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Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight Plus review: Barnes & Noble's answer to the Kindle Paperwhite is fully waterproof

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It's IP67 rated, which means it can handle being submerged in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. We put it in a container full of water in a kitchen sink and left Nook underwater for several minutes. It survived just fine.

The "n" below the screen again serves as a home button. David Carnoy/CNET

I was told that you get 2.5GB of free space, which should allow you to store thousands of e-books. Battery life is rated at up to six weeks on a single charge, but you'll have to turn off the Wi-Fi to get that. And the processor gets a slight bump up to 1GHz.

The company notes that the GlowLight Plus is its first e-reader to include B&N Readouts, a new feature that "leverages Barnes & Noble's vast content catalog and deep bookseller knowledge to deliver a daily selection of addictive and compelling quick reads that can be enjoyed anytime and anywhere."

And lest we forget, Barnes & Noble's still has nearly 650 brick-and-mortar stores across the country and you can take your Nook into any one of them for free lifetime in-store support, as well as connect to the free in-store Wi-Fi to read Nook Books for up to an hour a day at no cost.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that the flashing you typically get from e-ink-based e-readers has been eliminated -- at least while you're reading a book. With e-ink, the screen needs to refresh every so often, which is what causes the flash. When you go back to the home screen, the display does flash, but it seems less jarring because you're not in the middle of turning a page while reading.

Kindle comparisons

I compared the Nook GlowLight Plus to the Kindle Paperwhite primarily focusing on the two displays. I maxed out the brightness on both e-readers and the two definitely look different. The uniformity of the lighting is good with both models, though Kindle's is perhaps slightly better, but that may be due to the LEDs placement. The Nook's LEDs are at the top edge of the screen while the Kindle are at the bottom. When lit, the Nook's display has a bit more of a blueish tinge to it while the Kindle's looks closer to that of the printed page of a book.

Contrast also seemed to be a bit better on the Paperwhite (text appeared slightly darker). The differences aren't huge, and if I didn't have a Paperwhite on hand to make comparisons, I wouldn't have anything critical to say about the Nook's screen. But side-by-side I preferred the Kindle's display; it comes out slightly ahead.

I'm not going to spend much time comparing Amazon's e-reading ecosystem to Barnes & Noble's other than to say that Barnes & Noble's is quite good but Amazon's is best-in-class. Amazon also offers plenty of added incentives for anyone who pays for the Amazon Prime program ($99 per year), including free "library" loaners from Amazon's collection.

Unlike Amazon Kindles, the Nook can be used to read EPUB files purchased from third-party retailers beyond Barnes & Noble. It can also read PDFs (though anyone who's doing serious PDF reading should opt for a tablet instead). And Barnes & Noble also offers a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, too.

The latest Nooks have offered support for side-loading library books with your Adobe ID, but that support isn't available quite yet in this new model with its revamped software. By late November Barnes & Noble is scheduled to add support for Adobe DRM EPUB files and PDFs through a software update over Wi-Fi. That update will also include improved Web log-in portal management (Wi-Fi hotspots, public Wi-Fi, hotels, etc.), enhancements to the In-Store Wi-Fi experience, as well as additional bug fixes and improvements.

Conclusion

The new Nook GlowLight probably isn't going to make any converts out of Amazon's Kindle customers, but at least Barnes & Noble now has an e-reader with competitive specs and performance to the Paperwhite. It also signals to its customers that it's still committed to the Nook platform. That may help the company reach existing Barnes & Noble customers who haven't bought an e-reader yet or are sitting on an older Nook and may now be interested in upgrading.

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