Hacking The Nook Touch

Dave Zatz —  June 13, 2011


What a difference a week makes…

When we last discussed Barnes & Noble’s new Nook Touch e-Reader ($139), I lamented the absence of a web browser. While some browser components were clearly present, to enable WiFi hotspot login functionality, there was no obvious means to launch a full-on browsing experience. As it turns out, it’s not so tricky at all. In fact, no hacking required. However, what you end up with is indeed a hack. For now. As the browsing experience is less than ideal. But, hey, it’ll do in a pinch and this gives me some hope that B&N intends to refine and release this feature.

More interestingly, the Nook Touch seems to have a good deal in common with it’s larger, Color brethren. And I learned on Liliputing that it’s been rooted. Directions can be found here but, while the steps are simple, the end result isn’t entirely suitable for novices at this point. What you’re left with is basically an unlocked device that you can sideload apps onto… and launch via computer. So while the savvy are mucking about with the Amazon Kindle app, I wouldn’t say the root experience is quite ready for weekend geek warriors.

5 responses to Hacking The Nook Touch

  1. In the last few days people have managed to get a custom app launcher, Bluetooth, and some other features working (B&N doesn’t even tell you the NOOK Touch has Bluetooth, but apparently it does). It’s a pretty versatile little machine. Unfortunately the E Ink display doesn’t play well with apps that were designed for full color motion.

    If this keeps up, I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see homebrew apps designed specifically for E Ink… but I wouldn’t hold my breath on a more attractive Amazon Kindle app for the NOOK anytime soon.

  2. Told ya, Dave! Anything that has Android on it, is always bound to be hacked in no time. Given that this is an eInk display, don’t think there’s a need for all sorts of fancy apps. Just various e-reading apps (Kindle, manga; a better PDF app), mail, web, and launcher.

    As much as I’m a fan of Amazon (give them a little too much of my income, lol), you gotta admire when an old-school company like B&N isn’t doing anything to prevent user’s from hacking Colors and Touches even though it means potentially less revenue from them (Kindle app; buying apps from Google Market instead of B&N market).

  3. Ivan, the original Nook was also based on Android. But perhaps less appealing due to price/features ratio and harder to deal with due to the split screens. I have been pleasantly surprised to see B&N let the independent development community run wild. When your business is dying, why not?

    Brad, keep us updated. I did catch the YouTube video of a sideloaded launcher, but it looked kinda painful. I’m hoping within a few more weeks, this will all be more suitable for the masses. A better browser and a RSS reader would be nice e-ink additions. Interesting on the Bluetooth – must have been cheaper to get whatever chip had it integrated (or perhaps they have future plans).

  4. Dave, original Nook v1 had been hacked fairly quickly and NookDevs lists quite a few apps for it (http://nookdevs.com/Application_Directory). But XDA community didn’t come out in full force until Nook Color, so Touch should benefit from increased attention to B&N products and be hacked to pieces even faster.

    Re: Bluetooth – it was also enabled NC, but – last time I checked – it was more of an experimental feature due to short range.

  5. I’ve thought about rooting or hacking my 3-day-old Touch, but now I’m thinking about returning it to BN. I’m finding navigating on it somewhat difficult. The touch screen is less effective than I expected; not very responsive. The sleekness, thinness of the page is nice on the tactile side, but so what! And I miss a few features on my old one. (Went back to the old one this morning, was pleased by the (now absent) Daily on George Eliot, the easy movement between my download and sideloaded libraries. The easy swiping of the small touchscreen for page-turning.) Yes, I think I will take it back today – and wait for something better.