Three weeks ago I finally decided upon an Android tablet to buy to replace the Nook Color that was stolen from me while touring Europe last May. I took my time selecting one that was reasonably priced and provided most of the features I wanted in a tablet. My highest priority was readability. As you probably already know, I read, a lot. In fact, I read almost any chance I get. News, magazines, blogs and ebooks. A larger screen means less scrolling for me and more time devoted to actual reading.
During my Thanksgiving break, I ordered a new Bluetooth headset. I desperately wanted to assuage my boredom while walking Apollo during the evenings, and if I could listen to music or, even better, audiobooks, I thought it would encourage me to walk longer and get more exercise. Earlier in November, I took advantage of a sale NewEgg had on headsets, but that first pair went over my head and made my ears extremely uncomfortable. My daughter liked them, so I sent them south to her as a pseudo-Chirstmas gift. That first headset had superior sound for music listening, but I couldn’t overcome the ear cartilage torture side-effect.
I’ve had the second LG headset for nearly a month now and I wear it daily. Most of the time, I can’t even tell I have it around my neck. The LG Behind-the-Neck headset is very lightweight and the actual ear buds are nicely unobtrusive. I often wear my sunglasses and a scarf without hampering their usefulness or tangling them up. One of the niftiest features of the headset are the magnetic receptacles for the ear buds. When I remove them from my ear canal and lay them against my body, they will often snap back to their ‘home’ spot.
If I’m listening to an audiobook, which I do quite frequently since acquiring this headset, and I receive a phone call, the headset vibrates on my neck and plays a ring tone in my ear (I always have my phone on silent/vibrate). It automatically pauses my audiobook when I click the answer call button found on the left hand nacelle. When I finish with the call, my audiobook automatically resumes.
The battery life is purported to be ten hours of talk or music listening time. I have only run the battery down once. As a rule, I charge it overnight every two or three days. The range is about thirty feet, so I can leave my phone in the center of the main floor and have good coverage for most of the house. The power switch is simple, and I do love simple designs. Simple works. No holding a button down for a certain number of seconds. Just slide the switch to either ‘On’ or ‘Off.’
Pairing with a Bluetooth device is also exceptionally easy. No need to hold a button down for another second/different designated number of seconds. Once the headset is on, it connects to my cell phone. No muss, no fuss. Again, simple works.
Last week I purchased a BookGem book holder for the express purpose of enhancing my Nook Color reading experience. While I could have purchased another protective cover designed to double as a stand, I opted for a multi-purpose product (as I usually do). The BookGem works with hardcovers and trade paperbacks, including an option for easy page turns. I haven’t tried it with the mass market paperback format yet, and probably won’t because the smaller size editions are lightweight and don’t typically cause me hand or arm strain while reading.
In addition to traditional books, the BookGem easily accommodates the Nook, Nook Color, iPad, Kindle or other similar sized ereaders and tablets. I also liked the fact that the BookGem is made and sold in the United States, so I can feel good about supporting American inventiveness, innovation, ingenuity and industry. The BookGem’s compact light-weight design allows me to keep it with me at all times, so wherever I am, my Nook Color and BookGem are sure to follow.
I plan to purchase more of these as gifts for the bibliophiles among my close friends and family. The manufacturer offers nice discounts on quantity orders and shipping is free. I felt the $14.95 price for a single unit was reasonable considering the versatility of this gem of a book accessory product. I give the BookGem four out of five stars.
As an anniversary gift, my husband bought me a Nook Color last week. I’ve used the free downloadable Nook for PC software for years (well, at least as long as Barnes & Noble has offered it) and even used it on my BlackBerry last year before budget belt tightening meant my employer retracted said BlackBerry. So, I’ve accumulated about three dozen ebooks from various sources, including Barnes & Noble, but relied heavily upon Project Gutenberg for access to public domain works from the 19th century, which allowed me to read such English Literature classics as The Age of Innocence and Jane Ayre as well as purchase contemporary science fiction and fantasy works that I consider some of my all-time favorites like The Time of the Dark and The Magic of Recluce.
The first week or so of ownership didn’t involve much reading, in the traditional sense. I test read a couple of books (including reading the Nook Color User’s Guide twice) to adjust the font size to suit my aging eyes. I explored various wifi hot-spots I might frequent near my employer’s building (including the free one offered by the KC Public Library via their Plaza branch) and at home (my own guest wifi network which I setup a couple of months ago but had not tested yet).
The first app I downloaded and tested I heard about at GoodReads. Announced on their blog back in late April, the developers at my favorite book-lovers website created an app specifically for the Nook Color. Currently, the app is limited in functionality very similar to their mobile site but I hope for some improvements in future versions, most notably the ability to vote (or like) reviews from my updates feed and support for discussions and groups. I may have found a bug in the status update feature, at least as respects audio books or ebooks (which use percentage read instead of page read). Since the Nook Color also includes a web browser, I can surf to GoodReads’ mobile site or even regular website if I encounter a problem with the app.
