image_thumb205[1] The Consumerist carries a warning to Barnes & Noble Nook owners: be sure you update regularly, or else your Nook could lose all your e-books and documents and Barnes & Noble will tell you it’s your own fault.

A Nook owner tried to turn his device on this morning and found that it wouldn’t start up, then it had an “updating” screen—and when it finished updating, it had deleted all his files, including documents not loaded from B&N. He was told he needed to reregister the Nook and when he did his B&N e-books would be reloaded, but he would have to reload anything he didn’t get from there himself.

When I called technical support (1-800-THE-BOOK) to complain/make sure they were aware of the problem so that it wouldn’t happen to other people, I was informed that this can happen when the device hasn’t been updated in awhile. I asked if this was something they were trying to fix and I was blamed for the fact that everything had been wiped from my device because I had not been studiously updating the device. I asked if he understood how absurdly incompetent this was, my computer, after all, does not delete all my files because I don’t update it for awhile. I was informed that my computer updates everyday, whereas I have apparently not updated my nook in a terribly long unspecified length of time, which was just too long and too many updates for it to handle without deleting all my files.

So remember, if you don’t update your Nook often enough and it wipes your files, it’s your own damn fault and you have nobody to blame but yourself.

(Found via TechDirt.)

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TeleRead Editor Chris Meadows has been writing for us--except for a brief interruption--since 2006. Son of two librarians, he has worked on a third-party help line for Best Buy and holds degrees in computer science and communications. He clearly personifies TeleRead's motto: "For geeks who love books--and book-lovers who love gadgets." Chris lives in Indianapolis and is active in the gamer community.


  1. I’m not a NOOK expert, but I play one on Teh Intarwebs.

    I believe that this NOOK owner was given incorrect information by Customer Service. The situation that he experienced is one of the NOOK spontaneously executing a Factory Fallback. This is a total wipe of the NOOK, resetting it to the “fresh from the factory” configuration including the originally-installed version of the software. Older NOOKs will then find that the original software version needs to be updated to the current version.

    It’s not the update (or failure to update) that caused the problem. The problem was the Factory Fallback which wiped the NOOK and triggered the need for an update by reverting to old software. There has been no software update released since June 21 (version 1.4), so there are probably precious few people who have an un-updated NOOK unless they’ve soft-rooted the puppy.

    The Factory Fallback is not supposed to occur spontaneously. It normally requires a specific lengthy sequence of operations with the power button. However, there have been scattered reports of spontaneous Factory Fallbacks occurring. I’ve seen reports from a couple of users who have defective units that repeatedly do Factory Fallbacks. There’s a small chance that the user accidentally triggered the Factory Fallback, but in my opinion it’s extremely unlikely. Most likely, that particular NOOK is defective.

    After the NOOK has recovered from the Factory Fallback and been registered, it will download the user’s B&N e-book list (they’re calling them NOOKbooks now). The EPUB files for the five most recent purchases will be downloaded, but the rest will need to be individually downloaded which is a pain. Registering and downloading does require wireless access, so for the few users in remote areas who have to travel to B&N or McDonalds to get wireless access, there’s an added nuisance factor.

    Sideloaded content on the built-in memory will have been wiped. The NOOK will need to be reauthorized under Adobe Digital Editions and the user will need to reload the wiped content.

    Sideloaded content on any add-in microSD card will be intact. Factory Fallback does not touch the add-in card. Some users keep all of their sideloaded content on an added micro-SD card just for this reason.

    Occasionally B&N Customer Service will direct the user to perform a Factory Fallback sequence in order to clear up an extremely recalcitrant problem. One such problem is that a few NOOK Wi-Fi units stubbornly refuse to activate their Wi-Fi module when new out-of-the-box. Customer Service is supposed to caution the user that all data on the unit will be lost by the operation, which isn’t a problem for a new out-of-the-box unit.

    In the end, a Factory Fallback is basically an inconvenience. No B&N content should be permanently lost (emphasis on *should*), it just needs to be redownloaded. Presumably, all sideloaded files still exist on whatever computer they were loaded from and can be sideloaded again.

  2. That sure sounds like a lot of garbled explanation from an unhappy user. This only occurs with a firmware update, and I’m not sure whether it happens with all software updates. If you have an external microSDHC card and store all of your side-loaded content on it, it will not not be lost after a firmware update. There have only been 4 firmware updates in the 11 months or so since the Nook was released, and this is not an everyday problem. The last time firmware was released was back on June 21.

  3. I don’t know anything about the nook but I am left wondering how an average middle aged person with no IT knowledge whatsoever who joins the eBook reading trend in 2011 or 2012 would cope with this kind of situation happening on a regular basis. Imho it demonstrates that this crop of eBooks is not nearly ready for the masses yet and is still the domain of the early adopter tech crowd. Am I wrong ?

  4. Howard, these things are pretty rare. B&N says that they have over a million NOOK devices out there, and I’ve heard of a handful that have done spontaneous Factory Fallbacks. Of course, there are probably a bunch more that I haven’t heard about, but still it’s a tiny fraction of a percent.

    That said, in MY opinion the Kindle is much easier to deal with than the NOOK is. For one thing, the Kindle’s been out for a few more years and its hardware and software has stabilized.

    For another thing, the Kindle is much more limited. Until a couple of months ago, nobody with a Kindle would be complaining about being unable to figure out how to connect to their home (or work) Wi-Fi system, because Kindle didn’t *have* Wi-Fi. Kindle users don’t complain about being unable to get Adobe Digital Editions set up and running because Kindle simply doesn’t *work* with ADE (for library e-books and DRMed e-books from other vendors). Kindle users don’t complain about not being able to figure out how to use the touch-screen because the Kindle doesn’t *have* a touch-screen.

    On the flip side, Kindle users don’t complain about not being able to buy e-books from outside the US because Amazon sells books and e-books internationally, while B&N doesn’t.

    I’m very pleased with my NOOK. But if a non-tech-savvy person asked me which e-reader to get, I’d unhesitatingly say to get a Kindle. Primarily by limiting what you can do with it, Amazon has made the Kindle simple enough for just about anyone to use. Yet for most people, the limitations just aren’t a problem.

  5. “I don’t know anything about the nook but I am left wondering how an average middle aged person with no IT knowledge whatsoever who joins the eBook reading trend in 2011 or 2012 would cope with this kind of situation happening on a regular basis. Imho it demonstrates that this crop of eBooks is not nearly ready for the masses yet and is still the domain of the early adopter tech crowd. Am I wrong ?”

    Get a Kindle.

  6. My Nook was arbitrarily wiped clean, totally clean, when traveling this last month. This was the WORST time for this to happen, when on the road, after I’d prepared my Nook for weeks of traveling and was feeling satisfied that I have all my reading material with me. Resorted to buying books.
    I read these comments, not too diligently, in that I don’t care about the reason. Will be looking into another eReader today, not the Nook.

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