The other day, I went to a Barnes & Noble to try out a NookColor. I think this review gets it about right: It's a surprisingly pleasant e-book reader. For one, it feels solid and sturdy and light. It's about the size of a quality paperback, but much thinner. The screen is really good. The anti-glare coating has actually made it into a different kind of LCD screen than most of us stare at for eight hours a day at our jobs. It doesn't feel harsh; reading on it (admittedly for just a few minutes) was not at all like a laptop screen. The internet browser was fast enough—it's no iPad, but it's about the speed of a normal smartphone—and the screen was responsive.

The book layout seemed fine to me, fairly intuitive and pleasantly customizable. But the magazine and newspaper applications need some work. The magazines are still too beholden to the limitations of print; they felt like online editions of physical objects. And I part ways with the above-linked review on one point: The newspapers are really lame—they're just basically crippled RSS feeds arranged in a row, with three or four items per page.

Barnes & Noble got a great designer for the actual NookColor device, and it paid off in a big way. They need to spend some time figuring out how to apply the same careful design-minded thought to the content on the devices. The magazines look back too far, to print, for its inspiration. The newspapers are trapped in the current blog-minded internet age. There's got to be a way to optimize information for a portable touchscreen that's not trapped in the past.