After nearly two years of development, Barnes & Noble launched a new site that has some asking whether this will be the digital solution to B&N's ecommerce woes.
I, however, am wondering how much damage the new site will do to B&N's Nook sales.
The new site went live on Tuesday, and it is a mess. While it looks slightly cleaner and less cluttered than the previous design (Wayback Machine) the biggest change is in the backend for the Nook Store.
Barnes & Noble has taken a clunky but functional digital library platform and turned into a non-working piece of crap.
I have spent a couple of hours today trying to access the ebooks I bought from B&N, to no avail. Where I used to be able to archive, download, or (in some cases) read an ebook online, now I can only browse the content and be frustrated by an inability to use it.
The listing pages for many of the ebooks in my Nook Library have vanished, and the read online option has disappeared with them. What few links still work lead to the store pages for the ebooks.
Yes, B&N won't let me download the ebook I bought but they will let me try to buy a replacement. And when I click the buy button I am shown this:
In case you were wondering, yes, you can actually buy from the B&N website; the process is just fucked up.
I have contacted B&N, both PR and customer service, and asked for help. I have not received a response, but I plan to watch and see how long it takes B&N to fix this.
There has been doubt in my mind as to whether B&N is really interested in keeping up the Nook platform. While they haven't killed the Nook outright they also haven't really invested in the platform in the past year.
The only major improvements and new services were designed more to make the platform attractive to investors when B&N still planned to spin it off, and now that that plan has been set aside I think apathy has set in.
I can understand the reluctance; digital revenues continue to drop quarter after quarter. Nook continues to be a money pit so B&N might take a pessimistic view and simply assume that the digital side is dead.
And if they do hold that view, they won't make great strides to fix this issue. Instead they'll ignore it and fix the other problems first.
But if B&N does fix this issue promptly then it would indicate that they're still interested in the Nook, and that might give us a clue as to what B&N is planning to do this fall.
There's been some speculation that B&N is going to update the Nook Glowlight this year. I've been hearing rumors from store-level staff about a new model, and a couple days ago Joanna Stern mentioned in her review of the new Paperwhite that:
... and Barnes & Noble hasn’t updated its Nook Glowlight in nearly two years. (I expect the company to refresh it this fall.)
I don't think that is going to happen; B&N has previously shown no interest. But if B&N fixes the Nook Store promptly, I would change my mind.
A repaired Nook Store is one that B&N plans to keep. If it stays broken then the best we can hope for is that B&N sells it off quickly.
Photo credit: J.P. Gownder via Forrester