B&N Removes Download Buttons from Website, Stranding Millions of Customers’s eBooks

nook itunesReports are coming in from multiple sources today that Barnes & Noble is locking down the Nook platform.Nook customers on MobileRead Forums and on B&N's own support forums are reporting that the download buttons for their Nook ebook purchases are no longer present in the My Nook section of the B&N website. These buttons enabled readers to download a copy of their ebook and transfer said ebook to another app or device. (While B&N is known for having mutant DRM, there are a number of apps that support it.)

Many of the reports echo this post from MobileRead:

I have a Sony, Kobo, and Nexus tablet, but not a Nook. I have purchased books from B&N in the past (mostly due to some good sale prices) and they have the books I purchased from Fictionwise there (I think it was Fictionwise. It was one of the multitude of now closed stores anyway).

It seems they have suddenly removed the "download" option from all of the books in my library.

There are numerous other reports, and I can confirm myself that the buttons are gone - for the most part.

my nook page barnes noble

I can't speak for other B&N customers, but I checked my Nook account and noticed that one particular subset of the ebooks in my account could still be downloaded.

While I can't download the ebooks I bought from B&N, I can download some of the titles which had been transferred to B&N when they shuttered Fictionwise. In particular, the ebooks which had been self-published through Fictionwise can still be downloaded.

I don't know why some of the buttons are missing, but I can add that I have apprised B&N of the problem and asked them to fix it. I will update this post if I receive a response.

Update: I just read on MobileRead that an official Nook Twitter account tweeted, the following, confirming that this was not a technical snafu.

But until they say they can fix it, let's assume they can't or won't and start looking for a workaround. I'm not throwing dirt around, just suggesting that readers look out for their own interests.

One could download the ebooks o the Nook for PC app (and then strip the DRM), but since that has been formally abandoned I don't know how long before B&N decided to cut off that app. It's also illegal here in the US.

There is also talk over on MobileRead about a GreaseMonkey script which added the download button to all of the purchased ebooks; sadly that script has itself gone missing.

Do you know how we can solve this?

I'd like to know for my own sake, and I also want to help readers. The comments are open.

About Nate Hoffelder (11598 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

65 Comments on B&N Removes Download Buttons from Website, Stranding Millions of Customers’s eBooks

  1. I can’t even download the multiformat fictionwise titles.

  2. Ditto. ALL downloads are gone. And my transferred library from FW is large enough that the PC App chokes itself to death.

  3. This is a perfect example of why early ebook buyers were distrustful of DRM.

    • To be totally fair, this decision has little to do with DRM. This is more of an argument against the “cloud”, similar to how Apple was (is?) no longer letting customers re-download their Disney movies.

      It stills seems like a terrible idea unless Barnes & Noble is simply trying to get attention. No such thing as bad press, right?

      If this is a DRM issue, they are playing a really long game. First, take away the download button. Then update all applications to start using protected storage. Then get every one of your customers to upgrade to the latest version. Then hope that no one figures out an easy method to access the protected storage on one of the multitude of platforms you are supporting.

      Yeah, it could work, but it’s a decent amount of money to spend and a lot of wishful thinking to solve a problem that isn’t significant. It also makes the more-friendly DRM that B&N uses completely useless and no longer an advantage.

      It’s not like Amazon is any better in this regard, but it seems like Kobo is a somewhat viable alternative. Even though I have no problems with LCD/OLEDs, I was already eyeing the Aura H20 as a nice vacation reader.

      I am usually on here defending B&N, but there is nothing I can offer up to justify this decision. They are still one of the better booksellers, but they seem pretty insistent on making sure that doesn’t remain true much longer.

  4. The GreaseMonkey script BN-Dload can be recovered via the Wayback Machine:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20131112172430/http://userscripts.org/scripts/review/152985

  5. I was able to download the files to my android tablet with the Nook App version 3.4.1.20.
    They imported fine into Aldiko.
    Don’t know if newer versions allow it but I’m not updating it, just in case.

