I just received a newsletter from Barnes & Noble trying to drum up pre-orders for their new eBook reader, the Nook. As you can guess by the graphic above, the first thing I noticed was the fucked up line spacing in their promo shot.
The shot on the left was from the newsletter I received. It’s a pretty good shot, and makes the device look attractive, but it sadly falls flat on its face if you actually look at the most important part: the screen. The featured book is Pride and Prejudice (which seems to be a defacto advertising standard for ebook readers…go public domain), and you can clearly see that the line spacing is messed up as the first five paragraphs are all bunched up.
Now, if you look at the screen on the right, you will notice that the line spacing has been corrected. So, I find myself wondering, how will these books actually perform on the device? Is Pride and Prejudice really screwed up, or did somebody notice and fixed it in photoshop? Or, was it just an early prototype that was not rendering correctly?
Based on my experiences trying convert some books to mobi reader format for my kindle, getting the paragraph spacing correct is a bit of a nightmare. I think that ebooks are basically just a compressed markup format, and the styles that get applied are related to the markup used. For example, the equivalent of the <br/> tag always seems to equate to a single line break, rather than a paragraph break regardless of how many you have.
I first came across this when I was converting some essays that were in PDF format. Occasionally my importer would split some paragraphs with two <br/> tags instead of using <p> tags. When this happened, the paragraphs ended up jumbled like the left promo shot. I assume this blunder has put the developers on their toes, and I would expect this to be right before launch.
Generally speaking, I am pretty excited about launch. I love book stores, and haven’t really been in one since I picked up my kindle. And, I really like the idea of having the in store perks for Nook owners. The Nook also has a couple of other interesting features, it looks sexier than the kindle, it supports wifi, has over one million books available, and it supports a replaceable battery. But, it isn’t all rosy.
I am concerned about the lack of qwerty keyboard. Granted, I don’t use it often on my kindle, but when I do, I cannot imagine functioning without. I am wondering if they have some kind of input system using the color touch screen in the bottom. Speaking of which, am I the only one thinking that would be pretty distracting while you’re reading? Hopefully it turns itself off when not active.
The Nook is expected to launch in late November, and should be available in a B&N near you for a test drive. I plan on giving it a once over in person, and with low price of $259 (same as the kindle), it deserves some level of consideration.