Time to close the book on the Nook?

Despite a recent partnership with Samsung, the tablet/e-reading platform suffered an awful holiday sales period, with poor hardware sales a major reason for the decline.
Written by Sean Portnoy, Contributor

Like a bad novel that you're required to finish for a class, the story of Nook's decline feels like it will never end. The tablet that Barnes & Noble launched to take on Apple, Amazon, and other competitors has been a drag on the bookseller for some time, leading it to halt its hardware production and forge partnerships with the likes of Samsung to created Nook-branded tablets.

None of this has helped, however, as Microsoft ended its deal with Nook last month, and it was a less-than-merry Christmas for the e-reading platform, with revenue down 55 percent from the same holiday sales period as 2013. That dragged down parent company Barnes & Noble, which otherwise saw a sales increase from the previous year.

While the Nook ecosystem is composed of both hardware and digital content sales, the hardware side of things took it on the chin worse, as device and accessory sales slid 68 percent. In comparison, digital books and other media revenue "only" declined 25 percent. On the other hand, the retail part of the Barnes & Noble bottom line saw sales increase slightly (0.2 percent) compared to the same period last year.

According to the Wall St Journal, the Nook albatross will make it difficult for Barnes & Noble to spin it off completely, with the paper citing one analyst who says the company might be better off adding the Nook division to its BN.com online division instead.

The Nook's woes are hardly unique, as tablet sales in general are struggling to grow after years of skyrocketing popularity. In fact, 2014 may be the first year that iPad sales decline from the previous year. But for a company like Apple, a maturing tablet market could cause only minor damage as its iPhone sales remain strong. The financial results for Barnes & Noble, however, show how much sputtering tablet sales can hobble a company on weaker footing.

Should Barnes & Noble finally close the book on the Nook? Or should it give Samsung (and other future hardware partners) more time to turn the brand around? Let us know your thoughts in the Talkback section below.

[Via GigaOm]

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