The Grumpy Troll

Ramblings of a grumpy troll.

Goodbye, Nook Color

At first, I loved my Nook Color from Barnes & Noble. It was so neat, and ran Android, and I could boot into Cyanogen, even if I chose to stick with the supplied OS for now. The Nook app on my Android phone worked well too.

Google Books is very nice, but it inherently ties books to your Google Account identity, which means that you can't share an account without sharing email, contacts, docs, everything. Within a household, I'm used to being able to share books with my wife, instead of having to buy two copies of a book, one each. Relying on some books supporting "LendMe" functionality, per B&N, doesn't cut it. So, we simply shared a B&N account, tied to my credit-card. It was entirely me buying books, my wife tends to use Amazon to buy books for her iPad.

Before going on, I should note that I spend ... “too much” money on books. I was a Borders member; towards the end, I discovered that I was a Gold member and when I checked, the amount of money I'd spent on books with Borders was into the four digits. I was also concurrently buying some books from B&N. On the seventh of August, 2011, I bought a Nook Color. So it's been five months. I've bought 37 eBooks, spending $357.15; plus a few small apps and a couple of magazines on top of that. That's not counting physical books in-store or shipped. So just on eBooks, B&N could expect about $850/year in revenue from me. I'm sure there are plenty of people who spend more, or at least I hope so, but I'm pretty sure that I count as a profitable customer. (No, I'm not in the 1%, or even 10%, but I am a reasonably well paid person working in an engineering field).

First problem encountered is one which it took some time to firm up my confidence in the analysis of: there's something wrong with the micro-USB connector, such that any cable plugged into it has the retaining springs permanently pressed in, so that they are deformed and no longer provide any retaining ability. This ruins the cable connector, so that it can't reliably be used with other devices (my phone, which I've had for a little over two years without this problem occurring until I got the Nook Color) and so that I need to be careful how the cable is plugged into the NC and what angle the pressure on the cable is at. Yes, there needs to be pressure on the cable. How broken is that? It took a while, and a few cables, to be sure that the NC is the common cause. I now am. Fortunately, I buy cables from Monoprice who are very affordable.

Another issue is that side-loaded books are presented badly (at some scale, no title information, just a grey rectangle; zooming out, get text on rectangle, but no cover art in the thumbnail; took a while to discover I just needed to work through more of the backlog, which I was able to do in a hotel over the holidays). Worse, they are especially prone to the reader software getting confused about which page it's on and entering into loops where going forward takes you back two pages. But this is not confined to the side-loaded books, merely more common there. These are books loaded via the recommended Adobe Digital Editions software. This has continued past the latest firmware release.

I now present my recent “customer service” mail; it was submitted by the web form and I did not receive the promised copy of the message, but fortunately I didn't believe the claim and took a copy of my submitted text:

A week or so ago I updated my Nook Color to the latest 1.4.x firmware. On December 29th, I changed my credit-card information via the web-site. Yesterday (January 1st), I bought my first book since changing the credit-card information. "A Meeting at Corvallis (Emberverse Series #3)" by "S. M. Stirling" at $7.99. Order [redacted number].

When I opened the book on my Nook Color, it prompted for the credit card details. It then failed to do anything more. I waited. I backed out, opened another book, went back to that book, and waited, and it still just hung on the cover-page.

I decided to delete the book from the Nook, so that it would re-download. There was a pop-up warning, but it didn't seem to make sense that I couldn't re-download something I'd paid for if I deleted it from the device. I deleted. I then went to re-download, and sure enough I was being asked to pay again, despite the fact that my order history clearly shows that I purchased the book.

I purchased it again, order [redacted]. It still wouldn't open. I left the Nook Color for a couple of hours, missing the opportunity when I wanted to start reading the book (so disgruntled). When I went back, it finally opened. I don't know which order-number corresponds to the version on my device, but I suspect it's the latter one.

Could you please credit $7.99 to my account, since I clearly don't have two copies of the same ebook? No need for a refund, an account credit will do, I'll spend it soon enough.

Can you please also point me to the official public documentation on the concept model for nook books and the store, to explain archive, delete, etc? For me, my mental model has "archive" mean "remove from the home page and new-items shelf but leave it on the device" and "delete" means to "remove it from the Nook entirely", but neither means "lose the ability to re-download content which I've paid for".


For your … “amusement” I now present the reply:
Dear Phil Pennock,

Thank you for your inquiry regarding order #[redacted1] and #[redacted2].

We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused.

As per your email, we have verified your records and found that the
order number [redacted1] was deleted and then order number [redacted2] was

I wish I could help you. However, as the order is already deleted and
repurchased refund for the same cannot be provided.

Visit and click on the options that appear in the upper
right-hand corner to view information about your order.

We look forward to your next visit.

[ name redacted]

I am distinctly unamused at customer service which is unable to credit billing which is in error and willing to let fraudulent charges stand. So really they're glorified tech support. Seriously: sorting out invalid charges is a fundamental part of customer service. I was tempted to report the charge to the credit-card company as fraudulent, but have decided that it's not worth the hassle of arguing it repeatedly or my credit-card company possibly ending up with my file being marked "files false claims of fraud" if things go against me.

Instead, I am no longer buying books for the Nook. It will be retired. I won't inflict it on someone else, reselling it. Perhaps municipal electronic waste. I might continue to buy physical books in B&N retail stores, but it will always be reluctantly.

Amazon aren't winning the book retail wars by being particularly brilliant. They're just winning by letting their opponents self-destruct through ineptitude.

As part of "not buying more eBooks from B&N" plan, I decided to take a backup of the books I've purchased. To do this, I downloaded from their site the “Nook For Mac” software. I installed it, and it hung. Quit, restart, still no file menu. Next step was to use a search engine, which quickly revealed and indeed this fixed the problem:

$ cd /Applications; mkdir NookForMac; mv NookForMac/


Looking around, I note that this application has decided that all of my precious downloaded data should be stored in directories with permissions rwxrwxrwx — globally modifiable, so any process can tamper with the contents at will. This is supposed to be a backup method? Seriously?

One of the books won't download; sorry, Mindy Maling, but I bought “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me” while watching The Daily Show and hadn't yet gotten around to reading it. Perhaps I now never will. I'm at the point of cutting my losses, rather than working hard to recover everything I theoretically own. “This file type is not supported in this application. (download: 2138)” has bested me.

Now just to decide what to buy to replace it. I might buy my wife an iPad2 and claim her iPad. Or an Android tablet, if I ever see one with sane options, microSD support and support for stock images from Google so that I'm not hostage to a vendor never releasing OS updates and leaving my device insecure against known vulnerabilities.

Wikipedia have an article comparing eBook readers and I think careful perusal of that is my next step.


Thanks for the post.
You could always go back to buying paper books. There's half a clean, dry basement down there that could hold shelves.
If all else fails, you could get a library card and borrow books. That's what I plan to do. I'll still buy books, but I think I'm going back to dead tree format.
Categories: complaint Nook books BarnesAndNoble Borders eBooks