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Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight

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What's hot: Sidelighting means you can read in dim and dark environments.

What's not: Slight reduction in display contrast, backlight isn't even.


Reviewed May 31, 2012 by by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

E-Ink fans rejoice: there's a new technology that will change your reading experience. Unless you're lucky enough to only read on the beach and outdoors on sunny days. The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight means never having to futz around with those little gooseneck book lights again. The reader handles ePUB and PDF eBooks and documents and it has a 6" Pearl E-Ink display as well as hardware page turn buttons. Other than a change in the trim ring and the GlowLight, it's identical to the Nook Simple Touch in terms of looks and features.

Nook with Glowlight

Rather than an improvement in Pearl E-Ink technology, this is an added sidelight with a super-thin diffuser layer over the screen that makes for fairly even white light. No, it's not like Sony's attempts at side lighting that didn't look good: this is a completely new tech. The LEDs reside at the top edge of the screen and the diffuser spreads the light downward. Barnes & Noble calls this a screen protector, but it isn't exactly that. In fact, it may be slightly more prone to scratching than a standard E-Ink display. You can't and shouldn't remove it (you can't actually see it anyhow) and you shouldn't add your own screen protector on top.

New Nook

The Nook with GlowLight and Nook Simple Touch.

Compared to the standard Nook Touch, the GlowLight model has a bit less contrast, even when the sidelight is off. I'm very picky when it comes to my E-Ink screens and I do mourn the loss of contrast, but it's by no means horrid. It's really a small difference and the incredible usefulness of the lighted screen offsets the minor loss of contrast. You can adjust brightness using a slider, and when you find the sweet spot, the display doesn't seem to glow unnaturally, rather it's just easier to read and sharper.

New Nook

The Nook is more open in terms of file formats and shopping options than the Kindle since it’s an ePub reader. Public library ebooks, Sony Reader Store ebooks, Kobo Books and more will work on the New Nook. The Nook supports the older Adobe Adept DRM scheme used by those services as well as the newer Adobe DRM that’s based on your name and credit card number. Books purchased from B&N’s online ebookstore can be read on any Nook ereader and in their Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone, iPad and BlackBerry apps. No, it can’t handle Kindle books: only Amazon Kindle products and apps support Kindle books (unless you’re into removing DRM and converting file formats).




Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight Video Review

In our 25 minute video review we cover the touch user interface, libary organization, shopping on the device, page layout options, PDF handling and more.


The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight has a microSD card slot so you can carry hundreds of titles with you (we found the reader bogged down when we exceeded a thousand titles on a card). It has 2 gigs of internal storage with 235 megs available for your side-loaded files (via USB cable, it mounts as a removable drive on PCs and Macs). That might not sound like a lot, but novels average 180-600k, so it will hold more than a hundred books. The Kindle Paperwhite has 2 gigs of internal storage with approximately1.25 gigs free, and no card slot.

The Nook with GlowLight launched at $139 in the US, but B&N dropped the price in Sept. 2012 to match the Kindle Paperwhite's pricing. To acheive the low price, non-reading features have been cut. That means the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight has no speakers, no headphone jack, no MP3 support, no 3G option and the web browser is gone. OK, it’s not really gone, but B&N states that it has no web browser.

The user replaceable battery is a casualty of size reduction. Thus B&N doesn’t advertise it as being something you can do yourself, and in fact the back cover doesn’t pry or pop off easily (that means no alternate color backs for sale at B&N). Happily, unlike the Kobo Touch and Kindle Paperwhite, the hardware page turn buttons didn’t get axed. There are page forward and back buttons on each side of the reader’s screen, and you can specify whether the top or bottom button handles page forward or page back. 

The design is identical to the Nook Touch, so we won't go into it in detail here. As usual with Nooks, the “N” button is your beacon to all functions: it brings up touch options to go home, go to library, shop, search and go to settings. If you want to visit settings relevant to the current book, tap the display and you’ll see options for fonts and layout, table of contents, go to, find and book info. The power button lives on the top facing the back, though you’ll rarely need it. E-Ink readers have profound battery life, so you generally won’t power it off completely. Instead, you’ll let it go to sleep and wake it by pressing the “N” button, then swiping across the screen. The Nook runs a screensaver when it sleeps and it comes with authors and nature screen savers. You can add your own if you wish. You can also specify when it goes to sleep: 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 15 minutes or 1 hour (why doesn’t the Kindle have this timeout setting?!).

