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Nook Simple Touch packs surprise Web browser

Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch eReader (CEO William Lynch)

Barnes & Noble debuted its new Nook Simple Touch ereader last month, the company touted the unit’s touch-sensitive screen, improved contrast, better performance, and sleek design. But now that the units are reaching customers, they’ve found a bit of a secret feature in the device: a rudimentary Web browser. Just enter a URL into the ereader’s search bar and the unit will load the site in a built-in Web browser.

The Nook Simple Touch is based on Android 2.1, and while Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color is expanding into the wider world of Android applications, some ereader users have lamented that Barnes & Noble hadn’t done more with Android on the Simple Touch. Turns out, the company kind of has done more: limited Web browsing opens up whole new realms of possibilities for the ereader.

Of course, as video from The eBook Reader demonstrates, the Nook Simple Touch’s E Ink display doesn’t always make for the best mobile Web experience—which is probably why Barnes & Noble hasn’t flagged the browser as an official feature. However, there are many cases where some Web access is better than no Web access at all.

Of course, users who really want to tap into the Nook Simple Touch’s possibilities will need to root the device to install their own software—which, of course, falls outside the bounds of what Barnes & Noble wants people to do with the device. After all, literature fans probably haven’t lived until they’ve tried to play Words with Friends on an E Ink screen.

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