Barnes & Noble Reader

Notice: While I was doing some last minute fact checking on the Barnes & Noble Reader, I stumbled onto something so astonishing you won’t believe it. I don’t have time to post it today, but I promise that tomorrow I will post and exposé that will blow the lid of Bible sales.

So check back tomorrow.


I mean it.

Bottom line readers will probably just download the Barnes & Noble Reader and check it out themselves rather than taking time to read this review. Well, more likely they’ll delegate the task of downloading to someone else. But just in case, the BN Reader:

  • Has real page numbers
  • Has great note taking and research tools
  • Offers fairly sophisticated search options

Jenny wants me to point out a couple of problems:

  • Some books default to two column mode in landscape view
  • I had problems actually buying books I sampled
  • Not nearly as many Bibles as the Kindle Reader, which Joy Behar and Whoopie wouldn’t care so much about, but Elizabeth probably would.
  • She’s really getting bored with reviewing ereaders and wants me to move onto something more exciting to cats.

In addition, I discuss how to use your iPad to make yourself look smarter than you really are (although if you’re smart enough to use these tricks, you may be smarter than you think), why this could really be useful to college students who keep missing the classes their parents pay for, and why cats don’t need to read.

In the other corner, Barnes and Noble

After two months, Barnes and Noble finally released their reader application (BN Reader). This put them at a serious disadvantage with Kindle, who was ready to go (and completely stable) the day the iPad released. Given the impressive interface and features list, I think it could quickly bump iBooks to third on the list of competitors.

When I first reviewed the Kindle a week or so ago I thought it would probably hold a strong advantage over the BN Reader. Having had a couple of weeks to look at the new app, I’m no longer so sure. My comfort zone remains with the Kindle, but the prices in their stores seem to be identical, and they seem to carry a good number of titles in common. In the meantime, BN Reader seems a little bit slicker.

I should also say that I have criticized developers in the past for rushing an app to market before it was ready, and I think an app this rich and this stable made the wait worthwhile.

In a feature by feature comparison, I have to lean toward the BN Reader. In fact, since the reader has been released, Amazon has announced that it will be adding competitive features to Kindle. So they may be worried that other readers will think the same thing.

Personally, I think the feature that will have the least cerebral and probably most immediate appeal will be:

Real pagination

That’s right, you can actually see the page numbers of the book, instead of a wonky paragraph systems like the Kindle. You can even thumb through the book by dragging the page number.

You can zip through the book with real page numbers

This may seem like a silly thing, and in a way it is. After all, digital books aren’t real books. There are no pages, just the illusion of pages. And the number of pages listed at the bottom of the illusion will change if you change the type size preferences.

Still there’s something comforting about knowing you’re on page 120 of page 650. It’s far more meaningful to people raised on books than a number like “415-420 … 12%.”

Kindle’s rather puzzling page guide

Elegant note taking and research tools

BN Reader really went all-out with the interface, providing you with a number of note taking options including the ability to highlight, type notes to yourself, look up words in the internal dictionary as well as pursue them as topics online. Since the internal dictionaries seem to be more basic than the iPad spell check, you can also look up words online.

You can even look up words

The note taking window is fairly large, allowing you to see the full text of brief notes.

The notes feature

You might wonder why you would need to take notes in a book. If you are wondering this, you’ve never been to college. Or you went but graduated without taking advantage of the educational offerings.
More important than helping you leann, however, note taking lets people know how smart you are. I learned this trick from some of the best faux smart people in the world. (See, that was another trick, throwing in the word “faux”).

You highlight passages at random in the book and then type in significant sounding notes, like, “Clearly the author is unable to accept the consequences of his own thinking.” Then you bookmark one of those pages. When you show off your iPad, you open that book to the bookmarked page. You even show the notes search bar and say, “See, you can spot all your notes at a glance.”

This trick is useful for students whose parents are paying their way through college. Especially the ones who forget to go to class (which is about half of freshmen by the way). Not only that, you can hit them up for the cost of an iPad as a school expense along with your iPhone and Mac Book Pro. Once they’ve bought a laptop and all your other stuff, another six or seven hundred will seem like nothing.

As an added bonus, you can compose notes to your current boyfriend or girlfriend in class. It beats carrying a heavy laptop around, and your professor will think you’re really paying attention. Then, after class, just copy and paste the notes into your text messenger.

I guess this is a circuitous way of saying (notice the word “circuitous;” see how easy it is to look smart?), some people like to write in their books, or e-books wouldn’t have a notes feature.