We’ve had the Nook Touch with GlowLight for months, and battery life has been excellent with WiFi off when not needed (that's most of the time) and the GlowLight set to 50% brightness. We noted that it took a few charges before we got maximum battery life, and after that the reader hasn’t needed a charge in 5 days of reading 2 hours per day. if we leave WiFi on, battery life drops by 25%. We estimate that the reader will go 3 weeks on a charge with WiFi off if you read 1-2 hours/day. Barnes & Noble claims a month of use on a charge if you read 1/2 hour per day. The Nook GlowLight, like the Kobo Touch, Kindle Touch and Kindle Paperwhite, conserves battery by fully refreshing the page every 6 page turns. That’s both wonderful and terrible. You don’t have to see that annoying page flashing to black at every page turn and it saves power: great. Text has a five O’ clock shadow until you hit that sixth page turn, but B&N controls it better than Amazon does with the Kindle.  There’s some ghosting: remnants of old characters remain as very, veryfaint gray tiny spots and light spots are a hair less than uniform.

The reading and navigation are excellent on the ereader thanks to the intuitive touch interface. Simply tap on a book cover to read that book (double-tap to manage the book and get details). Your library is laid out in virtual shelves with book covers and you can create your own shelves (aka collections). If you side load books from a card and put them in the “Books” folder, they’ll appear mingled with your B&N-purchased books, with covers intact (ePub only, PDFs don’t display covers).  You can now archive downloaded B&N items but you can’t delete items using the ereader itself (you’ll have to do that over USB or card reader).

When in a book, tap on the screen to bring up reading controls. B&N offers 6 fonts: Caecilia, Amasis, Malabar, Gill Sans, Helvetica Neue and Trebuchet. You can select single, 1.5 and double line spacing and small, medium or large margins. There are 7 font sizes and these are used both for ePub and PDFs. There’s no PDF zooming. Your only option is to enlarge or reduce the font, and that actually works well for novel-reading, but isn’t an ideal solution for technical PDFs, manuals with illustrations or text books that rely on columns and heavy use of illustrations because the layout is destroyed. Sony still does the best job of handling PDFs since they offer excellent zooming with re-flow as well as a font resize option.

Want to highlight passages of a book or make annotations?  Tap and hold on a word to bring up a word selection tool you can use to highlight a passage, add a note or look up the word in the dictionary. Unfortunately, unlike the Kindle and Sony Reader, you can’t export your notes to the desktop.

Shopping in the B&N store on device is a pleasant experience, and we find it equally enjoyable and easy as using the Amazon ebookstore on the Kindle. You can also buy books using your computer's web browser and have them sent wirelessly to your ereader. Social networking is here and you can connect with your reading buddies via Google contacts sync, B&N lending, Facebook and Twitter. You’ll need to be in WiFi range to use the store and social features since there’s no 3G. Though Amazon still has the largest selection of ebooks, B&N has a very large selection. They claim 2 million books, though more than a million of those are likely free public domain Google books (literary classics and more). Amazon has a wider selection of periodicals, technical books and reference works in my experience, while both stores offer a similar selection of mainstream fiction and non-fiction at near equal pricing (Amazon is sometimes a little cheaper).


The Barnes & Noble Nook with GlowLight is one of our top picks among ereaders. It has a good lighting solution that hardly impacts battery life and a very well done touch user interface. It’s fast, it supports all manner of ePub with and without DRM, and it’s small and lightweight. You can bring your New Nook to any B&N store for help, and while you're there you'll get free WiFi, special offers and free reading of B&N ebooks. Unless you're married to Amazon's ecosystem, it's well worth a look.

Price: $139 $199 (B&N dropped the price Sept. 2012 to compete with the Kindle Paperwhite)

Web Site:


Nook Simple Touch Glowlight


Nook Simple Touch Glowlight


Nook Simple Touch Glowlight


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Display: 6", 600 x 800 pixel Pearl eInk touch screen with IR touch sensors. 16 grayscale levels, sidelighting.

Storage and CPU: 2 gigs internal flash storage with 236 megs available for your use. TI OMAP ARM Cortex-A8 CPU.

Size and Weight: 6.5 x 5 x 0.47 inches. 6.95 ounces.

Expansion and Storage: Has 236 megs internal storage for your use and 750 megs reserved for B&N content, microSD card slot.

Wireless: WiFi 802.11b/g/n. Also included: free WiFi in Barnes and Noble stores with in-store promotions and free reading of B&N ebooks (1 hour per book) while in store.

OS: Android.

Formats: ePUB (DRM and non-DRM), PDF (DRM and non-DRM), PDB eReader format. Graphics formats: JPG, PNG, GIF and BMP.

Audio: None.

Battery: Not user replaceable. Lasts several weeks on a charge. Comes with compact charger (5V, .85 mA) and can charge over USB.


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