Looking for an Android tablet? Now is the time

kindleFireThere are literally hundreds of Android tablets on the market, many of which you have never heard of. Of that group, it is likely that you that you do not wish to hear of most them, but do not get the impression that makes the market bad. While I can not recommend you grabbing that no-name $79 tablet, as it is likely to end poorly for you, there are solid choices at reasonable prices.

You could go premium, with brands like Sony and Samsung, but the top sellers are a bargain in comparison — both Google Nexus  and Amazon Kindle Fire HD lead the market and retail for $199.

I can not offer you any sort of deal from Google, but rival Amazon has placed its Kindle Fire HD 7-inch on sale for $169 “for a limited time”. The order includes free shipping and, if you are a Prime subscriber then that will be free two-day shipping.

The Barnes and Noble Nook HD, while never catching major market share, is also a solid entry in the market. It too is now discounted, with book giant offering the tablet for $129.

There are vastly different reasons for these bargain basement prices. Amazon is likely clearing inventory for a new model (unconfirmed), while the Nook has been discontinued, though B and N will continue to support the tablet. Either way, this the time to go tablet shopping.

Microsoft to Buy Nook?

Nook

Nook

Microsoft is looking at the Barnes & Noble Nook – and they are willing to pay $1 billion for them.

Barnes and Noble stock rose 16% as news flew about Microsoft wanting to purchase the Nook e-reader, tablet and e-book business. This, just days after an announcement that Nook was allowing users to download via Google Play. Barnes and Noble also considered spinning off the Nook to its own company.

According to a document obtained by TechCrunch, if Microsoft was to obtain Nook, the Android-based tablet would be discontinued and the e-reader would be phased out at a later time. The expectation would be to merge Nook e-reader into the Microsoft Windows 8 tablet.

Right now, 10 million Nook devices have been sold, with 7 million active subscribers.

How HP TouchPad’s Demise Hurt One Company

Last week at this time, people were buzzing about the HP TouchPad and it’s $99 availability. By Saturday morning, the tablet was pretty much gone. I was one of those in line early at Best Buy only to find out they wouldn’t sell us one. For the next 48 hours, I hunted through the sites trying to get my hands on the TouchPad. I apparently scored 3 – including one from Barnes and Noble. Yet, all three were cancelled.

One in-particular was sold by a 3rd party company through Amazon. It was called “Green Frog”. Now, here is the interesting thing about this purchase: They put the TouchPad on their site Monday evening. They also advertised it for $52 for the 32 GB model TouchPad.

Within moments, I snapped one up. I figured if it was a scam, Amazon had my back. Many others did the same. However, the next day, we got the email:

 We’re writing to inform you that your order xxx-xxxx from GreenFrog has been canceled because the item(s) you purchased were out of stock. Please return and place your order again at a later time.

Our sellers strive to minimize canceled orders. We’re sorry for the inconvenience this has caused. Your credit card was not charged for this order. If you have any questions regarding the cancelation of this order, please contact GreenFrog.

If you’re still interested in this item, please search for it again on Amazon.com.

Out of stock? I think not. I think the seller made a mistake and therefore tried to hide it. But keep in mind – this product went on sale Monday evening – 3 days after the tablet price change was announced.

Why Not A Gift Card or Something?

What really irked me – Especially with the Barnes and Noble fiasco – was that we were not given any compensation. No “Hey, we screwed up, but here’s something for you”. In fact:

Barnes and Noble Should Have Given $100 Credit on the Color Nook to all Customers whose TouchPad Orders were Cancelled.

I would have snapped that up in a heartbeat. I then would have had a Color Nook to buy books and apps with. But instead, I got a form letter much like a “Dear John” letter and nothing to show for my effort. In return, Barnes and Noble got my information. Since I never bought anything online from them, they now have my email address, my mailing address and my phone number. So I ask you, is that a fair trade?

Barnes Noble Email Cancelling TouchPad

Barnes Noble Email Cancelling TouchPad

Back to Green Frog – They got hit hard. They’re rating had jumped from 97% positive to 93% Negative. The comments were not as nice, either.

 “Seller supposedly sold out, nonsense@ It was a very low price, too low, seller decided NOT to sell at that price.They can shove it.”

“Seller is a scammer, dont do business with them. Terrible service, cancels orders to avoid paying Amazon fees when they realize they can sell them elsewhere for more money. Again, avoid them at all costs.”

“I ordered 3 of the HP Touchpad’s, and after I received a confirmation for my order, I received a notice that it was canceled by you, and that my credit card will not be charged. However, MY CREDIT CARD HAS BEEN CHARGED. I do not appreciate the misrepresentation of the sale, or the taking of my money. ”

“I attempted to purchase two HP Touchpads. The order went thru and then a day later they stated that they did not have any in stock. They cancelled my order. I will never buy anything from this company again. I wish I would’ve looked at the prior FEEDBACKS which wouldve given me an idea of whom I was dealing with!!!!”

