Nook Simple Touch Firmware Update 1.1.0

The Nook Simple Touch received a major software update yesterday. Barnes and Noble’s communications around this update were confusing, and they have not published a detailed list of changes and bug fixes. News outlets have added to the confusion by parroting the Barnes and Noble press release without doing any fact checking.

In this post I’ll lay out the facts about the update, and then I’ll discuss my opinion about these changes in the context of my prior review of the Nook Simple Touch.

Facts about the Simple Touch 1.1.0 update

The first thing to make clear is that this is a software update. The wording of yesterday’s Barnes and Noble’s press release was fuzzy on this point and many sites misreported that new Simple Touch hardware was being released. I called Barnes and Noble customer service today and was told in no uncertain terms that this was a firmware update. There is no new hardware. Barnes and Noble has shared an internal document which lists bug fixes and minor changes but I could not get access to this document. My suggestion to Barnes and Noble: please post detailed 1.1.0 firmware release notes.

All Nook Simple Touches will be updated automatically to 1.1.0 over the coming weeks. But you can update manually, like I did last night. This link takes you to the manual download page, which includes instructions.

Nook Simple Touch Software Updates

If you choose to manually update, I strongly recommend that you reboot your Nook Simple Touch a few minutes after completing the installation procedure. I followed the procedure carefully and found that my Nook Simple Touch was very buggy after the update—until I rebooted the Nook which cleared away all the bugs.

Here is how Barnes and Noble describes the update:

  1. Breakthrough E Ink® display—best just-like paper reading, even in bright sun
  2. 25% faster than any other eReader ” Best-Text™ Technology for sharper, ultra-crisp fonts
  3. Longer battery life—read for over 2 months on a single charge [for one hour per day, not just half hour per day]
  4. Ongoing enhancements and other performance improvements

As advertised, it’s faster, with crisper fonts and better contrast. Pictures appear to me to be a little less clear, including the cover pictures when the Nook is asleep. I can’t comment on the battery which would take weeks to test. See later on in this post for my detailed comments about the new fonts.

Here are the rest of the minor updates and bug fixes I’ve been able to discover so far:

  • touch: left edge of display now responds as well to touch as the right edge of display
  • touch: the book symbol at the upper left now consistently returns the user to the current book when touched
  • touch: The edit shelf button is still small but is easier to touch for those with large fingers
  • browser access removed altogether
  • settings/shop—can “manage credit card”
  • Table of Contents aligns left even for nested TOC
  • Previously, all PDFs automatically reflowed at the third and larger font sizes. Now some PDFs reflow at the smallest font size as well (Is this a bug or a feature?)
  • Speculative: my Nook sometimes required rebooting before the battery could charge when plugged into an electrical outlet. This bug may have been fixed as I have not had this issue since the 1.1.0 update.

I’ll further update this list over the next few days as I discover more changes. I would greatly appreciate comments on any changes I haven’t yet noticed or any facts I’ve manged to get wrong.

How the 1.1.0 update changes my review of the Nook Simple Touch

Both the battery life and page turn speed were so good to begin with that I don’t think improvements in this area will really matter to most people. They certainly don’t matter to me. The improvements to the font rendering and contrast however are very significant.

Quite a few people have expressed a preference for Kindles over the Nook with respect to contrast and font rendering. I don’t have a Kindle to compare to at the moment, but I will later this month when I get my Kindle Touch. So I’ll just compare the Nook Simple Touch to itself, before and after the 1.1.0 update.

All text appears sharper, and is easier to read when glare is present. Before this update, I disliked 5 out of the 6 fonts at the two smallest font sizes. I only used the default Caecilia font, which was a little darker than the others and good enough that I didn’t notice anything odd while reading.

Nook Simple Touch with malabar font after firmware update 1.10

Nook Simple Touch with malabar font

With 1.1.0, the fonts are now rendered so differently that they appear to my eyes to be altogether different. Malibar is now my favorite (above image is at second smallest font size). I still really like Caecilia too. Amasis does not look as sharp as the other 5 fonts, particularly at the two smallest sizes.

I previously commented that the other three fonts reminded me of what print looked like on 300 DPI laser printers when they first came out 15 years ago—so thin and plain as to be distracting. These three fonts are greatly improved and are fine for reading at any size.

