Barnes and Noble has released the first e-reader since 2013 with the advent of the Nook Glowlight Plus. This device is the most polished piece of hardware they have ever issued. In a world of cookie cutter black e-readers that look all the same, Barnes and Noble decided to make it white and add little accents to make it stand out in a crowd. Does this e-reader offer a compelling upgrade path for people that have older Nook hardware or encourage former users to switch back to the brand?
The Barnes and Noble Nook Glowlight Plus features a six inch e-Ink Carta display with a resolution of 1430 x 1080 and 300 PPI. This is the first device that the bookseller has ever issued that as a capacitive touchscreen, all of their other models employed Neonode Infrared technology. This is benefiical for users because the screen is flush with the bezel, similar to how your smartphone or tablet functions.
One of the most hyped up features about the Nook Glowlight Plus is that it is completely waterproof. It is IP67 certified, which means you could leave it submerged in fresh water for up to 30 minutes at a maximum depth of 1 meter.
It is important to note that while it is submerged you cannot turn pages or access any sort of touchscreen functionality. So you won’t be able to read in the shower, but is quite ideal for using it in the bathtub. What I like about the waterproof nature is that your e-reader will be immune to coffee or tea or other things being spilled on it.
Underneath the hood is a 1 GHZ processor and an indeterminate amount of RAM. Due to some lag associated in some common touchscreen functions I would surmise it has 512 MB of RAM, instead of 1 GB.
Older Nook devices had 2 GB of internal memory with 512 MB that was reserved for sideloaded content and the rest allocated for the operating system and e-books purchased from the B&N bookstore. This model has 4 GB, with 2 GB reserved for sideloaded content and the rest for Nook content such as e-books, newspapers and magazines.
What I like about this device the most is the capacitive home button built into the bezel, that will allow you to immediately go back to your home screen no matter where you are on the device. Amazon and Kobo exclusively rely on home buttons built into the UI. I also really dig the design, the rounded corners insure that it is not digging into your hands during long reading sessions. Additionally, the back is aluminum which does not have much grip to it, but the front of the bezel has little grooves that makes it easy to hold and does not slide around.
Barnes and Noble has been a company that has always employed Google Android as the core operating system on their entire line of Nook e-Ink readers. They heavily skin it, so you would never really even know. The Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight that was released in 2013 had Android 2.1, but this model has 4.4.
The main user interface of the Nook has not really changed in the last five years. You can access your library, shop, settings and Nook Readouts. At the top left hand side of the screen there is an open book notification that will open the last opened e-book on your device. On the top right hand corner is the current time, how much battery life is available and the illumination icon that opens a slider that can be used to adjust the brightness of the screen.
The front-lit screen is quite different from your smartphone or tablet. It does not emit light from behind the screen, so it is easier on the eyes for longer reading sessions. Instead, there are five LED lights at the top of the screen that is built into the bezel and project light downwards. The Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight and the Nook Glowlight also had illuminated screens but the light had a pale blue hue. The Nook Glowlight Plus on the other hand is more refined, not as great as the Kindle Voyage, but still very good.
One of the big new features on this e-reader is Nook Readouts. This is a system the bookseller unveiled last week for their line of Samsung tablets and their line of apps for Android and iOS. B&N Readouts comprises of book excerpts in popular genres and topics, including Fiction, Romance, Mysteries & Thrillers, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Teen & Young Adult, Lifestyle, Books & Ideas, Science & Tech and Business & Innovation. It also offers customers sneak peeks of upcoming books and special bonus content from authors and publishers. There is also featured articles from a myriad of magazines too, giving you a sense of featured stories, without having to actually download or purchase the entire issue.
Readouts is a program that is so new, its hard to determine if it has much of a future. It will all depend on how many of the articles and interviews result in e-book sales. If sales increase, it is very likely that it will continue for the longer term.
Barnes and Noble has also ported in their popular NOOK Profiles feature, previously available only on the companies line of tablets. NOOK Profiles transforms NOOK GlowLight Plus into any family member’s own e-Reader, where they can access personalized content and recommendations with a quick tap of the screen. Parents will appreciate the ease of setting up profiles for their children with relevant kid-friendly NOOK content for their kids to build a love of chapter books. Setup is intuitive, simple and seamless, and previously created NOOK Profiles will automatically transfer to new devices.
