nook booksThat’s a serious headline. It’s not intended as click-bait, and I’m not going on a rant about how evil Barnes and Noble is or how I’ll never buy anything from them again. I just won’t buy more Nook books. (I’m quite willing to buy a future Nook device, assuming it’s good. I love my Nook HD.)

I’ve been meaning to write this story for more than a week, but I got distracted by the whole Amazon/Hachette thing and hesitated to publish this because of the timing. Finally, I decided “what the heck,” especially after Chris’ excellent piece on why DRM isn’t the reason people are “locked in” to Kindle. He makes the point that its convenience, not DRM, and I completely agree, especially after my latest round with Nook books. I haven’t seen many bloggers do a step by step comparison between the buying/reading experience on Kindle and Nook, so here it goes. By the end, I think you’ll understand my headline.

I’ve had periods of time where I bought more books from B&N (like during the period covered by the eBook settlement) and periods (like recently) when I’ve purchased more from Amazon. Since I had all those lovely credits, I decided to buy some books from B&N, which is where I remembered why I switched to Amazon and learned a new wrinkle.

Browsing for books

I prefer the Amazon site but find the B&N site to be perfectly usable. I rarely browse and most often use the search function, which seems to work equally well on either site. I know many people who browse generally prefer Amazon’s site, but for me, the website experience is equal. Advantage: Neither

Purchasing books from site or device

Again, for me, basically neutral if all you’re looking at is the process of finding and downloading a book to your device. We’ll get into payments in a moment. Advantage: Neither

Payments, especially for pre-orders

Now we get to the good stuff. I decided to use some of my credits to order [easyazon-link asin=”B00HUVUSZ4″ locale=”us”]Skin Game[/easyazon-link], the new Harry Dresden book. I cancelled my pre-order at Amazon (remember that) and pre-ordered from B&N. I noticed the amount vanished from my gift card credit and suddenly had a sinking feeling, so I did some research.

Here’s how pre-orders work at B&N. They do not charge your credit card until the book is released, but they do deduct gift card balance, if any, immediately. If the price drops between the time you order and the book’s release, too bad. Oh, and you can’t cancel a pre-order. At all.

Here’s how pre-orders work at Amazon. They do not charge either your credit card or your gift card balance, if any, until the book is released. eBooks are covered under the pre-order price guarantee, which means if the price drops after you place your order, you will be charged the lower price on release date. And, remember above? You can cancel your pre-order at any time.

While I understand the debate around the Amazon ebook refund policy (which I support, btw, even though I’ve had my books returned and yes, “lost” those sales), I think cancelling pre-orders is perfectly reasonable. I haven’t received the book yet, so what’s the harm in me cancelling it? Amazon’s pre-order price guarantee is extremely customer-friendly. B&N’s policies are not customer-friendly. Advantage: Amazon

Reading Books

As I’ve written before, Nook doesn’t play nice with ePub. Often, to get a book, purchased from B&N, to display properly on their own device, I have to download, strip the DRM and run it through Calibre. I rarely need to do that with Kindle books. Advantage: Amazon

Removing a book from your device after reading it

If you’ve ever purchased a book for a Nook, you know where I’m going here.

Removing a book from a Kindle involves long-pressing it, selecting “Remove from Device” and it’s gone. If you have it in a Collection on a Paperwhite, you’ll also need to remove it from the Collection so it doesn’t show up as a greyed-out “Cloud” book. Yes, that second step is annoying, and the KBoards people have gone on at length about how it’s a relatively new “feature” that ain’t. However, you can do everything needed from your Kindle. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it is still a one-step process on any non-Paperwhite device.

Not so on your Nook. First, you Remove from Device. Then you have the cover still on your library with a little “cloud” image on it. You can “Move it to Nook Cloud,” but that doesn’t actually do anything. To actually remove the cover image from your device, you have to go to your computer, log on to your account and “Archive” the book. Then you go back to your Nook and refresh your library. Finally, that darned cover goes away.

Update: Reader Geert in the comments said there is a way to Archive a book directly from the Nook HD/HD+. Copied from the B&N forum:

Go to the library. Hold down the ‘up’ button on volume control until the volume control is all the way up. At the same time as you are pressing on the ‘up’ volume button, do a long touch on the book that you want to archive. You will now see that there is an ‘archive’ option in the menu. to unarchive, go the the 4 lines at the bottom left corner of the library and touch them and choose “view archive”. Use the same procedure as archiving, but of course the option in the menu now says “unarchive”.

Fair enough. It can be done. However, holding down the volume control before archiving a book is NOT intuitive at all!

Oh, and remember that pre-order? Pre-ordered book covers sit on your device with a “Pre-order” badge the entire time. I suppose I could have archived my pre-order (I didn’t try), but I’m not sure.

Update: Anyone want to let me know if the method above works on a pre-order as well? I don’t have one to check it on.

I’m one of those people who keeps my device clean. I only want the books I’m going to read on it. Once I’m done, I want it gone. If I don’t have it yet, I don’t want to see the cover. With the Nook, there’s no way it’s not intuitive to do it without involving the computer. Advantage: Amazon

Take price out of the equation (though Nook books are often more than Kindle books). On sheer convenience and pricing policies, Amazon continues to be more customer-friendly. I’m willing to pay more for a superior product or customer experience, but I’m not willing to pay more for an inferior experience.

