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New Nook Touch has hidden Web browser

Buried inside the new Nook Touch's search bar is a hidden Web browser. It's far from fully baked, but hopefully it will be some day.

The new Nook's hidden browser is far from fully baked, but it shows potential. David Carnoy/CNET

When Barnes & Noble launched its new Nook e-reader a couple of weeks ago, we asked why it didn't include such features as a built-in Web browser or an e-mail app. After all, it is an Android-based device, so we assumed it could do a bit more if those Nook software engineers in Palo Alto, Calif., were directed to add new features.

Well, it turns out the new Nook, dubbed the Simple Touch Reader, sort of does have a built-in Web browser. Nathan over at The eBook Reader put together the video below to show off its capabilities.

Alas, it didn't work quite well for me as it did for him (I couldn't get most URLs to load, though I did get Twitter working). But if you have a new Nook, and want to give it a shot, just press the virtual "Search" button at the bottom of your Nook's screen and key a URL into the search bar when it comes up.

Hopefully, Barnes & Noble will refrain from removing the browser in an update and choose instead to make it more functional because the touch-screen navigation actually improves the Web-browsing experience significantly on e-ink e-readers. Both the Kindle and first-edition Nook have browsers, and though they don't work particularly well, they work OK with certain sites and are serviceable in a pinch.

As we've seen with earlier e-readers from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, firmware upgrades have added additional features, and we assume that Barnes & Noble will remain flexible with those feature offerings as it awaits Amazon's next Kindle, which may arrive as soon as this fall. It also should be noted that Amazon is scheduled to add local library lending support for e-books as part of an upcoming Kindle update later this year. The Nook currently supports this feature.