I think on the software level one of the most intuitive aspects is the shopping experience. Barnes and Noble has a very well designed digital bookstore that does not have a million things on the screen to detract from discovering great new titles. They have a bunch of curated sections like romance books, teens and other seasonal themes. Competing bookstores often have locked in sections like Editors Choice or Top 50 books, but Barnes and Noble is always keeping things fresh. Another priority of the shopping experience is to pre-order titles in advance, they even have a dedicated section right on the main shopping page.
Finally, aside from just selling e-books in the Nook Store, they also sell digital magazines and newspapers. Instead of simply being replica editions they strip away all of the custom styling sheets and images and give you an experience much akin to an e-book.
The Nook was designed for a singular purpose, to read e-books. This is not an e-reader you want to buy if you are wanting to borrow books from the library or read PDF files.
Barnes and Noble has tweaked their font and settings menu to mirror their Android and iOS app. You have a eight different options to increase or decrease the size of the fonts and a number of options to change the font type completely. There are a few other settings to change the line spacing or margins, or if you mess up too many things you can enable publishers defaults. What I like about the font options is that it is perfect for people new to e-readers or people who want simplicity.
If you are reading an e-book you purchased from Barnes and Noble or one that you sideloaded this e-reader is perfect. Page turns are very quick and robust with nary a full page refresh to be found. If you want to just read a book, this e-reader is perfect.
This model has some drawbacks though. The screen can be somewhat unresponsive at times, which makes creating notes, highlights and annotations a bit tedious. When you are reading a PDF file you cannot pinch or otherwise zoom. This will prevent you from reading anything that has been customized to be read on a larger screen display.
Barnes and Noble only markets the Nook in the United States and the United Kingdom. These are two English speaking markets and this is quite evident with the Nook Glowlight Plus. There is no other dictionary loaded on the reader other that the default English one and no way to change the settings to appeal to people who speak Spanish or French.
Nook Marketing Challenges
One of the biggest problems facing the Barnes and Noble Nook hardware division is marketing. The company never teases their audience with slow product reveals or sneak peaks. They don’t take pre-orders weeks in advance, in order to build up customer demand. Instead, they keep their loyal Nook users completely in the dark, seldom giving them a reason not to buy something from the competition.
The only marketing strategy that Barnes and Noble currently employs when issuing a new Samsung Tablet or Nook e-Reader is simply issuing a press release. They hope that they will build up buzz sending it off to tech blogs and media outlets. As soon as the press release is sent out, the new devices are immediately available in hundreds of bookstores all over the US.
I wish Barnes and Noble would leverage the very smart people they have working for the company and find a way to build up demand for a new Nook e-Reader, before the device is officially released. Their corporate head office is in New York and I know for a fact that there are at least a handful of journalists based there.
Apple always runs huge media events when they unveil new products. There are hundreds of journalists present to give hands on reviews of the products, months before they officially come out. This gives magazines, newspapers and blogs a chance to integrate the stories into their news cycle. Amazon also runs events, but they are more low-key and subdued affairs. They let handful of handpicked journalists play with the new technology, snap pictures and post videos to YouTube.
What Amazon and Apple do very well is build up demand well in advance. They let people save money to place pre-orders and inform them a very real product will be released soon. It also dominates headlines and helps a new gadget go viral. Barnes and Noble announcing something and releasing it on the same day is counterproductive and not forward thinking.
Barnes and Noble is calling the Nook Glowlight Plus the most lightweight e-reader they ever made, at 6.9 ounces. It is waterproof, dust proof, has a super high resolution screen and incorporates software features never seen on an e-reader before. It has a lifetime in-store warranty, which should build consumer confidence that Barnes and Noble is serious about e-readers again. The overall design is sleek and modern, and forgoes the ridiculous rubber edges from the 2013 model. It is now available for $129.99, with an additional 10% discount for Barnes & Noble Members.
I would recommend this e-reader if you are interested in just reading e-books and not PDF Files. This device would be perfect for people who are casual readers and those of you that live close to a Barnes and Noble bookstore.
In the videos below we provide a full unboxing of the retail packaging and show you everything that comes with the Nook Glowlight Plus. Our hands on review video shows you what it is like reading an e-book, PDF file and digital magazine. You will also see all of the different illumination levels on the front-lit screen in complete darkness and witness how the reader performs with being submerged in water.
High resolution screen
Screen can become unresponsive
No SD card
Lackluster PDF support
Zero support for Adobe Digital Editions
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.