The Nook Simple Touch Reader can rest comfortably in your hand for hours on end. It's noticeably lighter than the Kindle, and the contoured back coupled with the rubberized matte finish gives you a good grip. More hands-on impressions ahead:
As you can see, the back is hollowed out, which not only makes the new Nook easier to handle, but makes the reader lighter, and feel smaller in the hand.
We weren't given time to use the touchscreen much ourselves, but judging from the one-on-one demo with a Barnes and Noble rep, the infrared ring used to detect touch input seemed to be finnicky, occasionally requiring multiple taps or swipes get the Simple Touch Reader to respond. While you're reading you can swipe to turn pages or you can use the hardware buttons.
Luckily, there are four buttons on the bezel , which will page up and down when you tap them, or will rapidly advance when you hold it down. And they're fully configurable, so you can assign actions depending on the hand you use or how you grip the device.
Double tapping the center Nook button will bring up a navigation bar that will take you to various areas of the Nook, including settings and the homescreen. When you hit the new Nook's homescreen, you're greeted with the book you're currently reading (along with progress), recommended articles from news feeds, and a bottom bar that has the status of all your Nook friends (and what they're currently reading).
As for the screen itself, it's sharp, and mostly unaffected by light. But it's still semi-glossy, and direct light sources will still cause glare on the screen, which can be annoying. The screen refreshing is quicker, but not so much that I'd call it a definitive advantage over the Kindle. And whether you prefer a stark flash (Kindle), or a garbled dissolve from one screen to another (Nook), comes down to personal preference.
The appeal of this pared down Nook rests in its size and weight, which feels amazing to carry around with a single paw. We'll be looking forward to playing with one over the duration of a novel.
Photos and additional reporting by Max Behrman