The NOOK GlowLight is dead simple to use, and as I may have said before I prefer the overall user experience as compared to the Kindle. B&N has just nailed the user interface and made it all so intuitive that you don’t have to think about a single thing. The menu bar at the top of the screen has an open book icon; one touch takes you exactly where you left off at the end of your last reading session. The next icon is for notifications, such as new LendMe books you’ve received from your friends. On the right side you’ll see the GlowLight status, Wi-Fi indicator, battery charge meter, and the current time.
Pressing the “N” button at the bottom of the display brings up the main menu, where you can choose to go to the home screen, access your library, show in the NOOK store, search, turn on the GlowLight or change the brightness, or view device settings.
The home screen is perfectly organized, with the top left devoted to the book you’re currently reading, with the cover and your reading position. The top right highlights new books that have recently been added to your library, with a link to your library if you want to choose something else. The bottom of the screen has suggestions from the NOOK store that you might want to try next, and they’re usually relevant to my interests.
The library can be organized by title, author, or recent, and you can choose either a grid or title view. You can filter your library seven ways, including books, newsstand items, LendMe books, user-created shelves, personal files (epub and PDF), archived items, and other items. The search function is especially helpful if you have a large number of books, and will help you find exactly what you want to read very quickly.
Settings controls everything from Wi-Fi status and remembered networks to linked social networking accounts, screen timeout and screensavers (which you can personalize with your own JPG, BMP, GIF, and PNG images), and whether a password is required for NOOK book purchases made from your device.
I found performance to be excellent, with no lag between touching the screen to make a selection and having my command carried out, be it switching between pages in my book, highlighting text, making notes, bringing up menus, or changing device settings. There’s no slowdown or waiting at all, which can happen on the Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle Touch, which can sometimes feel sluggish, especially if you have a lot of Kindle books loaded on the device.
While reading a book you can tap either in the middle of the screen or at the bottom of the screen, just above the page number, to bring up a context-sensitive reading a menu–a little arrow marks the right spot. That menu is what you use to navigate book contents (chapters, your personal notes & highlights, and bookmarks), find a word or phrase in the current book, go to a particular page, access the text menu (to change the font, font size, line spacing, and margins), or tap “more” to see the book cover, synopsis, reader ratings, reviews, and related titles. When the reading menu is active you’ll also see a small N inside a ribbon in the top right corner of the screen; tapping that area bookmarks the page.
Selecting text to look up a definition or to share via social networks is intuitive, just tap and hold to activate the selection and then drag your finger to the stopping point, then choose the appropriate option (highlight, add note, share, or look up) from the menu that appears at the bottom of the screen. In short, it just works exactly as you would expect–no need to even glance at a user’s manual.
There is no web browser on the NOOK GlowLight, just a connection to B&N’s online NOOK bookstore. You’ll find bestseller lists, new releases, and personalized recommendations as well as expert picks from B&N’s experienced booksellers.
There is however a strong social aspect to the NOOK, so even if it doesn’t have a web browser or dedicated social apps like Facebook, you can still interact with your friends and share what you’re reading with each other. You can link to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as import contacts from your Google account in order to set up NOOK friends. Anyone who has a B&N.com account can be your NOOK friend, and you can easily lend eligible NOOKBook titles to each other and share your favorite passages with just a few taps.
There’s no physical keyboard on the NOOK GlowLight, so you’ll be using a virtual keyboard for text entry. It’s nothing fancy, but it gets the job done–the keys are big enough to be easy to hit, and I didn’t have any accuracy problems when adding notes to my books.
The battery life is extremely impressive on the NOOK GlowLight. I’ve been using it extensively for two weeks, reading with the GlowLight on every night for at least half an hour, with WiFi on, and the battery meter at the top right corner of the screen has barely budged.
Even though this newest model has a lighted screen and is half an ounce lighter than its predecessor, it still maintains the same excellent battery life. I wouldn’t even think about carrying along the charger for a trip of a week or less, maybe even up to two weeks. Of course it does have a standard microUSB port, so it will work with just about any smartphone charger anyway, at least if you have an Android device and not an iPhone.
You can shop and download books wirelessly with the built-in Wi-Fi, either at your home or office, at a Barnes & Noble store, or at more than 24,000 AT&T hotspots around the country. The Wi-Fi connectivity worked perfectly in my testing, connecting to my home network as well as to the corporate network at my office–something the Kindle can’t do since it won’t work with enterprise security.
If you take your NOOK GlowLight to your local B&N store, you will receive special offers and exclusive content through the More in Store program, and you’ll also be able to read any NOOK book for up to an hour per day.
There is no 3G cellular option as there is with the Amazon Kindle, though since the latest eInk model, the Kindle Touch, has its 3G access limited to shopping in the Kindle store that’s not much of an advantage when compared to the NOOK GlowLight.
There aren’t any apps for the NOOK GlowLight, which isn’t too surprising since eInk reading devices are typically all about the reading experience. While the original NOOK offered Chess and Sudoku, the new NOOK GlowLight and its predecessor don’t have any built-in games, and you can’t buy them either. That is a big difference from the various eInk Kindles, all of which offer “active content” apps such as simple games and some basic productivity apps too.
B&N does offer plenty of apps for their NOOK Tablet, so if you’re looking for games and word processors and weather forecasts, you may want to consider one of those. If you just want to read, however, the lack of apps on the NOOK GlowLight shouldn’t be a deterrent.
The truly revolutionary feature of the NOOK GlowLight is, of course, the lighted eInk screen. It makes the NOOK into the perfect all-situation reading device, one that you don’t have to think about at all. Do you want the extremely long battery life and superbly crisp text that comes with an eInk display? Do you want to be able to read in bed without resorting to an expensive lighted case, or having to deal with a separate accessory light? Do you have sensitive eyes from staring at a computer all day at work, and want to avoid the eyestrain and glare that can come with reading on an LCD screen?
Like the Amazon Kindle, the NOOK GlowLight automatically syncs your current reading position across devices, so you can move seamlessly between your dedicated reader, a tablet like the iPad, or a smartphone like the iPhone. But since the NOOK GlowLight works in every lighting condition, from bright sunlight to a darkened room, you won’t need to use that synchronization feature, because you’ll want to do all of your reading on the NOOK GlowLight.