Excellent search features

The BN reader has several search features that allow you to track a word or phrase’s location through the book, your notes, bookmarks and chapter locations. You can even see the entire table of contents in a popup window so you don’t have to leave the page you’re on.

You can browse your notes and bookmarks while you read

You can even check the table of contents
without leaving your place in the book.

To search for a word or phrase, click on the magnifying glass and type your entry. The BN Reader search seems blisteringly fast.

BN Reader’s search window

Finally, if you have a large library, you can even search your library titles for a quick search.

You can search for books in your library
to find them more quickly

Here’s my search for BIbles.
Notice I picked Bibles for both liberal and devout readers
so I don’t give the appearance of taking sides.

All in all, the BN Reader seems like a slick, stable app. I have noticed a couple of minor problems.

Two column landscape pages

In some books, not all of them, the BN version seems to switch to two column mode when readers rotate the iPad to landscape view. This isn’t a big problem when reading at smaller type sizes, but older readers who need to increase the type size will find reading very difficult.

Reads like a newspaper at medium type size

Looks a little wonkier one size up

Huge gutters for readers who need large text

Books aren’t magazines. They really don’t need columns.

Difficult to purchase books after reading the sample

I looked at a couple of sample titles in both Kindle and BN reader apps for comparison. I finally decided to download the BN versions just to get a feel for the entire book. Unfortunately when I ordered the book from within the book, which is a standard e-reader feature, the real book wouldn’t download. I checked my order status and couldn’t find it, so I ordered again. Same result.

So I decided to try to delete the sample to see if my previous sample download was screwing up the purchase. The app wouldn’t let me delete the sample.

Not good. But it will be worse if I find out my credit card was charged twice for books I never received.

Not as many Bibles; Barnes & Noble must be liberals

The only other gap I’ve found so far is that Kindle has a sh…, er, boatload more Bibles. I will confess that I haven’t done a thorough comparison of titles because I don’t get paid to do any of this. But since I wrote a paragraph about all of the Bibles at the Kindle store I thought I should at least check. I know Barnes & Nobles carries an aisle of BIbles in their stores, but they were much harder to find online, even using the simple search string “Bibles.”

I know that Pastor Pat Robertson and other credible sources like Bill O’Reilly claim there’s a war on Christians and if that’s true, and, in addition, if it’s also true that most of my readers are secular humanist liberals especially since they’re Apple users and worship at the feet of Steve Jobs (which has been pretty much implied by some of the comments to this blog), then that means most of my readers wouldn’t buy a BIble if Jesus himself offered to increase taxes, pack the Supreme Court with pro-choice atheist Liberals, nationalize health care, make Obama emperor and took the money from the Vatican and gave it all to Greenpeace. (I try to keep sentences to two and a half lines, but that one just forced its way through and refused to give way to editing). If this rather large and gratuitous assumption is correct, you probably could care less how many BIbles are available through BN reader. And since I always see liberal types hanging out at Barnes and Noble (and almost no one who’s home schooled), that may be the reason they don’t offer more BIbles through the ebook store.

I want to assure the few Christians who read this blog that I sorted by popularity, title and price. I kept finding the same six or seven bibles and a bunch more books about the Bible. I finally found a couple more by typing in more specific search strings. But no ESV, CAV or NBC and only half of the Douay Rheims, which should be an insult to Catholics. With each search, I got more books about the Bible than I got the Bible.

Now anybody raised Christian, or more specifically Baptist, knows that books about the BIble can’t teach you nearly as much as the Bible itself. So if they really catered to good Christian people, Barnes & Noble would have more eBibles.

Fortunately for Barnes & Noble, Jenny Manytoes didn’t this sad state of affairs to be truly objectionable. Of course, she thinks reading is a silly human thing anyway because cats talk to God directly in cat language so there really isn’t much cats need to read the Bible or anything else for that matter. In fact, she thinks, if humans would just learn to speak cat they wouldn’t need to read either.

This could be, but someone needs to read just to check the ingredients on cat food because some of them are just silly. Like corn. What cat eats corn? (According to some cat food manufacturers, all of them).1

Some cats don’t know how useful their humans really are.

Jenny rates the Barnes & Noble Reader

Jenny Manytoes purrs over the BN reader. She would probably make biscuits but every time she settles into my lap I try to buy a copy of the book I sampled and she has to get up and leave because I say words that God doesn’t want to hear. Even in cat.

1I’ve also been reading about corn meal and cows. I don’t want any of our loved ones to develop mad cat disease.back

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

iPad Envy is created entirely using apps from my iPad
iPad Envy.


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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