  6. “I was able to download the files to my android tablet with the Nook App version 3.4.1.20.”

    In the current Android app you can locate the file in the Nook content directory but it won’t open with an external e-reader app (you are prompted by a DRM notice). However, you can copy the e-book from the directory and then transfer it to your PC and then see if you can use an application to remove the DRM (haven’t tried it). With Nook HD+ , B&N purchased e-book are locked to the native e-reader app (they won’t open with other epub reader apps).

    I downloaded all my Nook books before this new policy B&N policy. It’s disappointing that B&N continues to move in this direction – first, they won’t allow you to export your highlights and annotations but now this too! They keep trying to lock the user and add further restrictions; I’m considering migrating to Kobo now, with the quality of their hardware. I’ll research Kobo and if they do this too or have a history of it, then I’ll go somewhere else.

    • The old version should be available at Freeware lovers…

    • Kobo has traditionally offered KEPUB and EPUB, allowing you to read on other devices.

      Now they have stopped offering ADE EPUBs for many of their books. And the number of affected books is only growing.

      At least B&N ebooks can still be transferred from an e-ink Nook and opened in ADE.

      • I’ve found that Kobo doesn’t have ADE ePub downloads for any book sold in the ePub3 format. I now check the format before buying there to avoid ePub3’s.

        • Apparently this is a short-term (but too long IMO) issue that is supposed to be fixed by the end of the year. Not at all sure if it is entirely Kobo’s issue or if the format the books are submitted in and a lag from Adobe has something to do with it.

          • Good to know! At the time Kobo told me something about the publishers not allowing downloads of ePub3’s yet, or something similar. Basically they just blamed the publishers for the problem & gave me my money back. Then they told me two ways I could tell if a book was downloadable before I purchased it, but of course only one of those ways actually worked. (save preview to library, then go to library to see if there was a download option under the title, then go back & purchase title if there is) It’s time consuming, but it works.

  7. I see Barnes and Nobles is back to making customers warm and fuzzy over them. So many of my customers only shop there because they WANT to keep them in business. Thats fine, but make them work for it.

  8. My workaround? Don’t buy from B&N anymore. I haven’t for a while because their prices are too high, but I definitely won’t anymore. They will probably go out of business quicker now, but that’s what happens to idiots.

  9. I read in the comments thread on Dear Author that someone used this as a reason to change any potential Apple settlement credits from B&N to a check. I thought that was an excellent idea and did the same. At least they made this move before the deadline to request a check. I bought way more from B&N than Amazon during the covered period, so potentially that’s several books worth of credit that I’ll be spending at Amazon instead of B&N.

    • That’s a good idea.

      I never bought much from B&N, but I do have an extensive ex-Fictionwise library there. I think all of it is already in calibre, though, so I won’t miss it when Nook goes away.

  10. I have only one question left about B&N. Was it a Browning 1911a1 .45 or a Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum that they used on their foot?

  11. More negative news for a company that is wallowing in it.

  12. The publishers need to get together and ensure that none of the other book stores allow side downloading of ebooks so we don’t lose competition. ;^)

  13. And just HOW will a cabal of publishers enforce such a demand on publishers who sell from their own websites and not only permit but encourage downloading and choice.

    Baen Books springs to mind. They’re the reason I went all eBook all the time back in 2000.

  14. I wonder if it’s a publisher requirement as none of the major retailers now permit it.

    • It likely is.
      B&N is too dependent on payola to deny them.
      Typical of the BPHs, they’re aiming at one target and killing somebody else.
      They think they can kill piracy? Watch them kill ADEPT instead.

  15. Excuse me. What is ADEPT, please?

  16. While B&N has dropped the direct download / side load ability Amazon has not. I just checked my account and they still permit you to download and then side load on your device. Hate to say it but I guess I will be talking my wife into doing her eBook shopping at Amazon. She already stopped using an ereader and is using her iPad mini. Since I don’t trust B&N to be around in another year I think she needs to do her shopping else where. Especially if there will be no way to back up or recover her B&N ebooks.

