Closing the book on Barnes & Noble's Nook?

Closing the book on Barnes & Noble's Nook?

Summary: Disappointing holiday sales could put another nail in the coffin for the bookseller's tablets.

TOPICS: Tablets, Mobility

Enter any Barnes & Noble location, and you can't miss the bookseller's Nook tablets. They're presented front and center in their own special section -- like a bit of an Apple store dropped in amid the rows and rows of books. Despite the prime real estate, Nooks have continued to drag down the bottom line for B&N, leading to disappointing quarterly reports and a new CEO for the firm.

This year's holiday sales tallies haven't brought any cheer to this story. The company says that Nook sales plummeted by 60 percent for the 2013 holiday season compared to the previous year. In addition, Barnes & Noble claimed that its share of the e-book market has declined to 20 percent.

The list of reasons for the Nook's continued struggles are legion. It faces unyielding competition from Apple's iPads as well as Amazon's Kindles (not to mention Amazon's ability to sell its e-books generally for less than B&N on those Kindles). Throw in all of the other Android tablets and the ever-increasing range of Windows slates, and the Nook has a hard time standing out.

It also doesn't help that there were no new Nook models released this past holiday season, whereas a pair of new Nooks bowed at the end of 2012, a point that new CEO Michael P. Huseby has been quick to point out. (That may be in part due to Barnes & Noble's decision to stop making Nooks that double as Android tablets.)

Despite a steady pattern of bad news for the Nook, Huseby is convinced that B&N needs to continue offering its own devices in order to succeed in the digital market. He told The Wall Street Journal that "Your best chance of success for selling digital content is on your own dedicated devices which have your brand or a co-brand on them." That's certainly been the case for Apple and Amazon, but third place in this race is looking more like earning a medal made of tin than bronze.

Should Barnes & Noble continue to invest in Nook devices, like Huseby suggests? Or should the company end that chapter of its digital strategy, and turn the page to something else? Let us know your thoughts in the Talkback section.

Topics: Tablets, Mobility

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  • If B&N didn't make a Nook app for the iPad and Android,

    would it have fared just as well? Or would competing apps ruin the competition anyway?

    For eye ergonomics, the Nook, et al, have better and more appropriate screens (e-Ink) for long-term reading, but who said the buying public reads up on icky nerdy details?
    • No way to win

      B&N is stuck with an obsolete technology for wide distribution of information, paper. Anything it does it will cut itself somewhere else. Still, these are only scratches compared to the cuts from competition. Amazon was first a category killer challenging brick and mortar stores. It moved quickly into e-publication. B&N was too late to the party of e-books. Amazon is now challenging other brick and mortar stores and even challenging Apple for the tablet market. I would think the chances of B&N surviving are very slim.

      I think the only way for them to survive as company is to reinvent themselves into something else. I have found a shop that is half library and half coffee shop. It is small not much bigger than a typical Starbucks. For floor space they have a only about 30 feet of double sided book shelves but they are 8 feet tall and take a step stool to get to the top self. They are mostly used books and totally change them every month. They actually do sell a lot of books along with the coffee.

      They also have several Amazon e-readers that you can rent for a couple of hours usage in the store. They have massive libraries on them. I have started several books on them that I ended up buying from Amazon for my e-reader. If they could get some kind of commission on this they would do much better. I am not sure how they can afford the libraries on them, I doubt the rent covers all the cost, many are expensive reference books. Still, I buy a lot of coffee and tea from them. Often ending up with a second cup that I did not intend to have before hand.
    • e-ink versus backscreen tablet

      I think the buying public makes informed decisions. Arguably, e-ink devices are more comfortable to read long text-heavy books (I personally have never felt there is that much of a difference) but they have serious limitations:

      1. They cannot render fixed-format or highly illustrated titles.
      2. They lack the multi-purpose applications of tablets.

      The 3rd generation of tablets with HD displays of 'retina' quality are even better for reading text - i personally use an Ipad Air. I don't like reading anything in bright sunlight, even a Kindle paperwhite.

      Users also want content portability - they want to read on a tablet, then pick up on their phone. That requires retailers to develop apps for multiple devices.

      Many people want the broader applications that tablets support - internet, games, weather, magazines and reading and don't have to carry around two devices; a tablet and a dedicated eink reader for the marginally better reading experience of the reader.

      So i think the nerdy details are being taken into account. One thing we do know is that eink users purchase a disproportionately larger number of books than general tablet readers, meaning they are more important to the book market.
      Angus Swan
  • I still think MS should buy Barnes and Noble

    I wish MS would at least invest significantly in Barnes and Nobles, and make Nook a part of Xbox Live. MS could then present a single Xbox Live app for music, video, ebooks, streaming TV, games, etc. in Windows 8, then focus on driving users to subscribe to Xbox Live on the PC. Barnes and Nobles could then replace Nook devices in their stores with Surface tablets and other touch PCs, and provide tablets and large touch screen devices throughout the store, to drive users to subscribe to Xbox Live ebook and other services. MS and Barnes and Noble could then work to producing fantastic ebook, emagazine, eresearch, etc. experiences / services, while transitioning Barnes and Nobles stores to become 100% digital.