Would I like to see a viable competitor to Amazon? Sure. Competition is a good thing. However, I’m not going to pay more and deal with less customer-friendly policies just because the company isn’t called Amazon.



  1. /quote
    Yes, that second step is annoying, and the KBoards people have gone on at length about how it’s a relatively new “feature” that ain’t. However, you can do everything needed from your Kindle. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it is still a one-step process on any non-Paperwhite device.

    Actually you should still use the ‘remove from collection’ step on the pre-paperwhite before ‘remove from device’. If you don’t the entry stays in the collection definition and those build up over time and slow the device. It seemed to me that each non-existing entry would take a little time to process whenever it worked with that collection.

    You can see the difference if the kindle is feeling sluggish. Delete a collection (dropping those books to the main window), then recreate it and re-add the books you still have. The Kindle will get a little faster.

    The new paperwhite style is good since it shows the cloud book so I don’t forget to remove it from the collection.

  2. Truth to tell, I never bought an epub book and I received my first gen Nook for free as a “bonus” added to a PC purchase. It was hate at first sight since the #$#@! thing was prone to freezing for no apparent cause & lost the place & all bookmarks when re-started. Not fun when in the midst of a large book. Further, it didn’t play nice with Calibre so there was no way I would abandon my Paperwhite to use the Nook for anything, I gave it away. But the brick & mortar B&N is the only good bookstore left standing in my area so I appreciate their presence.

  3. I just put pre-orders on my wishlist and buy the books after they have been released and the price is right. There is no need buy an ebook as a pre-order, an ebook cannot get sold out.

    There is a way to archive books on the Nook HD/HD+. I copied the following text from a post on the B&N forum:
    Go to the library. Hold down the ‘up’ button on volume control until the volume control is all the way up. At the same time as you are pressing on the ‘up’ volume button, do a long touch on the book that you want to archive. You will now see that there is an ‘archive’ option in the menu. to unarchive, go the the 4 lines at the bottom left corner of the library and touch them and choose “view archive”. Use the same procedure as archiving, but of course the option in the menu now says “unarchive”.

    • @Geert, if pre-orders (even for ebooks) were unimportant, there wouldn’t be all the fuss about Amazon/Hachette right now. Anyway, I like the option to pre-order for certain books because I don’t have to remember to keep checking my Wishlist. Convenience + low price guarantee on Amazon make it attractive.

      Okay, I’ll correct the article to reflect that completely NOT intuitive way to archive. Good to know it can be done.

  4. My goodness I have never had any problems with my Nook with Glowlight. If I buy a book from B&N it goes to my device with no problem. I check out epubs from the OverDrive collection/public library all the time and I never have a problem getting them on the Nook. Yes, removing the covers from the device is strange but I don’t have hatred for Nooks or epubs. They work for me!

    • @Judy, glad it works for you. This post was why it doesn’t work for me. Oh, and getting Overdrive books onto Nook HDs without using the Overdrive app is not nearly as easy as with the Glowlight. There are hoops to jump through to connect a Nook to Adobe Digital editions which don’t always work.

      And I don’t hate epubs or Nooks. I like the epub format just fine (in some ways better than Mobi). I’m just not happy with the buying experience on Nook or the un-intuitive way some things work.

  5. Well, Juli, I was disappointed in your article. I expected a list of reasons why Amazon is superior but didn’t get it. Which is good, because I’m quite happy with my Nook experience.

    I agree that there are things that are annoying about the Nook experience and that could/should be done better. I admit I was unaware of the preorder problem. I only preorder hardcover books and I have no problem cancelling them at B&N. I have never considered preordering an ebook for myriad reasons.

    I’ve also never had a problem with ePub books on the Nook. Every ebook I have purchased from B&N has downloaded smoothly and displayed properly, as has every ePub ebook I have purchased from other sources.

    Anyway, bottom line is that there were no earth-shaking revelations that would cause me to think it is time to say goodbye to buying Nook ebooks. Although your headline made me think my ebook world was about to be torn asunder, I am pleased that it was just hyperbole and I can continue on my merry way. 🙂

    • @Rich. I’d say I’m sorry that you’re disappointed, but then I’m happy that you’re happy with your Nook experience. Hence why the title was “why I won’t buy.” I thought it would have been over reaching just a bit to say “why no one should buy.” Interesting that you’ve had no problems with ePubs. We must buy different books because it’s not just a problem for me. I’ve seen it discussed on many a forum. I still love my Nook, but B&N will have to make some changes before I’ll buy ebooks from them again. The good news is that the changes they need to make aren’t earth shattering. Changing their pre-order policy and fixing the coding so Nooks deal with standard ePub CSS would do it, now that I know how to delete the darned things after I read them.

  6. You might find the discussion I had in the comment section with April Hamilton about the nook to be interesting: What happens if BN shuts down its ebook business?

