why i own a kindle and a nook

I've owned a Kindle for a year and a half, and I use it many times a day. (I won't say I love it – people who declare that they love inanimate objects creep me out – but I do like it.)

Much to the dismay of Amazon, however, I buy very few books. The main things I use the Kindle for are:

1) Editing. Instead of printing out multiple drafts of the things I write, as I used to, I now load the drafts on the Kindle, mark them up with comments, go back to the computer to make edits, and then go around again. It's wonderful for this purpose. (Later: Also, having the Kindle read drafts aloud to me with Text-to-Speech is invaluable for finding small glitches of various kinds.)

2) I get the New York Times every day. This is, by the way, the best way to read the Times every day – better than print and better than the web (the web is better for research – but the Kindle subscription includes full web access).

3) Books which are out of copyright are often available for pretty much nothing. The entire Sherlock Holmes canon, all of the Philo Vance novels, novels by Henry James, plays by George Bernard Shaw, all available for around a dollar or less (often for free). You can't beat that.

4) The included browser is fine for quick checks of email and approving blog posts.

But I did think, given how much I like the Kindle, that a real tablet might be good, too. So, I bought a Kindle Fire, which was a disaster.

It had two main problems. One was that the interface is badly designed. It was never possible to figure out which things on the screen should be tapped and which were just for show. Unfortunately, this went along with the other main problem, which was that the touch screen was terrible. So, I spent a lot of time tapping things and producing no results, never knowing whether the thing I was tapping unsuccessfully was not actually tappable, or whether the problem was the lousy touch screen.

So, this was pretty much my week with the Kindle Fire:


Tap tap.

Tap tap tap taptap TapTap TAP!

TAP!!! TAP!!! TAP!!!

[Muffled cursing]

So, I returned it and got my money back.

But a tablet was still appealing (there are advantages to a real browser, for one thing – the one in the Kindle is pretty much like browsing the web under DOS). And Barnes & Noble lowered the price of their Nook Color when the fancier Nook Tablet came out, so that it was the same price as the Kindle Fire.

So, I went to Staples and tried one, and I figured out more about it in a couple of minutes than I had about the Fire in a week. Plus the touch screen actually responded when you touched it. Nice.

So, I went to Barnes & Noble and asked the guy in the Nook store a few questions, and then I bought me a Nook Color.

It has disadvantages compared to what I'd hoped the Kindle Fire would be, since obviously it's not connected to all of my Amazon content, but it works and works well. I can browse the web, and load my own documents on it and edit them, and it even has an email client (which the Kindle Fire doesn't, though you can download one). You can upload and download files (which I never figured out how to do with the Fire). Some things are still tricky, but maybe I just haven't figure out how to do them yet.

The Nook Color will not replace my Kindle, though. For one thing, I'm a confirmed fan of e-ink. It's far easier to read for long periods than a computer screen. Also, the Kindle has a free 3G connection (beware: the newer ones restrict this), but the Nook Color only has wifi. But so far the Nook is quite satisfactory.

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