When it comes to picking the best e-reader, there really isn't a huge difference between the two leaders, Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook.
But Barnes & Noble does seem to have an advantage with its release cycle. For example, last year the company introduced a touchscreen reader several months before Amazon did.
Barnes & Noble beat Amazon to the punch again this year with the new Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight.
On the outside, you won't notice anything new with the Nook. But when you hold down the home button for two seconds, the screen lights up like an Indiglo watch. Pretty cool.
That "GlowLight" is one of the most-requested features in e-readers, according to Barnes & Noble. If you don't have a tablet, it's impossible to read an ebook in the dark without an extra clip-on light. The new Nook solves that problem with a built-in solution. And it works very well.
Now the question is this: is a built-in light handy enough to shell out an extra $40 for the new Nook?
Since next to nothing else has changed with the Nook from last year's model, here's a quick recap of what you get:
The new Nook has all the same benefits as last year's model: a 6-inch touchscreen, incredible two-month battery life, and lightning-fast page turns. You also get access to Barnes & Noble's excellent online store full of books, magazines, and newspapers.
The same drawbacks are there too. Because page turns are so fast, the Nook's eInk screen doesn't refresh as often. That means you can sometimes see residual text and images from the last page you were on. It's very faint though, so I you probably won't find it too annoying.
Finally, the Nook's software, which is a heavily-modified version of Google's Android, is largely the same. You get quick access to your library of books and Barnes & Noble's online store. The only notable change are the controls for the GlowLight.
I really enjoyed the new Nook's GlowLight. It's something I never even knew my old Kindle was missing. Even if you're not reading in complete darkness, it's wonderful in low-light situations.
After holding down the home button for two seconds, light pours out from the edges of the screen. It's definitely bright enough to read in pitch black, but there's an on-screen slider that lets you adjust the brightness if you want.
My only problem is that the light doesn't appear to be completely even. The top of the screen is a bit brighter than the sides and bottom. It won't detract from your overall reading experience, but it is noticeable enough to be kind of a bother.
But the point is to be able to read in the dark with your new Nook, and that's exactly what it lets you do.
Should You Buy It?
If you read a lot in the dark or low light, then yes, you should definitely buy the new Nook. It costs $139, which is $40 more than the cheapest Kindle Touch. But unlike the $99 Kindle Touch, you won't find ads on the new Nook. Plus Kindles don't offer built-in lighting (yet).
I'd say it's definitely worth spending a little extra on the Nook for those benefits.
If the GlowLight doesn't do it for you, Barnes & Noble will continue to sell the original Nook Simple Touch for $99. It's just as good as the Kindle Touch, and again, there aren't any ads.
Here's the newest Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight. It looks nearly identical to last year's model except for the light gray band around the edge.
The new Nook is also a bit lighter than last year's model.
The back has a nice rubbery feel. That makes the Nook very easy to hold.