    • Amazon only permits download and side load if you have a Kindle.

      • No Kindle here, just the Kindle for PC App and I have no trouble digging my books out of that, then running them thru Calibre to decrap, convert to plain epubs & sideload them onto my Samsung tablet. Takes a little bit of help from Apprentice Alf & his wonderful Tools, but yes, it can be done.

      • If you buy a DRM-enabled book from Amazon, or any publisher, you have to be logged into an app (and/or using an ereader) that can verify the credentials of the app/ereader to load the content. So in that sense, you can only down/side load, for some purposes, to an app or ereader linked to the source of purchase.

        If you buy a non-DRM-enabled book from Amazon, you can do pretty much whatever you want with it.

  17. As I said over here, I wonder if this might have something to do with that recent announcement that HarperCollins was going to watermark its e-books so it could tell where any piracy leaks came from? Perhaps B&N realizes that if people can download its books, they can crack them, so it wants to remove the ability to download its books?

    • I think that’s a stretch. It would require a level of technical ignorance that I don’t think even B&N senior management could have/.

      • The HarperCollins thing was about finding leaks in the supply chain and shouldn’t apply here at all.

        I posted in brief above that, yes, B&N crippling themselves in this way could result in it becoming more difficult to crack books, but it’s a really long game (years, at the least).

        However, it’s still for nothing. Even if you make it so only 0.01% bother to access your content (and they will easily find a way) rather than the current 1% (pulled out of my ass), all it takes is 1 leak for everyone to get a copy. That’s how digital information works. It won’t stop outright copyright infringement. It may slow casual copying (e.g., giving the book to a relative), but is that really a problem and is it worth the cost of solving (again, by crippling your service)?

        I guess B&N doesn’t think people want to buy books on vacation where hotel WiFi is frequently available on only one device…

  18. They should not be allowed to do this. If you bought a book at a time that downloading was a viable option you have every right to expect it to continue to be so. If they wanted I could see an argument in favor of removing the functionality from new purchases. But if they wanted to remove it from the old purchases. The LEAST they should do is send an e-mail to their customers apprising them of the fact and that they have x number of weeks to download their books.

    At least with Kobo any book that was originally downloadable still is.

  19. As many of you know, I have been a supporter of B&N largely because I want there to be competition. But now I need to reassess my support of B&N as regards ebooks. I plan to let management know that they have lost me as an ebook customer. I’ll still buy my hardcovers from B&N, but the truth is if I end up moving to Amazon for ebooks, hardcovers are likely to follow. Another dumb B&N move.

  20. I looks like B&N has come up with a mechanism to guarantee zero piracy: if they sell no books, no one can pirate them.

  21. That is the price of buying stuff with DRM. You will never own it and they can take it away whenever they want. Never buy anything with DRM there are plenty of great books that you can get that don’t have it.

  22. Nate, didn’t you tell me a while back that it’s not ePub3 that’s the problem at Kobo, but rather KePub? I am hearing that people are coming across difficulty downloading books from Kobo from time to time. Their CS will tell you it’s because of the ePub3 format but that’s not the real reason as I understand it.
    There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to which books are affected. I’m hearing that some Tor books (which are supposed to be DRM free anyway) can’t be downloaded. Sometimes it’s the 3rd book in a series when the books on either side are fine.
    I’m not buying any books from Kobo I can’t download but the sudden increase in frequency makes me wonder if there is some plan by Kobo to move to more KePub books. I *so* hope that doesn’t happen. Because I won’t buy from Kobo at all in that case. All Romance ebooks, Amazon and Smashwords will be the big winners there.

  23. I’m glad that I downloaded all of my nook books and saved them on my dropbox years ago and stopped buying from them. This is the problem with DRM’d ebooks– our rights as a consumer are not protected! Why pay for a license that might be revoked? For some people this policy change is the same as revoking their library. We should not support anyone in the publishing industry that would make such an anti-consumer decision. Even if it means Nook dies, let them die.

