Earlier this week I enjoined readers to take advantage of recent price cuts to pick up a Barnes and Noble Nook or Amazon Kindle in order to partake of the Mises Institute’s vast eBook library and to enrich one’s learning experience while perhaps taking Thomas DiLorenzo’s online Mises Academy course The Road to Serfdom: Despotism, Then and Now.
Well I took my own advice and picked up a Nook.
The most important advantage of the Nook over the Kindle to me is its native support for the ePub format. Mostly I read public domain classics in western letters as well as Austrian and proto-Austrian works. There is an abundance of the former available in ePub at Project Gutenberg as well as other sites, and an ever-growing stock the latter available here in the Mises.org Literature section.
Now this is my biggest gripe about the Nook.
While there is a search function and a “coverflow” feature for the Nook’s library of books that are downloaded from the Barnes and Noble web site (the “My B&N Library”), there are no such functions for the books you get from other sources (which are stored in the “My Documents” section of the Nook). You have to manually flip through pages listing all your books each time you want to switch from one book to another. This is a big pain in the neck for anybody who wants to stock their Nook with hundreds (or even just dozens) of books from other sources. I’m dealing with this restriction by getting as many free classics as possible from the B&N store (just search for what you want and then sort by price to find all the free stuff) and by carefully organizing all my non-B&N PDFs and ePubs in a folder on my computer, loading only the handful of books that I’m most interested in at the time on my Nook, and periodically changing that mix according to my evolving interests. Having to do this with files consisting mostly of text, on a gadget that can hold 2 Gigabytes, for want of a simple search function, is frankly ridiculous; hopefully Barnes and Noble will fix this in a software update soon.
In spite of that major complaint, I’m really enjoying my Nook. I used to read a lot with Stanza on my iPhone. As can be expected, reading “e-ink” on a 6″ diagonal display is a lot more pleasant than reading pixels on a 3.5″ diagonal backlit screen. Reflected light FTW! And Stanza doesn’t support PDF, so having a Nook enormously widens my reading choices: for example, Mises.org’s ePub library is impressive, but its PDF library is prodigious. And while sifting through non-B&N eBooks is a pain, adding and removing them using your computer via a USB cable is a wonderfully simple drag-and-drop process, which is not true for eBooks on an iPhone.
And say you’re reading Human Action on your Nook and you want to know what “lucubration” (one of Mises’ favored words) means. You can use the touch-screen to select the word and look it up with the built-in dictionary, which I found very easy to use.
As you can see from the image above, I also followed my own advice in purchasing the eBook edition of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom from the Barnes and Noble web site. That experience was very easy too. After purchasing it on my computer, I just had to tap “Check for new B&N content” for my Nook to find it in my “B&N Library”. Two more taps, and it was on my screen, ready to read. You can also purchase books directly from the Nook.
Again, the best thing for me about having an eReader that supports PDF and ePub is how it makes it possible to read from a vast online abundance of free, fascinating works. To be able to read Rothbard discussing the Corpus Juris Civilis of Justinian in the ePub edition of his Economic Thought Before Adam Smith, think to myself, “Hmm, I’d like to read The Institutes of Justinian on the subway today”, find it online, and have it in my hands in an easy-to-read format within minutes, is just outstanding.