Barnes & Noble on Friday confirmed a software update for its Nook e-reader that includes a basic Web browser, better Wi-Fi, book previewing and games like chess and Sudoku.
The updates keep Barnes & Noble and Nook competitive with rival Amazon's Kindle, but will the Nook's additional, consumer-friendly capabilities help it keep pace with Apple's iPad and other emerging threats to dedicated e-reading devices?
According to Barnes & Noble, Nook will now allow users to preview books in Barnes & Noble stores for as long as a day, for free. The Nook updates also promise faster page turns, stronger Wi-Fi connectivity, and more sensitive touch-screen navigation. The chess and Sudoku applications mark the first new Android apps to run on the Nook's Google Android operating system.
"You can see how these enhancements -- combined with access to more than one million titles, free 3G wireless, an easy-to-read E-Ink screen, exclusive LendMe technology, free shipping and the convenience of being able to try Nook in any Barnes & Noble store -- make it the #1 pick for e-readers," wrote Barnes & Noble on its Nook blog Friday.
Barnes & Noble has also created a new Nook ad campaign that will feature the bookseller's first television ads in nearly 10 years. (The main TV ad for Nook can be viewed here.)
The Nook updates may be enough to keep Barnes & Noble competitive with Amazon and Kindle, but the features -- the Kindle also has a basic web browser, for instance -- don't seem to differentiate it enough as an overall e-reader threat.
Barnes & Noble in February said that the Nook's launch helped it to a 32 percent increase in online book sales for its most recent quarter, but profits still fell overall.
The next battle for the two e-reader contenders will be an expanded retail push. In early April, Barnes & Noble said that the Nook would be sold through Best Buy, starting April 18. Amazon also confirmed that beginning April 25, it would offer Kindle e-readers through select Target stores.