Our sister site Gadgetell reports on a rumor that Barnes & Noble is finally going to remedy one of the more disappointing omissions from the Nook at launch: firmware 1.4, which could be out as soon as next week, will reportedly include a web browser application.

Of course, as with the Kindle’s, it will probably not be the greatest browser in the world. But on the other hand, most Nook users will not want to do much more than check their mail or look something up in Wikipedia anyway. Basic browser functionality will at least give it the same information-anywhere cachet Randall Monroe observed in the Kindle.

Also in the offing is a $199 wifi-only Nook that could be out by the end of spring. While it is good that B&N is looking at leaving off the 3G as a way to get their prices down, I can’t help thinking they’re not thinking quite low enough. Kobo has a pretty good deal at its $150 price point, but when e-readers hit $99 or less is when they’ll really take off.

And finally, the last new Nook development is simply a name: “Project Encore”. It will reportedly be ready by the end of the year, though there is no indication of what its feature set will be.

More information: Electronista, Gizmodo


  1. Chris,
    Re — “Basic browser functionality will at least give it the same information-anywhere cachet”

    Not really. Kindle’s is cellular wireless “information-anywhere” while depending on WiFi networks definitely isn’t. Not only that it’s at no added cost for that 3G.

    TheKindleChronicles.com podcast had an interesting comment from someone phoning in to say that a customer at B&N wanted a book but had only the title and didn’t know the author’s name.

    The clerk proceeded to look it up on her store computer, the Nooks lying nearby. The Kindle owner who told this story said that he took out his Kindle and searched at the Kindle store, found the author and the book and had a sample to show the customer before the B&N clerk was able to find the book info.

    That ‘anywhere’ thing is a big plus for many of us, as the Kindle browser has been functioning better and I use it for lookups quite a bit when out on the street and needing to find this or that place and maybe recommendations from yelp or actual movie times where, etc.

  2. Yes, nook has free 3G in the United States.

    I’m not sure about the value of reporting this rumor, though. It started from one anonymous tip to Gizmodo and seems to have spread all over, and I haven’t seen anyone add any corroborating sources.

    Maybe it’s true, maybe it ain’t, but I think that most of us nook users would rather that B&N get the current functionality working before adding new bugs… er, features. The basic reader functionality works fine for most users (including me), but most of the special features are essentially unusable.

    A minority of users report experiencing repeated problems with the unit shutting down unexpectedly and sometimes refusing to come back on without disassembling the unit to remove the battery. This is made more confusing by the absence of any power indicator to tell the user that it’s shut itself off; it looks like it just quit responding. On the nook forum boards, this problem (which seems to have multiple causes) is easily the #1 source of “I want to throw the thing out the window” frustration. If these sudden shutdowns aren’t fixed in the new update, adding a browser isn’t going to improve the nook’s reputation.

    (To be clear: my nook works fine for me. I know better than to waste my time trying to use the dictionary, the highlights, the notes, the in-store special features, etc., that don’t work properly. I’ve never personally experienced an unexpected shutdown.)

  3. Adding to my comment above:

    BusinessWeek is reporting that B&N confirms that the upcoming update will indeed address the ‘freezing’ issues.

    And it reports that B&N VP Anthony Astarita says that the update will include a browser. And games.

    So finally there’s something more substantial than a single anonymous tip to Gizmodo. 🙂

  4. Side note: WiFi vs. 3G.

    WiFi is wonderful … when it’s available and when it’s “free”. 3G is a little more problematic price wise … but considerably more “available”.

    The 3G advantage on the Kindle 2, even in “International mode”, is that Wikipedia works. And it’s free. It’s not the whole friggin’ world wide web … but it does cover a LOT of stuff.

    So there I was in February, on a 5 hr bus trip in Mexico travelling over the mountains from the Pacific Coast, with knapsack access to my WiFi enabled netbook and 3G Wikipedia enabled Kindle 2. Not surprisingly, WiFi does not work on a bus on the relatively remote highway to Guadalajara. Equally not surprising, 3G works fine and dandy … and on virtually every twist and turn. I was able to read my Kindle-ized mystery novel and “pop out” from time to time to Wikipedia to read about the history of each of the hamlets like “Ixtlan del Rio” as we trundled by — history, local facts, etc. Plus, when we arrived, I didn’t have to lug around a paper Fodor’s — tourist tips are all there in the “encyclopedia by and for the rest of us”.

    Ah, caramba! All those Tequila tales! In real time!

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