Once I read that the Nook Tablet could be hacked into running the Android Market, I decided that it would be a fine choice of e-reader: lightweight, good screen, slot for a microSD card so I could give it a boatload of storage. The form factor is just right for fitting in the paperback-sized pocket of my jacket.
The stock Nook is pretty limited; Barnes and Noble have hidden a lot of standard Android functionality. It comes with Pandora, Netflix, and Hulu, and you can download EverNote and Skitch from the B&N app store, but there’s not a lot of choice there. It’s pretty easy to download the Amazon App Store, which gives you some more choices; you don’t need to be a hacker to install the Kindle app on the Nook and get the advantage of both bookstores.
Getting the full benefit of Android, though, requires rooting it— hacking the device to give yourself administrator permissions. At the moment, that means you need to download the Android SDK to your computer, download a program like AppMenu or Any Cut to the Nook so you can access the hidden part of the UI that lets you turn on the flag that will let the debug tool in the Android SDK talk to your Nook, and then load up a program that will break the security. This is pretty straightforward if you’re already comfortable with the command line (though there were some false starts until I found the right version of AppMenu), but I wouldn’t recommend it for someone nontechnical.
Once that’s done, installing the Android market, then using that to install ADW.Launcher to get a real launcher (and directly installing HomeCatcher to let you override the big N button on the front of the case to take you there) finally makes it a real Android device. It takes some abuse of root permissions to get the Swype keyboard working (which is a relief, since B&N have their own keyboard that acts different from all other Android keyboards), but I didn’t have any issues getting Adobe Reader, Aldiko, Kindle, and Google Books all loaded up, and Zinio and the Economist work just fine. None of the Android apps for Twitter, Facebook, Google Maps, or Google Plus are marked as compatible, so the Android Market won’t let you download them.
There are still some odd hitches, like the erratic availability of the Back and Menu buttons (which usually appear when needed, but occasionally get left out). I’m hoping that the intrepid hacking community will soon have a full Ice Cream Sandwich build to overwrite B&N’s hack.