Student or Learner
Sometimes the word "now" can be used in the past tense.
e.g. Robinson was now alone on the deserted island.
In this case, is this because the writer wants to make the readers feel like it's happning right in front of them, rather than elsewhere in the past? As if it's happening now?
It's one of the standard definitions of 'now':
at the time being referred to:
The case was now ready for the jury