    I have generally had a good experience with Nook, but their website sucks, and they don’t have a 1/10 of the promotional offers that Amazon does. Also, Amazon’s cloud solution is elegant and fairly easy to use — which you would probably expect because of Amazon’s cloud services.

    I generally have found it easier to code ebooks for the Nook than the Kindle, but that has started to change recently (the Jan 2014 Amazon’s new formatting guide announced some new specs for handling graphics and modest support for epub3 features which show they are at least forward-thinking).

    On another note, my nook has continued to give me (unintentionally) a free digital subscription to a well-known and expensive magazine. I’m not going to complain!

  7. I have never had a nook but for many years I was the defacto ereader “fixer” for the family. I was rather impressed with the hardware but after two unsatisfactory contacts with B&N customer service, I started refusing to assist. To the best of my knowledge there are no more nooks in my family.

    For my family, Chris is right. It is the convenience AND customer service that keeps most of my family members using Amazon. Other than my mom, I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve assisted with a kindle issue. I think the rest finally believed me on how easy it is to work with Amazon’s CS and if there are problems, they take care of it themselves.

  8. I live in The Netherlands and have used Amazon/Kindle for years. Though I am very content with that, yesterday I noticed that a few specific titles where much cheaper on the BN site, so today I decided to try out Nook for Windows 8 (which is supposed to support customers from The Netherlands), created an account, installed the App, and used it to buy a free ebook to test it. That seemed to go well (no error messages) but I never managed to get the book into my library. According to the BN website I should sign in with my Nook account and not with my Microsoft account, but the app doesn’t let me do that. I can sign in with my Nook account on the BN website with my browser, but there I’m not allowed to buy ebooks from The Netherlands (apparently only the app allows that). When I try to combine my Nook with Microsoft account, as BN recommends, I get thrown off their website (repeatedly). After three hours trying without getting anywhere, I’m going to give up, glad I didn’t spend any money on this. In comparison, I had my Amazon account, Kindle for PC, and Kindle, functioning like a dream in fifteen minutes, and likewise my Kobo account (where I buy Dutch ebooks) with the Kobo app.

  9. I agree with Judy & Richard. I purchase nook books, get the freebies and ePub from Overdrive. They all work fine. I did just purchase the Samsung nook 4 and couldn’t find how to archive the book I just completed. I found how to ‘delete’ the book, but the book image remained, and like Julie, once completed, I want the book gone.

    Thank you for finding the ‘trick’ to archiving. I don’t care if i have to press the up volume and long press the book to be rid of it. Thanks again!

  10. I own 2 NOOK HDs and buy most of my books from Amazon. I just use the Kindle app for NOOK. One of the things that bugged me about the NOOK books was trying to archive them without going into my online account and then refreshing my tablet library. Thank you so much for solving the problem for me. You are right when you say it is not an intuitive solution. It is also not a solution I found anywhere but here (and believe me I looked). I wonder why B&N is hiding it? At any rate it works and it’s easy once you know what to do.

    As far as the pre orders go, I did not know that B&N won’t allow cancellation. I will continue to pre order from Amazon only.

    Thank you for a lot of very useful information.

  11. There are only 2 problems that I have with my nook. The first is that the nook is missing alot of books that amazon has which pisses me off cause those are the books I want to read also sometimes some nook books will vanish like if there are 2 books in a series but u only bought one then go back to buy the other one after awhile the second book will not be available to nook which sucks. The 2 problem I have with nook is that the have less deals then amazon. If I didnt already invest so much ebooks on my nook I would have switched to kindle. I mean I love my nook don’t get me wrong but I’m not rich I don’t want to pay for a book that is 10 or higher if I could get it for 99 cents instead. But there is one thing I really like better from the nook then kindle and thats the reading style I like nooks better then kindle.

  12. To archive books in either Nook app on my iPad or on my Nook device I double tap the cover in library and from the resulting “details” choose “archive” & confirm. BTW I have noticed on my Nook, a very early model, unless the screen is very clean touch control is very sporadic

  13. I’ve actually found that reading epubs as well as book organization on any Nook (tablet, hd, color, simple, or original) better than the Kindle Fire (the only Kindle I’ve used — won it in a raffle). I’m not sure what epubs you are using, but if you have to convert it with Calibre before moving it to Kindle anyway, then it’s possible Kindle would have the same issues.

    While I love my Nook and buy most of my books as nook books, I should add a few things that are turning me away from B&N:

    1. I’ve heard that self-publishing on Amazon is supposedly much easier than on B&N. For that reason, I’ve seen a few authors (e.g. J.A. Konrath) publish exclusively for Kindle, but DRM-free so you can port it to any device with the expressed consent of the author.

    2. B&N seems to be going to great lengths to hide the epubs, making it (almost) impossible to get the original epub (even for DRM-free books). The day my last remaining method of getting them goes away is the day I stop buying from B&N.

    I would love to see Amazon do for ebooks what they did for mp3s. I would pay extra for a DRM-free ebook.

    Of course, the problem with reading books on Nook not bought through B&N is that it doesn’t sync your last-read page across devices; I’m not sure what the Kindle behavior is.