eReaders

eReaders

This page is all about device-hacking. Certain obsolete eReaders of old can be further hacked for incredible functionality. The Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G, the Barnes & Noble NookColor, and the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch (all obsolete now, sadly) can be “jailbroken” or rooted and put to use almost effectively like tablets.

Some quick links to navigate this gargantuan page:


Glossary

You may encounter certain terminology in your endeavors to gain administrator access on your own device(s), so I’ll mention some briefly in my own words (sorted according to relevance, not to the alphabet):

Rooting or jailbreaking means to obtain administrator (a.k.a. “root”) levels of access to one’s device—perhaps at the cost of one’s corresponding warranty, although one can usually reverse the process without a trace and thus regain the warranty. Amazon Kindle e-readers run off of the Linux operating system, while Nooks run off of Android OS. These Nook devices mentioned above are particularly restricted by B&N to only specific B&N-related functionality, which is quite a pity because they would probably sell a lot more if they granted accessibility to Android apps and games. Rooting grants such accessibility, and more!

Stock is an adjective that refers to anything that is/was official/default/originally on the device as it was initially purchased, from factory state. For example, many users would agree that, in general, stock web browsers are poor web browsers.

ROM stands for Read-Only Memory, which is basically the device’s software. For example, in the case of the NookColor, one can completely replace the stock ROM with CyanogenMod (which is a very popular ROM with different builds for dozens of Android devices) or another ROM… or one can keep the stock ROM and operate a different ROM via the SD card. One could also build a partition inside the device’s EMMC (Embedded Multimedia Card)—which is the internal software—to house both the stock ROM and an alternate ROM.

Firmware: the original, or stock, ROM/software that comes with a device.

Recovery image or recovery is a piece of software that can load a ROM image from the SD card and flash it into the internal ROM, according to Google. ☺

Flashing a ROM or .zip file means to install it by unconventional means, usually directly through SD card.

.APK is a filetype native to Android, which is an operating system (OS, like Windows Phone or iOS) made by Google; an APK is an Android package (the installation file to an Android app).

Overclocking/Underclocking: These words refer to how much you “clock” a CPU (use more/less battery to make it run faster/slower, respectively). One particular comic jokes about how an absurdly overclocked CPU can cause it to catch fire (which actually can happen, but is extremely rare, and is hinted at the device’s increasing heat that becomes obviously noticeable leading up to it, as well as directly displayed warnings from more sophisticated devices).

Lastly, bricking a device means to permanently ruin its functionality, which renders it about as useful as a brick. This usually implies that the device will never turn on, regardless of its battery charge, and that it can be re-purposed via gravity.

E-readers

The rooted devices showcasing their awesomeness in this blurry pic.


Amazon Kindle Keyboard

The Kindle Keyboard, also known as the Kindle 3 (and sadly discontinued in 2013), is an unbelievable device in its 3G configuration; a Reddit post of mine about it explains why (at least, up until T-Mobile had announced free international data in dozens of countries worldwide!). The MobileRead forums’ Comprehensive List of Kindle Hacks/Modifications show how to “jailbreak” it (a term which really should be “root,” but seems to have been derived from the popular iOS term).

Notable features of jailbreaking include custom screensavers and fonts and the downloading of any file directly onto the Kindle via WiFi, as well as certain games and other normally inaccessible functions.


Nook Rooting: General Overview

Each of the Nook devices below will require:

  • ($) any formatted, spare micro-SD card of Class ≥4 (and preferably ≥2 GB), with
  • ($) a micro-SD card reader for a computer to write to it (micro-SD cards usually come with a reader, which look like a normal SD card or a USB dongle with a slot for the micro-SD to be put in);
  • the free program Win32 Disk Imager; and
  • individually corresponding files, whose links I provide below.

Here’s the gist of what you’d be doing: you’d be downloading the recovery image—which installs ROMs—and a .zip of the ROM itself, that .zip of which you’d never actually extract. You’d use Win32 Disk Imager to write the recovery image onto a blank SD card so that, when the SD card is inserted into the powered-off Nook, the Nook will boot into the card’s recovery (a.k.a. installer) when powered on. But before doing that, you’d drag the ROM’s .zip file onto the SD card, so that when you’ve inserted the card into the Nook and powered it on into the recovery screen, the ROM can be selected by the recovery to flash it. (In the method given for the NST v1.2.1, the ROM is automated; no .zip is needed.) And then it is recommended that the SD card be dedicated to being used for that Nook, because the device will need an SD card to download almost any file via WiFi.


Barnes & Noble NOOKColor

I have an obsolete NookColor (“NC”) (discontinued in Dec. 2012) that came with firmware 1.2.0, and have at separate times installed both CyanogenMod for encore (“encore” is CM’s codename for NookColor) versions 7.2.0 and 10.1.x on it. I have succeeded, as well as failed and recovered, in this process; it should be noted that Nook devices (at least the two I mention on this page) are known to be very generous towards newbie rooters, since they always boot from the SD card first.

For NookColors on firmware v1.2.0: to install any CyanogenMod ROM for encore/NookColor (as well as to recover from a failed root attempt), follow the guides in this thread. (See my Reddit comment on step 2 if step 2 is confusing.) I think this process is the same for v1.4.3 NookColors, though I have never used a NookColor beyond v1.2.0. Here is a direct update file from B&N to bring a v1.2.0 unit up to v1.4.3, if such a file is so desired.

Afterwards, one user strongly suggests installing CPU Manager or No-frills CPU Control and changing the I/O scheduler to “noop” for maximum performance.


Barnes & Noble NOOK Simple Touch

The Nook Simple Touch (“NST,” or “N2E”: NOOK 2nd Edition, sadly discontinued in February 2014) deserves rooting whenever possible, because while the original software is retained in the exact same form, rooting also enables very accessible Internet access, SD card maintenance, and installation of virtually any app compatible with the NST’s primitive version of Android 2.1—ironically including the Amazon Kindle app! Commit brand sacrilege by reading Kindle books on your Nook.

I have successfully rooted a B&N Nook Simple Touch on v1.1 and v1.2.1. I have also majorly failed in the rooting process multiple times in both versions (once to the point of a device being unusable), and I also once accidentally formatted the entire Nook while intending to format an SD card while both happened to be connected to my computer at the time. I successfully restored them back to both factory state as well as rooted conditions, so there should be no worries about this process, as long as all the devices are fresh; naturally, no years-old SD cards should be used here, and so on.

Ways to brick (permanently ruin) a Nook Simple Touch (click to expand/collapse):

Un-rooting/Recovering from a failed root attempt: Format your SD card completely and use it with the Touch-Formatter to restore it to the pure factory state of firmware v1.1. Do not perform the usual built-in factory-reset method by holding the lower side buttons after powering on, nor should you use “factory.zip” in the NookManager’s restore section; these methods will not completely eliminate ReLaunch/traces of the rooting process.

Post-Rooted Notes/Steps (click to expand/collapse):
FAQs about typing & navigation on rooted NSTs v1.2.1 (click to expand/collapse)