Tag Archives: Blackberry

The Nook Color Review

This holiday season many readers are going to decide whether to purchase either an Amazon Kindle Fire for $199.00 or a Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet for $249.00.  But there’s another option, which is to buy a Nook Color e-reader for the newly discounted price of $199.00 (at sellers like Target, Wall-Mart and Staples, in addition to Barnes & Noble).   Since I’ve owned a Nook Color device for a few weeks, I decided to write-up my impressions – for what they’re worth – here.   Maybe my experience will assist someone who is attempting to make an informed decision about the pluses and minuses of owning this 7″ tablet, with a small “t”.

With any reading device the strongest impression is going to come from the quality of the viewing screen.   The screen on the Nook Color, made by LG, is bright, sharp and offers great depth when viewing color scenes.   The depth is so noticeable that it seems to be a 3-D type of effect, and will be greatly appreciated by avid photographers.   When it comes to devices smaller than the now almost standard 10.1-inch tablets, the Nook Color’s screen is second in quality only to the Samsung Galaxy Tab in the 8.9″ Goldilocks-sized version.   Buying the Samsung involves spending $449 to $549.   So, the high quality viewing experience on the Nook Color is literally a bargain.

I’m not able to read books on a PC because of eye strain issues, but eye strain has not been a problem with the Nook Color.   This may be because the screen has been treated with an anti-glare solution, or because it is remarkably easy to adjust the brightness at any time to compensate for a change in lighting conditions.

The web browser on the Nook Color is very, very fast – and definitely faster than when one’s browsing pages on a netbook, low-priced laptop or an antiquated BlackBerry “smart phone” made by RIM.   If you have an opportunity to test a Nook Color, try calling up a Wikipedia page on almost any subject and you’ll see that it loads wickedly fast.   Of course, since the Nook Color is a Wi-Fi only device, actual speeds will vary depending on the capacity of your home wireless network.

I tested the public Wi-Fi feature in a restaurant in downtown Oakland, CA where the system required a log-in password, and it worked effortlessly and flawlessly.   And, of course, you can use the Nook Color in any Barnes & Noble store, where the device automatically connects to the bookseller’s network.   Downloading a book that you’ve ordered from the Barnes & Noble shop takes just seconds (and always less than 10 seconds), and you can read a sample preview of almost any book that’s offered for sale.   With the bestseller Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, the free sample is an excerpt of the first 118 pages!

If the Nook Color trips on occasion, it’s when it comes to memory.   In theory, you can stop reading a book at any point and return to it hours or days later and the device will remember the last page you were on.   However, in practice, this only works about 75 percent of the time…  The more hours/days that you put the Nook Color down, the less likely it is to remember where you were last.   The device is also supposed to let you select a home page of your own, but even after following the very specific directions needed to set your personal home page, the Nook Color will periodically forget your selection and open with the staid Barnes & Noble page.   Sigh.

Battery life seems to be fine while you’re reading or surfing the web, but if you let the device run down to 5% or so of its remaining power, you’ll be sad to find out that it will take a full three hours to recharge it fully.   Three hours seems like an eternity now when the best smartphones can recharge in less than half an hour.

The build quality on the Nook Color seems to be admirable, and it’s a small device with some heft.   On the flip side, it often feels a bit too heavy when one’s spending a good period of time holding it while reading.   The new Nook Tablet is 1.7 ounces lighter, which seems like a positive development.

If the Nook Color were a book rather than a technological device, I’d rate it on the borderline between Well Recommended and Highly Recommended.   As a practical e-reader and web surfing machine, it gets the job done 98% of the time, and the price is just right at $199.00.   But today, for an extra $50.00, you can have a Nook Tablet that’s lighter, faster (with a dual-core rather than single core processor), and has a longer-lasting battery.   All that’s needed now is for some boy or girl genius to develop a turbo-boosted charger for the Nooks that will recharge them in 20 minutes instead of 3 hours!

Joseph Arellano

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The Heart of the Matter

I used to work with a program that trained local prosecutors (deputy district attorneys) and public defenders.   One aspect often covered at these trainings was the importance of opening and closing arguments in a criminal trial, and the point was usually made that these arguments needed to be “tight” rather than rambling and lengthy.   I often see a parallel with book reviews…

To me, book reviews are both opening and closing arguments.   They are an opening argument when it comes to introducing a reader to a book that he/she is considering purchasing.   The review says, “Here is what this book is about, and why it may be of interest to you.”   But it should also warn, “I don’t know about your own tastes, so I’m going to provide you with my perspective on this novel/nonfiction book.”