  24. Google still offers ADEPT compatible ebooks in their store, as well as over 4 million DRM-free public domain books.

    Funny how seldom Google comes up in a discussion of ebookstores, even though they’re one of the largest.

    • Google’s Android application is pretty decent and supports immersive (fullscreen) mode. And they synchronize user content. And follow most of the standards.

      I initially wrote them off because their offering was so poor and I couldn’t get my content to download (since they don’t have Windows or Mac readers). Wonder of wonders, though, Google got better. I am guilty of forgetting about them, as you say, but I can heartily recommend their store.

      I think my two major complaints are that their page numbering doesn’t match Adobe’s page numbering, and it won’t let you download content you uploaded. Both are rather minor complaints.

    • Their strategy is to wait for everybody but Amazon and Apple to fold.
      Then they’ll uncloak and come out with disruptors blazing. 🙂

  25. It is still possible to download “Nook for PC” from the Barnes and Noble website; last updated 2011; runs fine on Windows 7. I just installed this now. Logging in gives complete access to my purchased library and anything selected gets downloaded as an epub. From there you can backup and/or transfer your purchase to read on another device. It’s extremely customer unfriendly to drop downloading; but it’s still possible to do — at least on older Windows desktop / laptop computers.

  26. I just bought two Nook Books from the BnN site, and they downloaded to my Mac via the Nook for Mac app. I have $40 left on a gift card that I am going to use fast and get my books. Then I am dropping BnN for good ( as far as ebooks go). I always strip the DRM from all my books on principle, and don’t share them. Stoopid company.

  27. I’ve avoided DRM from almost the beginning. It’s so disheartening to see my paranoia all along was right. 🙁 Amazon isn’t any better, though. They’ve got DRM jacked up to the ying-yang unless you use their apps (my globe-trotting daughter runs into trouble with her Kindle all the time whenever she crosses country zones and can’t access her books). Too big brother … nope. I ran into problems with Kobo lately, so I stopped buying from them as well. GooglePlay is nice. That’s my current backup store if Smashwords doesn’t have a book.

    • This isn’t DRM, and is orthogonal to the issue. I feel like a broken record. 😛

      If Google shut down the web interface for their music and forced you to use their client, would that be DRM? (There is already a weird 2-download limit when using the web interface that is likely tied to some dumb contract with the publishers.)

      The move might be a part of a larger attempt to curb so-called “casual” copyright infringement, but, if so, it’s part of a larger, multi-year effort that is almost guaranteed to fail. Or maybe the publishers want B&N to count the number of downloads and pay for different usage levels (hey, they do it with libraries…). But it’s not really DRM in the common meaning.

      No, this is just B&N or the big publishing houses deciding that the best way to capitalize on their customers is to screw them as hard as possible. I think I’m done with them and hopefully enough make a similar decision so that B&N are forced to re-think their hostile attitude. I should take a lesson from you, Anna, and just frequent Smashwords more.

      • While platform-specific, this is still a flavor of the ‘DRM’ argument (yeah, it’s B&N being weiners, but it all boils down to limiting the customer’s right to access books they paid for).

        Whenever I download an ebook to my desktop, I -immediately- load it into Calibre, convert it (if it’s from Amazon) into .epub, and then save a copy into a separate file (as Amazon can reach into your desktop app and wipe out your files on a whim. Yes, this has resulted in some loss-of-convenience of relying on my desktop to be the ‘server’ in my home for all things digital.

        I don’t mind GooglePlay’s 2-download limit. I download once, I have a backup copy on their cloud. Once it’s on my desktop, I can convert and sideload it at will. Do that for music files as well. But Smashwords is the best … I can download it as many times as I need to, from wherever I need.

        • Also, if these ebooks did not have Adobe DRM then you could simply copy the files and be okay.

          So this actually is a DRM issue.

          • Assume we are talking about DRM-free (without Adobe) books. If you can’t download them, how do you “simply copy”?

            If you can “simply copy” and this is a DRM issue, then what value does removing the download link provide?

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