>Surprise update brings new features to Nook

>     If you’re a Nook user like I am, then undoubtedly you were surprised to see an email in your inbox today announcing an available software update (version 1.3) for Barnes and Noble’s e-reader which brings some surprising and fun new features to the table:

  • Read entire books for free – for up to an hour a day, you may read as much of any e-book as you like while you’re in a Barnes & Noble store. This might be a way of getting customers in the door, and I haven’t had a chance to use this feature yet. However, it’s more of a competing feature than Amazon will be able to come up with – as they have no stores, in the physical sense. In addition, this feature more than any other may contribute toward maintaining a literary culture which was once centered around the library, but is now centered around retail establishments. My prediction: Barnes & Noble stores may want to invest in some additional comfy chairs.

  • Games! – chess and Sudoku have arrived on the Nook. While I haven’t had a crack at the Chess yet, I did play a sudoku puzzle and am happy to report that it is not only usable, but it’s fun too. The little color touchscreen at the bottom of the nook displays a 3 x 9 square strip of the puzzle that can be scrolled up and down. Touching an empty square brings up a strip of number buttons and a few more buttons. If you make a mistake, the numbers will show up in red. Very nice for on-the-go reading breaks, I’d wager.

  • Basic web browser – that’s right, you can browse the web on your Nook! As hokey as it may sound, it works better than one might imagine. The screen shows an e-ink version of the web page you’re looking at, while the color touchscreen shows a strip of the page that you can swipe to move around the whole thing. Tapping on a text-entry field brings up that keyboard you haven’t seen since setting up your Nook. I gave it a test drive by logging into my Gmail. Like they said, basic – but good.

    In addition to the aforementioned features, the software update brings enhancements to performance (quicker page turns, faster book loading) and wifi. My guess with the “enhanced wifi” is more support for different wireless security protocols.
    The update downloads and installs in roughly ten minutes. Upon your first reboot after the update, you will notice some extra tiles on the main button bar. There’s one for the games, and one for the browser. In addition, you will find a new wifi button that will allow you to manage wifi connections, as well as activate/deactivate airplane mode without having to go into your settings to do it.
    This update was a pleasant surprise for me. I’m sure that Nook owners all over will agree, and I’m just looking eagerly forward to new features to come in the future. Just a word to those who connect the reader exclusively over 3g: this update is only available over-the-air on wifi connections, but there is a way to do the update from your computer. Read more about it at http://www.nook.com/update.

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