“Order placed was cancelled, the seller put up an item which sold out in minutes. Does not seem like anyone who was able to place an order received their item, everyone seems to have had their order cancelled also.”

There were more, but you get the idea.

Green Frog Rating

Green Frog Rating - Monday was 97% positive, now 93% negative.

Part of this problem might be due to the fact that HP recalled the remaining TouchPads. Why? Most likely so they could give them to the people they sold the device to on their website. Chances are, if you got that deal on HP.com, your TouchPad was sitting in a Best Buy just a week before.

So in summation, 1 tablet was discontinued, at least one web seller had their name turned to mud, Barnes & Noble missed out on a marketing opportunity and there are a lot of disgruntled people without TouchPads. Not a great week for some, although others who did get the device have been talking a lot about it.

As for me, I still am Tablet-less.

Barnes & Noble Nook – A UK Perspective

When it comes to ebook readers, I think it’s fairly safe to say that there are three main contenders in the market – Amazon with the Kindle, Barnes & Noble with the Nook and Sony with the Pocket Reader range. Three contenders in the US market that is. If you live in the UK, your choice is more restricted with only the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Pocket Reader being widely available.

Regrettably, Barnes & Noble don’t exist over here but there are plenty of bookstores such as Waterstones and WHSmith. There are others readers available too, such as the Samsung E60/E65, the Kobo, the iriver Story but I’ve never met anyone who actually has one, whereas I know several people with Kindles and Sony Readers. The latter was previously reviewed on GNC in the autumn.

Like many of my compatriots, I’ve looked longingly at the Nook while on holiday. It seemed to have the best of both worlds – although it has access to a closely integrated store in the same way as the Kindle, it reads the more open epub format like the Sony Pocket Reader can. It doesn’t have the full touchscreen of the Pocket Reader but it does replace the Kindle’s keyboard with a small colour touchscreen, which I like.

But a little research showed that Barnes & Noble won’t sell ebooks outside of the USA, so I was reluctant to purchase a Nook in case I ended up with an expensive paperweight.

Further research on the forums suggested that sideloading ebooks onto the Nook worked fine, i.e. copying ebooks via USB, so in the end, I took the risk and imported a Nook back into the UK. I only purchased the wifi version rather than the 3G version as even if the 3G worked (and I doubted it would), there wasn’t going to be much I could do with it if I couldn’t buy directly from Barnes & Noble.

Here’s what I’ve discovered after a few days of playing around.

The good news is the you can easily purchase books from the likes of Waterstone’s and read them on the Nook. The first step is to download and install Adobe’s Digital Editions on to your PC or laptop. When the program is run, you “authorise” the computer to store and manage your DRM’d ebooks (not that you have any at this stage).

Once that’s done, the second step is to go to the ebook store of your choice and purchase what you’d like to read. When you download the purchased books, Adobe’s Digital Editions will automatically launch to receive them and once completed, you can see and read them within the software.

Finally, when you connect your Nook via USB, Adobe Digital Editions will ask you if you want to “authorise” the Nook reader. After accepting this, the Nook appears as another container within Digital Editions and you can then copy your newly purchased ebooks to the Nook. Disconnect the Nook from the PC or laptop and the ebooks will appear in “my library” on the Nook. Select one of your choice and you’re reading. Excellent!

That’s the main concern dealt with so what else is good? I didn’t exhaustively try to break B&N’s regional restrictions but some content, e.g. The Daily blog, is available to be read.

Disappointingly, the built-in web browser doesn’t allow downloads. There are many ebook stores such as SmashWords which offer un-DRM’d ebooks which could be downloaded direct to the Nook because there’s no need for Digital Editions to manage the DRM. Unfortunately, when you try to download anything directly to the Nook, the web browser refuses to do it. A little irritating.

The audio player works ok, though it relies on the small colour screen to select tracks. This is fine if you have a small music collection or you shuffle the playlist, but it’s not great if you have a big collection and want to listen to ZZ Top.

If weight is an issue, Nook is definitely a bit heavier than both the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader. Folio covers seem to work better on the Kindle with its latching mechanism whereas the Nook seems to rely on “pockets and elastic”.

Overall, I like the Nook. The loss of the connection to the Barnes and Noble shop puts in on a par with the non-Kindle ereaders in the UK and it’s really a choice between the touch screen of the Sonys and the colour navigation screen of the Nook. But the main point of this article is that if you are in the US and you like the look of the Nook, you can be confident that you’ll be able to purchase and read ebooks from bookstores here in the UK.