Best E-Reader for My Disability: The Nook Color

Photos of the Nook Color courtesy of Barnes & Noble / 2011
Article Highlights:
  • Barbarba Twardowski, who has hand weakness due to Charcot-Marie-Tooth, compared the Nook Color and Kindle, and decided the Nook Color best met her needs.
  • Twardowski found page turning to be easier on the Nook Color than Kindle but wishes the device weighed a little less.
  • Quick and personal customer service for the Nook is a big plus for those who aren’t technologically oriented, Twardowski found.
by Barbara and Jim Twardowski on October 1, 2011 - 8:32am

QUEST Vol. 18, No. 4

Bedtime is when I prefer to curl up with a good book.

Hunching over the hardcover in the dark, I squint and squirm trying to find a comfortable position and read my Book Club’s selection of the month. A lamp would disturb my husband’s slumber, so I use a book light. The tiny beam needs constant adjusting. To save eye strain, I’ve even borrowed the “large type” books from the library. No matter how big the print, I can't read in the dark.

My nighttime habit is taking a toll on my body. As my hands become weaker from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, the books are difficult to hold and heavy. The day after another late-night reading session, my wrist ached and my neck felt as though I needed an alignment.

Maybe, I thought to myself, now is the time to consider buying an e-reader. Several of my fellow Book Club members own e-readers and suggested I buy one too. Call me old-fashioned, but reading a digital book just didn’t appeal to me.

What finally influenced me to try an e-reader was traveling. As I made a packing list for a trip to London, I realized an e-reader was an ideal companion for a trans-Atlantic journey. Between the airline baggage restrictions and my need for an assortment of reading material, the time had come to buy an e-reader.

An e-reader can hold hundreds or even thousands of books. Not that I will ever read that many, but I do like having a selection of four to six, particularly when I travel. Before owning a Nook, it would have been impossible for me to tote half-a-dozen books.

Researching e-readers

There are a variety of devices on the market. Choosing the best one for me took some investigation.

A quick email to my Book Club friends gave me some great insights into what they liked and disliked about their e-readers. Next, I read the reviews on CNET — it’s one of the best sources for technology information.

Finally, I went to the stores to try the products.

The three devices I considered were Apple’s iPad2, Amazon’s Kindle, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color.

Although I find the iPad2 to be amazing, it does much more than an e-reader. The price for this tablet starts at $499. In addition, I would need (OK, want) several accessories (keyboard, camera connection kit, cover) that will add nearly $200 more. Plus, the iPad2 weighs 1.34 pounds and measures more than 9 inches by 7 inches, which isn’t as portable as I’d like.

The Kindle is a highly rated Amazon product. I liked the purse friendly slim design, the easy-on-the-eyes black-and-white screen and the less than $150 price tag. What I didn’t like about the Kindle is the controls for turning the pages. After only a few minutes of reading, my fingers were tired from trying to manipulate the small button. Also, I found using the Internet to be cumbersome.

And the winner is ...

I bought the Nook.

I wanted an affordable e-reader. The Nook with WiFi cost $249. I also bought a $30 cover. Barnes & Noble calls the Nook, which fits into a medium-size purse, “the reader’s tablet.” I like the WiFi function because to download books and magazines to an e-reader, you have to connect to the Internet either through the device or a computer.

Thanks to WiFi, while traveling, I can check my email, surf the Web and read a book. Note: WiFi service means you can connect to the Internet for free wherever WiFi is available, say in a coffee shop or bookstore. Otherwise, a subscription Internet service is required.

The WiFi matters to me because I don't have a cell phone that connects to the Internet. My fingers can't manipulate the small buttons or even use the touchscreen on an iPhone.

Is the Nook the perfect choice in e-readers? Read on to find out what I think.

Pros of the Nook

  • The touchscreen response makes turning pages easy. This is a major advantage for someone with weak fingers. The built-in dictionary allows me to touch a word and see its meaning.
  • Customer services is good. I had problems viewing the Internet and called the 24-hour customer service line. They patiently walked me through the solution. When a new app became available for the Nook, I attempted to download it and failed. The staff at my local Barnes & Noble bookstore did it for me. Every Friday, my local Barnes & Noble offers free lessons on how to use the Nook. The hands-on helpful service has exceeded my expectations. It’s actually fun going to the store and getting tips on using the Nook.
  • Barnes & Noble offers perks for Nook users. Spending hours browsing in a bookstore or library is one of my favorite pastimes. Owners of the Nook can read any book that is offered in an e-reader format for one hour each day in a Barnes & Noble store. Free Fridays is when Barnes & Noble gives away a Nook book. All I have to do is remember to download it.
  • I like the look. The Internet on the Nook looks like it does on my laptop. Magazines look terrific and can be neatly stored on a digital shelf. Turn the Nook sideways, and you can view it in either a portrait or landscape format.
  • It’s for more than just books — the Nook has apps for productivity, fun and learning; a few are preloaded. One of my favorite features is the Pandora Internet Radio.
  • The Nook’s storage can be expanded up to 32GB by adding a microSD card.

Cons of the Nook

  • Weighing in at 15.8 ounces, the Nook is heavier than I would like. Half that weight would be ideal. Generally, I place mine flat on a table to read or prop it on a pillow when I’m in bed. (Barnes & Noble sells a Nook Color case that can stand up.)
  • The battery can remain charged for up to eight hours. However, if the WiFi is turned on, that time is greatly reduced.

E-readers are cool

Adapting to an e-reader was easy. Reading, especially in bed, is much more enjoyable with the Nook. I can enlarge the font size and customize the brightness of the display's backlight.

If I need a new book to read, the “store” is open 24-hours a day. From the comfort of my bed, I can browse the selection and download free sample pages before making a purchase. It’s also possible to download books from the local library. The selection of library e-books is limited, but I’m hoping it grows.

The CNET site has information on turning a Nook Color into an Android-based tablet computer. For $35 to $90 (depending on memory size) the Nook2Android microSD card allows you to check Facebook, play the game Angry Birds, send email and more — including downloading e-books from Amazon, not just Barnes & Noble.

I’m happy with my Nook Color. It’s functional and fun.

Barbara and Jim Twardowski, R.N., are freelance writers living in Mandeville, La. They are frequent Quest contributors.

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