My $199 Android tablet

One Nook Color + 20 minutes of tech time = awesome shiny toy at bargain price. When a $50 coupon off the Nook Color’s regular $249  was announced last week, my personal price point alarm went off. I knew about the easy-as-reading-the Ars-Tecnica’s-directions way to root the Nook Color so that the Android operating system was unlocked on the Nook -and  here was my chance to give it a try. So now I’m the proud owner of a Wi-Fi tablet that’s $300 bucks less than the new iPad 2.

How does the tablet stack up to my Kindle 3? The comparison between browsing the  web on the pinch-and-zoom super-sharp color touch screen Nook Color and the Kindle 3’s pitiful “experimental” web browser is laughable – winner: Nook by a country mile. A full array of Android Market Apps makes the web experience even better. Facebook & Twitter? Check. Google maps? Check. Editing both Word & Google docs? Check. Heck, you can even let the Angry Birds build a nest on the Nook.

For audiobook fans there are awesome features for the rooted Android Nook. I have the OverDrive Android app installed, so I can instantly download FREE audiobooks & eBooks from my public library – take that Kindle! The Audible Android app gives me access to my purchased audiobooks. I can even listen to an audiobook at the same time that I’m reading the same eBook – a feature that Kindle can’t match. Need more space for all those audio downloads? The Nook Color takes a 32gb memory card. I added some of Oceanhouse Media‘s Dr. Seuss apps for my granddaughter. Holy cow – they look GREAT on the Nook Color, and the swipe-and-touch interactivity is superior to the still pretty darn cool Nook Kids titles available from Barnes & Noble. At it’s heart, it’s still a Nook Color with the Barnes & Noble eBook store a tap away. Best of all? I added the Kindle for Android app to the Nook Color, basically turning the tablet into a split-personality dual-vendor eBook reader.

There are other pluses to the Nook Color over the Kindle 3 – the easier dictionary look up feature, magazine & newspapers in color, music via Pandora at my fingertips. But there are minuses, too. The glare on the backlit shiny screen, the (much) shorter battery life, the heftier weight, the nearly-the-same-size but thicker unit. So how do I rate the two? For immersive  reading of print (easier on eyes & fewer web-based distractions) – Kindle 3 wins. For easy handling while reading – like while at the gym – the Kindle 3 again. For do-it-all functionality – the Android Nook Color. Bottom line? I’m carrying BOTH. After all, they will both fit in my purse at the same time – kinda like a having a paperback and a hardcover to choose from. Take that, iPad!

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About the Author:

Mary Burkey is an independent library consultant in Columbus (OH). An enthusiastic audiophile, she has served on all four of ALA's audiobook award committees as well as the Audies. In addition to writing the "Voices in My Head" column for Booklist, she is the author of Audiobooks for Youth: A Practical Guide to Sound Literature (ALA, 2013). Follow her on Twitter at @mburkey.

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