Barnes & Noble NOOK Gets Web Browser, Games, And More In New Update

Anyone who ever told you that a single company owning the market was a good thing had their head in the clouds. In the latest edition of "why competition works," the Barnes & Noble NOOK e-reader is seeing one of the most impressive updates in a long time, and we have to believe that this update wouldn't be nearly as robust without Amazon's Kindle, Spring Design's Alex and Apple's iPad sitting beside it on the virtual shelves. These days, consumers have lots of choices when it comes to buying an e-book reader and/or tablet, so without a nice feature set, it's easy to overlook one and head right for another.

It's clear that B&N doesn't want their recently launched NOOK to become the one that's overlooked, and judging by the new firmware, they mean business with keeping it up to date when compared to the competition. The latest update, which is being provided for free to current and to-be NOOK owners, adds new firsts and features for the e-book category as a whole and the NOOK itself. A new Read In Store experience has been launched in Beta, bringing users the ability to browse complete books in B&N stores at no cost, as well as games. The games app is the first Android app on the device, and if that's not enough, don't sweat it.

B&N is also providing enhanced Wi-Fi and a basic Web Browser (also in Beta), the latter of which is a huge win. The iPad has been able to read ebooks and surf the Web since day one, so adding a browser of any kind to the NOOK is a legitimate way to draw attention back away from Cupertino. The new features, along with additional reading and device performance optimization, such as faster page turns and an enhanced home screen, are part of NOOK v1.3 software, and best of all, you don't have to wait for it--it's available now. So, has this new update put the NOOK back on your must-have list? We wouldn't be shocked if you said "yes."

Other updates NOOK customers will enjoy with v1.3 software include:

  • Reading experience: To help customers get to their content conveniently and quickly, Barnes & Noble has continued to optimize NOOK’s performance with improved page turn speed, faster access to previously opened eBooks, enhanced color touch screen navigation and more.
  • Games: From eBooks to rooks, play Chess against NOOK with one of three levels of difficulty, or get puzzled with Sudoku, choosing from four levels of play. Control the game using the color touch screen as the game board appears on the E Ink® display.
  • Wi-Fi connectivity: In addition to Barnes & Noble bookstores and other Wi-Fi hotspots, enjoy high-speed connectivity in even more places, such as those that require access to additional information through a Web browser including hotels and coffee shops.
  • Basic Web browser (Beta): While connected via Wi-Fi, explore the Web and check Internet-based e-mail accounts on the E Ink display, while using the color touch screen for navigation and to access the virtual keyboard.
  • Updated home screen: From the home menu (located on the lower color touch screen), get easy, direct access to existing features including Audio and Wi-Fi settings, as well as new features such as Games and beta Web browser.

NOOK v1.3 is now available via manual download at with additional information and easy-to-follow directions. NOOKs connected to Wi-Fi will receive an automatic NOOK v1.3 update over the next week.

In Barnes & Noble stores, NOOK automatically connects to the fast and free Wi-Fi where NOOK customers can tap on the Shop button to now enjoy the beta Read In Store feature. Customers can read many complete eBooks available in Barnes & Noble’s expansive eBookstore of more than one million digital titles, even if the physical book is not in stock. From current bestsellers to classics, customers can enjoy a wide variety of eBooks from hundreds of publishers, including all the major publishing houses. Soon, in-store visitors will also be able to virtually flip through leading daily newspapers and magazines covering news, finance and technology available in the eBookstore.

NOOK customers can explore the content of as many digital titles as they wish, on any given day, including any available eBook for up to an hour per day; and to come, current-edition newspapers and magazines in the BN eBookstore will be available for up to 20 minutes per day. NOOK’s Read In Store experience is another first for the retail and eBook arena, like the More In Store experience which offers NOOK owners access to free, exclusive content from leading authors and special discounts and promotions when in Barnes & Noble stores.