It is my understanding that most people find serif fonts like Caecilia, Malabar, and Amasis easier to read on paper, but sans serif fonts like Gill Sans, Helvetica Neue, and Trebuchet easier to read on computer screens. I believe this is because serifs require a higher resolution than most computer displays offer. The Pearl E-ink display of the Nook Simple Touch is enough like paper to my eyes that I prefer serif fonts over sans serif, despite the great improvements to the sans serif fonts. So I’ll be using Caecilia and Malabar.

One thing Barnes and Noble has not changed is the Home Screen. Barnes and Noble delights in pointing out that, unlike Kindles, Nooks don’t have ads. However, there are many ways in which Nooks act as a funnel into the Barnes and Noble store. Nowhere is that more apparent than the home screen, which advertises displays Barnes and Noble books on the bottom half, and only displays “new reads” obtained from Barnes and Noble’s e-store in the upper right corner. Needless to say, I continue to bypass the home screen in favor of the library screen, which only pushes ads Barnes and Noble book samples about once per month (which I then promptly archive).

I was hoping to see the “return to prior screen” button become standard on every screen but that has not yet happened.

Conclusion

So what do I think of this update? The bug fixes are welcome as are the battery and speed improvements. But the show stopper is the software improvements to the display. I’m guessing that improved contrast and font rendering makes the Nook competitive with the Kindle in the area of text clarity, though I won’t know for sure until I get my Kindle Touch.

However, my overall conclusion about the Nook Simple Touch remains the same: If you want a novel-sized, black and white E Ink touch e-reader with varied options for holding and page turning, then you will be very happy with Nook Simple Touch hardware. I like the hardware so much that I’m not particularly hoping it’s someday replaced with improved hardware. If only I could say the same about the Nook’s platform.

The Kindle platform already had a number of advantages over the Nook when I first wrote my Nook Simple Touch review. But Amazon has improved the Kindle platform significantly since then with the addition of personal document sharing, library lending, and a free book per month lending program for Amazon Prime members. Though Kindle hardware trails a bit at the moment, those who are patient can expect popular Nook hardware features to eventually make their way to future Kindles.

The Nook Simple Touch is a great e-reader, made even better with firmware update 1.1.0. Used in conjunction with in-store advantages, it will be the most appropriate e-reader for some. But for those who don’t have ready access to a Barnes and Noble store and who want to easily access their purchased or side loaded content on any device for many years to come, the Kindle platform currently has the edge.

Filed in category: Reading and writing.

23 Comments

  1. November 8, 2011 at 9:03 PM

    One thing I forgot to mention, though it has been prominently reported: The Nook SimpleTouch now costs $99, compared with $139 previously. It’s a great price for great hardware.

  2. Al Sloan
    November 13, 2011 at 5:27 AM

    I did the update and am very displeased with the removal of the web browser. As clunky as it was, I found the utility of being able to get a quick weather forecast or news headline an absolutely great feature. Now lost. I was actually hoping that B&N would have improved the browser with this update. Silly me.

  3. reuben
    November 21, 2011 at 1:58 PM

    I’m a bit disapointed about the deletion of the browser. I guess I can always put cyanogenmod on an SD card…

    The one thing I was hoping they’d rectify is the inability to delete books directly on the nook. Why not?

  4. kyle
    November 21, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    honestly BN wouldnt allow a usable web browser on the nook touch because all the public domain books they charge you for or the ability to buy epubbooks from anyone who not barnes & noble. But you can allows download books to an sdcard in your blackberry then stick it in your nook. but be forewarn i allows have to reformat the sd card when putting it back in the blackberry. i dont own a computer so i have do things the hard way but it still works

  5. November 21, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    Reuben – the inability to delete books on the Nook Simple Touch is an odd omission, particularly considering that Barnes and Noble pushes 1 or 2 book samples per month onto the device. The only way I know of to delete books is to log in to your Barnes and Noble account online and delete the books one by one.

    Kyle – you might be right about the web browser. The Nook makes getting content from the Nook store very easy but getting content from anywhere else is somewhat cumbersome. On the other hand, some people point out the benefit of less distraction. Reading a book on the Nook is great, and it’s perhaps easier to focus on reading if there is no other functionality available.

