As a ketchup bottle once famously said: Good things take time (we're paraphrasing here, of course). Roughly a year and a half ago, Barnes & Noble made its top-notch Nook Simple Touch even better with the addition of GlowLight. Before the end of the year, however, the company had been outdone by both Kobo and Amazon in that department; the two e-reader competitors launched devices with more uniform and brighter front-lighting technologies. Since then, those companies have both offered up refreshes, Amazon with a new Paperwhite and Kobo with the slick Aura, leaving us wondering why Barnes & Noble had been quiet for so long. Surely issues with its hardware division couldn't be helping matters.
Today, however, things are looking, um, brighter for the company. The latest Nook is available now through Barnes & Noble's site, bringing with it a slew of upgrades and a shortened name. Say "goodbye" to Simple Touch. This time out, it's just Nook GlowLight, a new name for a new look. Gone is the matte black color scheme of its predecessor (not to mention most of the rest of the industry). That's been traded in for a white design that evokes the Nook HD tablet. It's also easier on the eyes, according to the company, with less of a contrast between the bezel and display. It's still a sizable bezel, of course. B&N didn't shave things down like Kobo. There's also a rubber bumper running around the perimeter. The company won't actually call it "rugged," but we suspect that'll help it take a tumble a bit more gracefully.
Barnes & Noble's Nook GlowLight is lighter, brighter, whiter, with less Simple Touch for $119
Gone, sadly, are the physical page-turn buttons Barnes & Noble held onto for so long. And while the touchscreen is plenty responsive, we did always appreciate the option. Also ditched this time out is the concave back we liked on the Simple Touch models. We're told that the company no longer found it necessary in order to provide the most ergonomic experience, though we suspect it just jumped at the opportunity to make the device a bit thinner overall. That said, the reader's a pleasure to hold, thanks in no small part to its light weight. The GlowLight is a mere 6.2 ounces -- 15 percent lighter than the new Paperwhite, as the company happily points out. And indeed, it's an impressive reduction, bringing the heft down to around that of a pocket paperback.
The power button has been moved to the side, presumably to eliminate accidental triggers, though we watched as a rep put a cover on the reader and found him accidentally turning it on several times. The "n" button is still intact, thankfully, and used for both returning home and turning on the front light, which is accomplished when you hold it down for a few seconds. As for the GlowLight technology itself, the company's really upped the ante over the last gen, bringing it on par with the competition. Gone is the blue-tinged and spotty coverage of the first model. You can still see the origin of the lights up top, if you tilt it right, but, well, you have to tilt it to actually see them.
Like with the Aura, E Ink has managed to reduce full-page refreshes here, so there's no flash on the display every six pages or so while reading. Barnes & Noble says it's also done away with text ghosting, and indeed, we didn't see any during our demo. There's no expandable storage, though the onboard amount has been doubled to 4GB (also double that of the Paperwhite). The UI and store, meanwhile, have been simplified to the essentials -- probably the best for an e-reader. All of that is available today through Barnes & Noble's site for $119. The cover, meanwhile, will run you $22. It doesn't add to the reader's bulk, but it also doesn't close exactly, thanks to an absence of magnets. Life is full of trade-offs.