Inside the E-Book Wars: The Nook in Depth (Part 1)

By William Stanek
November 23, 2009 | Comments: 4

William 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.

The Nook, shown below, features a third generation e-ink VizPlex electronic paper display as well as a touchscreen LCD. Like most current e-readers, the Nook's electronic paper display is black and white, supporting varying shades of gray. Since it's a third generation display, that means the Nook supports 16 shades of gray--making for great clarity and quality when viewing illustrations, pictures, and other types of graphics.

16 shades of gray means the device supports 4-bit grayscale. In other words, the device allows for fourteen gradients of gray between black and white. Generally, the resolution of these displays is at least 170 pixels per inch or higher.


Note E-ink technology is what makes reading on an e-reader similar to reading text on paper. The reader's high-contrast, high-resolution display makes it readable in direct sunlight and at angles up to 180 degrees. When you turn pages in an electronic book (e-book), the reader uses power to turn on the e-ink pixels. Once a page is displayed, the reader doesn't use power to maintain the page. This helps ensure the battery lasts longer than a standard Portable Digital Assistant (PDA).

E-ink contains millions of tiny microcapsules, about the diameter of a human hair. In one version of the technology, each microcapsule contains positively charged white particles and negatively charged black particles suspended in a clear fluid. When a positive electric field is applied, the black particles move to the top of the microcapsule where they become visible to the user and this is what makes the surface appear black at that spot. Simultaneously, an opposite electric field pulls the white particles to the bottom of the microcapsules where they are hidden from view. By reversing this process, the white particles appear at the top of the capsule, which makes the surface appear white at that spot.

That said, it is the touchscreen LCD that sets the Nook apart from its competitors. Sure, Sony's PRS-600 (Reader Touch Edition) and PRS-700 (Reader Digital Book) have touch screens and they're excellent, but only the Nook has a color touchscreen.

You use the approximately 1.5" by 3.5" color touchscreen to browse and navigate the books in your e-library. A swipe of your finger lets you browse books by their color covers and then select the book you want to read. The combination of an electronic paper display and a color touchscreen gives you the best of both worlds. You get crisp readability for text and illustrations and snazzy color you can touch. Because the touchscreen is below the electronic paper display, it also helps to keep fingerprints and smudges off the reading area. Truly, I can't think of a better, more well thought out, combination.

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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More on eBook stuff please! :)

Hi Simon,

Sure thing! I've posted more since your comment and also am working on new posts.


Nice job on this, William.

Re your comments on "Sony, Amazon, and B&N" being the leaders, I agree. These companies thought of things no one was asking for and delivered them.

I'm guessing that it's only going to get more interesting.

Hi Brent,

Thank you! Yes, it's definitely only going to get more interesting.


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