B&N’s New Website Could Be the Kiss of Death For the Nook

B&N's New Website Could Be the Kiss of Death For the Nook Barnes & Noble eBookstore 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:

B&N's New Website Could Be the Kiss of Death For the Nook Barnes & Noble eBookstore



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

About Nate Hoffelder (10081 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

44 Comments on B&N’s New Website Could Be the Kiss of Death For the Nook

  1. i had trouble yesterday buying a nook book online, noticing the new website format in the process, so I purchased through my nook device instead, without a problem. almost gave up initially but was committed to the purchase so i followed through. nook being sent off to another company, a la sony to kobo, seems more and more likely…..

  2. On a related note, I saw a post on Baen’s Bar (the Baen_Ebook_Reader group) a couple weeks back from someone whose Samsung Tab just updated his Nook software and now it won’t open any non-B&N purchased e-books.

    “Also, I tried the ‘contact NOOK support’ to see if there was a way to set the new software to go directly to ‘my library’. As soon as I said I only used side-loaded books, they disconnected the session.”

    Between this and the whole DRM update thing of a few months back, it seems like B&N is desperately trying to throw away any relevance it might once have had.

  3. Urgh! Why oh why did B&N have to buy Fictionwise.com?

    I think B&N threw in the towel way back when they decided to let Samsung make their tablets. I know Apple and Kobo are still in the race but its felt like it was over to me for a while. Even Amazon is no longer holding press conferences to drum up excitement over its latest tablet or reader, they are just quiet refreshes now.

    • Fictionwise knew how to market books and support their customers. Those are two things that Barnes and igNoble is clueless about.

      B&I doesn’t even have my credit card info any more and I haven’t logged in for a year. They have chosen to make themselves irrelevant to bibliophages such as myself. So be it.

  4. Here’s another fun thing: I can’t even download the Nook Windows Store (Win 8/8.1/10) app now. It just says “Pending” and doesn’t do anything else.

    (I was able to download and install the Nook Study app from the blog post on this site back in March, and it can still seemingly still access all my Nook titles, including all the old Fictionwise/eReader titles they let me migrate over.)

  5. However, clearly this is all Amazon’s fault…

    • Of course it is. Amazon hired all the smart people….

      I was doing better on BN until this “update.” Haven’t sold a book since. I can’t even find my books on there anymore.

      I think it would have been cheaper to just put up a “Page not found”. It would be just as effective as their current website.

  6. The numbers in B&N’s recent annual report make NOOK seem rather pointless. The Retail stores (excluding college stores) sold over $4 million last year; NOOK sold about a quarter million. Even without the college stores, NOOK accounts for only 6% or so of B&N’s sales.

    However, the Retail stores (again excluding the college stores) turned an operating profit of $228 million, while NOOK threw most of it away with an operating loss of $126 million.

    The NOOK division managed to spend $389 million in order to produce $264 million in sales during the year. How can the Board justify continuing to operate a tiny division that produces such huge losses? Maybe if NOOK had a bright future, but it clearly doesn’t.

    B&N just named a new CEO, Ron Boire, to replace Mike Huseby, who’s going with the college bookstores. B&N’s press release says, “Mr. Boire has extensive experience in consumer electronics”, suggesting that they’re still thinking about NOOK, but Boire hasn’t been in that arena in almost a decade. It sounds to me like B&N’s blowing smoke, making it look like NOOK still has a place in their plans. Or maybe they’re expecting Boire to call on his experience in consumer electronics and declare NOOK a lost cause.

  7. Nook (UK) is poor too; I’ve about left them now and stick with Amazon. I tried a failed experiment to use their platform for a while, even leaving Amazon, and was willing to tolerate a lot. However, it was just too much with their firmware bugs, non-existent firmware updates, editions of magazine or purchased apps that don’t download, poor or non-existent side-loaded content support that is erratic to say the least (you can lose all highlights and notes for no reason and B&N only back up their content to their cloud service and you can’t export any of your side-loaded notes to your email either). The only positive I could give them, is their curated e-book-store is very good (much better than Kobo). Add to that, B&N has abandoned support of their devices in the UK, so you are left with the retailer you purchased the device from.

    The current Nook Glowlight is an OK device but flimsy (poor build quality), only allows 500MB for side-loaded content (they only seem to want you to use the device as a gateway to their store, forgetting that building a loyal customer base means improving the overall experience) and is only a slight improvement over the firmware of the Nook Simple Touch Glowlight. The screen, however, is nice and crisp.

    • That, and Yuzu is also terrible. Curiously B&N Ed is trying to fix the latter but we have yet to see B&N fix its own sites.

      • So does this mean you’re recommending we surrender and move to the kindle?

        It took me three attempts to buy a nook ebook this morning. I can see what they are trying to do (finally get the brand more integrated again) but they have their work cut out.

        The purchase does appear in my nook library on screen, but not on my glowlight.

  8. Hey, Nook’s getting a new CEO and hardly anybody noticed!


    ex-Sears Canada, ex-Kmart, ex-Brookstone, and way back, ex-Sony.

  9. Nook took away the ability to download ebooks 1-2 years ago. I don’t see how this is news or a new feature of their website.

