The “Took”: Tibetan-enabled Nook eReader

Thanks to amazing work by Tibetan font experts Tom Meyer and Chris Fynn, as well as the Barnes and Noble Nook eInk reader device hackers at NookDevs.com, I have modified my $199 Nook  ($149 if you get the wifi only model!)  to support proper rendering of Tibetan characters. This is dynamic rendering of Unicode text, and not just static pre-rendered images.

You might have seen an earlier post I wrote about this here, and I’ve essentially done the same thing this time, but with an important addition of code from Tom that properly stacks the characters (a critical feature often not available in an OS font library), and a new Tibetan font (actually Bhutanese) from Chris which is small, lightweight and efficient enough to be used on Android. All together this provides support for reading Tibetan text on web pages, and within full application user interfaces, eBooks and more.

With up to 32gb of storage possible via the tiny micro SD Card, this one device could probably store and serve up the majority of Tibetan Buddhist texts, not to mention literary, poetic and historic works, that exist, all in a lightweight, energy-efficient device. Since the device is also networked, you can use it to pull down the latest Tibetan language online news and blogs.

And yes, this is all possible because the Nook is based on the free, open-source Android operating system. Yay for freedom in all forms!

This is support for both web pages, as well as full applications on the device.

18 thoughts on “The “Took”: Tibetan-enabled Nook eReader

  1. Is this using the conversion from unicode to the pre-composed character stacks of Chris's font? have you done this on other android devices? any chance on posting the code? great work…

  2. wow all those garments are so amazing and fabulous I don't come to your blog as often as I would like, but whenever I do I see some really amazing things keep up the good work! =)

  3. Are there any known changes with the new version of the Nook (II)?  I'm think about putting one of these together for my Tibetan studies during upcoming travel.  Should I get the old version or the new version?  Thanks for putting all of this together!

  4. Thanks for the quick response Nathan.  It appears that B&N recently
    came out with a new reader – smaller, touch-screen, two-month battery
    life (See pic attached).    I'm hoping they haven't departed from the
    Android platform or implemented anything new that would affect the
    Tibetan character display.  I guess I was wondering if you'd heard
    anything or if you think there would be no differences between the
    behavior of the two models.  As I'm planning to take this to Kham/Golok
    this summer, the upgraded two-month battery life on the new model would be pretty swell.  🙂

  5. It looks like you can root the Nook Touch, so everything should basically work the same:
    http://nookdevs.com/NookTouch_

    There is some updated information here, including a new keyboard that may also work:
    http://openideals.org/2010/11/
    http://openideals.com/2009/11/

    The main thing is that you want to replace the DroinSans.ttf font and not the Fallback.

    I'll be posting some updated information, including a choice of fonts (you can use Monlam font as well). I think you should go ahead and pick one of these up, and then I can help you work through the process. I am very curious to see how it goes.

  6. Thanks Nathan!

    I was talking to a translator friend of mine who is also going on this trip to Kham/Golok with me next month.  One of our main destinations is a school (for mostly orphaned Tibetans) under the guidance of a wonderful Lama and Khenpos who have a close connection with our root teacher in the Bay Area.  I was talking with him about your Nook hack today, and we were thinking that perhaps we could take a few “Tooks” loaded up with Pecha's to donate to the school.  With 32gb of texts (if we can grab that many off of TBRC!) and now up to 2 months of battery life, this could be a pretty cool gift to the school.

    Are there aspects of the “Took” hack which require occasional attention (say, when batteries run out or things get reset), or is this the kind of thing that we could setup once and expect it to continue working for relatively non-computer-savvy users?

    I deeply appreciate your willingness to help out with this, and your continued developments to make electronic devices usable with the Tibetan language…  quite important I think.  🙂

    With gratitude,

    Ben Sherwyn

  7. I don't come to your blog as often as I would like, but whenever I do I see some really amazing things keep up the good work! This is great. Can you take notes on it in Tibetan as well?

  8. Dear Nathan-la,

    Is there any way you could post a follow-up to this with step-by-step instructions for those of us who aren’t as code saavy as yourself? I, for one, am quite giddy with excitement at the prispect of having my Nook fully support Tibetan u-chen script! In fact, i bought my Nook originally for the purpose of being able to easily carry my Dharma texts wherever i go… especially overseas. If you could teach the rest of us how to do what you have, you would benefit many sentient beings by helping spread the teachings, garnering lots of pristine merit in the process!

    Sincerely,
    Jeff

  9. There is a new simple Monlam Bodyig font installer for any device that is “rooted”. There is some information on rooting your Nook available here: http://www.gizmag.com/root-nook-tablet-add-android-market-honeycomb/20926/ and at http://nookdevs.com/

    You can find the Monlam font installer APK file here: http://code.google.com/p/bho/downloads/detail?name=MonlamInstaller-0.1-2012015.apk&can=2&q=
    Just open that link from your Nook browser, enable “unknown source” applications in Settings, and then run the app to activate Monlam’s font as your core system font. You can also disable it later.

    There are also two more apps to try that don’t require rooting or special fonts.

    BhoView is a general text viewer and simple web browser: http://code.google.com/p/bho/downloads/detail?name=BhoView.apk&can=2&q=

    and Monlam Dictionary is a Tibetan-English dictionary with over 200,000 entries:
    http://code.google.com/p/monlam-dictionary/downloads/detail?name=MonlanDictionary-0.1.4.apk&can=2&q=

    Good luck!

  10. Nathan,

    I have the Nook Classic (the one in the top pic on this post), but it’s serial number is 1003+ so i think i have to softroot it. Can you perhaps send me instructions via email about how you got it to work on the old Nook? Never rooted before…

    Many thanks!

Leave a Reply