I just got the Nook from Barnes & Noble.  I struggled with the decision of whether or not I wanted an eReader for sometime now.  I love my collection of books, from my old Hardy Boys from the 30s & 60s, to my entire collection of all things Dean Koontz, to my new trilogy of Teddy Roosevelt biography hardcovers.  I savor the look of my bookshelves exploding with colorful spines toting the titles and authors that give me hours of pleasure.  Sure, you don’t get that with the Nook.  Then again, you don’t get that with an apartment in Brooklyn on the wages of being a waiter going to school.

At first I rejected the idea of going e-Book.  But now that I’ve done it, I do not regret it one iota.  What’s amazing to me is that no matter how much I profess my love for books and my love for my new Nook, I’m getting some very volatile negative reactions from other bibliophiles.  It seems as if people view loving books and loving the Nook as a contradiction of terms.  I’ve been discussing this with several people and it seems time to dispel some of their views.

Let’s start off with what I call “the tactile argument.”  Many complain about the loss of the feeling one gets when holding a book in their hands, turning the pages.  I get that, I truly do.  There is a certain smell about books and the smooth texture of the page between the fingers.  However, there are certainly negatives that go along with that.  You’re telling me that you’ve never gotten one those finger cramps when holding an open book in one hand between your thumb, pinky and the three fingers behind the spine?  Or that you haven’t struggled in trying to turn the page while holding on to the subway bar?  And it just gets worse when reading a hardcover.  Let’s not even talk about reading a monster like King’s “The Stand,” or the mammoth “The Passage” by Justin Cronin (great read by the way), or – lest we forget – anything written by Neal Stephenson (either hardcover or the huge trades).  But the Nook allows me to read 800-plus-page-monstrosities with just one hand, and to turn pages with one finger to a button.  I can even eat now while I read, without having to hold down pages that want to turn on their own volition.

Side note:  Bookmarks?  Don’t need ’em.  Never do I have to buy another one and lose it and say, “damn, I really liked that one”, or “crap, where did I leave off in this book?”  Instead, everytime I shut the Nook down, it automatically saves where I left off in every one of the books I’m reading.  Now that’s convenience.

Another downside people have appointed to the Nook is how does one go about lending books out to others?  I love to share, and when I get excited about a book I love to lend it out.  Well guess what?  With the Nook, you have a feature that allows fellow Nook owners to “borrow” a book from you electronically for up to 14 days, after which it is automatically returned to you.  Another lending option is that the Nook has a slot for a ‘scan-disk’ memory card for up to 16 gigs.  All you have to do is copy the book onto the disk and give it to others to read on their Nook or computer.

Which brings us back to collections: I grew up on Long Island in a large house where I was afforded the luxury of bookcases and plenty of storage to stash old books away while making room for the many new books I was reading weekly/monthly/yearly.  But now I live in Brooklyn, in a small apartment with two friends.  The bookshelf I have in my room can barely fit the books I have purchased in the two years that I’ve lived here.  Books are two, sometimes three rows deep, piled sideways and on top of one other.  At one point I even had to go through this current collection and take some of the books down into our cellar storage room.  As for that large house on Long Island, my family will be moving soon and so I have been instructed to think about what I’m going to do with over 35 years of books (and dvds, and cds, and comics… but that’s a whole other story).  While I did manage to cull my collection quite a bit, down to roughly 30 huge crates full of books that I simply can’t part with, the question was “what do I do with the books that I’m getting rid of?”  Well, this is where the game changed for me in relation to the Nook.  I tried giving them away to local libraries, but of the four I contacted, only one showed interest in taking them.  Apparently, there is less and less space even in libraries!  This reminded me of when I used to manage a book store many years ago.  You wouldn’t believe the number of books we had to destroy each and every month due to lack of space.  Oh, how I hated doing that. 

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.  With the Nook, I have space for 1200 books.  That’s right, I can walk around with 1200 books at one time!  And the memory card I talked about earlier?  It can hold over 9,000 books!  With just one memory card, in its little plastic case, sitting on my bookshelf, my bedroom will look a lot emptier… collection without the clutter.  And this will make it easier to decide which physical books I will choose to hold onto, from collector’s editions to autographed copies.

The Nook also allows me to give a newly released book a test drive before adding it to my collection.  Let me explain:  I’ll first download the book onto my device and if I don’t like it, I’ll simply delete it.  But if I find myself loving it, such as I did Steig Larsson’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and its sequels, then I’ll buy myself a copy and add it to the shelf.  And I’ll still have room for those future books that will always have a place in my collection, such as everything written by Dean Koontz (I have almost his entire bibliography so far).  As for my already large collection of books downloaded onto my laptop computer, these are easily transferable to the Nook; it supports several file extensions and it’s easy to convert those it doesn’t.     

An obvious plus in owning the Nook is, as I mentioneed above, the fact that you can simply download anything you want.  That means no more lines at crowded bookstores.  Hell, you don’t even have to leave the house.  Sure, there can be downsides.  You might be able to find a hard copy of the book for a lower price.  Case in point:  “This is Your Brain on Music” by Daniel J. Levitin (a wonderful book).  The paperback is available on the Barnes & Noble website for 9 dollars, while the download-able ebook version is 15 dollars.  But my experience with the Nook so far tells me that this is a rare occurrence.

Speaking of Barnes & Noble, another cool feature provided by the Nook:  go to any B&N with your device and read a book free for up to an hour.  Not finished with it yet?  That’s okay.  Simply come back the next day and continue reading from where you left off.  And while you’re there, your Nook will receive coupons electronically, such as free drinks at the cafe.  And on Fridays, you’ll get information on what new books you can download for free.  And if that isn’t enough for you, everyday an essay will be sent to your device from a wide range of literary topics, written by staff writer Steve King (not to be confused with the author of “The Stand)”.     

All in all, I am extremely pleased with all that the Nook affords me and I simply can’t get enough of it.  I hope that if you have contentions about the Nook – as I once did – this essay will inspire you to give it another look.

From one book nerd to another.

CC the Prof.