Spring Design's Alex And B&N's Nook

Oct 23, 2009
Updated • Dec 1, 2012
Google Android

The eBook reader market has been growing a lot lately. Don’t take my word for it, just count how many new eBook readers we have seen recently and how many new companies have stepped into what used to be (almost) Amazon’s prerogative. The excitement is building up so much that people have already started bringing out similar products and are vying for your attention.

Barnes and Noble has finally made its new eBook reader official. But we already knew pretty much everything about it way before it came out, with the final details falling leaking into place hours before the actual launch event took place.

But before B&N’s Nook (that’s what it’s called) had a chance to see daylight, another company knew that it had to do something or else it would be lost in the landslide of Nok coverage. This company is Spring Design and they have an eBook reader too. It is called Alex and it is very similar to the Nook.

The Nook and the Alex are both dual screen devices. They both have Android powered smaller LCD touchscreens at the bottom and the e-Ink screen on top. The LCD touchscreens on both turn off when you start reading on them. And they have similar design and dimensions.

They both have a speaker, support MP3 playback, support EPUB and PDF and a multitouch touchscreen that supports gestures.

Then there are the differences. First, the Nook is actually out and you can check it out at Nook.com, while Alex is still in the labs without any word when the thing will be released. Spring Design had some rendered shots and then followed up with a wobbly video of the thing in action.

Alex has a ‘read’ button between the two screens and it works to zap whatever’s on the touchscreen on to the reader screen and turns off the LCD screen. This is as true for books, as it is for web pages. So if you want to read this article on the Alex, you can browse to this page and hit the ‘read’ button to ‘print’ the article on to the reader screen. It will be rendered exactly but everything will be in 12-shades of grey.

You know… 12-shades of grey will actually make a pretty cool name for a book or an album. Never mind.


The Barnes&Noble Nook does not have this feature because the company’s president Willian Lynch himself tells you that a browser on an eBook reader is ‘clumsy’. Fair enough. So the Nook is limited in that sense. Alex’s video presenter clearly says that it has standard Android running and hence has all the different apps that you would expect it to have, including what looked like a fully functional mobile browser that can render full web pages.

Even though Alex’s ‘Reader’ app has a shopping option, we are quite sure it won’t be something that competes with Amazon or B&N. So the Nook has the upper hand with its exclusive content and integration with B&N’s eBook store. Although, may be being free to choose your own source all the time is not such a bad thing.

B&N charges for RSS feeds, while the Alex will probably get them to you for free because it has a more flexible Android. You can directly print the RSS articles on to the reader screen for reading. You won’t be able to click links but I don’t think you will be able to do that on the Nook’s EPUB’d RSS feeds either.

When comparing these two, you have to look past the striking resemblance to see how different they actually are. I started out thinking that the B&N has the clear upper hand here. But if the Alex is released in to the market before the Nook or the current Kindle is upgraded to be more flexible, we might have a compelling convergent device on our hands.

What do you think? Leave a comment below and tell us which one you like better.


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  1. Omar Monroy said on January 11, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    I think Alex will be my first ebook, the web browser and the wi-fi makes a difference.

  2. justanotherjones said on December 1, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    I would choose the Alex for its web browser (as long as I can use wi-fi for free) and for not being tied down to one bookseller.

    B&N charges for RSS feeds? Please.

    I am hoping that Alex, or something like it gets made.

  3. Lloyd said on November 3, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    I want a reading device, not a multi-functional device…..I have a laptop.

  4. Chris said on October 29, 2009 at 5:31 am

    The diff is in what is actually offered in the way of ebooks to any of the readers. Amazon has more titles at lower prices. B & N has lots of the free titles of books out of copyright, like sherlock holmes, three musketeers, Jane Austen, etc. Also, the prices at Amazon are lower on average.

    So if you want to READ, use a Kindle or an iPhone/iTouch with the Kindle app. If you want a gizmo that reads, too, maybe the Alex or Nook will suit you.

  5. Martin K said on October 26, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    This is a pretty touch choice. I like the openness of the Alex, but the design of the Nook is closer to what I’d want with a dual screen device. Neither of these will be my first eBook reader I’m sure, but these definitely get me much more interested in owning one.

  6. Roman ShaRP said on October 24, 2009 at 1:00 am

    I think I don’t have a reason to trade my Lbook V3 for that. Lbook doesn’t have second display and doesn’t have any browsing capabilities, doesn’t have even touchscreen – but it reads (txt, rtf, doc, pdf, djvu, chm) – and that’s all I want from it for the $300 I paid for it year ago.

    Thing I wish – Firefox extension to ‘print’ pages to .txt file of my choice (new or append to existent).

    Paying for RSS or mobile internet charges? Don’t expect that from me.

  7. Christoph Wagner said on October 23, 2009 at 12:57 am

    with the nook being released only in the USA, the alex might have pretty good chances in europe.

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