Inside the E-Book Wars: The Nook in Depth (Part 3)

By William Stanek
November 27, 2009 | Comments: 14

William Stanek here, continuing the e-reader discussion with an in-depth look at the Nook from Barnes & Noble. Anyone who's been watching the e-reader and e-book market knows, the Nook is the latest entry in this highly competitive space where Sony, Amazon and now Barnes & Noble look to be the global leaders. So far I've introduced the device and started digging in to hardware specifics. Now let's look at supported document and graphics file types.


The 6-inch screen provides a resolution of 600x800 pixels--or approximately 170 pixels per inch. High contrast and high resolution, with a near 180º viewing angle ensures easy reading in variety of lighting conditions. With sixteen levels of gray, the screen provides excellent display for charts, illustrations and other types of graphics. The LCD screen displays 144 x 480 pixels.

Turning the page in an e-book takes about a second and the battery supports approximately 10,000 continuous page turns on a single charge (with wireless turned off). This number of page turns per battery charge is fairly typical.

Nook runs the Android 1.5 operating system. Using a standard USB cable, you can connect the reader to your computer and then transfer media to the reader. You can use the reader to view files in a variety of document formats.

Document file types supported by the reader include:

  • EPUB This file format is used with files created for the e-publishing standard. Related files end with the .epub extension and can be secured or unsecured.
  • PDF This file format is used with files created for Adobe Acrobat. Related files end with the .pdf extension and can be secured or unsecured.

Secured files have digital right management (DRM) applied to protect the intellectual property rights of the copyright holder. Unsecured files do not have DRM applied. Nook supports DRM protected PDF and EPUB files.

Nook supports display of PDF in both normal and "reflowed" modes. In the reflowed modes, the reader takes the original content and reflows it at an alternate font size of your choosing. The result is surprisingly good and most documents reflow almost perfectly. However, the more complex the content, the less satisfactory the result.

To ensure the highest quality, PDF and EPUB are the formats of choice. PDF and EPUB support font styles (bold, italics, underline, etc), advanced layout, tables, charts, graphs, illustrations, and more. The Nook supports five different font sizes for text. Most eBook content you've obtained from Fictionwise can be imported to the nook via a memory card or USB port as well.

In addition to being able to display tables, charts, graphs and figures in documents, the Nook can be used to display graphics as either stand-alone images or slideshows. The supported formats are:

  • Bitmap This file format is used with screen captures and other bitmapped files. Related files end with the .bmp extension.
  • JPEG The Joint Pictures Expert Group (JPEG) format supports high-resolution graphics and compression. Compression reduces the size of JPEG files. However, the higher the compression the more image data that is lost and the lower the quality. Related files end with the .jpg or .jpeg extension.
  • GIF The Graphics Interchange File (GIF) format is best used with low resolution to moderate resolution graphics as well as with graphics that have lots of text. Related files end with the .gif extension. By reducing the colors in the color palette and using options such as dithering, GIF images can be squeezed into smaller size files.
  • PNG The Portable Network Graphics (PNG) format supports lossless compression ensuring images can be squeezed into smaller files without reducing quality. Related files end with the .png extension.

These graphic formats are the popular formats used on the World Wide Web. GIF is a good format to use with standard graphics or graphics containing text. JPEG is a good format to use for high-resolution graphics and pictures. PNG is a good format to use to squeeze high-quality graphics into smaller size files. The least efficient of these file formats is BMP. Typically BMP files are much larger than the same files converted to GIF, JPEG, or PNG.

Thanks for reading, time for me to get back to work! Hope you'll take a look at my new book Windows 7: The Definitive Guide.

William R. Stanek
williamstanek at aol dot com


Thanks for the noise! Want to see more on e-readers, make more noise!

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I suppose that if I wanted to read a .doc documents I could convert it to pdf with some software converter.

Do you know if it has an automatic converter or an easy way to read a microsft word document?

I've have some .doc memos/documents that I would like to upload in the nook instead of having to use the nootebook to read it.


Yes, you can easily convert your docs to pdf. They are many converters available for doing this. Some are free; some are not. One free one I've seen is Not sure how good it is. You also can go to and enter "pdf converter" to see others.

Hope this helps!


I actually used promopdf which converts nicely from doc to pdf but once i uploaded it to my nook, the file was there within my library but i was unable to open them up to read. Any reason for that? Is that because of the secure versus unsecure pdf formats or the DRM for that matter?

Hi Ryan,

Difficult to resolve without more details. I think you'll find that the help forums ( are a good resource for technical issues with Nook. It may take a while to get the *right* answer though.


