Maybe someday NOOKstudy will be useful for the average student, but it still has a lot of issues that need to be worked out. Barnes and Noble (which coincidentally just put itself on sale) recently released its free NOOKstudy application for Windows and OS X as part of an initiative to grab a share of the nascent e-textbook market.  I played around with it for the first time today, and while the software has some promise, it ultimately struck out for me.

Strike One: It Isn’t Cloud-Friendly

The best way I can describe NOOKstudy is as a basic e-book reading software with a heavy dose of Evernote mixed in.  You can create different “courses;” essentially folders that organize your different e-textbooks.  You can also easily upload images and PDFs into your course folders, much like Evernote. The key difference is that you can’t access any of this information on another computer.  If your laptop dies and you install the program on a new machine, B&N will restore a backup of your data, but there’s no option to access your files and books on, say, a library computer through a web interface.

Strike Two: The Selection is too Small

NOOKstudy includes a few sample books, and the book-reading software is actually very nice.  You can change text size, highlight key paragraphs, add notes, and even look up words on Google.  Unfortunately, I don’t think many people will end up using the functionality as the current e-textbook selection is quite small. You can search for textbooks, novels, and study guides on the B&N site through the app, but they somewhat confusingly include non-digital books in your search results (maybe because of how few downloadable books are available). I can imagine a lot of people mistakenly buying a hardcover book, thinking they were getting a digital download.  The confusing, limited marketplace really hamstrings NOOKstudy.

Strike Three: No Support for E-Readers

This last major issue is more than a little ridiculous.  Barnes & Noble chose to call this software NOOKstudy.  B&N makes an e-reader called the “Nook.”  They even let you read their e-books on the iPhone, iPad, and even on Android devices.  All of this fantastic symmetry makes the program’s greatest limitation particularly puzzling.  For whatever reason, if you buy an e-textbook through NOOKstudy, you won’t be able to read it ON A NOOK!  You can forget about access on your iDevice or Android phone too, as all of these e-textbooks are trapped inside your laptop.  Call me crazy, but if I’m going to shell out $150 for a Nook to use at school, I’d like to be allowed to use it with the e-textbooks I bought.  I don’t care if the formatting needs to be changed or the images can’t display in color; just give me the option to read my expensive Barnes & Noble e-books on my expensive Barnes & Noble reading device (and the B&N Apple apps too).  Am I being unreasonable?

Like I said earlier, the program has potential to be at least decent.  It looks pretty and serves as a functional textbook reader and annotator, but I think they rushed it out the door to catch the back-to-school wave.  I would definitely hold off on downloading it for now, unless maybe B&N has one or two digital books you want for the semester that you can’t find elsewhere.  I’ll be deleting the program for now, but if they manage to fill the glaring holes over the next few months, I might take another look at it for Spring semester.