Yesterday I reported on the rumor that B&N wanted to sell off Sterling Publishing, and naturally I assumed that B&N had decided that digital was the future. Today I learned that B&N is looking to sell off the Nook business unit. Apparently digital isn't the future either.
B&N put out a press release this morning. Buried in with the glad tidings about great sales over Christmas was a mention that B&N was looking at "strategic exploratory work to separate the NOOK business."
They want to sell it.
But first, B&N also released a few details on this past holiday season. The total unit salesfor the ebook readers were up 70% over last year. The sales reports were mixes. The NookColor and NookTablet sold well, but the Nook Touch did not meet expectations. Digital content was also up, with apps, ebooks and the periodicals from the digital newsstand selling at over twice the rate of last year.
Sales from the website were up 43% over last year, to $327 million. According to B&N this "increase was driven by continued growth of the NOOK business, offset by a decline in online physical product sales." The brick and mortar stores saw a spike in sales of 2.5%, to $1.2 billion. B&N also reported seeing a bump in sales from the closure of Borders. That bump tis expected to be about $200 million to $230 million in fiscal 2012.
I cannot help but wonder if today's and yesterday's news are related. I posited yesterday that B&N wanted to recover the capital invested in Sterling so they could invest in digital. And today it looks like B&N is looking to take a step back from the development side of its digital business. Note that sales were good, so this probably isn't a retail question.
But it could mean any number of things.
At the very least, you could put the 2 stories together and reach an interesting conclusion. B&N wants to pull back from creating products (publishing books and developing the Nook) to simply selling them.
Perhaps B&N senior management has decided that they're investing too much in developing the products and the platform? While they like being able to sell the product, having to pay all the costs to develop it might not be as appealing as it was back in 2009.
This might also be a hint that the Waterstones deal is going to get a little closer than we expect. A few weeks back I reported that one source had told me that B&N might buy Waterstones. Now I would argue that the deal could go the other way. Waterstones might buy into the Nook development as part of deciding to carry it in stores. It's certainly a possibility, now that we have today's press release.
In any case, something interesting is happening.