When my competition reported several days ago that B&N had quietly removed any mention of the Nook for PC, Mac apps from the B&N website, I was one of many that were puzzled by this inexplicable move. This story has already gotten some coverage in the blogosphere, but I held off in the hopes that this was an error of some kind. Unfortunately that is not the case.
It seemed to make little sense for B&N to remove the apps without providing a true replacement. But as unlikely as it might sound, that is exactly what has happened.
Earlier today I received an email from B&N which confirms that both apps have been retired:
We are no longer supporting NOOK for PC for Windows 2000/XP/Vista. To enjoy the NOOK content on your PC please use the NOOK for Windows 8 App or NOOK for Web. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/
B&N sent me the same statement concerning the Nook for Mac app, but I don't see a need to repeat it here.
TBH it should really come as no surprise. B&N stopped updating the PC app in November 2011 and the Mac app in March 2012 (according to the Wayback Machine at Archive.org).
That is over a year ago, meaning that the Mac app was already deadlined due to a lack of support for OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion. Also, there were no signs that either app supported all the content currently sold in the Nook Store. This now includes fixed layout ebooks (graphic novels, cookbooks, and other rich content), interactive children's books, and more. Basically the apps had already been abandoned long before they were removed from the B&N website.
But even with the knowledge that B&N had given up on the apps long ago, IMO this move is still a poor choice. Readers might be able to use Nook for Web but they won't be able to access all of their content. I just checked my Nook account and the majority of the ebooks I got from B&N are not compatible with Nook for Web. Of the first 120 titles listed in my account, a mere 32 could be read online.
I am lucky that I have alternate Nook apps and a Nook HD-, otherwise I would have lost access to something like 75% of the Nook ebooks I own (assuming I were dependent on the Windows app). Or at least it could cost me access to my purchased ebooks, and that brings me to B&N's other example of mismanagement.
You see, B&N goofed a second time in that they forgot to recommend their other reading app for OSX and Windows. It's called NookStudy, and it was launched in Summer 2010. NookStudy is more of a textbook app that a general purpose reading app, but it still reads all my Nook content and it is still available for OSX and Windows. At the very least it deserved a mention.
Update: A reader has told me that B&N has retired the support forums for NookStudy. That could be a sign that B&N is planning to get rid of that program as well. (Thanks, Tim!)
All in all, the manner in which B&N retired the Nook for PC and Nook for Mac app suggests that B&N doesn't care much about ebooks any more. They're not investing in the apps, they didn't make any effort to make sure the content is compatible with the replacement, and they didn't think to offer their other reading app for Windows and OSX.
At this point I am really hoping that the Microsoft buyout rumor is true, because B&N is cutting their losses. It looks to me like they are giving up, so I really really really hope that a white knight appears to rescue the Nook platform before B&N shuts it down completely.