It looks Like B&N Has Thrown in the Towel on the Nook

It looks Like B&N Has Thrown in the Towel on the Nook Barnes & Noble

Len Riggio has just dashed the hopes of everyone who had been praying for a Nook turnaround.

According to Publishers Weekly, Riggio told the attendees at the B&N annual meting that the retailer fully recognizes its failures as a tech company.

Riggio also assured shareholders that B&N is no longer in the tech business. While the Nook e-reader and e-books will remain a part of the company's offerings to customers, bricks and mortar stores will be its focus. Riggio explained that when e-book sales began exploding several years ago, B&N felt it had no choice but to enter the digital market. In retrospect, Riggio said, B&N didn't have the culture or financing to compete with the likes of Amazon and Google.

Instead, according to Riggio, B&N will focus on its physical stores and will partner with technology companies to keep a presence in the digital space. "There is no business model in technology" for B&N, Riggio acknowledged.

While I am sure everyone saw this coming, we were all still hoping for a miracle turnaround where someone at B&N got a clue and figured out how to rescue the Nook.

Digital was the one bright light at B&N - it's why B&N revenues rose in 2010 and 2011. Online sales and ebook sales made up for B&N's declining retail sales,  painting the picture that B&N was making an orderly transition to the modern era.

People want to shop online, and they want to buy ebooks, and for a brief while it looked like B&N could give customers what they want. But that illusion was slowly stripped away as Nook entered its death spiral following the 2012 holiday season.

Nook revenues have since declined to the point that Kindle Unlimited is far larger (and the new version of B&N's website is so painful to use that online sales are also declining). While one estimate said  Nook ebooks sales exceeded Kobo ebook sales in 2016, you shouldn't bet money on things staying that way.

Instead, the more likely scenario is that B&N is going to strike a deal with Kobo to let the latter either run Nook or simply take over Nook customer accounts. In either case, B&N will got from being a potential player to being little more than one of Kobo's retail partners - think Indigo, only in the US.

B&N probably winces every time they are compared to Indigo, but that Canadian bookseller is the perfect example of what Barnes & Noble could have done. Both companies got into ebooks in 2009 by launching their own platforms, but Indigo was smart about it: they found international partners early on, and when Rakuten came calling in 2011, Indigo sold out.

Indigo still sells Kobo ebooks and ereaders, but they don't own the platform and thus don't have to invest in or maintain it. Instead they have focused on turning their retail business around (and they've succeeded, too).

Indigo is the perfect example of how to turn around an ailing bookseller.

It's too late for B&N's current management to copy Indigo, but who knows, when B&N goes bankrupt maybe Indigo will get a chance to take over the remains and see if they can pull their magic trick twice.

image by dreig

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. 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.

36 Comments

  1. Allen F22 September, 2017

    “Riggio also assured shareholders that B&N is no longer in the tech business.”

    But it never was, not really. Their website has never been useful enough that I’d consider buying a book from it.

    And they still hate taking an order for something they didn’t think to stock.

    I’ve been getting a good chuckle watching SZ whine about how important B&N is to writers and publishers – even though they and B&N itself seem to disagree with him.

    Reply
  2. Susan22 September, 2017

    It is upsetting and a complete betrayal. When BN came out with their first Ereader they were at the front of the line. How could they ignore their customers and lose so much ground so quickly? They should be ashamed and embarrassed at where they have fallen so low and why. They at least should honor their customers and turn them over to Kobo instead of dragging this embarrassing travesty any further.

    Reply
  3. Ed Bear22 September, 2017

    Barnes and igNoble doomed themselves when they went along with the “we hate digital” traditional publishers and let Big Book essentially dictate their business model for paper and digital. They bought Fictionwise to have a claim to digital, but totally ignored the way Fictionwise very successfully marketed eBooks, since it didn’t fit Big Book’s “high prices == high profits” business model. I doubt the Big Book publisers are ever going to figure out that destroying a major book chain for a short-term money-and-power grab is the equivalent of cutting their own throats.

