How I Turned my Nook into an E-Reader Monster

written by Matthew Acton on March 2, 2013 in How-To with 240 comments

Recently I picked up a refurbished Nook on eBay for a bargain price. The idea was, to turn it into my ideal e-reader tool. I chose the Nook Simple Touch as my base unit. Basically, because it runs Android in the background, so it gave me lots of options for rooting it. I didn’t want to be tied to any one book store, and I wanted the ability to read long internet articles on it too, which I tend to save to Pocket.

Book shelf with a nook on each shelf spelling out words "Who needs books?"

nate bolt via Compfight

Please be aware that the following article contains affiliate links.

E-readers are great, and in particular the Nook. Their crisp e-ink screen is as good as reading a book, and with the ability to expand the memory using SD cards, you can carry around a complete library wherever you go. Perfect for ample leisure reading material, reference books etc. I am considering digitising my engineering reference books so that I can keep them all in one place, whether I am in the office, or visiting customers.

I found a great article on how to root my Nook, by Alan Henry at Lifehacker. However, this was an older article and I ran into several problems along the way, which weren’t addressed. The method chosen by Alan was based on Nook firmware prior to FW 1.2.0, which the Nook I bought has installed. Following Alan’s step-by-step instructions didn’t work, but then I found another article on XDA Developers, which gave me enough information.

What You’ll Need

I’m going to describe the particular process that I used. Other systems may be different, and I am happy to expand this article over time with snippets from firmware other than 1.2.0 and other computer Operating Systems.

  • A Nook Simple Touch with Firmware 1.2.0. You can pick one up from Amazon for about £79.  I believe that this will also work with FW 1.2.1 also, but I have not tried it. Alan’s Lifehacker article describes the process for Firmware earlier than 1.2.0, so if that includes you, then I recommend you read this article in conjunction with Alan’s.
    Update: Currently the Nook Simple Touch is on offer at £29.  Last I heard, the Nook Store had sold out, but there are some in stock at Currys (affiliate link).  You can also get cashback through many stores stocking the Nook by signing up to TopCashBack (UK only I think).
  • A micro SD card. I actually used 2. I had 2 spare left over from older phones – a 2GB one and an 8GB one. For performance, a number of people have found significant increases in performance with Class 6 or higher, so if you are buying new, then that might be something to look out for. Amazon sell a 16GB Class 6 Card for about £8. In my instance, I used the 2GB one for rooting and installing items on the Nook, and the 8GB one is my standard storage device for storing books on.  To root the Nook, you only need 1 SD card, I just happened to have 2 lying around.
  • An external micro-SD card reader. I tried using my laptop’s built in SD card reader, but I couldn’t get Win32DiskImager to recognise my SD card. However, it worked fine with the external reader. You can pick up one at Amazon for about £1
  • A computer running Windows. This is just the computer I used. It was my laptop, running Windows Vista. There will likely be equivalent software available on other OS’s – feel free to leave your suggestions below in the comments
  • Nook Manager - this is what is known as a Nooter, which is a utility for rooting your Nook. For FW 1.2.0, you have to use Nook Manager. I tried TouchNooter initially, as Alan did in his article, and it ended up failing. I had to do a factory restore to recover it – after a good 10 minutes of panicking.
  • Win32 Image Writer - you’ll need this to write the disk image to your SD card.
  • A Google account. There seems to be a recommendation that this is the same account that you use for your Barnes & Noble account, but I can’t confirm that not doing this makes it any more difficult, as mine was the same anyway

Setting Up Your Nook for Rooting

OK, obligatory warning before you begin. There is a chance you will brick your Nook. Rooting is not a practice condoned by Barnes & Noble, and it WILL void your warranty. You are following the instructions below at your own risk.

