share the same name.

Nook original is an e-reader. It uses the eInk technology. This produces very paper like images that are not backlit (you need to read with a source of light behind you). This style is much easier on the eyes.

Nook color is a PDA. It shares the market with the apple Ipad. It is a color backlit device that has an ereader, but is also designed for apps/games/web browser. Many people complain that these backlit devices cause the reader a headache during prolonged reading sessions. I agree, have you ever tried to really read long hours on a computer monitor. Your eyes have to take a break after a while.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 3:34 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I love my nook too.
1) the web browser is kind of useless, except for sites that are almost all plain text (like MeFi!)
2) Software updates are mostly automatic, and the last two were about 6-7 months apart. they're usually minor improvements like faster page turns, not too big a deal.
3) Whoever registers the nook to a BN account will get regular emails about nookbook sales, freebies, etc. Beware: while an ereader promotes more reading, it also can lead to more impulse-buying.
4) the big price break will be on new books in hardcover vs their ebook equivalents - often the ebook costs half as much. Older ebooks (trashy paperback novels, etc) often aren't any cheaper than the paper versions; you're better off hitting the used bookstore for that stuff.
5) the manual is actually a preinstalled ebook that came with it, Using your Nook.
6) see that for 'sideloading', which is how you'll get anything other than BN ebooks onto it.
My Library = ebooks bought from BN / My Documents = anything you sideloaded onto it yourself
7) You can get TONS or reading material for free. See your local library first, then check any of everal websites. Basically anything that's out of copyright (old fiction, classics, etc) is legit as a free ebook. Or any other text that you can convert to PDF or ePub format.
Personally, I like (broad searchable selection, but heavy on the pulp fiction and classical literature side) as my free bookstore. If she's a techie and or feels like an oppressed teen in a scary world, I'd recommend Cory Doctorow's 'Little Brother' as her first free ebook to load.
8) You can laso load mp3s, so you can play mp3 audiobooks or music. It's too bulky to use as an iPod or anything, but she can load a couple of albums and use them and some earbuds to tune everything else out as she's reading (you can read and listen at the same time); I like to read to classical sometimes.
9) She's not restricted to just her nook for reading the things she's purchased from BN. There are nook apps for PC, Mac, Android, iPhone and Blackberry, and most can figure out where you left off on your nook and pick up on the other device.
10) if she's not the only nook owner in the family, you can lend each other BN purchased ebooks - no need to all re-buy.

There's also something called NookStudy, where many textbooks are now being made avaialble in electronic format. Might be worth investigating.
posted by bartleby at 3:47 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

(Disclosure: I work at B&N, but I also own a 3G/WiFi e-ink NOOK)

First, I'd suggest perusing some of the stickied threads and use the search function on the boards of, found here. There are lots of neat little tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your NOOK.

If you have an e-ink NOOK, I'd suggest figuring out the mobile versions of your favorite websites; since they are graphics-lite and designed for efficiency, they actually work quite well on the e-ink web browser. "" is a good starting point, but most web-based email and things like Google Calendar, Reader, etc also function well with their mobile versions.

As someone mentioned with the pricing, B&N, Amazon, etc, don't get much of a say in the pricing of e-books. Many publishers, authors, and the estates of authors haven't warmed up to it yet, so you'll find some e-book prices equal to, if not greater than the "dead-tree" versions. E.g., Rand's "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" are about $18.99, less than half for the printed mass markets.

I suggest using Inkmesh to help shop around. It'll list all the websites that offer a specific title and the price they offer it at. Obviously you've got to ignore listings from Amazon, but websites like and will offer an opportunity for price comparison.

In addition to sites like, Google Books and Project Gutenberg, which offer numerous free ebooks in the epub or pdf formats, give a check once in a while to the publisher/imprints of your favorite authors/genres (e.g., for Sci-Fi). They often offer free e-books or free short-stories taken from newly released mythologies, or at least free samples. I've noticed many publishers and authors that have lots of books in a series are reducing the price of Book 1, if not making it free, to encourage interest in the series.

As for software updates, we expect them quarterly, and that seems to be the pattern so far. Many of the biggest requests from users on the forums were integrated into the new 1.5 software update for the e-ink nooks. Since there was just a new one rolled out, I'd imagine there'll be another around late Feb until late March, when retails slow down prior to the Mother's Day push.

I hope you enjoy it! With a cover that makes it feel like a hardcover book in my hand, my transition to include e-reading in my reading habits has resulted in me reading more than I did before. You and your daughter will find it much easier to get used to than is reputed.
posted by Angulimala at 4:45 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Software updates aren't frequent (but any Nook owners reading this, be sure to get on 1.5 -- page turns are much faster.)

Everyone seems to love Calibre for ebook management. I like it, but haven't tried alternatives.

I set a custom wallpaper and screensaver with an image of just the text "If lost, please return to [my contact info]". I'm a little surprised they don't provide that functionality more directly.

I've found the battery life somewhat disappointing, despite keeping it in airplane mode all the time. If my experience is characteristic, expect to charge it regularly.

She'll want some sort of a cover. With a 5¢ hardcover from a library book sale, an x-acto knife, and glue, I made my own.

Instapaper + Instasaver makes saving and converting web content for later ereader reading quick and easy. has lots and lots of free books, mostly from Project Gutenberg, available in epub (and other formats.) You can check their popular books, recent additions, or user reviews. I've found Leah Zeldes' recommendations useful.

I've found the Nook well worth it just to have a good way to read freely available things, and have found those to be more than enough to occupy me -- you don't have to spend a lot on ebooks. (I have yet to spend anything and still have dozens of things on it I'm looking forward to getting to.)
posted by Zed at 4:50 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

If I could nth Instapaper a billion times, I would. Instapaper is pretty amazing, and I use it with my Kindle all the time. In fact, Instapaper is what sold me on an e-reader in the first place.
posted by gc at 9:08 AM on December 4, 2010

My husband and I received nooks as early Christmas presents. He has a NookColor, I have a B&W nook.

If other family members get nooks, you don't even need to use the intrinsic lending technology -- you can just have multiple nooks registered to the same account.

The pricing of books will be frustrating if you're constantly comparing it to paperbacks and what it "should" cost. I instead think of any additional marginal cost as representing the convenience of carrying an e-reader in my purse instead of any of the massive books which are loaded on it. Though, most of the loaded books came from Project Gutenberg.

There are "Free Fridays" under the "Daily" tab on the B&W Nook (I haven't found it on my husband's nook color). It's usually one classic and one heavily promoted series book available free. I purchase the classics "for free" despite them being out of copyright, because they come with introductions and are often newer translations than are available on Project Gutenberg.

Beware of the many other "Free" books available in the Nook shop. A lot of them are Google Books scanned and OCRed with no quality control. My husband and I downloaded a raft of those, and, once we looked at them, immediately deleted them. Going through a place like Project Gutenberg is the way to go.

Project Gutenberg, Project Gutenberg, Project Gutenberg.
posted by endless_forms at 10:20 AM on December 4, 2010

Oh, and: I have found that the .pdf technology for the B&W is unusable for my purposes -- reading scientific journal articles. I wasn't relying on that functionality, but it really is quite bad. .pdfs work great on my husband's nook color, however.
posted by endless_forms at 10:22 AM on December 4, 2010

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