December 13, 2011, 4:55 PM

Nook Color gets a flashy feature upgrade

Barnes & Noble’s software update enables Nook owners to stream video and music.

Bill Briggs

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

Barnes & Noble's Nook Color takes on new hues with a software upgrade.

Barnes & Noble Inc. has rolled out a free software upgrade for its Nook Color e-reader. A host of new features characterizes Barnes & Noble’s latest efforts to soup up its e-reader and keep shoppers’ attention, including access to Netflix and Flixster video services, music services such as Pandora and Rhapsody, comics and graphic novels from Marvel Entertainment Inc., and more apps.

With the software update, available at NookColor.com/update, customers can download Netflix to watch movies and TV shows, and Flixster which, through the UltraViolet standard, will allow consumers to access their digital movies and TV shows on the go. UltraViolet is an industry standard that enables consumers that have purchased digital versions of movies and TV shows to access their content via the Internet. More video services will follow, the company says.

Nook Color owners can also listen to songs through music services including Pandora, Rhapsody, Grooveshark and MOG, all available with a free 14-day trial. Owners also can listen to their own songs with the built-in music player.

New apps for both the Nook Color, which sells for $199, and Nook Tablet, priced at $249, include games published by Chillingo such as Roll in the Hole and Spider Jack, and other games such as I Can Read, Cozi Family Organizer and Pat the Bunny. New holiday-themed apps, available at reduced pricing, include How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Nook Comics offers Nook Color owners full-color comics, graphic novels and kids’ comics in high resolution that allow readers to “pinch,” that is, to expand and contract images by touching the screen with their thumb and forefinger, and to zoom in or out. New titles include Marvel’s graphic novels, such as Halo Uprising, and other Marvel standards including Ultimate Spider-Man, The Astonishing X-Men and Hulk: Planet Hulk, among others.

In addition to more than 300 newspapers and full-color magazines, Nook Newsstand now offers new publications such as People StyleWatch, Southern Living, Wired and Self.

Barnes & Noble, No. 41 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, is touting an enhanced Nook Color experience brought about by a redesigned Nook Store, including an option to view book content in landscape or portrait mode that was developed in response to customer requests. That’s an option that’s been available on Apple Inc.’s iPad, a major competitor to the Nook and Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle e-book reader.

A new Nook Discover icon on each page offers access to more content through Nook Daily Find, which recommends a new, discounted book each day; Nook First, with exclusive content from popular authors; Nook Snaps, brief content for readers on the go; Nook Spotlight, twice-monthly book offerings at discounted prices; and New Release Tuesday, a weekly run-down of bestsellers and the newest releases.

Nook Book gifting enables BN.com shoppers to give Nook books or apps as gifts. Books and apps are delivered instantly to recipients on their Nook Color or Tablet devices, and Nook Tablet and Color customers will also be able to apply their Barnes & Noble gift cards, physical or digital, while shopping on their devices.

Barnes & Noble launched the original Nook e-reader in the fall of 2009, and introduced the Nook Color a year later. By the 2010 holiday shopping season, Nook devices had become Barnes & Noble’s best-selling product, the company says.

The company’s earnings statements reflect the Nook products’ success. For the second quarter of fiscal 2012 ended Oct. 29 Barnes & Noble reported e-commerce sales increased 16.4% to $206 million from $177 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2011. The increase in web revenue was attributed to growing sales of digital content and Nook e-readers. Nook-related sales increased year over year about 85% to $220 million from $119 million, the retailer says. Total sales declined 0.5% to $1.89 billion from $1.90 billion.

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