The Pulse news feed application came next. I am not as wowed by what it serves up for news articles and find myself preferring my laptop and FireFox web browser for current events perusing.
Since I had given up on listening to audiobooks on my dumbphone, I took the 4GB microSD card I purchased several months ago (and could not use in said dumbphone due to firmware restrictions to 2GB) and inserted it into the Nook Color. I then connected the device to my laptop via the miniUSB cord and copied the entire audio book for Elvenbane (all 15 CDs worth in MP3 audio format). Using my old BlackBerry stereo headphones (the best sounding most comfortable ear buds I’ve every worn), I have enjoyed listening to the book while relaxing on the back seat of the van I ride to commute daily.
But the most exciting opportunity occurred today at lunch, while I surfed my feeds at Twitter and Facebook using Planet Sub‘s free wifi service. Astronomy Magazine announce today, at 11:25 a.m. the ability to subscribe to a digital version for the Nook! I subscribed right then and there and downloaded the June 2011 issue before returning to my office building. Now, if I can just get B&N to also offer Sky & Telescope for the Nook Color, I’ll be in astronomical heaven! I will console myself by reading the digital edition of Astronomy magazine on the ride home this afternoon.
The first ten days of ownership of the Nook Color promise many more enjoyable hours of reading, listening and surfing. I have had very few problems with the device. I highly recommend it for the geeky gadget-loving reader.
After accepting an invitation as a guest reviewer at FantastyLiterature.com, I began receiving items to read for future reviews, including three audio books. Audio books have increased appeal to me now (during Spring and early Summer) as I can simultaneously pursue my fitness goals and continue reading. However, I don’t own (nor do I want to own) a portable CD player, so the first thing I do when I receive an audio book is to rip it to MP3 format so I can upload it to my phone.
And about my phone … it makes phone calls well and I can text from it, but other than that, I’m looking forward to moving on to a smarter phone. My current intellectually challenged phone is the Samsung t659 from Tmobile, who are also on my crap list for selling their collective corporate soul to the devil in ATT clothing. Among the myriad items I would change, like a larger clock display, flash for the camera, and larger than 2 GB microSD capacity, the headset that came with the phone, while stereo, cause a nearly instant headache from the pain of placing the ear-buds in my ears for more than five minutes.
And to add insult to injury, the Samsung t659 uses a proprietary headphone jack, so I don’t have the option to use a normal set of headphones. And my older Plantronics Bluetooth headset works great for phone calls, but fails miserably and completely for listening to music or an audio book. So I went on a quest for a set of Bluetooth stereo headphones last week.
I wanted to acquire them prior to a long road trip schedule for a long weekend. With such a short deadline, I found less than a half dozen headphones, with mixed reviews (ranging from just two stars to one with a four star rating), only two of which were available locally through Best Buy. I vainly looked through WalMart’s electronics section, but they only supplied normal one-ear Bluetooth headsets. I ran out of time before I could purchase any headset, so resolved myself to either not listening to the audio book while driving to Table Rock Lake or the excruciating pain provided by my factory-issued Samsung headphones.
During our weekend visit to Branson, my husband and I stopped into a local Best Buy and I impulsively bought the Motorola S10-HD Bluetooth Stereo Headphones. I should have resisted the temptation, especially after reading many of the reviews found on Best Buy’s web site. I have a large head, or at least large compared to the rest of my immediate family, with a circumference of approximately twenty-three inches. According to the instruction booklet (I just can’t bring myself to call it a user’s guide or user’s manual because of it’s tiny size), to wear the headset, you guide them over the top of your head and settle them over year ears (like wearing a pair of glasses backwards). Not only is my head larger, I have very thick hair and on this particular weekend, I had styled it and because of rainy weather, applied enough hairspray to ensure a near impervious hair helmet. It was impossible to follow the instructions as written in the booklet.
I had to expand the headset beyond what I felt comfortable doing, reach behind my head, slip the headset around my neck (like a torque) and then move them up and over my ears. The headset was heavy (probably due to the Bluetooth electronics ‘hovering’ over the nape of my neck), pulled down on my ears and put excessive pressure on my ear canal via the ear buds. All-in-all, not much of an improvement, if any, over the aforementioned OEM headset from Samsung, just a whole lot more expensive. On the drive back home across Missouri in an unseasonably cold May drizzle, I could only listen to my audio book for fifteen or twenty minutes at a time before I had to remove the headset and give my poor ears a break. And how are you supposed to wear sunglasses (see first photo above) with over-the-ear headphones?
I gave the headset another try last night while I walked one of my Rottweilers around the neighborhood. I survived the thirty minute walk with Apollo, but my ears were (and still are) smarting from the uncomfortable fit. I expect more from Motorola, a company I’ve come to trust over the years for their audio equipment. On a scale of one to five stars, I would give this product either a zero or, if that’s not allowed, a one star rating. I will be returning this headset to Best Buy this evening (the one in the Legends, not the one in Branson).