When Barnes & Noble launched the Nook e-book reader late last year, the company said it would offer unique features such as e-book lending, free in-store streaming of many titles, and Android apps that would run on the color touch screen at the bottom of the device. Well, after releasing two smaller firmware updates that mainly focused on fixing bugs, improving performance, and tweaking the user interface, Barnes & Noble has finally rolled out a more substantial update that includes the extra features it originally promised would set the Nook apart from Amazon's Kindle.
While the lending feature has been available for several months, one of the key additions is the Read in Store wireless streaming feature. Once the new firmware is installed (version 1.3 should be automatically pushed to your device once you connect to a Wi-Fi network and check for new content in your library), you'll be able to read certain books from the company's e-book catalog free of charge on your Nook when you're in a Barnes & Noble store (free Wi-Fi is offered in stores). As previously reported, you can only access a title for up to an hour per day, but you could return on subsequent days to continue reading. Alternatively, you could also just sit in a store and read a hard copy of the book at your leisure, but that's so old-school.
Barnes & Noble didn't specify just how many books would be available for free streaming, but company reps said that at launch content would be available from all the major publishers and that some bestsellers would be on the list. (We'll be checking just how much content is actually available in the next few days).
Additionally, Barnes & Noble has added two Android games to the Nook--chess and sudoku--along with a Web browser that's labeled with the "beta" tag.
It's also important to note that because the device can now access the Web, you can log in to Wi-Fi networks that require authentication via a Web page. Nook owners have been asking for the ability to access more public Wi-Fi hot spots since the e-reader's launch. The firmware is also supposed to fix some outstanding bugs, including a freezing problem that affected certain units, and to speed up page turns (yes, they do seem faster).
Here's the quick rundown of what's new in v1.3:
Read in Store wireless streaming of certain e-book titles Web browser Two Android games (chess, sudoku) Bug fixes (allegedly addresses freezing problem with certain units) User interface and performance tweaks (faster page turns)
In advance of the update, we got a demo of the Read in Store feature at a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan, and the streaming appeared to work just fine. While only e-books will be available for launch, company reps said the ability to stream periodicals would be added in the near future.
The demo was conducted in an in-store Barnes & Noble Cafe, and a couple of tables away from us, a patron was flipping through a few magazines he'd borrowed from the nearby magazine rack as he sipped coffee. At another table, a customer was using B&N's free Wi-Fi to surf the Web on his iPad, which begged the question, when would we see a new B&N eReader iPad app? … Read more