A B&N employee (who'd just updated their store's Nooks) sent us all the details of the new Nook firmware 1.2 update that, according to the date on this memo, should hit later today. UPDATE
• Enhanced in-store seamless connectivity to enjoy free Wi-Fi, with More In Store content promotions exclusively for Nook owners
• Improved opening of eBooks and ePeriodicals
• Improved response to Reading Now and Settings buttons
• Current reading page and bookmarks on all eBooks are properly saved when you power your Nook off
• Eligible LendMe eBooks in your library have LendMe flags
• Easier navigation of daily subscriptions with issues rolled into one folder
• Improved "back" button functionality for navigating eBooks and ePeriodicals
• Personal files downloaded and displayed in My Documents can be sorted by author and title
• Overall system improvements and battery optimization.
We're also told that the touchscreen fades in and out now (rather than flashing on and off), plus it "feels snappier."
Each of the bullet point updates is fairly vague, as words like "improved" are tough to gauge until actually seeing them implemented. But in terms of making the Nook generally more pleasant to use, firmware 1.2 looks like it's stepping in the right direction. Something as simple as being able to power down the system without losing one's page is definitely a biggie, and battery optimization, well, that's always welcome.
UPDATE: We've already received word from a reader who has installed the update, so it looks like B&N is widely releasing the firmware as of now. She says that "pages load noticeably faster, and the touchscreen seems more responsive. There's also some redesign of the UI, although the cover flow feature is about the same."
And maybe most importantly, the LCD-based buttons are rounded now.
[Nook Update Page (or you can just wait for the automatic OTA update, which B&N says could take as long as "weeks")]