Barnes & Noble announced plans for a much anticipated software update for the NookColor digital reader, adding functionality for email, enhanced web browsing, video and Flash support as well as apps and new multimedia content for kids and adults. Launched along with “Read Forever,” B&N’s new national print, online and broadcast advertising campaign, the software update to Android 2.2 is available immediately as a manual download and B&N will begin wireless updates for NookColor devices beginning next week.

Launched with webcast directed by B&N director of digital products Jamie Iannone, who called the NookColor, “our best selling product,” noting that the $249 device has sold millions of units. The surprise device hit of the year, the NookColor will now get a firmware update to v.1.2 as well as an update to the Android 2.2 operating system that will give the device the kind of functionality available in devices like the iPad. Consumers can update their devices immediately by manual download or wait for the over-the-air wireless updates, which will begin next week.

Iannone went over the full range of upgraded functionality for the device as well as presenting a list of multimedia content and tablet apps, games and client software for the device. Upgraded functionality includes the Nook Email client that allow users to set up email accounts to Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail, AOL and others. Browser enhancements that include support for Flash multimedia, a feature that the iPad does not support. NookColor now offers access to such apps as Epicurious, Pandora, Pulse news cast and Lonely Planet; as well as games like Angry Birds and Uno. In addition the software update will launch NookFriends, a new B&N developed social media app aimed that will allow consumers to share the books they read and connect with like minded readers. Most apps are priced at $5.99 or lower and there is a selection of free apps.

Wendy Bronfin, B&N director, project management for NookKids, outlined the development of new multimedia content that the upgraded device can support. The upgrade is launching with 15 new kids’ Read and Play titles, featuring narration and animation, in addition to the more than 350 digital kids picture books and 12,000 chapter books already available. The software upgrade will also add about 225 NookBooks, enhanced e-books offering video content added to the prose, to the Nook e-book store and the Nook Newstand has been enhanced with new navigation and new titles.

“We built the NookColor to be a great reader’s tablet,” Iannone said, “but our customers also wanted us to add tablet functions. People want email and apps and better web browsing so we went out and built that. We think we’re offering them the best of both worlds.”