Barnes and Noble has just released their first entry level e-reader in a very long time. The Nook Glowlight 4e is a great device that only costs $119 and is sold in over 600 bookstores in the United States. This gives people the people the opportunity to try before you buy and get customer service right in the store. If anything goes wrong it is as easy as driving to the local bookstore and swap it out for a new one or just get a refund. This whole situation cannot be understated because they are the only company that makes their own products and sells it online and in their stores.
Amazon and Kobo have retail visibility in the United States too. Kobo is sold in hundreds of Walmart locations, but the devices are normally out of battery, and the staff are not trained on the products. It is easier to buy it online. The Amazon Kindle is mainly sold online, however you can find display models at various Best Buy and Target locations, but not every store has them on display, but it is easier to buy online. You can see how Nook has the major advantage, all stores have them in stock and staff are trained on all of the e-readers and tablets, so it is easy to have your questions addressed.
If you have had a Nook e-reader in the past and it is more then 4-5 years old, should you buy this model? If you have fled the ecosystem due to the changing tides of the e-reader landscape, is this a good time to revisit the Nook?
The Nook Glowlight 4e features a 6 inch E INK Carta HD display with a resolution of 1024×758 and 212 PPI. It has as sunken screen and bezel design, which makes text really pop. The vast majority of e-readers on the market have a flush screen and bezel with glass. Glass based screens tend to reflect the sun or overhead lights, whereas the Nook can handle all lighting conditions with ease. This is because e-paper absorbs light. It also comes with a built-in anti-glare screen protector, as well. There is a series of white and amber LED lights that project light evenly across the screen.
Underneath the hood is an Allwinner B300 quadcore 1.5 GHZ CPU processor, 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. You will be able to charge the reader with a USB-C cable, It has Bluetooth 5.1 and WIFI 802.11 b/g/n to connect to the online bookstore, to purchase and download ebooks. Barnes and Noble has hotspots in all of their bookstores, which you can also connect to free of charge.
The Nook has the ability to sideload in your own personal collection of digital content. It officially supports EPUB and PDF, you can also buy ebooks from other bookstores in these two formats and load them in via Adobe Digital Editions, since both formats handle digital rights management (DRM.) You can also borrow books from the public library with Overdrive, you would download them from the Overdrive website to your computer and then use Adobe Digital Editions to then sideload them to the Nook. You should get around four weeks of usage, thanks to the 1400 mAh battery.
The Glowlight 4e is based on the same design and housing as the Glowlight 4 and all of the accessories for both models are interchangeable. They have made some sacrifices to make this $30 cheaper. The resolution on the Glowlight 4 is 300 PPI, so text is sharper, which does make a difference during long reading sessions. The internal storage is also different, the Nook Glowlight 4 has 32B, whereas the 4e has 8GB. This is not that bid of a deal, because even 8Gb can store thousands of books purchased from Barnes and Noble, which for your average reader, they will never run out of books to read. The 4e also does not have warm lighting, only a front-lit dispaly. This is not a product aimed at hardcore readers, but at the average person who has never owned an e-reader before and wants to invest in a well established digital ecosystem, owned by a bookstore they know and trust.
Software and UI
The Barnes and Noble Nook line of digital readers has always employed Google Android for their operating system and the Nook Glowlight 4e is using Android 8.1. They have a heavily skinned UI, so the vast majority of users would never know what the OS really is. Since it is using Android, performance has always been a bit of a drawback, since there is no speed modes to enhance the user experience. Software has a whole, as been one of the things that has always suffered on the Nook brand, firmware updates and enhancements are always few and far between. You cannot sideload apps or even surf the internet on this e-reader, you can just buy and read books.
The main home screen comprises of just a few different elements. The first is New and Recent in My Library, which has the latest books you have purchased from Barnes and Noble. There are a few books you bought or have sideloaded, in addition to a few recommendations. Underneath this is Recommended for You. These tiles are based on your purchase history, in addition to a few titles the bookstore is promoting. All of the books basically just show the book cover art and they are all bright and large, so it is easy to see the image, author and title. It is possible to swipe and gesture to see more titles, you can also click on the manual page buttons to see all of the titles. I like this better than the Amazon approach which packs so many recommended books on the home screen, that it has a scrollbar. The Nook doesn’t pack too many things, just enough.
Let’s talk about the major navigation elements. The library button will take you to the main screen where all of your content is listed. By default, it shows everything you have ever downloaded. This will include ebooks, magazines, newspapers and PDF files. You can just have it display specific content or establish collections. Collections are important if you have a huge collection. You can make genre-based ones, or books by a particular author. When you make a collection, it will bring you back to the library screen where you can tap on all of the books you want moved to the collection. You can also sort by cover art or list view.
The Store looks really good on the 6 inch screen, nothing is condensed and it is organized properly. There is an image carousel near the top of the screens, which shows cover art based on ebooks the Nook editors are showcasing. Beneath that are a bunch of text-based bars that will take you to dedicated sub-sections. This includes New York Times Best Sellers, Nook Bestsellers, Nook editors’ picks, and others like Romance, Erotica and Autobiographical. When you click on a book to find out more information there are options to purchase, download a sample, or place a pre-order. By default, it lists the book data by the publisher and also has a few tabs that show reviews written by readers, recommended reads based on the book and book details, such as the number of pages.
