Barnes & Noble announced a software update for its Nook e-reader, complete with new features such as a Web browser and games, on April 23.
The new features include the beta version of "Read In Store," which allows Nook users to browse the retailer's library of e-books for free at any Barnes & Noble location, with the entirety of each book accessible for an hour per day. Barnes & Noble has also added the beta version of a basic Web browser, and a selection of Android-based games including Sudoku and chess.
"We've also made additional reading and device performance enhancements including improved page turn speed, faster access to previously opened e-books, enhanced color touch-screen navigation and more," Paul Hochman, manager of Content and Social Media at BarnesandNoble.com, wrote in an April 23 posting on the Nook and BN eReader blog. "The new features and additional enhancements are available with the updated Nook software now available via manual download at www.nook.com/update."
Hochman's allusion to faster book access and page-turn speed seems to be a reference to early reviews for the Nook, some of which claimed that slowness and some unpolished features represented the biggest drawbacks for the device. Registered Nooks with WiFi connectivity will automatically download the software, a process that Hochman suggests will take between 5-7 minutes, at some point within the next week.
Barnes & Noble's announcement comes at a time when the bookseller finds itself in strengthening competition against not only Amazon.com and its bestselling Kindle e-reader, but also Apple's iPad, whose e-books application is considered a viable threat to traditional e-reader devices. In addition to selling the Nook through its Website and bookstores, Barnes & Noble also recently inked a deal with Best Buy to sell the device; that move will soon be mirrored by Amazon, which plans on selling the Kindle at Target stores starting on April 25.
Under the terms of the agreement with Best Buy, Nook e-reader software will be loaded onto a selection of the electronics retailers' PCs and smartphones. Both Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com have issued e-reader applications for the iPad, hoping to extend their brands even onto a device meant to take their market share.
Although some analysts originally pigeonholed e-readers as a niche item, the devices managed to gain substantial traction during the 2009 holiday shopping season, with both Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble claiming their devices to be some of the most heavily sought-after items through their respective channels. The competition between the Nook and Kindle also led to something of a price war, with the retail cost of both devices eventually hitting $259.