Barnes and Noble just overhauled its iPhone and iPad Nook e-reader apps, applying some spit and polish and a bunch of new features. It shows the bookseller thinks of the Nook app as its future, as much as — or perhaps more than — the Nook device. E-books, as Amazon already knows, are all about the ecosystem.
Among the iPhone, iPad and desktop PC apps that just got refreshed, the iPhone app looks like it got the most attention. The "completely new next-generation" Nook app now delivers "the most personalized and easy-to-use eReading experience," according to B&N. It supports the iPhone 4's extra high-def retina display. There are themes for making the text easier on the eye at night or daytime, and enough customizability for fonts and justification that the bookseller is able to boast that it has the most advanced iPhone e-reader. (Which merely points out that Kindle and iBooks are in dire need of more text customization.)
The iPad app also boasts the first (or so say B&N) in-app book rating power for e-texts, a feature requested by customers. Meanwhile, the desktop app got some extra features, and a more prominent branding.
This app refresh, coming so swiftly after the initial launch, proves one more thing: B&N is very, very serious about the Nook apps. Though the company's innovative Nook e-reader is important for now, dedicated e-reader tech seems destined to be sidelined by more-capable tablet PCs, such as the iPad and its imitators, very soon. That means B&N's bookselling destiny hinges on developing apps like this—and by beating the Kindle app to some of these features, it is definitely taking the battle to Amazon's front door.
To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.