Barnes and Noble Nook Readouts is a digital news platform, where everyday a series of interviews and book reviews are made available. There is a section in the platform called Serial Reads, which is basically serialized fiction, available to be read for free. However, the serialized novels do expire after a certain period of time, typically every couple of weeks. Every Friday there are a few ebooks given away for free. The Search feature basically allows you to type in an author’s name, or book title and it either loads it in your library if you own it, or calls up the store listing. You can also check out the Nook Twitter account for more information on Freebie Friday, it is actually the best Twitter account in the bookselling business.
If you tap on the center of the top screen you will get a little dropdown menu. You will be able to establish a WIFI network or connect to a hotspot. Here is where you can adjust the front-lit display, which has a series of white LED lights. There is no color temperature system on this model, or what’s known has warm lightning. I have noticed that if you jack up the brightness to the max, the screen has a blue hue, so I would recommend keeping it at half-brightness. It also displays battery life in the top right corner and the strength of your WIFI.
The Nook primarily supports two formats for delivering books purchased from the bookstore or sideloaded onto your reader – EPUB and PDF. The bookseller delivers books, magazines, manga and newspapers all in EPUB, which has some great features to make reading great. If you plan on sideloading in any book files there is only 2GB of storage that is allocated for it, so you can’t use the entire storage for your personal book collection.
When it comes to reading ebooks, this device has a number of preloaded fonts to choose from. They are Mundo Sans, Baskerville, Georgia, Ascender Sans, Malabar and Joanna Sans. You can also select Publisher Default, which displays the font selected by the publisher, but not all publishers have a recommend font in their metadata. Line Spacing has three different selections; Single, 1.5 and Double Spacing. The margins also have three options – Narrow, Medium and Wide. There is a font selection system, it basically has -A and +A and whenever you make the font smaller or larger it happens live on the screen. Tapping the top right corner of any book you are reading will bookmark it. There are 3 dots in any open book, you can create additional bookmarks, jump to a page, find in book and view book details, such as a description of it.
When reading a book, the best way you can turn pages is with the manual page turn buttons. This device is great for right and lefthanded users, since the buttons on are each side. Whether you swipe, tap or use the buttons, page turn speed is lighting fast with no full page refreshes. There also isn’t any ghosting, or text superimposed on each other the more you turn pages. If you hold down on the page turn button, you will rapidly turn pages.
If you long press on a specific keyword a popup will appear on the bottom of the screen, this will define the word with the built-in dictionary. There are also options to highlight, copy and search for text.
Reading magazines on the Nook Glowlight 4e is actually really good. Barnes and Noble does something very interesting with their entire magazine selection. They break all the text down so it is like reading an ebook, instead of a replica PDF file. The first screen is basically a picture with some text outlining what the article is about and the next few pages is just pure text, which you can augment to make larger or smaller. What they are doing is basically stripping away all of the CSS elements and just giving you images and pure text.
Manga purchased from B&N is also delivered in EPUB and is excellent to read. The panels take up the whole screen, so there is little need to pinch and zoom. This is due to the company basically optimizing the files for six inch screens, which are basically encompasses all of their e-readers and also smartphones on Android and iOS. You can use the buttons to turn pages. I would not recommend to sideload in manga files that are in the PDF format, since there will be optimization issues. It will leave lots of negative space all over the manga and it will be centered on the screen, making text and images hard to see and read.
The Barnes and Noble Nook Glowlight 4e primarily competes against the Amazon Kindle Basic and the Kobo Nia in North America. All of these e-readers are more or less the same. They are designed for people who are new to reading ebooks and want to give it a go, without spending a lot of money. They are also good gifts to give to the reader in your family for birthdays or holidays. None of them have 300 PPI or have advanced features that more expensive models have, but they are all affordable.
The Nook Glowlight is a very sold e-reader for customers who live in the United States, which is where it is marketed. You can only buy from the B&N website or in one of their bookstores. You can buy it internationally through Good e-Reader and have it delivered anywhere in the world. The only you have to bear in mind is when you register for a Nook account that you use a US address and billing number. You can look up art galleries or other things. Nothing will ever be sent there, since all of the billing and purchase information is only sent to your email address and all content directly to your e-reader, all you need to do is just use your credit card like normal.
Barnes and Noble has been in the e-reader and ebook game since 2009. They are one of the largest companies in the world and have a stronger presence in the book market than Google or Apple. I think what really helps the brand as a whole, is their bookstores. They sell physical books and periodical’s and also digital versions. They are the only ones that have this type of approach. They promote reading, no matter how you do it. Whether you like the tectonic feel of a real book in your hands and love having them proudly displayed on your bookshelf or read digitally on the phone, tablet or reader. Reading is important and I feel B&N is entirely unique in this regard.
Barnes and Noble Nook Glowlight 4e$139.99
- Well Designed
- Expansive ecosystem of books, magazines and manga
- Physical page turn buttons
- Nook Readouts gives free books and serial fiction
- Can try before you buy
- No SD Card
- Only 3.5GB of storage available
- Marketed in the US only
- No 300 PPI screen
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.