A Review of NOOKStudy

nookAbout a month ago, I got hold of a Nook. I was interested in an e-reader primarily for reading journal articles as PDFs. In the interest of saving trees (and wear and tear on my back) I much prefer electronic copies of journal articles to dead tree versions. The problem is, at the end of a day of onscreen reading at a computer, eye strain is really bad (sometimes to the point of seeing squiggly little lines of light). An ereader, I thought, would be much better for my eyes. I was right; I now find myself dealing with significantly less eyestrain after a day of reading.

About the same time that I was considering the Nook, Barnes and Noble started advertising an piece of software that became available August 2nd: NOOKStudy. It looked interesting. Unlike the standard B&N eReader application (for Mac, at least), NOOKStudy supports highlighting and notetaking, and will sync those highlights and notes between two computers.

The software is designed primarily for use with textbooks. That’s no surprise. It’s also no surprise that textbooks can’t be viewed on the Nook itself. Really, who’d want to look at all the diagrams you find in textbooks on a 6″ grayscale screen, anyway? But though it isn’t possible to read textbooks on the Nook,you can read any of your purchased B&N content in NOOKStudy; any e-books you’ve purchased will automatically show up in your NOOKStudy library.

That sounded good to me, so I thought I’d give the software a try. Sure enough, when I opened the software and plugged in my account information, my entire B&N library magically appeared (which, incidentally, is far better than the standard B&N eReader software does).

[Note: All images below link to larger versions.]

The reading area is simple and straightforward:

NOOKStudy reading

Marking up text is easy, as is adding notes:

Textbooks display beautifully in the software. Unfortunately, my seven-day trial expired before I wrote this post, but I can truthfully say that a textbook I used to use for my an intro course–Janda, Berry, and Goldman’s The Challenge of Democrcay: American Government in a Global World displays perfectly.

There are some things to be concerned about, however. Though the software will sync information between two computers, highlights and notes created in NOOKStudy won’t sync to the Nook, nor will highlights and notes created on the Nook sync to NOOKStudy. In fact, NOOKStudy couldn’t even bring me to the correct page in the book I’m currently reading. At least the pages in NOOKStudy seem to correspond with the pagination you’d see on the Nook, so finding one’s place isn’t horrendously difficult, but still. Amazon had this sort of thing figured out with Whispersync some time ago.

There’s also an issue with sorting the books in NOOKStudy’s library, as you can see from the screenshot below:

That’s right: you can sort your library by Title, Last Read, Note Count, or Recently Added, but Author is mysteriously missing.

My take on the software? It isn’t fully ready yet, especially for those who’d like to use it in tandem with a stand-alone e-reader. Scholars aren’t likely to find it all that useful just yet, unless long stretches of onscreen reading don’t bother them. That said, what the software does, it appears to do reasonably well. Those who prefer electronic textbooks will find it useful, as will those whose eyes don’t bother them after reading a computer screen all day. Students might like it for preserving both their backs and their wallets. (The hardcover edition of Janda, Berry and Goldman goes for $116.44 at Amazon and $135.78 at Barnes and Noble. The Kindle edition sells for $99.96, and the etextbook rental from Barnes & Noble–good for 180 days–goes for $62.19.)

Have you tried NOOKStudy or similar software? What’s your experience been like? Please feel free to share your impressions in the comments.

[The lead image in this post is by Flickr user Eric Grossnickle / Creative Commons licensed]

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