E-Reader Reviews: Boox Nova and Bigme Read

I still love paper books, but I also love ebooks. I love a trip to the library to browse and check out books, but also if I finish a book at 9 at night, it’s cool to be able to borrow the next one from my couch. And, of course, having an e-reader opens up a whole new world of reading. A lot of books (such as my 2002-2012 output) are pretty much only available to read as ebooks. And a lot of people (again, like me—pay what you want!) are putting out new work in electronic form because ebooks allow you to put your work out in the world with far less expense and trouble than traditional publishing. Yes, of course there’s a lot of crap out there, but that’s true of paper books as well.

But a lot of people tell me they don’t want to get locked into getting books from Bezos, especially since ebooks you buy from Amazon are essentially licensed rather than owned. (Remember when they sucked all the copies of 1984 out of people’s Kindles? A little on-the-nose, if you ask me, but it actually happened.)

Fortunately, you can get an ereader that’s not locked in to any particular bookseller, which essentially means buying an android tablet with an e-ink screen.

These are not easy to find, but the rewards are great—you can buy books from any online retailer AND get ebooks from your library via the Libby and Hoopla apps. I wanted one with a relatively big screen because old eyes, but not enormous like a full-sized iPad. So I bought a Boox Nova with a 7.8-inch screen on Ebay. Apparently the model I have is so out of date you can’t buy it anymore, but it’s pretty easy to find Boox products on Ebay, and they also appear to be expanding their US presence.

It came with a stylus, but the Boox Nova is absolute crap to write on. (Note—there are newer, more expensive models that you can write on, and they may work better.) Fortunately I didn’t buy it to write on, but, rather, to read on, and it really excels at this. The screen is crisp and clear (as e-ink typically is. I don’t think you really need to shell out for any HD e-ink screen, but maybe you have better eyes than I do and will notice the difference), pages turn quickly and easily, and Libby, Hoopla, and the Kindle App all run perfectly.

It’s also trivially easy to transfer ebooks you’ve dowloaded to your computer—as long as you’ve got the reader and the computer on the same network, you just put in a URL generated by the reader, press the upload button, and your ebooks zip over to the reader. (Of course you don’t need to use your computer as there’s a web browser on the Nova, but e-ink does not excel at web browsing, so I prefer to get stuff on the computer and move it over. Your Libby, Hoopla, Kindle, and Kobo loans and purchases will appear in the apps automagically, so there’s no need to transfer anything from the computer.)

Long story short: the Boox Nova is an excellent product. Again, it’s not great for writing on, but, you know, get a notebook and a pen. I would definitely buy from Boox again.

But I didn’t, because Boox products are expensive. My Boox Nova got stepped on when someone else left it on the floor, and the screen cracked, and it was still useable, but I was sort of bummed about the cracks, so I decided to get a new e-reader. The only cheap, content-agnostic one I could find was the Bigme Read.

Folks, do not buy this. It’s laggy and the page turns don’t always work, and apps crash a lot. I’m not crazy about the small screen either, but I knew about that when I bought it. Its big sin is that it never does what a good ereader does, which is get the hell out of the way and let you get lost in the book. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I read several books on it, just kind of accepting its sluggishness.

But then I left it somewhere in Cincinnati on my recent trip there, so I charged up the Boox Nova with the cracked screen and was just stunned at how well it works. All the idiosyncrasies I put up with on the Bigme simply evaporated when I was using the Boox.

In short, reading on a Boox with a cracked screen is a better experience than reading on a fully-functional Bigme.

If, like me, you want an ereader that doesn’t lock you into a particular bookseller, I recommend getting one made by Boox. Learn from my folly! Don’t be tempted by the cheapness of Bigme! Save up and get a Boox!