An upcoming update will bring a web browser, email and update store app to Barnes & Noble’s super affordable Nook Simple Touch line of e-readers, which will begin rolling out June 1 according to a source close to the matter who wishes to remain anonymous. The 1.5.0 update was created in response to the positive critical and customer response to the recent Nook tablet update that brought Google Play to B&N’s Android-powered devices.
The Nook Simple Touch and Simple Touch with Glowlight will be receiving the over-the-air update starting next month, marking the first time that Nook’s entry-level readers get official access to web browsing capabilities. Amazon’s competing Kindle devices have shipped with an “experimental” web browser since the Kindle 2, but have not offered an email client on anything except for the Kindle Fire tablets.
Making Nook hardware a little more flexible for users is a good way for Barnes & Noble to help counter flagging sales of dedicated Nook hardware, which were shown to be weak in recent quarterly results. Nook weakness probably ended up prompting the bookseller to offer promotional giveaways with on-hand inventory.
When B&N announced that Google Play would be coming to Nook tablets, I praised the decision as a key step in helping the company position them as affordable, fully featured Android tablets, as opposed to just glorified e-readers that could do a bit more than most. The Nook Simple Touch is still pretty focused on e-books, but as an email triage device and basic browser, especially for text heavy content, it probably becomes a lot more attractive to an audience that mostly wants books but would like a little more general-use value as well. Especially for older buyers, I imagine a simplified device with a cheap price tag has the potential to carry appeal over a much more expensive full-fledged tablet.
Will a browser and email client be enough to right the Nook ship? Probably not on their own, but B&N is at least expending effort in the right direction to combat flagging consumer interest in dedicated e-reader devices.