You might ask the question—What does technology have to do with Genealogy and History? The answer is– a great deal. As genealogists or a historians, whether amateur or not, we use modern technology to access records, store records, use GPS to locate places (from cemeteries to conferences), take digital pictures of records or historical sites, etc. I could go on, but etc. covers a vast array of how we use technology. Think about it.

From time to time on this blog, I’ll have something to say about technology and, although I worked for over 20 years in a busy corporate IT department, I’m by no means a guru. Not only because technology moves so fast and changes on a daily basis, but also because in corporate IT we are usually niche experts.

It’s always good to learn what’s out there and today’s post focuses on an area of technology that is potentially of great use to genealogists and historians.

My reaction to the world of the eBook reader was actually a surprise. I did ignore it for a while because I love books and had a difficult time moving away from hard copies of everything I read or edited on the computer. Print, print and print some more. At least in this area I can save some trees.

As with all fast moving technology, the world of eBook readers is no exception. The competition is heating up rapidly and, although many people don’t think the Barnes and Noble NOOK  is in position to beat out the Kindle, I disagree.

In fact, the only area where people say (or Amazon corporate marketers say and keep on plugging) the Kindle is better, is that the NOOK screen is shiny rather than the Kindle’s matte finish that is easy to read in the sun!

You may have seen the television ad where a couple sitting on the beach comparing Ebook readers with focus on one you could read in the sun. As soon as you see one advertiser knocking another, you quickly realize that this must be a serious competitor.  Like the rest of this post, this comment along with the rest of the content is my own personal opinion.

The NOOK’s 6-inch, diagonally measured screen, is actually less reflective than you might think. I was able to read it easily in a variety of lighting conditions, including bright sun. Occasionally there might be a lighting situation (likely to be indoor) that might be awkward and need a little wrist movement to make it more comfortable. Like most E-Ink screens, the display is like book paper to minimize eye fatigue. For me, it also helped with the transition from paper copy to online reading. There are 16 gray levels to choose from and 5 font sizes to choose from, which makes it customizable to your own preferences.

The most noticeable physical feature of the NOOK is the secondary color touch-screen which is situated below the main screen. It serves a number of purposes, but is mainly for navigating around the eBook reader’s features. A virtual keyboard also appears in this area for typing notes. There is also a color screen that  is also nice when searching for books to purchase because it displays the book cover images.

The NOOK is the first eBook Reader to be based on the Google Android operating system. Android is a mobile operating system that uses a modified version of the Linux kernel and this is a big plus for future enhancements. The Nook also the first reader to come with both 3G and Wi-Fi wireless connectivity and this also includes the use of a wireless home network.

If you happen to visit a Barnes & Noble store with your NOOK in hand, the Wi-Fi feature connects automatically and offers some interesting and unique functionality. Even although it’s a clever marketing tool, it’s pretty neat because it offers an in-store content feature that includes promotions specifically for NOOK users. It also allows customers to browse complete eBooks just like you could with a physical book. There is a one hour limit within any given 24-hour period, but it’s a nice bonus.

There’s a vast selection of subject matter for the NOOK. You’ll find just about everything including, history, genealogy, newspapers, thousands of free NOOKbooks, NOOKbooks under $5, LendMe NOOKbooks (lets you share with friends), and PubIt books (you write it they sell it).

If the NOOK isn’t in your budget yet, I found a great solution. There’s a free eReader you can download from Barnes and Noble. You’ll find application downloads for the PC, the iPad, the iPhone, and NOOK for Android.

I’ve downloaded the eReader software for my laptop and absolutely love it. The format of the eReader is also kind on the eyes. If I’d been told only a few months ago that I would soon be using the Nook as well as my laptop to read a book, I wouldn’t have believed it. As my father used to say, “Who would have thunk it.” Or, “It makes me think as I never before thunk.”

Try the free application download and see for yourself.  If you don’t like it it’s just as easy to delete.

1 Comment on Discussion on the Barnes and Noble NOOK and free eReader applications

  1. Patsy G. says:

    Hey,
    Thanks for an interesting post.I’ve downloaded the free eReader software and it’s great. The Nook sounds great too but I’ll need to see how finances are after the holidays.

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