Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nook on Android - further thoughts

After reading a few hundred pages on the Nook app for Android I have a better feel for what works and what doesn't. This has not changed my initial impression that the Kindle app is more mature.

My biggest complaint is with the app losing my place. It I just close the app and come back it often takes me to the start of the chapter. I have taken to bookmarking pages every time I put the tablet down or end the app. I can get back to this place but it is a three-step process. First I have to bring up the menu and select "GO TO" then I have to select "bookmarks" before I can select the proper bookmark to get to where I was. Unfortunately, the app does not synchronize bookmarks between devices so I cannot alternate reading with my tablet and my phone without having to hunt for my place.

The app also has trouble keeping the place when I change orientation. I have the landscape mode set for two columns which is much more readable than a single wide column. Landscape shows more text than portrait which requires the app to recalculate my position. If I turn the tablet over completely then it recalculates twice and loses my place, sometimes going back two pages. When in landscape mode, my tablet has a slightly wider margin at the bottom. When in portrait, it is easier to hold this side. The app starts up in portrait mode with the larger margin on the right so if I want to hold it in my left hand I either have to hold the narrower margin or lose my place. Also, the power button ends up on the bottom in the default position and it is possible to put the device to sleep if I rest it on my leg the wrong way. There is a noticeable lag while it recalculates my position and it does this twice when I turn it over. All of this is probably made worse because I am reading a long book (The Lord of the Rings).

In contrast, the Kindle app reorients very quickly (although I was testing on a shorter book) and never loses my place. If I open the same book on a different device it offers to take me to the last place I was reading and it gets it right, even when switching between the large screen on my tablet and the small screen on my phone.

My previous post mentioned that I have to use my right hand to turn the page (or my left hand if I am paging back) regardless of which hand I am holding the tablet with. Kindle uses a swipe gesture so I can use either hand.

There are some good points about the Nook app. It offers more fonts than other programs and four themes - white, egg, sepia, and black. Bookmarks are done by touching the top right corner and shows as if the corner was folded over.

The page turn animation looks good but is sluggish, especially in landscape mode. My tablet is as fast as any Android tablet in the market so the animation itself is slow. This can be turned off. Then it resembles a Kindle page turn.

The app supports footnotes but these are not implemented very well. They work like a regular web link but there is no way back. The "back" key takes you out of the book. The only way to use a footnote is to bookmark the page you are on then go through the "goto bookmark" process to return.

My overall impression is that the app needs a few more releases before it catches up with the Kindle in usability. Since both run on my tablet, I only have to live with the Nook app when a book is not available from Amazon. I have no idea how well the Nook app works on other devices but I expected it to work better on Android since that is what the Nook branded readers run on.

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