  1.  Connect your SD card to your PC using your external card reader. Do not connect it to using your Nook and a USB cable. A number of tales of Nooks being bricked have been attributed to using this method to write the disk image. I found that using the internal card reader in my laptop didn’t work with Win32 Image Writer. Confirm that the SD card is mounted to your computer.
  2. Download and extract the Nook Manager image file to a location where you can find it. I used the desktop – which I usually keep clear of icons! I must be getting lax in my old age.
  3. Extract all the files from the win32 Image Writer archive into a folder. Double click win32DiskImager.exe and it will open up the program as shown below:
    win32ImageWriter
  4. Point the “Device” drop down to the drive letter assigned to your SD card. This was automatically selected for me, so just check it is pointing to the write device. The last thing you want is to over-write the wrong card. Make sure you have backed up anything on your SD card that you may want by this stage.
  5. Hit the folder icon and browse to the Nook Manager image file.
  6. Once you are happy, hit “Write”. This will wipe your SD card and write the image file to it.

And that’s all there is to the first stage. You are now ready to start rooting your Nook.

Rooting Your Nook

As a bit of pre-setup to rooting your Nook, I made sure that I had already setup a wireless network to connect to within the Nook.

  1. Power down your Nook (by holding down the power button for a few seconds) and insert your newly created SD card with NookManager on.  Turn the Nook back on.  It will now show the boot screen, then after about 15 seconds you will have the NookManager menu up.
  2. The next screen asks you if you want to turn on wireless.  If you have setup wireless as I discussed before, then select yes.  If not, click “No, continue without wireless”.
  3. Once it has done its business connecting to the network, you’ll get the main menu.  Select “Root” – this was in the bottom right for me.
  4. Then select “Root My Device”.  It will chug away for a few seconds and eventually say “Success”.  It may come up with  a message about automatically rebooting once you remove the SD card.  Do this and once you reboot, you will have a fully rooted Nook.
  5. You’ll have to sign in to your google account now – its suggested elsewhere that you should use the same google account that you have signed up to Barnes & Noble with.  Whether this makes a difference or not, I don’t know.

Making Your Rooted Nook Awesome

So, now you have a rooted Nook, how can you make it into the monster e-reader that you dreamed of. There are several apps that I have installed so far.

  • Google Market – this was installed using NTGAppsAttack
  • Dropbox – useful for getting books and files across to your Nook Simple Touch. I also used this for sideloading some apps
  • Amazon Kindle – I had already bought some books in Kindle, and it just feels a little bit perverse using a Nook to read Kindle books! (Update: I used v 3.0.1.70 available here - you’ll have to sideload it to install it)
  • Read It Later – for reading articles saved for later reading from various devices
  • NewsRob – RSS feed reader that syncs to Google Reader

To date, that is all I have installed on my Nook at the moment. If you have any suggestions for other apps, or comments regarding other ways of rooting your Nook, then please add it to the comments below.

UPDATE:

Here is a selection of tips which people have added to the comments.  Thank you everyone for your contributions:

To Re-Assign The Buttons (Courtesy of Chris)

To resign the library button etc if you’ve made a mistake, do the following:

  1. Go to “All applications” and select “Nook Touch Mod Manager”.
  2. Select “Modify Button Action”.
  3. Swiping the screen, go down the list until you find the “Quicknav” section.
  4. Select the Home, Library, Shop, Search or Settings button you wish to change the default function for and press the down arrow to the right.
  5. Select the function you want to assign to that button and viola :-)

A Good Way To Setup Your Launch Buttons (Courtesy of Steve)

ReLaunch allows the actions of the Nook Button to be re-programmed. As installed, ReLaunch comes up rather too easily for my liking.

I programmed as follows:

n, Home –> Home
n, Library –> Library
Long Press n –> Relaunch

This makes the Nook very much like the original with the “hidden” feature that a Long press on the n gives you the extra stuff that rooting gives.

Once Long Press is set up to enter ReLaunch…

At some point you have to say which application you want to complete the action with. Check the box for “always” and select the standard browser for Home and Library. That way it looks very much like an un-rooted Nook to the casual observer.