nook-color-20110203

Want an Android Tablet for just $200? Root a Nook Color

March 16, 2011 - Written By Rahul Mengale

Nook Color is a Barnes and Noble e-Reader, but can be Transformed into an Android Tablet

The Nook Color is the color display e-reader from Barnes and Noble, which has a 7 inch screen and is powered by Android OS. It even gives you a few apps like Chess, Sudoko, Crossword puzzles, and Pandora.  You can’t get at the OS directly, though, as it’s been locked down.  But, with a little bit of hacking magic, you can turn this e-reader into a mostly functional Android tablet.

Currently, most high-end tablets are selling a for a high price. So people who don’t want to spend a small fortune on the iPad, Motorola Xoom or any other high-end tablets, read on.

Root your Nook Color, Get an Android Tablet

The NookDevs team has documented a non-trivial Google hack called rooting which unlocks the Nook Color into an Android powered tablet. Rooting means obtaining superuser access to a device, or getting all the permissions to do whatever you want.  You can install your favorite homescreen UI and your favorite Android apps, as well as install the Amazon Kindle app and other e-reader apps and libraries. Perform the hack and you are no longer locked to the Barnes & Noble library and proprietary software on this device.

However, this e-reader-turned-tablet might not have performance comparable with a Motorola XOOM, but considering the price aspect, it’s worth taking a look.  For $200-250 and a couple hours of your time, you will get a working Android tablet.

Of course, hacking your e-reader will void the warranty. But you can always do a factory reset and start from scratch.

Where to Learn Rooting and What to do with your Nook Color

So, if you have a decent technical know-how, you can follow the NooksDev guide for hacking the Barnes & Noble Nook Color into an Android-powered tablet.  There are a number of other projects and guides on how to root your Nook Color (another good one is at Ars Technica), and there is even an effort to port Android OS 3.0 (Honeycomb) to the Nook Color.  If you really want to get deep into this device, you can look into using custom ROMs on microSD cards, but at this time none of them are very stable.

We will ask the same question that Fortune did: Why doesn’t Barnes and Noble just unlock the device and sell it as a tablet instead of an e-reader?  Sure, what you get with a rooted Nook Color isn’t a XOOM by any means, but it’s still worth a lot of people’s time and trouble to root them.

In the meantime, let us know if you have a rooted Nook Color and how it’s working for you.  Is this a reasonably priced Android tablet or just a headache?

With additional reporting by Maddi Hausmann Sojourner and Anthony Hardy