Could Apple buy B&N?

That’s what Boy Genius Report have claimed they were told, but I have my doubts. Jonathan over at BGR is reporting that:

We received a tip from an unproven source claiming to have knowledge of discussions within Apple to possibly purchase Barnes & Noble. While this might seem like a strange move at first, it actually makes a whole lot of sense.

I just don’t see how this could happen. According to BGT Apple would integrate B&N’s ebook content into iBooks, close out most of the store, and kill the Nook. Apple would be buying a company just to throw most of it away.

And it would be thrown away. We’re in a recession and currently watching Borders be gutted by the liquidators. Do you really think that anyone would want the B&N stores? I don’t. And I don’t think Apple would run them either; I doubt they could be adapted to run as part of Apple Retail.

Furthermore, I do not see how there’s any chance that B&N’s senior management would go along with a plan that would kill the company. I’m sure all the long-time managers love the company and the industry. They won’t want to see it die. And there’s a second reason they wouldn’t go along with it. Borders just died. Right now B&N know they are the last major bookseller in the US, and that if they go down no one will replace them anytime soon.

And besides, iBooks isn’t _that_ important to Apple. Sure, it’s tiny and the market share is negligible, but it was always an afterthought for Apple. The iBookstore looks to me like it’s an example of “me, too”-ism taken to an irrational degree.

It might also be better for Apple to let iBooks stay an afterthought. If Apple bought B&N then iBooks would appear to be important enough for Apple to throw a billion dollars at the problem. It would then need to succeed and gain an appreciable marketshare. If it didn’t then iBooks would become a huge embarrassment instead of an afterthought.

Then again, I’ve been wrong before. So what do you think?

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. karen wester newton28 July, 2011

    Apple would kill the Nook? I would think Amazon would love it if Apple did that. The Nook is taking shape as a real competitor to the Kindle. Besides, I would think most B&N execs can still remember Steve Jobs’ famous “no one reads anymore” comment.

  2. Sherri28 July, 2011

    B&N isn’t a content provider. They don’t have a “vast digital library of books and publications,” as BGR claims, they have a set of relationships and contracts with publishers and content providers. As does Apple. If Apple’s sole purpose in buying B&N is to remove competition to force better terms with publishers, then I suspect that the publishers will be complaining to the FTC and the DOJ pretty quickly.

    Same thing with the earlier rumor that was floating around about Amazon buying B&N. Buying a company to shut down the retail and grab ~25% of the market share of ebooks for yourself would tend to get frowned upon by antitrust regulators, I would think.

  3. fjtorres28 July, 2011

    Apple buying B&N makes *some* sense but killing Nook and the storefronts doesn’t.
    Rather, integrating the B&N stores as outlets for Apple products with in-store Apple shoplets makes sense. Switching the Nook readers to iBook would coopt the Nook ecosystem to counter Kindle’s strength.
    The biggest negative (and a show stopper as long as Jobs calls the shots) is that dropping a couple billion on B&N is an open admission that:
    1- people do read
    2- there really is a market for 7in tablets and dedicated reader devices
    3- iBooks is a turkey

    Too much loss of face.
    Frankly, I’d sooner expect to see Apple buy Amazon and annoint Bezos as Jobs succesor-designate. 🙂

    Think about why that makes sense and shudder. :p

    1. Tyler28 July, 2011

      Killing Nook would be crazy. Migrating the ibook store and the nook bookstore as one entity would not be.

      1. Ravi28 July, 2011

        If Apple bought B&N and *didn’t* kill the Nook and Nook Color, they’d be selling Android devices. How likely is that?

  4. Tyler28 July, 2011

    Unreliable source? Why would he even consider printing anything from an unreliable source. It could be anybody saying anything.

  5. Ravi28 July, 2011

    If Apple is going to buy something to fix iBooks, it is going to be Kobo, not B&N. Kobo would be simpler and cheaper to deal with (and they’re not making a tablet, to boot).

  6. Jack W Perry28 July, 2011

    Stranger things have happened. But I don’t see any advantage for Apple or B&N. One of the main reasons Apple has less content is they insist on Agency. Many publishers don’t want that and therefore refuse to be in iBooks. Plus, Apple usually builds things, they are not much of a purchaser.

  7. Alexander Inglis29 July, 2011

    There’s nothing in such a deal: Apple buying Barnes and Noble. There is good synergy potential in Liberty Media buying B&N but, publicly, it sounds like they are dragging their feet. I believe the B&N board meets formally in August so there may be a major announcement come out of that.

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