The Barnes & Noble Nook SimpleTouch with GlowLight, despite its absurd name, is a simple device at heart. It’s packing a six-inch eInk touchscreen, and connects to the internet over Wi-Fi so you can buy ebooks on the go, and read them for hours on end. Sound familiar? It’s much the same premise as the Kindle, from Barnes & Noble’s arch rival Amazon. But the SimpleTouch with GlowLight has a light up screen for reading in the dark too. So long, paper!
The Nook SimpleTouch with GlowLight is eerily similar to a Kindle in function, but it coulndn’t look more different. Large bezels, rounded rubber edges, buttons on either side to flip the page: it’s a comfortable solution for reading at length that looks like it can take a few knocks. In the daylight, the eInk screen is every bit as crisp and easy to read as Amazon’s best efforts.
But there are a few other noteworthy bits of tech fitted in too. You’ll find 2GB of storage built in (space for thousands of books), but if that’s not enough, you can add in even more using a microSD memory card slot - really though, you’d have to be a serious hoarder to require that.
Key to the whole experience of course is the GlowLight: hold down the “n” symbol on the front of the device, and it lights up, making reading with the lights off easy. This is a very different experience to reading on a backlit LCD: there’s none of the strain, none of the pixelated edges. It’s like reading under the covers with a torch, but far more convenient. Barnes & Noble says it uses up twice as much battery life (and what we've seen so far confirms this), but when that means one month of extended use instead of two, we're OK with that.
You’ll find plenty to read on the Nook store too: Kindle self-published books aside, there’s parity with what you can buy elsewhere. Barnes & Noble says there will be 2.5 million titles at UK launch, and that’ll ramp up quickly.
The design of the Nook SimpleTouch with GlowLight will certainly be divisive: while it’s light (197g), comfortable and easy to hold, this is not as thin and compact as the entry level Amazon Kindle. Of course, the £109 Kindle Touch is a better comparison given it too has a touch display, but it’s something to bear in mind.
And...that’s about it, really. Arguments over how necessary a touchscreen is on ereader aside, the Nook SimpleTouch with GlowLight really is a solid effort that goes toe to toe with Amazon. Granted, there aren’t currently Nook apps for quite as many platforms as Amazon has Kindle apps for - but we’re expecting iOS, Android and Windows 8 apps that solve that all before the end of the year. Otherwise, tuck in and enjoy.
The bottom line
The Nook SimpleTouch with GlowLight is not the cheapest ereader on the market. If you’re after that, have a look in the direction of Kobo, or the now £69 Amazon Kindle with Wi-Fi. You can’t really go wrong with either. But at £109, it’s not too much more, and until Amazon brings its own backlit Kindle to the UK, it’s the only game in town for readon on an eInk screen in the dark. If you read before bed, it’s hard not to love the Nook for that reason alone.