- Associated Press - Monday, August 25, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - E-book readers are great for reading books, but they can’t be used get directions or watch videos of people dumping ice over their heads.

Tablets can.

In partnership with Samsung, Barnes & Noble released a reading-centric tablet last week, the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook. Amazon, meanwhile, has the Kindle Fire tablets.

Of course, you can simply install Nook and Kindle reading apps on an iPad or a non-Nook Galaxy. The iPad even comes with iBooks installed. Are reading-centric tablets really a better way to experience the printed word?

Let’s take a closer look.

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- GALAXY TAB 4 NOOK ($179):

Turn it on, and you’re greeted with a banner that takes up roughly the top third of your screen. This is your library, where you’ll find novels, comic books, magazines and newspapers that you’ve recently read or purchased, along with non-reading content that Barnes & Noble sells - namely, movies, TV shows and games. This library banner isn’t available on other devices, though Amazon tablets have a similar feature called Carousel.

If there’s a book or newspaper you read regularly, you can pin it to the home screen. Usually, you can do that only with apps.

A book icon on the lower left corner of the home screen takes you to where you left off in the Nook reading app. If you stop reading to send an email, you can click the book icon to relaunch the Nook app and resume reading. This feature is also found only on the Nook tablet. Unfortunately, you have to go back to the home page first. It would be better to have that book icon wherever you are, whether that’s email or Tinder’s dating app.

The tablet’s reading app works much like the one on other devices. You see what page you’re on and the number of pages left, but not the estimated time left to finish.

The app on the Nook tablet and other Android devices also lets you hide the device’s status bar, so you’re not distracted by notifications at the top. That way, you’re not tempted to set aside your book to check Facebook. Unfortunately, the iPhone and iPad version doesn’t offer that option.

At roughly the size of a paperback, the Samsung Nook tablet also feels nice in my hands. The Nook GlowLight e-reader, which Barnes & Noble designed on its own, has a larger frame surrounding the display. That makes it bulky, even though its screen is just 6 inches diagonally, compared with 7 inches on the Nook tablet.

Beyond that, the new Nook tablet works just like any other Android device. It doesn’t outshine rivals, but it works well at the basics. You can buy e-books, movies and other content through Barnes & Noble. Or you can use Google’s online Play store - though you’ll need Google’s apps to read or watch what you buy there. Pictures taken with the 3 megapixel rear camera aren’t as sharp as what other tablets offer, but at least it has one. Previous Nook tablets didn’t.

One disappointment: Although you can create separate profiles for members of the family, including limited-use ones for kids, you need to use the same Barnes & Noble account across the various profiles.

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