The Nook HD and HD+ have added Google Play compatibility, meaning they’re now full-fledged Android tablets, at least from an app perspective. I believe that even means you can load the Kindle App if you’re already stuck in that ecosystem like me.
If I’m not mistaken, the Nook HD has the only 7” retina-class display on the market right now (1440x900 at 243 ppi) at a fairly compelling price ($199 - $229). I played with one at the store a few weeks ago and liked what I saw, even if this latest generation has had some growing pains.
I owned a Nook Color and loved it. The thing was incredibly hackable, and its built-in OS lasted about ten seconds before I replaced it with CyanogenMod. That early Nook convinced me of the viability of the 7” tablet form factor—it was pocketable, could be held in one hand, and was tantalizingly close to the digital kneeboard I’d always dreamed of. It was also a good introduction to Android on a tablet before Honeycomb optimized it for larger screens.
It’s a shame that Barnes & Noble locked the next generations down with so much DRM that the modding community lost interest. I know that the bookseller wanted it to be a loss-leader for their digital media business, but the Nook has always been a worthy device in its own right, even if the software never quite lived up to the hardware design.
I guess Barnes & Noble had to decide who they wanted to compete with, Apple or Amazon. I don’t know that I’d be comfortable choosing either.