If you put the file in the B&N files, it will be on the nook but unfindable. The PDF files MUST be saved in the "my files" section of your nook to "see" it. That might help.

I have just decided to purchase a Nook so don't have first hand experience yet. I've been researching the device and found a free app that seems to get good ratings and says it will convert most formats to work on the Nook.... It is called Calibre. Here is the link - I'll try it for sure.

Hi Linda,

Haven't tried Calibre but sounds pretty good. Hope you like your nook!


A friend ordered a Nook for me, and with the ship date now showing Feb 12, it's still going to be a while before I have first hand experience with it, but most reviews and comments I've found are generally supportive when you cut through personal preferences and the "I'll never support DRM" bloggers.

I'm very interested to see how well images work on the Nook. Testing on my computer, 16 bit gray is actually pretty nice, especially if you tweak the contrast, but again, I'll need the Nook in-hand to know the best settings.

One thing that has been an eye opener for me is how popular PDF formatted files are. As ebook formats go, I find all the commercial PDF files too be substandard, virtually impossible to read on a PDA, where MS Reader, Mobipocket, both are great on small units. Apparently though it is the format of choice for manuals and magazines, and if we ever get past the DRM wars, PDF is likely to be the defacto standard for text books.

One relatively simple way to convert existing Word files, or text and images, is to use the Lulu website. It's actually intended to create digital or printed books, and they do online conversion of your materials into PDFs which they use to print books or help you sell as digital files. Once you've created your book you can download the file. It's free to use and you don't have to sell or publically post anything.

All you have to do is create an account, start a new project, upload your file, and that's about it. Conversion is usually just a minute or so unless it's a large file, and then you can leave and come back later. You'll be notifed by email when the conversion is complete. The advantage to using Lulu is that you don't have to download any software, it's all done online, and you can use your account from any computer.

Adobe also offers an excellent online conversion to PDF, you can get a few for free before needing a paid subscription.

I have Calibre and it IS remarkable. I think you could put in a frying pan and an ebook will come out.

It's supported by the developer and just recently Nook was added to its supported formats. Note that Calibre does not work with any DRM files. Calibre is free, and has a modest learning curve but can even download metadata and covers based on a publisher's ISBN.

Those are my 2 cents, looking foreword to MY Nook.

Hi Dayne,

Hope you enjoy your Nook! It's a nice little device and IMHO a step up from Kindle 2. I'm turning my response to your comments into a new post on the e-book wars.


Thank you,


Just received my Nook and converted several doc files to PDF format by using MSWord's "save as" feature. The PDF conversion displays fine on my laptop but on the Nook I find paragraphs of different point size, some text is bold while other text is displayed in italics. Is this a result of the MSWord conversion? Would using one of the PDF converters you reference eliminate this issue?

Hi Bobby,

You'll likely want to try a dedicated conversion tool. There are many available for free and this likely would eliminate or reduce formatting issues.



I am looking at getting a Nook and from what I have seen, it looks like it will do what I want it to do, but wanted to make sure by asking some of you who already have experience with them! :)

I am taking graduate classes, so I would like to upload my pdf documents to the nook to read. How do I know the difference in secured/unsecured pdf documents and weather or not they will upload?

Thanks! :D

I bought a Nook a couple weeks ago. Downloaded the beta Web browser, it works great, but Web pages aren't formatted for the 600W x 800H screen - you'll need to scroll a lot.

Acrobat PDF files MUST be stored under "My Documents" or you won't see them. They show up just fine on the screen and you can change fonts if need be.

To load any PDF files (protected or non-protected) simply connect your Nook to your PC. It will show up a a folder. Within that folder, you will find sub-folders including the My Documents location - drag and drop any PDF files to this location.

One problem I had was buying a few books at B&N online from my desktop PC, then trying to download them with the Nook via wireless to the B&N Web site. It didn't work correctly.

I wound up downloading to the Nook through my PC, specifying the Nook as my download destination. That worked just fine. Still have to figure out why I couldn't get them directly off B&

I recently purchased a Nook and was unable to get it to read my PDF files, the tried converting them to epub files. They would then open, but were nothing more than blank pages. I called B&N tech. They're statement is they do not guarantee any other file format can be read other than what you download from B&N. The store told me differently when I purchased. I've dealt with computers for almost 30 years, so I'm not a novice. I'm glad to know others have had some success. I'm going to keep trying. I've never met a program or a file yet that I couldn't get to work. I will try the Calibre and see what it does.

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