B&N Starts Windows-only Promotion for International Nook Store – Does It Belong to MS Now?

Microsoft's Nook-brandednook_logo ebookstore got a promotional boost from Barnes & Noble today.

Readers in Spain who install the Nook app for Windows 8.1 before 15 January can download 5 free popular Spanish language ebooks and 5 free magazines issues. 

The list features bestselling titles Estaba en el aire by Sergio Vila Sanjuan, Yo Ya Estoy Muerto by Julia Navarro, El Club del Cupcake by Clara P. Villalón, Pequeña historia del Mundo and No Estamos Locos by El Gran Wyoming, along with current issues of top selling magazines Car and Driver, Fotogramas, Elle (Spain Edition), Hola and Gadget.

This is B&N's second Windows-only promotion in as many weeks; last Thursday they announced a similar offer for the UK which also included 5 free ebooks and 5 free magazine issues.

There's no word on when B&N plans to run a similar offer for ebooks in Basque or the other languages of Spain, but I suppose this is a good start. There's also no information on when B&N plans to let readers in Spain read Nook ebooks on the Nook Apps for Android, iPad, or Windows/OSX, but I am beginning to suspect that this is never going to happen.

It's been just over 2 weeks since B&N announced the expansion of the Nook Store into an additional 30 countries, but access in those countries is still restricted to only the Nook app for Windows 8.1 and not the Nook apps for Android, iOS, or other platforms.

After 2 weeks I have reached the conclusion that the international Nook store might bear the Nook brand, it might use the Nook servers, but it doesn't appear to belong to B&N. The international Nook Store is rapidly falling under the purview of Microsoft.

MS invested $600 million into Nook Media when it was launched last year. That amounted to little more than pocket change for Microsoft, but it was not clear why MS invested the funds. Now that B&N has released several new versions of the Nook app for Windows 8 and launched localized ebookstores with unimpressive catalogs which can only be accessed via Windows 8.1, I think we know.

TBH, I could be wrong in my interpretation, but at this point there is nothing you can point at which disagrees with me. And if I am right then consider for a moment what this means for B&N.

If B&N is never going to expand internationally but are instead going to stay strictly a US/UK only company then they have arguably demoted themselves. They're on their way to not being one of the major ebookstores anymore. Of course, the latest quarterly reports (where B&N showed a drop in digital revenue) have already told us that but the fact that B&N appears to be acting in a way that confirms their loss of status is news to me.

But Nate, you say, how can an ebookstore available in 32 countries not be important?

Because in many of those countries Windows 8.1 has a negligible share of the PC OS market (10% globally). We're talking millions of devices at most, when Android and iOS can boast hundreds of millions of devices, which is naturally going to limit the opportunities to sell ebooks. Also, I've heard that the selection is limited. My contacts in Germany were disappointed in how few titles were available in German.

At this point the US ebook market may or may not have flattened out (it's still up for debate), but there's still a lot of opportunities for growth in other countries. B&N is not set up to take advantage of the rising tide of the growing ebook markets, which means in the long run they will be supplanted by smaller competitors who are pursuing the new markets.

P.S. Keep an eye out for B&N releasing new Android and iOS apps which can be used in more countries.  That will likely be the first solid proof that B&N is serious about international expansion, and not just acting on behalf of Microsoft.

14 thoughts on “B&N Starts Windows-only Promotion for International Nook Store – Does It Belong to MS Now?

  1. This is just my personal opinion.
    Could be that the rest of the international expansion depends on the new B&N website which will be launched in April next year, and is supposed to be much more integrated with Nook.
    B&N was probably under pressure from Microsoft to do something about international expansion before the end of this year, that is probably the reason for the Windows 8.1 release now.

  2. Unlike many other (all?) bookstores, B&N doesn’t seem to use IP Geolocation to block purchases, so it’s actually pretty easy to buy Nook Books internationally. Just food for thought.

        1. I checked your IP address. Are you in Toronto, Canada?

          Canada is a special case. B&N has been passively selling ebooks there but they haven’t made any visible effort to enter the market.

          1. I don’t know how different it is for us than from other contients. When I tried to buy a “Big 6″ book, it complained that the book was not available to my billing address, and provided a link to ‘fix’ it. I took the hint, ‘fixed’ my address, and all was good.

  3. Hi Rashkae,
    Indeed rules in Canada are different, when I tried last year from Spain I was blocked. The fix this link told me to call customer support. I didn’t bother, there are other bookstores, I was only trying to see if I could.
    At least I was one of the fortunate people who got all my ebooks transferred from Fictionwise to B&N, and those I could download.

  4. I would guess this has something to do with the MS/BN deal. We know that there are certain contractual obligations that BN has to meet to get Microsoft’s money (one of them was developing the Win8 app). I wouldn’t be surprised if part of that contract involved a period of exclusivity – or at least priority development – for the Windows centric apps before the others.

    I’m of a split mind as to whether or not this is good. On the one hand, BN needs to increase content sales, and there’s no easier way to do so than to push into new markets. On the other, one of the reasons BN had so many problems last year is because they forgot to pay attention to the domestic market in Lynch’s big international push. Concentrating on refortifying their position in the US wouldn’t be amiss either.

    1. “a period of exclusivity – or at least priority development”

      That is a possible alternative explanation, I agree. I think it’s a stupid idea, but that could be what the contract calls for.

  5. BN released a major software update for the HD devices yesterday that (among other things) added the ability to download an use a half-dozen different language dictionaries – including German, French, Dutch, and Spanish.

    Looks like they are planning on pushing the devices worldwide after all.

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