  10. This is BN showing its ineptitude again. Apparently, they’re rolling out the website & features piecemeal. At least that was the explanation I received when I complained about losing my Nook “wish list” from the website. My issue is minor compared to losing books etc, but somehow I think it’s all rolled into the fact that the site was not ready to go live, but instead of waiting, they did it anyway.

  11. just read this & tried to log into my BN account. it worked fine & i was able to see my library — not much in it cuz i buy most e-boox from kobo. don’t have wireless at home so can’t tell if i can actually re-download the books. i do have the nook for PC app & previously downloaded the books into that & from there sideloaded them to my nook color & nook HD+.

    from the looks of things i won’t be buying any more nooks or nook books (as if……); if i wanted proprietary books i can’t read on anything but the store’s hardware i’d get a kindle. & i’m way too invested in the ePub format to do that.

    • I just tried to log in. I can’t.

      • hmm. have you disabled popups for that site? i’m using firefox 34-something & whether i try to log in using “sign in” or “my account” a window pops up with small sign-in screen. i use the browser’s password manager & it completes the fields. a few days ago i couldn’t log on using “sign in” & backed into it using “my account” instead. mysterious are the ways of BN.

        • I have an ad blocker and a tracking script blocker. Popups aren’t specifically blocked; I was able to log in before.

          • Think they are using javacript for the log in box so if you haven’t got the java libraries downloaded it will download them first, hence you think you can’t log in (we’ll skip over why this is bad from a usability perspective for now).

    • Hey Pat, Just wanted to suggest you get whatever e-reader seems most attractive to you in features despite the DRM format . Then use (free) Calibre to store, reformat, transfer or read your library. It’s an amazing program. Don’t forget to install the DRM scrubber after initial install and before dropping and dragging books into Calibre. My sister has a nook, I use kindle and buy tons more books. She comes over and picks through whatever looks good to her. She’s gotten really frustrated with her nook lately as well.

      • The problem with this suggestion is that the Nook hardware is closely tied to the platform. If the latter is turned off then the devices will be useless (until they’re hacked).

        The same is true for Kobo and Kindle.

    • If you wanted proprietary books you can’t read on anything but the store’s hardware, you’d avoid the Kindle too. I have Android devices, and on Google Play I’ve seen the Kindle app, which is software. 😉

  12. Tried to buy a book today, couldn’t. Added book to cart, wouldn’t complete purchase. Tried to use android app couldn’t find shopping cart.

  13. I purchased a free ebook yesterday with no issues. Added it to my shopping bag and from there I checked out. Ran nookstudy and moved the book to Calibre.

  14. And this is why I read sideloaded books in an ebook reader app for Android devices. If the store decides to cut support, I can go shop elsewhere without a problem. Basically, I’m just saying that it’s a good idea not to use e-readers that are tied to ebook stores.

  15. I just checked on the daily reporting window on Smashwords, and sales of my wife’s and my books on B&N just dropped to zero in the last 7 days since this new website launched. In the three weeks prior to that, we sold 25 ebooks on B&N for an average of over 8 per week.

    This might not just make their customers mad, it might make a lot of their self-published authors/suppliers mad.

  16. Technically, fixing your ereader so it works no matter what happens to the platform it’s tied to isn’t hacking, it’s making sure you get what you paid for. P)

  17. I just came back from a week’s vacation to find this article and the later one on B&N shutting down its international sales, and I promptly tried to log into my B&N account on the new site–only to discover that I wasn’t able to log into it on any desktop browser except Internet Explorer.

    As I’ve said on the blog post I just put up (pingback link should be just above), this is pathetic. I test web pages for a living, and I gotta say, who actually approves “inability to log in to customer accounts off the homepage on most major browsers” as an acceptable bug to push to your production site? >:|

    This is, unfortunately, part and parcel of the history of abysmal website support I’ve seen out of them over the years. And it really makes me sad, since I’ve REALLY wanted them to succeed. I’ve bought four, count ’em, four different Nooks. A huge chunk of my ebook purchase history is with them. But at this point, I wouldn’t be too terribly sad if Kobo did in fact wind up buying their customer history.

    And I’m very, very glad I’ve made an ongoing habit of downloading all my purchases everywhere into Calibre. Calibre Companion is my friend.

    • At least you get a web page! Since the switch over, if I try to look at bn.com at home (in California) I get

      The requested URL was rejected. Please consult with your administrator.

      Your support ID is: 8735984517722923925

      It’s been a few days since this was reported. Customer service has not responded beyond the immediate “We’ll get back to you, and in the meantime here are some irrelevant troubleshooting suggestions involving a Nook.”

6 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Barnes & Noble taps new CEO for Nook division as revamped B&N e-commerce site hinders access to e-books - TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics
  2. DRM's Silver Lining, or Why We Should Appreciate Kobo More | Ink, Bits, & Pixels
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  4. The Beginning of the End: B&N Shutters the International Nook Store | Ink, Bits, & Pixels
  5. Barnes and Noble death rattle? – angelahighland.com
  6. B&N Names Frederic Argir As Head of E-Commerce, Nook | The Digital Reader

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