Barnes and Noble's Nook Receives Mixed Reviews

Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader, supposedly experiencing high demand from consumers during the holiday season, received decidedly lackluster reviews from Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal and David Pogue of The New York Times. The influential reviewers, whose articles have the reputation of being able to make or break devices on the market, suggest that the Nook needs substantial tweaks to its software features and offerings if it wants to become a more robust competitor to's Kindle. Barnes & Noble is facing a lawsuit from IT startup Spring Design over the Nook's design, which the latter claims was copied from its Alex e-reader.

The early reviews of Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader are starting to trickle in, and they're not pretty.
"I don't think it's as good as the Kindle, at least not yet," Walt Mossberg wrote in his Wall Street Journal column on Dec. 9. "At launch, the Nook has the feel of a product with great potential that was rushed to market before it was fully ready."

In addition, Mossberg found the Nook to be "slower, more cumbersome to use and less polished than the Kindle." His device also exhibited an undefined number of bugs, and suffered from poorer battery life than the Kindle. On the positive side, however, Mossberg seemed to feel that the Nook's lending feature, which lets one reader transmit an e-book to another for a limited time, was an interesting one; he also assumed that Barnes & Noble would iron out any kinks in the device over the coming months.

The New York Times' David Pogue seems to agree with Mossberg's assessment of the Nook as a device still in need of tweaks.

"Unfortunately, we, the salivating public, might be afflicted with a little holiday disease of our own: Sucker Syndrome," Pogue wrote in his Dec. 9 review of the device. "Every one of the Nook's vaunted distinctions comes fraught with buzz kill footnotes."

Pogue also complained about the device's slowness compared with the Kindle, and how various features-such as the ability to loan e-books to other readers-seemed unfinished.

"Those missing features are symptoms of B&N's bad case of Ship-at-All-Costs-it is. But the biggest one of all is the Nook's half-baked software," Pogue added. "To use the technical term, it's slower than an anesthetized slug in water."

Reviews by Mossberg and Pogue have a reputation of being able to make or break products. In his book "Inside Steve's Brain," an account of Steve Jobs at Apple, author Leander Kahney discusses how Apple-not exactly a company known for expansive interactions with the press outside of carefully orchestrated events-will send the two of them devices well ahead of time for their review.

BusinessWeek's own comparison of the Kindle and Nook also fell along the same lines as the Times and WSJ reviews. In its assessment, the Nook is "slow to boot up ... color screen and Wi-Fi connection drain battery life," while the color touch screen, lending application and ability to browse books for free while in a Barnes & Noble store are definite pluses.

Barnes & Noble has not yet responded to eWEEK's request for a review device. In a brief experience with a demonstration copy of the Nook at the Barnes & Noble location in New York's Union Square, the Nook's form factor felt very similar in the hand to the Kindle, although slightly heavier. It took roughly 2 seconds for the demonstration Nook to flip between pages on its e-ink display, and navigation via its iPhone-like touch screen seemed fairly intuitive. A lack of time with the device, though, prevented a deeper drill-down into its features and any possible problems.

Barnes & Noble has been claiming that, due to heavy preorders, customers who ordered the Nook after Nov. 30 will not receive their devices until early January 2010. Due to that supposedly high demand, Barnes & Noble will only offer a limited number of Nook devices in its bricks-and-mortar stores during the holiday shopping season, although most stores will feature a Nook demonstration device.