B&N Remembers eBooks Exist

Books are in a weird resurgence right now. Barnes & Noble, once the villain of the bookseller world, is seen now as a refuge where books can be given space. Let's face it, they're the only bookseller with space large enough to house all these books. Finally, B&N has decided to give the old Nook eReader another try. But they mean it for real this time. Alex Cranz at The Verge has more.

The Nook GlowLight 4e charges via USB-C and has 8GB of built-in storage, which is standard for an e-reader at this price. It also has a 6-inch 212 ppi E Ink display with illumination. That’s better than the $89.99 Amazon Kindle with its 6-inch 167 ppi display, but the Kobo Nia starts at $99.99 and has the exact same display. The Kobo Clara HD retails for the exact same as the GlowLight 4e but also has a 300 ppi display. If sharp text is your be-all and end-all at this price then the Kobo Clara HD is probably your best bet.

But what the Nook GlowLight 4e has that both Kobo and Amazon lack is… buttons. Instead of tapping or swiping across the E Ink display and hoping it registers the input, the Nook GlowLight 4e has page-turning buttons on the left and right bezels. Both Amazon and Kobo reserve that feature for much pricier products.

The Verge

The GlowLight 4e looks to be a competitor to Amazon's basic Kindle. However, this one has buttons, which many people like, and its coming in at $10 cheaper. But, there are some glaring omissions that make me have considerable reservations about this device. Nowhere on the GlowLight's landing page do we see waterproofing or the ability to tie into your library's eBook system. Amazon's Kindle works great with Libby / Overdrive and Kobo's readers have the library hooks built-in. There's not even a need to use your phone when using a Kobo reader. Finally, it also lacks any sort of warm light feature.

However, the biggest hurdle the GlowLight must overcome is a big intangible: confidence that B&N will support the device for any realistic amount of time. The list of Nook iterations is long but when was the last time you heard of these? Even worse is you never see these devices when you're in a physical B&N store. It's been a half-hearted attempt to fight Amazon for years. One where Kobo has done very well for itself and makes really competitive devices. The Six Colors 2021 roundup of readers is great stuff by Jason Snell. It's telling that the Nook doesn't get mentioned even once.

As someone who's had an Amazon Kindle since the first edition, I would like to see more competition in this space. So far, Amazon's lead is huge though Kobo is making strides on that front. And that's good because for a long time Amazon has coasted with sporadic and minuscule updates to the Kindle. Only recently have they brought more to the table such as the long-requested feature to make your book's cover the lock screen image and the newest PaperWhite readers bring USB-C + warm lighting.

Right now though there's no better time to be a reader or bookseller. There's a subgenre over on TikTok called "BookTok" wherein people will extol the amazing books they've read. These videos move real copies of books because it's the manifestation of a video gone viral. Adam Silvera’s 2017 novel They Both Die at the End shot to the top of the teen fiction charts, selling more than 4,000 copies a week.

My biggest advice is this: if you have an eReader, get it hooked into your local library system. It's an amazing experience to want to read a book, check it out digitally, and have it on your device in a matter of seconds.

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