    In the above, MS gains access to ebook, emagazine, etc. resources to complement it Xbox Live services. MS would be able to produce a coherent Xbox Live experience in the PC spanning a range of services. MS would be able to seriously begin to make money from several online services (including Bing) in the consumer market, through a broad subscription service. MS would gain access to hundreds of stores (many of them at universities) quickly to sell its Windows and Windows Phone products. Bing could be used to provide supporting services (e.g. search, advertising, integrated object services in published materials such as mapping, video, interactive diagrams) to Nook's ebook services, and make much more money there than it is making on the web. Barnes and Noble would get a partner with deep pockets, and one that has a vested interested in making the company's ebook services work.
    P. Douglas
  • Barnes and Noble is doing okay

    Considering they did not release any new tablet models this past year, I didn't expect any tremendous sales for this past quarter. Still, the Barnes and Noble tablets are still great deals and are excellent units for the money. I would not at all be surprised to see them introduce new tablets sometime over the next 6 months. Last year's "May software upgrade" which provides full access to the Google Play Store was truly a big step in the right direction.
  • losing the nook

    Is of importance. Losing B&N book stores would be. Sadly their management seems clueless. The local strip mall just lost their Blockbuster Video. I expect the B&N and the radio shack will follow them on the road to irrelevance and bankruptcy.
  • B & N: Dump the Nook already!

    Dear Barnes & Nobles,
    Please dump the Nook already before it drags you down to the point where you have to close your doors. Ebook readers came along too late in the game and the technology has marched on. Tablets and cell phones are where the sales of books is at right now and for the nezt 20-years. All indie authors should be seriously concerned. If we lose B & N- the door to aspiring authors will be wedged so tightly shut you'd need a bombshell bestseller online to catch the attention of traditional publishers. As it is, a bestselling ebook is considered 8,000 copies. With millions of ebook authors and proliferation of online or vanity presses it's almost impossible to make even a small ripple in the vast ocean of online publishing. Most aspiring authors spend $2000 grand to publish their ebook to make only a return of $1400 on their ebooks. The only one's making money now are the ebook vanity presses. Smashwords merging with pirate Scribd/Scribnr where subscribers don't have to actually buy your ebook anymore but can pay $8 a month for unlimited reading priviledges should give every indie author serious pause. I thought Leonard Riggio was going to buy back the brick and mortar division since it was healthy and doing so well. Every indie author should pray that B & N, the last brick and mortar bookstore in America remains healthy and open otherwise all of our careers as author's are in serious jeopardy.
    So B & N: Dump the Nook already. Sell it off to Google who needs an additional manufacturer for their tablets and re-invest the money in your briock and mortar stores or for God's sake- Let B & N founder Leonard Riggio buy back the damn stores before you put all authors out of business.
    Kilburn Hall
    • BTW

      I'm old and e-ink is better for my eyes
      And as a supposed author, think about this I don't have unlimited space for books (why I have an e-library) If I only purchased books then I would have to make a mush shrewder decision on what gets in my library and what does not so books like Darcy Chen "Mill River recluse" would not have made it. I would have borrowed it from a library instead, provided it was in the library.
  • B&N needs an e-book reader

    I have a Simple Touch with Glowlight and use it almost daily. I think the Nooks should stay, but B&N does need to push for high quality for the money. Please don't remove features like the page buttons on the Simple Touch (or options for expanded storage) in order to 'save money', or you'll lose many potential repeat customers who might balk at buying the next Nook that feels too stripped down.
  • It's too bad

    The Nook HD+ is really an amazing deal for the price. I bought two so I always have one near at hand, and I use them all the time. Seriously, I got two Nooks for less than a single iPad mini. Just an amazing value. And they are a better deal than the Kindle Fire because you have access to the Google Play store and aren't tied into B&N for purchases at all.
    B&N needs to do better advertising. They probably have no budget for it, but that's what it would take.
  • If you your not really a reader

    The Nook was never designed to compete with iPads or for that matter Kindle Fires (this was something that newspapers and magazine were tossing about) and frankly so far as I'm concerned you are really talking about apples vs Oranges. If you want to check e-mail and play games and watch movies then a Nook (even though it does have one of the fastest processors) was not what you wanted. All iPads and Kindles are really just expensive toys and are designed for down time (e-mail/games/movies). MS Surface are business machines hence the inclusion of Office.
    But the Nook is for people that actully read books and not the ones with pictures, which is why you don't have to pay $79 to have ad's excluded while you are actually reading.
    My e-book libaray is over 900 books and I have 2 Nooks one for my magizes and the other for Books to include library books.
    Amazon Does Not have to deal with in store shortages, which is the reason that brick & mortar bookstores are going out of business. B&N has to contend with people coming into the stores piling up stacks of magazines and books, damaging pages and breaking spines, all the while not purchasing anything, thereby causing losses for B&N. To some degree it really isn’t B&N fault. I can’t blame B&N but I do blame the people that come into the stores and tear up the merchandise. The root problem is people not understanding that book stores are businesses that need to make a profit and are not libraries

    B&N like any retailer has to build into its cost structure shortage, hence the higher prices. Amazon does NOT have brick and mortar stores so of course Amazon is cheaper, I would expect them to be, that is just common sense.

    And where is the memo that says “there can be only one”. Really!! So all cars are bad if there not Mercedes or Lexus. And why does this same memo state that whatever it is it has to server everyone for everything.
    I just want to read books and magazines and the occasional catalog and I really don’t need dancing bears (in the form of ad’s popping up). Which is why I got the Nook

    My problem with B&N is that they roll over dead when actually they should just define their e-books and readers as a specialty niche
  • NookHD+ quick and easy to use

    For general internet browsing, news, mail reading, wireless etc. this tablet is by far easier to use than my other tablets and pc's. Flip the cover closed, come back open the cover ready and running. What makes the difference is Chrome and very long battery life in suspend even with wireless still on.
    Only rub is frequently having to request desktop mode because the dumb Yahoo and AOL and Gaim assume the whole tablet world is a tiny iphone screen.
    Who makes & designed the NookHD+?
    Of course for input, long notes, office pc's with linux much better. I touch type on a keyboard, no key feel on a touch screen, no mouse selection that I know of.