Hands-On: Barnes and Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight Leaves Kindle in the Dark

The Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch just got better...in bed. Today the e-bookseller took the wraps off its new E Ink e-reader that features a front light screen technology called GlowLight. The idea is to let readers use the device in the dark without bothering those around you--such as a partner trying to get some sleep. We went between the sheets to spend some hands-on time with the Simple Touch judging its performance.

According to a recent study by Barnes & Noble, two out of three Americans read in bed. The study found that 42 percent of respondents have gone to sleep annoyed with the significant other for reading with the light on. It went on to note that 31 percent complained that a partner's reading light in bed interfered with their sleep, while only 20 percent attributed the same problem due to a frisky someone next to them.

The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight solves the sleep problem because the light, while helpful, isn't bright enough to rouse your partner. During our hands-on time, we noticed no glare, and the Nook's screen shone brightly with the fairly well distributed GlowLight feature activated. In contrast, reading on the iPad with the brightness turned all the way up was a less enjoyable experience that ended up hurting our eyes. And there was no contest that the Nook Simple Touch was easier to read than the Kindle Touch, which has no back-light without adding a clip-on accessory.

The third-generation Nook is nearly a complete replica of its older brother. Its 6.5 x 5.0 x 0.47-inch measurements are the same, but Barnes & Noble shaved off more than  half an ounce for a final weight of less than 7 ounces. We really felt we could read all night with this lightweight puppy in our hands. Thanks to the LEDs embedded in the top edge of the screen, we could do just that. The N button still sits at the bottom of the screen, but now if you hold it down for a couple of seconds you activate the GlowLight. The new control panel--accessible by tapping a lightbulb at the top of the screen or by tapping the N button--lets you adjust the amount of backlight you need.

Thankfully, the backlighting doesn't come at the expense of battery life. Assuming nightly reading sessions of half an hour each, B&N claims that the new Nook will last for up to 60 hours, or one month with the GlowLight on and Wi-Fi off. Just like the previous generation of the eReader, this device should last for up to two months with Wi-Fi turned off. By comparison, the Kindle Wi-Fi is rated to last one month with the wireless radio off.

The new Nook Simple Touch sports the same sized touchscreen e-Ink display as the earlier model, 6 inches. With the touch of a finger you can still turn pages, look up words, highlight text and adjust font size and style. The exterior also maintains the soft-touch graphite back with ergonomically-friendly contours, but the front is now ringed by a lighter grey.

The page-turns remain super-fast, and the screen was crisp with and without the light on. And you still get access to Barnes & Noble's 2.5 million titles, most of which will cost you $9.99 or less. You can also borrow EPUB books from the library, or use the LendMe feature to lend books to your friends. According to the company, Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight owners will have access to 2GB of storage (1,000 books), as well as a microSD card slot for up to 32GB of additional space.

Pre-orders for the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight are available now for $139, with delivery expected in early May. Barnes & Noble will continue to sell the unlit Nook Simple Touch for $99. The company is also releasing an updated line of cases. We particularly took a shine to the Beatles' Hard Days Night folio case.