Weekend Journal: A New Way To Consume Engineering Information

I was lucky enough to be gifted a Nook Touch for my recent birthday. It’s a fun new toy, and one that I probably didn’t need (the basis of the gadget industry). If I’ve been working enough to teeter on burnout, it follows that I haven’t had much time to go and read something like a book. I’d love to, and should I ever take a vacation, this this will get quite a workout (I really do miss reading for leisure).

The first reason I started looking at eReaders was for component datasheets. While it may seem like a silly application, the ability to look at the information for a part while I’m sitting at my bench is pretty important. I have a short attention span and having something that can display just the datasheet is a good idea (for me); less chance of my attention being drawn by something else when I switch over to my computer. I also like the idea of longer form engineering-related reading on a portable device. Though the .pdf is a the defacto standard for application notes and certain textbooks even, there aren’t many ways to read these aside from a computer. When I need to really dig into the theory of operation of a part or an application note, I don’t want to be sitting upright in front of a computer for hours on end, nor do I want to carry a laptop onto a comfy chair with me. I can imagine an eReader would be a great asset for people that need to read academic papers on a regular basis, like the PhDs here on Engineer Blogs (GEARS, Cherish and Miss Outlier).

So why a Nook touch over an Amazon Kindle or other eReader?

  • Built on Android
  • 2 month battery life
  • Touch screen instead of a key pad.
  • Newer design, some undiscovered features (someone just found an inactivated bluetooth chip onboard the other day, for example)
One of the other things that appeal to me about the Nook is the convergence of gadgetry. As I mentioned, it’s a device built on Android, like many other gadgets. But once I unlocked the software, it’s like a whole different device. The convergence, and frankly the homogenization, of gadgets under the Android banner has some notable exceptions; namely that I can add pre-defined apps that extend beyond the scope of a reading device. Now my ability to switch from reading Ulysses on the beach can also be supplemented by checking what the Engineer Blogs twitter feed is up to. Some would prefer having these parts of their lives seperate (and rightly so) but the options, and the countless other applications it enables, really adds to the draw of this device.
There are some things that I don’t like. But I think this is a case of trade-offs (hey, engineering, right?). The size of the screen (only 6 inches) and the fact that it’s not simple to auto-rotate the screen are two of the big letdowns. This is really a problem with scanned in documents that are .pdf’s as those do not scale well. This would have been easily solved with an iPad or many of the other tablets out there, but then the battery life and the cost really come into play (<2 days and >$300 for tablets on average). So I decided that I can zoom in myself and deal with the slow update rates in order to enjoy the longer battery life and more money in my pocket. Also, the hope is that the higher level of hackability on this device should lead to future developments allowing me to rotate the screen and simply zoom in (pinch-style). I’ll start my Nook hacking as a hobby, just as soon as I finish Ulysses and everything else on my to-do list…

I’m not a gadget person and this isn’t a gadget blog. But I had seen some other engineering friends enjoy their kindle and thought I might be able to have similar utility in a Nook. I haven’t been disappointed so far, and I’m just getting started. How do you consume information in this, ‘oh-so-digital’ age?

One response to “Weekend Journal: A New Way To Consume Engineering Information”

  1. Zappy Zendik Zoilism | The Amp Hour

    [...] has a new app out for all their products. Chris just got a Nook and has Android unlocked on it, but probably won’t put electronics apps on it. Do you use mobile apps from [...]