Now that I’ve abandoned Amazon I need to find an alternate ebook retailer. Even though I’m switching platforms I have no desire to buy someone else’s dedicated e-reader. My plan is to do more reading on my new Asus Android tablet. B&N was my first choice but my initial results have been very disappointing.

The Nook ebook buying experience is similar to Amazon with two exceptions: the number of customer reviews and topic subcategories. Most reports indicate B&N has no more than half the ebook market share that Amazon does. That translates into considerably fewer customer reviews for most titles on bn.com. I don’t base all of my purchase decisions on customer reviews but I always feel more confident when I see a larger sampling.

It’s more the awkward navigation and lack of subcategory depth in the Nook app that really disappoints me though. I enjoy reading about WWII and the Kindle app lets me drill down with the following menu structure: History->Military->WWII. The nook app, on the other hand, only offers this sequence: History->Military History. That’s it. There’s no WWII option, so the resulting page shows all wars lumped together. And there’s no going back one level with the Nook app. If you accidentally selected Military History when you really wanted another option on the History list you’re out of luck and you have to start over.

Also like Amazon, B&N has created a series of reader apps you can use on other platforms. I use a Mac every day, so I try Nook for Mac. No dice. It downloads and installs but won’t run on my Mac (running Snow Leopard). It turns out I’m not the only one with this problem. This thread on B&N’s own forum features posts from other frustrated users who can’t find a solution. The last entry on that thread was from a couple of months ago and was a desperate plea from someone else who’s been waiting weeks for a solution. Btw, if you run into this problem you might want to follow that thread’s advice about using Nook Study instead. It’s apparently intended for students but it looks like anyone can use it. Why don’t they just fix the Nook for Mac bug though?

After all that the Nook app on my tablet partially forgot who I am. Despite having bought a couple of books and downloaded a number of samples the app suddenly showed absolutely nothing in my library. This, despite the fact that when I went into the settings it still showed me logged in as well as my AMEX card info. I had to play around a bit with the app and finally got it to recognize my content again after a few screen refreshes.

The reading experience in the Android app is very similar to what you find with Amazon’s Kindle app for Android. At least that part of the Nook experience was free of any annoying problems. But, if B&N is really trying to compete with Amazon for a leadership role in the ebook space it’s clear they’ve got a lot of work to do with their Android and Mac apps.

(Via Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 Blog.)


  1. As a Mac and Android owner I’m a little puzzled.

    I agree completely with your comments about the Nook for Mac app. It rarely works for me. Nor does it work for my wife on her Mac. However, the Android app I beleive is one of the better reading apps on Android where as the Kindle app is as barebones as you can get. So I’m not sure where your criticism of the Android app is coming from?

  2. And this is why Amazon is still the 800 pound gorilla. I’d happily switch my book buying to somebody else to foster competition in the market, but somebody has to actually *compete* with them first. Not even do better – just offer something as good.

  3. If you’re on Android, you should try Google Play for eBooks. If you don’t care for it, check out Aldiko an Mantano (I can’t remember if the free versions supports DRM, but the paid versions do).

    Then you can buy from Sony or Kobo or Google or lots of others. If you buy from Sony, you have to have their (less than wonderful) software on your Mac, and you can use it to process purchases from other stores, too otherwise Adobe Digital Editions will work.

  4. Nook study is FANTASTIC!

    On the topic of searchability, since I’ve read two puzzling articles criticizing this recently;

    What’s wrong with just typing “world war 2” into the search engine box, if that’s what you want to read? Then you can sort the results by date if you have already read the top matches.

    I just tried it, and it works pretty well on both sites- scratch that, Amazon for some reason groups non-WW2 era novel “30 pieces of silver” as being somehow related to WWII and lists it as the top result when ranked by popularity. I can see why someone who’s used to Amazon might have learned to avoid this very useful feature.

    Well, anyways, I find Barnes and Noble is pretty easy to search.

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