  6. Reuben
    November 21, 2011 at 8:11 PM

    The thing about the browser makes sense.

    What really annoys me is that if I want to delete sideloaded content I have to plug it in.

    The other thing I want is better PDF support. I get so many PDF files from my professors. And they’re unreadable.

    I guess. It’s just that I think BN is crippling their devices. When the nook color came out, everyone got one because it was a cheap tablet that was easily unlocked. Now the nook tablet with a secured bootloader is competing against cheap tablets from lenovo, vizio, and amazon which are cheaper and can do more. BN is up against a competetior that has way more mindshare, so I was expecting them to let all of their guns loose.

  7. November 21, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    Reuben – PDFs that have searchable and reflowable text are easy to read on the Nook if the 3rd or higher font size is chosen. The text is automatically reflowed. The problem is that some PDFs are saved as a pure graphic. If I were you, I would ask your professors to save the PDFs in the format with searchable and reflowable text. This would not only make them easily readable on Nooks, but on small netbooks as well. And of course text would be searchable as well.

  8. nabila
    November 23, 2011 at 1:31 AM

    hi could u help me? i am confused between kindle 3 and simple nook touch!

    which one is a better buy in terms of longevity? i

    and is the touch easy to use? does it lag alot? thnx!

  9. November 23, 2011 at 6:27 AM

    Nabil – I wrote a thorough review of the Nook Simple Touch, with frequent comparisons to the Kindle:

    http://www.filterjoe.com/2011/09/28/which-is-the-best-e-reader-the-nook-simple-touch/

    The Nook Simple Touch is an easy E-reader to use. You won’t notice any lag when reading but navigating the device is not as smooth as LCD-based devices like the iPod touch. Battery life is similar to the Kindle (weeks with normal use). I think durability is unknown at this point but neither Kindles nor Nooks are known to have a high failure rate in the first few months of use.

    I got a Kindle Touch a few days ago and plan to write a review of it and compare it to the Nook Simple Touch. My first impression: It is not as easy to use as a Nook Simple Touch or all the other versions of Kindle. The user interface feels more designed for a keyboard device than a touch-based device. However, you get a lot more functionality with the Kindle Touch, such as a browser, flexibly viewing PDFs, and simpler/faster ways to get a variety of reading content onto the device.

    Any E-reader you choose these days is good at reading long books without pictures purchased from the store associated with the reader. When you go beyond that the choice between the readers gets more complex.

  10. Bob
    November 26, 2011 at 7:12 AM

    I miss the web browser. That along with the speed of the Nook made me decide over the Kindle Touch. Now I am thinking about returning the Nook and trying the Kindle.

  11. khaled
    November 26, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    The function of web browser on my Nook simple touch was disabled after update 1.1.0 !!!!! , am I right ?

  12. November 26, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    Yes Khaled the browser has been removed.

  13. November 29, 2011 at 3:33 AM

    Hey there Joe.
    I’m amazed by the fact that B&N, despite the fact that it was not as limiting in terms of content for the Nook, has not as yet released anything that allows for content syncinc, meaning one cannot get bookmarks or last page read (or anything of the sort) synced between B&N software.

    That really saddens me.

  14. November 29, 2011 at 6:09 AM

    I hear you, Otavio. As I test the new Kindle Touch, I find myself wishing for the best of both the Nook and the Kindle. The Nook Simple Touch has hardware and a user interface that is better designed for a touchscreen. But the Kindle platform has a long list of advantages. Seamless sync is one of the biggest advantages.

    For my personal usage, the single biggest advantages of Kindle E Ink devices is the ease of getting content onto the device. Can’t get content onto Nook Simple Touch with the simple click of a button on my computer. But getting content onto a Kindle is super easy with Instapaper, Readability, or e-mailing a personal document to your Kindle e-mail address.

