It has much richer hardware than, say, a Kindle, so although it's sold as a locked-down, e-book reader, a chunk of its market is folks turning it into something else.
BestBuy had stacks of Kindles, but the shelf under the Nook was cleaned out. The salesman had to go to the stockroom to find me a box.
It comes as a locked-down reader, but the base OS is Android so you have two choices: root or re-flash. They'll both void your warranty, so it's a matter of personal taste.
If you re-flash it, there's plenty to choose from. Google will find you instructions for putting on anything from vanilla Froyo to Ubuntu. Someone probably has a port of Windows CE. To each, his own.
I opted for my usual route: I asked the nearest beautiful woman, "Could you help me turn this into an Android Tablet?"
She said, "Sure. It'll take about five minutes, unless you want to back it up first."
Five minutes was not hyperbole.
She had a micro-SD chip with the necessary files on her -- the OS, the Google Android apps, and an over-clocker. We sliced off the Nook's shrink wrap, took it out, popped open the SD port, slipped in her card, brought it up, reformatted the disk and loaded on the new software, and re-booted.
Never even un-boxed the instructions.
"Don't we need to charge it first?" I asked.
"I'm sure it comes with plenty of power," she said.
We looked after it was back up. The battery was 97% full.
It found someone's near-by, open WAP easily, so I configured it to use my Google account, checked my email, and downloaded a couple of apps from the Android marketplace.
I'm running Cyanogenmod's Gingerbread port (Android 2.3.4, with a 2.6.29 kernel).
The display is beautiful, but before I could watch a free movie, from Amazon Instant Video, I had to download Flash Player from the Android Marketplace. Their service does whine that I'm using an unsupported device, and the video's a little jerky, but I don't know whether that's the tablet or the format and bandwidth.
The rest is fiddling. For example, making the terminal usable meant using the menu key (it's all soft keys) to make the fonts bigger. Pairing with a blue-tooth headset required figuring out how to turn the blue-tooth headset on.
The earphone jack works. There's no built-in camera or microphone, and I don't think the hardware's there to turn it into a standard cellphone, but it seems like I should be able to make VOIP calls with the blue-tooth headset. I've poked at that one a little, but not succeeded. Yet.
I'd wiped out the Barnes & Noble book reader, so no Nook e-books for me; instead, Amazon's free, Kindle-for-Android app lets me download and read the books I buy for my Kindle.
I suppose this is a great time to plug the Kindle. Want a tablet computer? Lots of choices, including the Color Nook. Want an e-book reader? Buy a Kindle.
Sturdy, simple, beautiful, easy-to-read, dirt cheap. Connects free everywhere. Electronic paper that's as foolproof and power-thrifty as an Etch-a-Sketch. Unbeatable selection of books.
It is the C-47 of e-book readers. Jeremy Hinegardner tells me his grandpa's on his second one.