Either root B&N's system, OR (for the more cautious) create (or buy) a bootable Android system on an SDcard. Reverting to the B&N stock software in either case is easy.
This is primarily a user to user forum, if you want B&N to see your suggestion, the best thing to do would be to send a letter (or email) to the company. They may see it here, it may get passed on, or it might not. Best bet is to contact the company directly.
I did send an email about some of that... but I'm so used to get inane and meaningless boilerplate responses from corporations that I thought it best to try multiple avenues of approach.
When they get to the point where it's obvious that either the customer service rep doesn't really read English all that well... or worse yet, reads the first couple of words and ignores the rest of the email and responds in a way that makes it obvious they didn't read it, well, I don't much trust them anyway and having that experience as often as I do suggests that corporations don't deserve any form of trust whatsoever when it comes to responding to customers (people in general for that matter).
Thus, the posts on this blog. I'm hoping that not only someone connected with the company will READ what I've suggested/asked, but will respond (and hopefully find some way to improve a pretty good product, but one that still has limitations).
Get an AndroidForNook.com SD card. It will let you use Android and get the apps you need.
There are easy ways to unroot your nook if you need to revert it to stock for warranty purposes. The bootable SD card recommendations are a good option for the ultra-cautious, but mine was rooted the week I got it (how time flies, it was almost a year ago), and I've had no regrets -- Google Play and all. Not all apps recognize the nook as a compatible device, but there are workarounds for that also. The XDA-Developers nook tablet forums have all the info you need. A rooted nook tablet is a beautiful thing.
" I don't like typing on the Nook because I'm used to an ergonomic full-sized keyboard, but have used it for notes, and done quick calculations with the spreadsheet. I've heard that e-textbooks are available for the Nook, but didn't need to try that."
Well a couple of things for academic use.
1) 7" is not optimal size for textbooks and as you pointed out typing. The larger 10" are more suited for that task.
2) A walled in garden like the Nook or Kindle are also not optimal for academic use. An open device that allows you to search and install what you need from multiple sources.
As pointed out a N2A or AFN SD card or roll your own are your only options. Unless you sell it and acquire a more appropriate device that may fit your needs better.
Not too many students have the $$$ to go for the biggest and best. I don't, and I can't afford to dump this one and blow more money. I'm not made out of the stuff - what I have left has to last us for 2 1/2 more months. I also don't accept the dictates of the mainstream throwaway society... I buy something, I stick with it.
As far as size, 7 inches is big enough. It's what most of my colleagues have (with a couple of exceptions, and a couple that still use laptops). It's convenient and works well - and I find it big enough except I am used to touch typing on a normal-sized keyboard. I don't want something bigger. I really don't give a @$#* that it's walled in, but there should be some "outs" for special situations - and I'm hoping that twisting arms via the B&N OWNED blogs will get some attention. They're selling a load of these tablets on campus... and should consider that they've got a large and relatively ignored customer base right there - one where most of the needs - except for kids who want to play games and stuff - could be easily met by the few suggestions I've made. Barnes and Noble can have their cake and eat it too, if they would listen and did things right. Graduate students and even professors are getting them... to save the cost of printing as I did. Then they've realized that these NTs could be far more than paper-savers... and while some have no qualms about rooting, I do (I don't expect people to understand).
I'm also surprised that I've had so many people openly advocate violating the terms of the warranty on a server owned and run by the company that holds the warranty.
I've taken the time to contact some of the people who've written android apps that I could use and asked them to consider putting them on B&N's system. I'm doing what I can. Compared to the prices I've paid in the past for software... the few bucks that B&N asks is usually easily affordable and if it means doing without an extra cup of coffee or lunch, well, I can live with that. I've done it before.
Multiple avenues of approach... a good idea in trying to communicate with a company, just as it's a good idea in research.