When B&N first started opening offices in Europe in 2012 it was a sign that B&N soon intended to compete in the global ebook market. Fast forward three years, and we have the news that B&N has shut down its operations in Luxembourg, is that a sign that they've given up on that goal?
The Bookseller (paywall'd) reported yesterday that Barnes & Noble’s office in Luxembourg has been liquidated. B&N confirmed the news to me, saying that:
We continue to operate our NOOK business in the U.K. However, we no longer have a commercial partnership with Microsoft, and, as a result, we are transitioning away from our international business, based in Luxembourg. As we no longer have a commercial partnership with Microsoft, the Win8 app won’t be available in the international markets.
While this is a disappointment, it is not a surprise. B&N only announced its international expansion plans following the 2012 partnership with Microsoft. Outside of the US and UK the Nook store was only available via the Windows 8 app, leading me to speculate that the international store really belonged to Microsoft.
And now that we have B&N closing offices after buying out MS's share of Nook Media, it would seem I was half right.
So does this mean that B&N is giving up on international markets?
I think that is what is going to happen in the long run, yes, just not today.
Nevertheless, I still expect B&N to abandon its international customers. Thanks to the boneheaded decision to only support Windows 8, they never had very many in the first place(I had to ask 9 people in and around digital publishing to find one who could confirm the Nook Store was still open in Europe). And with digital revenue dropping to $41 million last quarter, B&N doesn't exactly have a good reason to keep the lights on anywhere except the US and UK, its
two one and a half core ebook markets.
Of course, B&N could always decide to get serious and make its ebookstore available to all the world, but I frankly don't expect that to happen.
image by James Cridland