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Archive for December, 2009

Nook Review – Day 18

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had a pretty good opportunity to use the Nook, trying out various functions and the purchasing process.

Where are the thousands of free books for the nook?

To correct an earlier post, I was able to find the “thousands of free ebooks”.  These free ebooks are made available through Google Books, and can be found by entering nothing into Barnes & Noble’s search tool, then sorting by price.  The lowest price books will be the free ones.

The free ebooks section only contains Barnes & Noble’s current “preferred” selection.  This is a bit misleading, in my opinion, but once you understand this, you can quickly find many classic books, as well as various other topics.  For example, I downloaded several books from the early 1900s about Atlantis–I was curious about what the thoughts from a hundred years ago were on the lost city.

Is the nook an eReader for writers?

Unfortunately, the Nook isn’t designed for use by writers.  I’d hoped to be able to use the Nook to edit my own work.  The highlighter takes a fair amount of time to use, and trying to type notes take too long to be useful.

To be fair to the Nook, it was designed with readers in mind, not writers.  It appears that tablet PCs are still the best available method for writers to take notes on their work.

Here are my other impressions of the nook:


  • The nook has a good, hefty weight that makes it feel almost as solid as a real book.
  • Turning pages and selecting books are intuitive.
  • The color, multi-touch screen at the bottom of the Nook is impressive.
  • It is easy to add books to your nook via Barnes & Noble or the USB interface.
  • Adding memory to the nook is actually fairly simple.
  • The battery life is reasonably long (several days).


  • The thin casing for the nook makes it more likely to slip (though this is also an issue with the Kindle).
  • There are no styluses available for the Nook, though this would make the interface much easier to use.
  • There is no ability to browse the Internet (beyond the B&N store) or add your own custom RSS feeds.
  • There is no .doc support.

Overall, I’m still pleased with the Nook purchase, but there is a lot of room for improvement in the next generation.  It’s certainly nice to carry just one Nook rather than the 4-5 books I typically bring on vacations.

Earlier, I gave a grade of B+ for the Nook.  I still stand by that grade.  There are three things that can be done in order for me to give it an A:

  • Add the ability to subscribe to custom RSS feeds
  • Provide a stylus that can be used with the Nook
  • Improve the highlighting/note taking functionality

If you’ve found this review helpful or have further questions, please let us know in the comments below.

Blank page syndrome

Monday, December 21st, 2009

What is it about a blank page that sends most aspiring writers screaming into the night, or at least off to go check their email (again), or anything else but actually putting pen to paper?

One of the most intimidating challenges a writer faces is a blank page.  Here are three things you can do to get past this maddening problem.

1.  Brainstorm

To get past the initial fear, just start writing down random words related to your topic.  The goal isn’t to have a fully formed draft at first, just to get some words down to eliminate the intimidation of a blank page.

When writing this blog entry, for example, I thought of the three methods I wanted to cover first, and got them down as quickly as possible.  Instead of worrying about “what I wanted to write”, I focused my efforts on “what do I do when I have a blank page?”
2.  Copy and paste old work onto the new page

If you’ve written before about your chosen topic, sometimes copying and pasting some of your old material into the new document can give you something to focus on.  Once you have a general format and some relevant information, you quickly start to make progress because you have somewhere to start.

Occasionally, I’ve used material from answers that I’ve written to help other writers.  This serves two purposes:  it gives me a place to start, and uses information someone else has already found useful.  This helps me to improve even farther, giving relevant information to my readers.

3.  Close your eyes and stop procrastinating

Sometimes, the easiest way to forget about a blank page is to close your eyes.  Once they’re closed, start typing or writing whatever comes to mind.  By the time you open them again, there are words on the page, ready for you to edit, throw away, or build on.

More often than not, you find something useful in whatever you write.  The trick is often just getting something onto the page.  I usually find that I’ve completed my work faster than I would have thought possible.  My only problem has been getting started.

What are you waiting for?  Go write!

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