There is a new update for the Nook today. I checked it out, and decided to do a point-by-point write-up of the new features.
Read Ebooks for Free In-store
This is basically an extension of what was already available, from what I can tell. Originally, when you went to a brick and mortar Barnes and Noble, you could access excerpts of any book. Now, you can read any book while you’re in-store. However, you are limited to one book per hour per day. You could theoretically read hour segments of several books in one day and/or the same book an hour each every day.
[Side Effect of More Features/Better Accessibility]
Because there are new features in this update, and because they wanted to make the wi-fi and audio functions more accessible, there are now more buttons on the home screen. Previously all the buttons fit without you having to scroll. Now you have to scroll from side to side in order to see them all:
I don’t have a picture of the home screen before the update, but “games,” “wi-fi,” “audio,” and “web” didn’t have buttons on the home screen previously.
With this update, games were added to the Nook. So far, only Sudoku and Chess are available. I took some time to play around with both a little bit. They seem pretty straight forward and functional. The main game is displayed on the e-ink screen, while a close-up, interactive view is on the color touch screen.
I don’t see myself playing the games very often, personally, but they do seem to fit well with the Nook. I can see taking your Nook on the plane to read, and mixing things up by playing some sudoku on a long flight.
Wider Wi-Fi Access
Honestly, I have no idea what they mean by this. Maybe there are now more Barnes and Noble hot spots? I noticed that some reviewers speculated that this meant people could now access “open” wireless networks that require you to sign in through a web page. As far as I can tell by testing it out, this is not the case. In my experience, the new (beta) web browser is only accessible when you’re already connected to the wi-fi (it is not accessible through 3G).
Beta Surfing Online
This is the update that most excited me. Even with an e-ink screen, it seems like the Nook could be a reasonably internet-capable device. The browser is set up similarly to the games in that the e-ink display shows the main portion of what you’re viewing, while the color touch screen shows a smaller portion.
You can navigate/scroll a page using either the page turning buttons, or the touch screen. You are able to add favorites, zoom, clear your browsing history, etc. The main problem I ran into occurred when trying to enter text into fields. Usually when you click on a field, the virtual keyboard pops up.
However, I found that sometimes it would instead jump to a dialog box asking me to choose an input method, and either giving me no options from which to choose and freezing, or giving me only the “android keyboard” option. This problem occurred infrequently for me, however.
I found I was able to post to Twitter. Staying logged into Twitter wasn’t very feasible, though, since it was very slow, and would try to refresh the e-ink screen whenever Twitter refreshed, which didn’t translate well to the e-ink screen.
I was not able to log into the admin portion of WordPress. It merely navigated to a blank page. Google Reader looked promising, but only loaded the top half of the page, and none of the links/articles were clickable/readable. I did successfully log into Gmail. There was limited functionality, but I was able to see my inbox, and open messages. While unable to log into the admin portion of WordPress, I was able to load the front page of my blog.
Overall, it’s easy to see why the browser is in beta, but it seems workable. In some ways it reminds me of the PS3 browser (especially because you have to scroll around a lot).
Now, you can preorder books through the Nook store. I doubt it’s a feature I’ll use much, but it seems like a nice addition. There is no specific section in the store for preorders, so you need to search for the book you want. Once I found a preorder-able book, it all looked pretty straight forward.
Supposedly this update included faster load times when opening books, and faster page-turn times. I was skeptical that I would be able to notice a difference, but it actually does look like everything navigates more quickly and smoothly. This is a welcome update because sometimes the Nook would feel sluggish. I know people who have tried both the Nook and Kindle bemoaned the slowness of the Nook in comparison. I don’t know how it stacks up now comparatively, but it has definitely improved.
This was a pretty hefty update (especially compared to the previous update that mostly seemed to change the home screen buttons). I will have to see over time how often I use the new features such as the web browser and the games. If nothing else, I can see myself using Wikipedia a lot to look up non-dictionary terms. I will use the browser much more if it becomes compatible with Google Reader In my mind, it seems like a good match.
Feel free to comment with any questions, or observations of your own. I’d be happy to elaborate on anything, and to hear other people’s take on the new update.