NOOKStudy: Not so great for studying10/14/2010
I wanted to like NOOKStudy, the downloadable reader for textbooks from Barnes and Noble. I believe the time for dead tree books is rapidly ending, although I may never shake the feeling that a well-educated man should have bookshelves stuffed with dense reading.
Firstly, you don't own the textbook you buy from B&N. It's a rental, which feels strange considering there's nothing to return. They charge a similar amount to get areal book rental, but it would cost them nothing to let you keep the digital download. It's already DRM'ed up the wazoo. I can't give it to anybody like I could a real textbook. It's borderline abusive considering the vast cost differences to the bookseller.
Also, you must use the NOOKStudy app. You can't use the IPad Nook, or (I imagine) a real Nook. The textbook will display in the library, but attempts to download it will give mysterious errors.
Reading on the laptop is much less comfortable than using a reader. A page of text from the book simply doesn't fit on a 15'' Macbook screen. I can zoom the page until it's readable, but then I have to use the arrow keys to scroll, which slows navigation considerably. Also, there's no fullscreen option. That seems like an odd choice, since that would be at the top of my list of features to implement. The page-up and page-down keys do nothing, and the scrolling sometimes stops at the end of the page or using the trackpad scroll may blur uncontrollably through dozens of pages. Simply put, navigation is difficult, slow and frustrating.
The Mac application is hastily constructed, too. The .app folder contains .svn entries from their version control. There are no context menus, but there is a hacked status bar of their own near the bottom of the page. It's a silly waste of semi-transparent rendering, but I'm sure somebody had fun implementing it. I would also complain about the note-taking, but I literally can no longer find that function. It's not anywhere obvious. There's a button for "My Notes" but seemingly no way to add one.
There are also hard limits on printing and copying from the text. When I selected a sentence to make a direct quote in an online discussion, I was warned that would count against my total page "allowance." Unless I want to burn through my page allowance, I guess I have to Alt-Tab and write it myself... Just like I would with a book, except now I can't see both at the same time. Awesome.
I don't know if I'll rent again. NOOKStudy is just... awkward. Maybe it will improve.
Typically, when a new technology disrupts an older industry, there's some sort of incentive. The ability to Control-F search through a textbook is just not enough when publishers are twisting everything to their advantage. There's not even a price advantage. They are making students pay for the e-book privilege rather than encouraging new media. There is a great business opportunity for some new authors to replace the restrictive textbooks of old.