Nook Color travel inhibited – fail


Yearning for an e-reader — the 3-inch iPhone screen being too small for comfortable ebook reading — I was convinced of the promise of Barnes and Noble’s Nook Color, particularly its magazine and newspaper subscription service.

I duly ordered one. Not available for external shipping, a friend hand delivered it to me on a trip to Northern Ireland.

This is my review for the Nook Color.


The Nook Color comes with a universal power adapter (US plug) and proprietary USB cable. I gave its initial charge overnight by connecting it to my laptop directly. Nook home button (“horseshoe”) went from orange to green when fully charged.

After successfully registering the device with my B&N account, it refused to sync with my B&N library purchases already made. Also, I could not get to the home screen. An email message reply from B&N instructed me to power off then power on the device. Obvious, I know. But when you press the power on/off switch, it puts it to sleep; it does not power it off unless you hold it for several seconds.


Home page revealed, from the device I went to the Store feature and browsed some Apps. Successfully downloaded a couple of free apps.

I tried out the Nook Color navigation and features, and was appreciating its larger screen and comfort in holding it with one hand (holding an iPad with one hand gets tiresome after just 5 minutes).


But the device was still not synchronising my B&N library.

Well, let’s see how a new purchase from the device would download.

From the device I purchased a magazine subscription to Running Times. Device replied that my purchase was accepted, but when I went to download the current issue, said that there was a fault and to contact customer services. Meanwhile, B&N sent me an email confirmation of my purchase, but then immediately de-authorised it, because the order was made outside of North America (even though my B&N account is US-domiciled with a US-bank account):

“If you received this email regarding your order for a Barnes & Noble eBook, please be advised that these purchases are limited to those customers physically located in the United States and Canada.”

I immediately sent another email to B&N customer services, who again gave a prompt reply in less than 24 hours, advising me to have a friend access my B&N account while I am outside North America, to make such purchases:

“An option is to have a friend or family member located in the United States log into your Barnes& account, with your email address and password, and purchase the ebooks for you. As long as the ebooks are in your digital library, you will be able to download and access those ebooks as if you were located in the U.S.”

Are you serious? Barnes and Noble doesn’t allow its customers to make purchases while they travel? Its main competitor Amazon allows its customers to make such purchases, even paying for 3G data transfer fees. And the Nook Color device is Wi-fi only. (And by the way, Wi-fi without proxy, ruling out using it in hotels.)

When I subsequently rang B&N customer service, the representative confirmed that if you are outside North America, then you cannot make a purchase via the Nook Color device NOR the Barnes and Noble website. Barnes and Noble checks your IP address and if you are not physically in North America, the purchase will not be authorised.

But it gets worse.


This rep further told me that even if my US-located friend made purchases in my B&N account, I will still not be able to sync from outside North America, because that is also checked against my IP address. This explained why I couldn’t sync my existing B&N library.

Therefore, the Nook Color is just a Wi-fi device that works in North America.

You cannot purchase any ebooks, magazines, newspapers or apps during your non-North American travels.

You cannot sync any new magazines or newspapers during your travels.

The rep remarked that most all of the Nook devices were purchased by Americans. Now, while most Americans don’t leave their homeland, I simply replied, “Some Americans travel.”

So, in a way, when you are packing your luggage, Barnes & Noble’s Nook products present you a 21st century way of thinking in the 20th century — should I pack (download) this paper book (ebook)? Because if you fail to download the book, magazine, newspaper or app, you won’t be able to retrieve it at your destination.

What a failure. What short-sightedness by Barnes and Noble — preventing its customers from giving it money using its product.

My request for a full refund was granted and my friend will hopefully take this effectively DOA device back to the walled garden it came from.

What a disappointment.

3 thoughts on “Nook Color travel inhibited – fail

  1. Hey, that’s a huge disappointment. Well, it’s almost the same thing with iTunes, iBooks, and App Store. See, all of the media content on the iTunes is not available for countries like mine (Guatemala). Almost 100% of the content in iBooks isn’t available; and some Apps on the App Store aren’t available as well. I figure it’s the same case with the B&N Nook Color, I mean, what’s the point on having the device outside the U.S. if you’re not going to be able to sync and buy new content?Although, B&N have stated that “for now” the Nook Color is available only in the U.S., that’s not the case for the iPad, for example, which is available in my country. But like I said, much of the content isn’t available. Huge disappointment from all the perspectives.

  2. @ jeypi1984 Thanks for your comment. Re iTunes comparison, “almost” is right. I sympathise with lack of localised content on iTunes — sometimes I have to log in with my USA account to access USA-only content.And a couple of years ago iTunes attempted to block its own customers from accessing material out of their home country — for a time I was blocked from making purchases of iTunes songs and apps from the USA store when I was out of the country. Thankfully enough customers gave enough stick about this, as it wasn’t long before I could resume such purchases.But for any company to prohibit its own customers making purchases online if they are physically out of their billing country is economic suicide. So long as the customer has a recognised bank account, with verifiable security measures, then why inhibit their spending? Having to be physically present is a 20th century way of thinking!

  3. Allan, I went to buy a Nook Colour from the B&N site primarily to ‘hack’ it and load a standard Google Android rom on it, thus turning it into an Android Tablet on the cheap. Guess what? can’t purchase one in Dublin. I’ll have to resort to eBay

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