The same review is a closing argument when it attempts to convince the prospective reader that this is either something worth reading or passing by.   “I think this novel is great because…”   or “I really tried to read this survey book about _____ but I just couldn’t grab on to it…”   The key, though, is that the closing argument is not about TRUTH in capital letters – a review is an opinion piece, and the opinion is only as good as the structure of the argument it holds.

What I love about reading book reviews is not the bottom line – did this reader/reviewer love or hate the book – but the validity of the argument that takes us to the buy/don’t buy recommendation.   Is it logical, is it well structured, is it internally consistent (not a review that praises the author’s writing style at one point while attacking it somewhere else), is it honest?   If I write a review indicating that I love a book, I’m just as interested in other reviews that praise or condemn the book.   Why?   Because I’m not looking to win an argument, I’m looking to see how each and every reviewer made their arguments.

Is there a difference between positive and negative reviews?   Yes, I think so.   It’s much easier to convince the average reader that you, the reviewer, love a book because (as has been said so many times before) everyone loves good news.   If I pick up an interesting-looking new novel at Borders and then use my BlackBerry to find reviews, I’m quite pleased to see 4-and 5-star reviews and flat-out recommendations.   I’m much less pleased to do a digital search only to read that this book is a disaster.   But, wait, maybe it isn’t – maybe I need to see how good a case is made by those who are criticizing it.

Decades ago, I used to read music reviews in every major publication of the time.   There were a number of reviewers that I really admired, including one in particular who never liked the same things I did.   But that reviewer always made a great case for his position, an enlightened and entertaining case.   He wrote a brilliant negative review of one classic album in a single sentence!

So, yes, it’s not the length of the argument that counts.   It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the amount of fight in the dog.   And the next time you read a book review, you may want to ask yourself, “Did this reviewer deliver both an opening and closing argument this time around?”   Don’t forget that you are the juror in the court of public opinion, and it’s your vote that counts each and every time.

Joseph Arellano

Pictured:   The Good Daughters: A Novel by Joyce Maynard.

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A Turbulent Flight

There are certain books that begin with a great premise and a great main character but which are simply unable to deliver on the promise of a well-told story.   This is one of those books.   This 303-page tale of a modern airline traveler loses its interest, its energy and its wings at about the 200-page mark.   From then on, the engines are stalled and the story glides awkwardly to a crash landing on a foam-filled runway.

Up in the Air is the story of Ryan Bingham, a so-called Career Transition Counselor, who is hired to help downsizing companies get rid of employees without having them go postal.   Bingham must be part psychologist, part upward mobility trainer and – to a large part – a fraudulent New Age guru who’s supposed to convince the terminated workers that its all for the best.   Of course, Bingham (who views himself as a type of glorified and special purpose accountant) never has to stick around to view the actual damage – the failed marriages, lost homes and suicides.   He convinces himself that he does more good than harm as he flies every day or two on Great West Airlines circa 2001.

As we meet the not-very-likeable and self-absorbed Bingham, he’s submitted his resignation because he is about to accomplish the main goal of his life.   His primary objective is to be the tenth person in the domestic carrier’s history who has flown 1,000,000 miles without leaving the U.S.   Bingham travels so much that he has no home or apartment, he lives in the thin atmosphere land he calls “Airworld.”

There’s a lot of inside baseball talk that frequent flyers and frequent lodging chain sleepers will find entertaining…   For example, there’s much debate about the merits of Hilton-owned Hampton Inns versus Marriott Courtyards.   Which one is the best base for corporate warriors, and why is it that a traveler feels almost invisible at the larger Marriott and Hilton properties?   (And why is it that frequent travelers come to need Sound Soothers to sleep?)   Bingham also has this marvelous machine called the Hand Star, the apparent precursor of today’s BlackBerry smartphone.

The first problem with Air is the realization that Bingham is the only character that is remotely believable or plausible, and even this is a stretch.   The next problem is that the once-serious story turns into a hybrid science fiction-dark satire two-thirds of the way through its telling.   A lot of paranoia emerges among Bingham and those he encounters, which may mean that he’s gone insane…   Worse, it may signal that this tale was a put-on from page one.

I prefer to think that author Walter Kirn came up with a great start but had no finish.   (Nevertheless, he’s received a very large check from George Clooney’s people who are turning this into the star’s next film.)   Not recommended; simply not worth the time or effort required to get through it.   There’s just no payoff on arrival for frequent readers.

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