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Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight: in-store impressions

Sat 10th November 2012

After my failed attempt last month (as the Nook had mysteriously been delayed), I managed to see a Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight (man that’s a mouthful, I’ll call it GlowLight from here) in John Lewis today.

I spent a bit of time on holiday this summer reading on a regular Kindle (not touch screen, no keyboard) and thoroughly enjoyed the e-reader experience. Since then I’ve been looking into what’s available on the market. The idea of an e-reader with a built-in light appeals to me, so I am trying to decide between the GlowLight that has just come out in the UK and the Kindle Paperwhite which had been delayed until December.

English: Latest Kindle (2011) showing Esperant...

The version of Kindle I used whilst on holiday

Today was my chance to try out the GlowLight. Unfortunately John Lewis had not thought about the product enough to have somewhere dark to try out the light. Even under shop lights, it looked good enough, though the reports of the light being brighter at the top are true: it is significantly brighter along the top edge of the screen. Whether this is a distraction or not I cannot tell without using it in the dark, but I imagine it might begin to grate.

I did like the feel of the GlowLight. I couldn’t quite tell how heavy it was, as it was tethered to one of those auto-return anti-theft devices, designed to simulate everything feeling 1kg heavier than they are. Despite this, it feels as light as the Kindle and has a nice textured back plate. A number of reviews describe the lip that sits about an inch or so inside the back of the GlowLight as making it very comfortable to hold. While it did seem perfectly placed for me, I’m not sure it was significantly useful. I tried the Kindle Touch that was next to it, and to be honest, they’re both so very light that it doesn’t really make a difference.

What disappointed me most and the GlowLight was the user experience. I was mentally rating it ahead of the Kindle because it has both a touch screen and next/previous page buttons. The touch screen is clearly the superior method of navigating the store and typing on a keyboard, but I felt the page buttons on the Kindle were an extremely easy and comfortable method of changing page. Unfortunately the GlowLights buttons are dreadful. They are a fairly clicky button, hidden under a flexible piece of the bezel, which results in them being hard to press and bad at giving feedback as to whether you’ve actually clicked it. Given the buttons seem to make the GlowLight about half an inch wider than the Kindle, it makes you wonder why they bothered.

In addition to crappy hardware buttons, the GlowLight software is also horrendously slow when doing anything other than changing pages. I believe it is running some version of Android underneath, but I would suggest that maybe that an OS of that sophistication is overkill for an e-reader and is the cause of the sluggish screen refreshes when browsing the book library and navigating the settings menus.

This has made my decision somewhat more difficult. I was hoping the GlowLight would be amazing and I could just ask Santa for one straightaway. However, I have a feeling that I will prefer the overall experience provided by the Paperwhite (better lighting, capacitative touch screen and better software), but am reticent to buy from Amazon after their recent DRM-lockout related behaviour!

Have any of you tried the GlowLight? What did you think of it? Post a comment below to tell me! I think I’m going to wait until December and try a Paperwhite before deciding 🙂

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