Barnes & Noble Launches New e-Textbook App – Yuzu

Barnes & NobleYuzu_iPad_logo[1] quietly launched the beta version of a new digital textbook app earlier this month. It’s called Yuzu, and it is currently available for the iPad and for web browsers.

Yuzu is a digital education platform that Barnes & Noble says is going to “make the everyday learning experience remarkably gratifying”. Few details are available at this time, but B&N says that the new platform will support “the collaborative, free flow of information between learners and educators”.

When it officially launches this summer Yuzu is going to be B&N’s replacement for NookStudy, which according to the website has already been retired. At this point it looks like Yuzu is an entirely new platform, and it would appear that Yuzu does not share the same accounts as the Nook Store or NookStudy. In fact, one of the FAQs I found says that Yuzu is not compatible with NookStudy textbooks.

The app is currently only available for Internet Explorer and Safari 6.1/7 (but not Firefox), and for iPads running iOS7, and it is far from complete. While the app does run in IE, all I can do is play around with the set up process. I can create terms and add courses to a term, but I cannot actually read any content. There’s no option for uploading my own files, and Yuzu’s bookstore has not yet been enabled.

yuzu app internet explorer

At this point we have little more to go on than B&N’s own description, and it makes Yuzu sound more like a digital textbook app like iBooks or Nook Study than an educational and academic app like iTunes U. Like its predecessor NookStudy, Yuzu offers students a next-generation reading and note-taking experience in a simple app, but it also improves on NookStudy by making it easier for educators to provide course materials.

FacultyEnlight_logo_RGB[1]In addition to launching the Yuzu platform, B&N is also tying in FacultyEnlight. This is a website where educators can assemble academic materials into course packs, and from what I can tell B&N launched it in 2011 (if not earlier). Educators  can search for the textbooks and other academic material they need, and then build a required and recommended textbook list for a class.

FacultyEnlight is very much focused on the college market, so I would bet that it is also tied in to the 600 plus college bookstore websites run by B&N College. On a related note, the site also prompts educators to sell their original course materials via Nook Press, where they will end up in the Nook Store – and probably Yuzu as well.

Yuzu is only available for IE, Safari, and the iPad, but I have been told that B&N plans to have a Yuzu Android app and support for more web browsers by the time the platform launches this summer.

The Digital Reader was the first to report earlier this year that Barnes & Noble was turning their attention to the digital education market (I scooped the official announcement by about 3 weeks). At the time I was hopeful that this pivot could save B&N’s digital division, but now I am not so sure that it will.

Everything I have read today suggests that Barnes & Noble is pursuing a retail strategy where they will sell (or rent) digital textbooks to students. Given the general failure of the digital textbook market, this does not bode well for B&N.

Over the past six months we have seen several digital textbook providers go bankrupt, sell out to their competition, or pivot to serve a new market. Kno was acquired out of bankruptcy by Intel, Coursesmart was sold off to its competitor, and Inkling pivoted to a new business model based on licensing its tech to publishers.

I predicted about a month ago that the future of digital textbooks is in publishers selling to schools, not retail. If B&N is going to ignore that trend then I expect that Yuzu is even more doomed than the Nook platform.

On the other hand, B&N does have an advantage that none of the startups could claim; B&N runs over 600 college bookstores. This gives them a market presence that few other than Follett (which also runs college bookstores) can match.

And in any case, it is too early to say for sure how B&N will generate revenue; they might be planning to use a different model than selling digital textbooks to cash-strapped students. We shall have to wait and see.

 

13 thoughts on “Barnes & Noble Launches New e-Textbook App – Yuzu

  1. I abandoned B&N when they abandoned Windows XP and Windows 7 users. What they do any more pretty much doesn’t concern me.

  2. Sturmund Drang If I am not mistaken didn’t Mircrosoft just stop support for XP as well to move people over to Windows 8 and it is their software no need to blame BN for it, Also Nate do you think from seeing the photo that this could possibly be the new nook tablet they have been talking about that is coming? Looking at the photo closer on the nookstudy page I know some may say no its the ipad but last I remember the ipad’s bezels are not raised higher than the screen, This devices bezel is.

