After months of waiting, Barnes & Noble has finally released their newest Windows 8 app. It’s taken a while, but overall the quality seems worth the wait.
Last year Microsoft invested $300 million into the Nook, gaining slightly over 17% ownership in that newly formed business. Since then there have been any number of speculations regarding the future of the relationship between the companies. Some expect that an eventual Nook Tablet will run Windows RT. So far there have been no developments along those lines, but it may still be in the cards. Regardless of the hardware implications, however, the one thing Microsoft could count on was a whole-hearted effort to make the best reading app possible for Windows 8.
There has been an app in the Windows Store since November, of course. It was, and remains, an excellent way to peruse your reading material. The major addition in this new release is the integration with Microsoft Accounts. The Nook app features the first eBook store to support the Microsoft Account as a way to purchase content. It’s basically the easiest way to get new reading material on any Windows-based device for the time being.
Despite the close relationship between these companies, it is still quite surprising that Microsoft is allowing this sort of setup. There is more going on in the integration than simply in-app purchasing. Still, they needed to come up with something. Assuming we can consider Apple, Google, and Amazon as the primary competing app ecosystems, Microsoft was the only company that remained unable to provide a smooth, integrated digital bookstore experience.
While Amazon is the clear leader in eReading, something that is unlikely to change in the near future, Barnes & Noble is still going strong. Many of the advances in eBooks and eReaders over the past several years can be tied directly to an ongoing series of competing products coming out of the two companies.
Barnes & Noble’s reliance on the brick and mortar setting for the majority of its business is clearly having a negative effect on its ability to invest in greater innovation on the digital side of things at this point, but that’s to be expected given the company’s situation right now. They still have, without question, the second-best eBook store around.
The reading quality of their app is similarly impressive. There is absolutely nothing to complain about in either display quality or customization. The controls are fantastic, making this possibly the most easily used reading app in the Windows Store (in my opinion, having tried most but admittedly not all of those available).
The only real downside comes from its restrictedness. You can’t side-load your own reading content. The same is true of the competing applications, but it’s a major pain for anybody who has been using digital reading material for any length of time. It’s not at all unlikely that this will be changed somewhere down the line.