  15. reuben
    November 29, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    Just a little background. In the past, if a professor wanted to assign a reading outside of the textbook, they would xerox it and hand it out. Now the school is going is going green, so instead, professors scan the document into an image. There never was any reflow-able text. I doubt my teachers would even know what reflowable text is, so asking them would be a waste of time. The nook tries to scale these to the size of the screen creating very small text. These files display fine on my netbook, but trying to use my netbook during the morning commute with the sun blaring through the window of the train is a trying experience. Plus my netbook has a very limited battery. This also applies to books from google or the internet archive, which are just scanned pages. Some of the books on google have DRM which will not work with the kindle anyways, soo.

    As for managing ebooks on the nook, I simply use calibre. Most of the time I’m just grabbing books from project gutenberg. I’m not sure about syncing highlights, bookmarks, etc, because I only use one ebook reader.

  16. November 29, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    Reuben – I still think it can’t hurt to ask the professor about scanning. Most modern scanning devices include OCR software and the ability to save a scanned image to a PDF with reflowable text. It results in larger files but it is far more useful for both E-book reading and for searching within the text. It seems possible that your professor already has access to saving text as reflowable PDFs but doesn’t do it in order to keep file sizes smaller.

    Nearly 2 years ago I bought my wife a Lexmark Prestige Pro 805 (since replaced by the Pinnacle Pro 905). It is pretty easy to produce reflowable PDF scans with this $200 model.

  17. Kevin
    December 1, 2011 at 9:28 PM

    By removing the web browser they have crippled the Nook Simple Touch if you want to connect to guest wireless services at a lot of airports, hotels and some restaurants, etc. Some of these places require you to log in with a password thru a browser before you could use the wireless service and you could do that with the NST browser. Then you could go on to down load books, newspapers, or magazines from the Barnes and Noble store. Well, not any more! I’m going to BN this weekend to see if I can get a refund since they sold it to me with this functionality and suddenly, for no reason removed it. Nook Simple Touch almost useless for travelers.

  18. Phillip
    December 19, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    Thanks for this analysis of the firmware update. I just purchased a Nook ST and am going to wait on updating to 1.1.0 when I have a better sense of the value of the browser.

    Regarding pdfs, I am somewhat displeased with what I’ve seen so far. I’ve sideloaded a few articles with reflowable text, and while the font resizing was successful, for some reason the reader does not allow me to *press down* on the text in order to highlight, look up definitions, or take notes. This will be a serious drawback if I am unable to take notes, as all of my pdfs are articles requiring my occasional mark-ups. Anyone else find this issue, and a way to resolve it?

    I may eventually decide to root, in order to utilize a better pdf-reading program.

  19. Christen
    December 26, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    I just got my Nook ST and I am disappointed that the sideloaded documents that I’ve put on it can *never* be deleted? At least that’s what I’m reading and I certainly can’t find a way to do it on my own. Does anyone have a trick or method of deleting without having to delete the file first from Calibre (which is the program I use to sideload)? My old black and white Nook (first generation) had a convenient delete button!!!

  20. December 26, 2011 at 8:14 PM

    Christen – Two ways to delete that I know of. For side loaded content, you connect your Nook to the computer via the USB cable. Using your computer, look at your files and select which ones to delete. That works for side loaded content, I believe.

    More annoying is Barnes and Noble content which you have purchased, or, worse, has been pushed to your device as a book excerpt (an ad, really). You can easily archive it. But the only way I know of to delete is to log into your Barnes and Noble account on a computer and navigate your way to the delete option, which requires a separate click for each book you want to delete.

    Here’s a whole thread on Barnes and Noble’s site with more details about the cumbersome deleting procedures:

    http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/t5/NOOK-First-Edition-Technical/Nook-Delete-Books/td-p/427142/page/4

  21. JimmyH
    January 4, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    I received my Simple Touch for Christmas and loved it. Then it autmatically downloaded the 1.1.0 update and now I cannot connect to my home wifi. B&N told me I need to update my router settings. I do not want to do this for fear of causing problems with my other devices (laptop, iPhone, etc.). It was working fine before the update. B&N really needs to address this problem soon. In the meantime, I’ll connect through hotspots as needed.

  22. AlanPerota
    July 6, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    How does one get the 1.0.* software back on.

    The web connection to get to an email message was wonderful and allowed me to travel without booting a computer.

    Would be great to back grade my unit.
    Thanks

  23. July 6, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    Alan – The only way I know of to stop automatic updating and get back access to a browser is to root your nook.