    1. Firstly, Microsoft stopped sending out patches to Windows XP. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy Microsoft Office or Microsoft Flight Simulator, or Quicken or anyone of an hundred thousand other packages to run on your XP. But B&N no longer offers (obviously) Nook for PC for Windows XP.

      Secondly Microsoft still fully supports Windows 7. B&N doesn’t.

      Also, I haven’t cared enough to check out recent numbers but I think XP+Windows7 runs on about 75% of the PCs out there. So B&N has abandoned 75% of the PC universe. That’s so odd as to be nearly inexplicable.

      Actually you can find Windows for PC that runs on XP and Windows 7 on B&N’s site. But you have to use Google to find it. B&N doesn’t want to advertise that fact. That’s why I said “(obviously)” before.

      I run linux. And it irks me that vendors don’t support linux. Okay, you might say linux runs on 1% of the desktops, and you’d be right. But Nook and Kindle and Apple and Google (Android) only exist because of all the work linux, gnu, and BSD devs have given away free. I don’t think it’s unfair to expect those companies that make millions and billions of profits on the back of the OSS devs might return something. (Although I understand the crappyright issues invloved too).

      But since I don’t understand why B&N would abandon 75% of the PC world I have to assume they’re either, stupid, evil, or dying. If you can think of another logical explanation I’d like to hear it.

          1. To quote him directly:

            “But B&N no longer offers (obviously) Nook for PC for Windows XP.”

            He said that they flat out didn’t offer it any more. Sure, it requires you to type in “NOOK for PC” into Google (and then click the first result), but the file is still there and able to be downloaded, which is far different than actually removing it. Yes, BN’s website blows, and you won’t get any argument from me, but he didn’t just state that it wasn’t easy to find.

            And there are direct links to NOOK for Web (which works fine on his 13 year old obsolete operating system) and NOOK Study (on the Yuzu website), which will both also open his BN books.

          2. And apparently you missed the fact that he acknowledged that the app can be found via Google.

            But since it cannot be found vie the B&N website I would agree that B&N no longer offers it.

  3. I give up. I have Windows 8 with a touch screen on my computer, but Yuzu has been completely unpredictable. I used Nook Textbook a couple years ago, and found it delightfully helpful. I was actually looking forward to this class because I thought I would be using Nook Textbook again. However, Yuzu has been a great disappointment. I’m spending far too much time just trying to turn pages, and trying to figure out how to see the tiny, blurry map illustrations in the book without pulling out a regular hand magnifying glass. The last straw was when I tried to analyze a map of the distribution of a clothing manufacturer, on which Yuzu has stamped an icon asking if I want to use a marker– completely covering India. No matter how I try enlarging or moving the image or the map, India is obliterated. On other pages the same icon covers important lines in the text. What? Is there no where else Yuzu can find to stick their icon than right in the middle of every page? What a waste of money and time. Now I’m going to have to spend more money to order a regular book, and wait for it to be mailed to me before I can finish this assignment. Never again, Yuzu.

  4. Nate, why do you think publishers selling directly to schools will fly?, schools as it is have their own financial challenges; having to increase school fees to meet their operating budgets. Moreover, with the open textbook providing more attractive option to both students and schools, I don’t see your model hypothesis solving the publishers dilemma.

    1. A few weeks before I wrote this post I attended an edtech conference in DC. I sat in any number of sessions from school districts which had adopted 1 to 1 programs with Chromebooks, iPads, or other hardware. Many had also switched over to digital textbooks and were buying the textbooks in volume. Also, most of the 1 to 1 programs I heard about are now being funded from the textbook budget.

      I don’t know that digital textbooks have a future but if they do then it will not be selling to students. That doesn’t work. The only thing left is selling to schools and giving the textbooks away. Since there is no market in the latter I am assuming that publishers will go for the former.

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