Do I have to create a B&N Account to use the NOOKColor?

Well, realistically yes you do. Remember this is a device designed to buy and use books from B&N and you can't do that without setting up an account. By setting up the account you can read free in store, sync your content, and buy B&N books.  Here are the requirements to setup a B&N account for your nook:

This is the same as the iPhone or Google devices. You have to establish a payment source for things even if you aren't going to buy.