I Wouldn’t Read Too Much Into the B&N News Today

nookwifi[1]Barnes & Noble surprised pretty much everyone today with the release of their quarterly report and the various new initiatives that the company will now pursue.

Basically B&N has pulled a 180 degree turn on almost everything they said over the past 6 months, and at this point they would probably prefer that you ignore their past announcements.

I can do that, and do you know what?

I plan to ignore today’s announcements as well. If they can radically change their plans in the space of a few months, what’s to say that they won’t do it again?

I have been sitting here today, thinking about all of the stories on B&N, and one thought keeps coming back to me.

The thing about B&N is that I am not sure they really know what they will do next. Sure, they have plans, but at this point there’s no way to prove that the current set of plans are any more permanent than the last set of plans, or the set of plans before that.

The beginning of the end for B&N.
The beginning of the end for B&N.

How do we know that B&N won’t decide next week to sell of the Nook platform to Qualcomm, Rakuten, or Microsoft? How do we know they won’t sell off the college stores to Pearson? (not as crazy as it sounds) And how do we know they won’t change their minds again and junk the Nook hardware entirely?

Answer: we don’t. And that’s why I don’t take anything that B&N said today seriously.

P.S. When I wrote about the Nook Video app yesterday I made a crack about B&N’s Magic-8 Ball and how it kept giving them contradictory instructions. Now that we have a whole slew of new plans, and I use that term with a sense of irony, suddenly my crack is no longer a snide comment. It’s turned into a prescient prediction, IMO.

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. New Name Same Guy20 August, 2013

    LOL worrying so much about B&N? Mighty Amazon feels vulnerable of this?

  2. Alexander Inglis20 August, 2013

    Jeff Bezos, private citizen, just paid $250M for The Washington Post. Triple that (and a little loose change) and he could buy B&N outright at today’s closing price.

    1. Puzzled20 August, 2013

      Why would he want to do this, seeing how, the last time I checked, he wasn’t insane.

      1. fjtorres20 August, 2013

        Because he has that much loose change under the sofa cushions? 😉

  3. Fbone20 August, 2013

    They have a different CEO now. He evidently has new ideas.

    1. john21 August, 2013

      Well said. And, the tablets became valuable once they were unlocked to google play. bet those numbers look good, causing a rethink.

  4. fjtorres20 August, 2013

    Of all the missteps B&N management has made this year, the constant reversals are at the top.
    They are projecting an image of a team that has run out of ideas and is running around in a panic.
    Most companies facing the abyss would have brought in a turnaround specialist from the outside by now, to prop up the stock price if nothing else.

    1. Nate Hoffelder20 August, 2013

      Nah. The worst mistake was the interview from earlier this year. It shattered consumer confidence.

      B&N can survive the press and analysts thinking the management is a bunch of idiots but they can’t survive if the customers go away. And they have.

      1. fjtorres20 August, 2013

        Well, yeah.
        But it’s not just the media paying attention to their floor-spin fest.

        Consumers hear “losses at B&N” and “CEO quits” and the first thought that pops up is “Betamax”. After that they start paying attention to *everything*.
        Techies and pundits analyze things and look for explanations but consumers panic and over-react. That’s what makes death spirals well-nigh impossible to stop.

  5. Alexander Inglis20 August, 2013

    It’s partly lucky timing and partly a different approach: but Kobo seems to have gotten this right. Find a book seller as incubator and then change partners as the business is beginning to ramp but where more capital is needed. Indigo sold out at the right moment and spent the cash on the retail business, tweaking and evolving as book buyer habits changed — but keeping the royalty revenue flow from Canadian ebook sales. Kobo meanwhile always looked outward to a global market (not just the US, an option that was foreclosed when Borders dissolved). It’s been a rocky road, always on the shoestring, but how much further they have come than, say, Sony which had a huge head start. Yes, Amazon remains the gorilla behemoth but there is a market outside of Kindle and Kobo, not Nook or Sony or any of the smaller players which have melted away, looks poised to benefit.

    1. Nate Hoffelder20 August, 2013

      It was also better management. The head of Indigo knew when to bring in outside capital and when to get out of the game.

  6. Richard Adin21 August, 2013

    The most important aspect of the announcement, I thought, was Riggio saying he no longer plans to buy B&N and take it private and that he has so advised the board. One reason for this is that once he made a formal offer, he would have to step down. If he stepped down, B&N might have installed a competent manager who could turn them around and the board might have declined Riggio’s offer, leaving him out in the cold.

    I think B&N could survive and do well — beginning the day after Riggio and current upper management are out of the picture. Alas, that will never happen because Riggio is the largest shareholder with voting rights.

  7. bubba21 August, 2013

    I hope they do stick around and with all parts intact. I never liked the idea of them being in trouble whether in their old business or their new Nook side. Both for nostalgic reasons and for the simple reason that more choices will always benefit the customer.

  8. […] & Noble has frequently been flip-flopping on their future plans over the past year, so it should come as no surprise that they have changed their minds again. […]

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