Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) has announced that they will be releasing what they claim is the largest update to their nook device since the eReader hit the market. While we won’t be seeing this update rolled out until late next month, from what they’ve said, there is the strong implication that they’ve been listening to what their customers have been clamoring for.
Specifically, we have the following to look forward to:
- Barnes & Noble Library Organization
Let’s be honest, this has been the biggest problem with eReaders in general and the nook in particular since the things started becoming affordable. Up until the Kindle’s Collections feature, there were all sorts of innovative workarounds for people, including genre specific memory cards, creative file tagging, and even completely limiting what you carry with you to avoid having to scroll through page after page of stuff you don’t want today. Let’s hope that this organization both improves the process and extends beyond the B&N library into the My Documents list for those of us who like to get our books from various sources.
- Device Syncing
This one’s been rather a long time in coming, when you think about it. After all, Amazon’s had it going for a while and it has never made much sense to leave it out. Anyway, finally we’ll be getting the option to have B&N keep track of our last read pages so that we can put down the nook at home, read a couple pages on the PC on our lunch break at work, maybe a couple more on the cell phone on the train home, and never once lose track of progress.
- Password Protection
The wording on this is a bit vague, but in the context it was presented, the new password protection seems to go beyond simply being a lock for the device as a whole. Possible, perhaps, to lock individual books or store access for those with family accounts? No way to know for sure but this seems like a feature with some promise. Hell, even if it was just a lock for the device as a whole, it would be useful as a safety measure for those of us who love to take our nooks out with us to random places. Theft is always a concern!
- Dramatically Increased Page Turn Speed
Now, “Dramatically” is a fairly subjective term, of course, but nobody is ever going to complain about this one. As somebody who has been a proponent of eInk-based eReaders from the beginning, I got used to the screen flash a long time ago and really find it far less distracting than the action of turning a physical page, even. The pages on my nook never stick together. That said, I know it bugs the hell out of loads of people. Every time B&N increases their page turn speed, they make their customers happier and their prospective customers that much more likely to venture a purchase. I am, you can be sure, interested in seeing what they define as “Dramatic”.
- Improved Search Function
Anybody who’s spent any time trying to get eBooks to work in a classroom in conjunction with people using standard texts knows that the functionality depends on a quick, easy search function. So far, the nook only has one of those attributes. Since this update is boasting quickened on-device search capabilities, we can hope for a better experience than the current ridiculous waiting game in spite of the limited hardware that one expects on such a device.
There is a very good chance, as well, that this could mean a lot more than simply a firmware update for the popular device. It was almost a year ago now that the nook first hit the market. It had a rocky start and no small number of naysayers, some justified and others less so, but there can be very little doubt that it’s at the top of the charts these days, second only to the Kindle and covering some very important features that the Kindle lacks.
The fact is, however, that the Kindle 3 has a very significant lead at the moment. It’s more recently updated, has a better screen, faster interface, and just generally slightly more comfortable user experience. As some of you may recall, there were stories a few months back about the patents being put in place that seemed to be for the nook 2. If that is to be released this year, it will have to be before the holiday season, and it would only make sense to put out something soon in order to increase interest. With that in mind, it is easy to believe that this update is meant to pave the way for what could well be a coinciding announcement of, or even release of, the new model.
Whatever the case on that front, nook owners will likely find this to be a major plus. It’s been a while since the last significant software update and I know that I’m rather excited about it. While the Kindle still has the slight edge in terms of functionality, it really sounds like this will address all non-hardware based complaints about the nook and that is huge for a device that already offers advantages over the main competition like a full-color mini-screen for web browsing and compatibility with the current standard in eBooks.