Monday, July 5, 2010

Update: My "Nook" e-Reader (and My Geocaching Adventure)

Back in February, I blogged about my new Barnes & Noble "Nook" e-reader and how I loved everything about it except its balky touchscreen.

Time for an update: the touchscreen is balky no more. Either my screen-tapping technique has improved, or the recent software updates have solved the problem. We're up to Version 1.4.0. This version has some new features (games, for instance) that I don't use, but with the updates my Nook works faster and seems more responsive. I now have no trouble tapping the screen to bookmark a page or search for a term. It's silky smooth.

This beautiful July afternoon, I took the Nook outdoors and sat under a shade tree in the yard as I read Mark Twain's Roughing It, an e-book I got for $1. For reading outside in a breeze, an e-reader is far superior to a traditional paper book -- no pages for the wind to riffle. The e-ink screen was exactly right for reading in the dappled shade under the tree. When bright rays of sun shot through the leaves, the screen stayed comfortably readable instead of brightening to a blinding whiteness the way a paper page will do.

My next-door neighbor came over to sit in the shade with me, and of course I had to show her my Nook. We live out in the countryside a good long way from the nearest bookstore, so the part I bragged about the most was the ability to shop for and download new books from the comfort of one's lawn chair. My neighbor seemed surprised that the 3G connection was free.

Another friend had the same reaction. She questioned me closely to be sure she understood: A free cell-phone-like connection to the B&N bookstore comes with a Nook? You don't have to pay an extra fee to shop from home? Really?

Really. Anytime I want a new book, I just tap the Shop icon, pick something, download it right then, and the book arrives instantly in my e-library. For a country girl, that is just the best part!

I Don't Merely Read and Write, I Also Geocache

What a lovely holiday I've had. My husband and I went geocaching this morning for the first time. It was research. I'm editing a manuscript about the sport of geocaching for the national youth organization I freelance for. We used our brand-new Garmin Nuvi 1300 GPS receiver to drive to the spot, then our brand-new Garmin eTrex handheld GPS receiver to walk out until we located the actual cache.

I'm so new at geocaching, I forgot to bring any little trinkets to trade. But that's OK, since there wasn't anything in the cache I wanted anyway! The fun part was finding the cleverly camouflaged little box in its clever, green hiding spot.

The search took us along a country lane barely two miles from our home, a lane I'd never been down before. It's a cul-de-sac, and I'd never had a reason to drive down it before this morning. We found an old house-place at the end of the lane, with two stately trees that had obviously flanked an entryway once upon a time. There were no foundations apparent, nothing to indicate that a house had ever stood there. But those trees -- obviously planted with care, to mark the front entrance of some long-gone house.

When the need to make a living draws me away from my novel-writing, I chafe sometimes. But not today. Today, I am acutely aware of how lucky I am. I get fun and interesting freelance assignments by which I can earn enough to fund my labor-of-love writing. And some of those assignments introduce me to new interests. I aim to go on geocaching, long after this current freelance job is over. It's a great way to explore the world, or at least the neighborhood.

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