    Reply
    1. BDR23 September, 2017

      B&N “doomed themselves” with their own idiocy.

      From letting Amazon run them over in the early days — when Amazon could’ve been squashed like a bug — to torpedoing the Nook with absurd memory constraints to living room lounge chairs in their stores that became a haven for the homeless to an on-line strategy that can charitably be considered stupid, to their latest venture of the restaurant biz, they’ve proven themselves too stupid to remain in business and THAT’S why their stock price has fallen 75% in a few short years.

      Reply
  4. Carmen Webster Buxton22 September, 2017

    As I see it, their fundamental problem is, they’re a physical book store chain. They sell print books, and they cannot bring themselves to do ANYTHING that could harm print book sales. Amazon sells tons of stuff in additon to books, and doesn’t care nearly as much whether you buy print or ebook, and in fact since they’re mostly a website, they can appreciate the savings in shipping costs for ebooks.

    Well, this explains why my B&N sales are so much lower than my iBooks sales.

    Reply
  5. BDR23 September, 2017

    In fact, Indigo IS coming to America in 2018, apparently. After Kobo’s nightmare with Borders, do they REALLY want an association with B&N; soon to become the next Borders? They get — what — 18 months, maybe 2 years of distribution before the get caught up in another bankruptcy? When their pals at Indigo, evidently, will be here within the year? With a website operation all ready to go and better than B&N?

    https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/74306-canadian-bookseller-indigo-eyes-a-move-into-u-s-for-2018.html

    Reply
  6. RL23 September, 2017

    Unlike Amazon, B&N just had to focus on physical and electronic book sales. They did not have to sell tablets, they should have just focused on selling and supporting their eReaders. In addition,they had the advantage of having physical stores that provided customer service.

    Their failure is not due to Amazon; this was just bad leadership.

    Reply
  7. Celeste M. Bath23 September, 2017

    They’re going to let KOBO run it?
    There goes my income stream. Kobo bans X and lots of kink erotica. I was making bank off of Kobo until they decided that they didn’t want people like me competing with 50 shades of gray (which they sell).
    B&N’s website is the most mismanaged thing out there, and it’s a shame because they make way more than kobo does. I don’t know why they’ve continually hired ASSHOLES to run the website, but sadly, they have.

    Reply
  8. Robert Canipe24 September, 2017

    Barnes and Noble seem to Want to fail. Taking out NEW RELEASE sections, their terrible website, hateful employees who never straighten a magazine, chairs where people “library” all day, coffee shops where people read the magazines for free while B&N return them.

    B&N is a clusterfrack so easily repaired.

    Reply
  9. John24 September, 2017

    B&N made it almost impossible to publish a book on Nook. I looked a couple of years ago and gave up trying to understand exactly what they wanted. On the other hand Amazon made it a process of click, click & done. Which one would you choose? B&N were out of the ebook business in the UK for a year or two.

    Reply
  10. mrsnotbucks24 September, 2017

    I am sorry, this does look like a death strike for B&N. I like my nooks, and I love their stores. But, progress happens. If management is shortsighted, or tech-phobic, the store just won’t last. I’m not sure anything will last anymore, tech is growing and taking over most things nowadays. We’ll all be sorry when there aren’t any more stores.

    Reply
  11. Chris Meadows24 September, 2017

    So, focusing on its physical stores and partnering with others for its technology.

    How is this different from what they’ve been doing lately? Sounds like they’re just finally admitting it is all.

    Reply
    1. Lori L. Robinett25 September, 2017

      Exactly what I thought . . .

      Reply
  12. […] It’s Official – B&N Has Thrown in the Towel on the Nook (The Digital Reader) […]

    Reply
  13. Geeta Chankasingh24 September, 2017

    It’s sad what happened to B&N. I had received their first Nook as a present and enjoyed using it. Maybe they should do a trial run a new one.

    Reply
    1. Chris Meadows24 September, 2017

      They have a new one. It’s a $50 plain vanilla Android tablet. Seems pretty nice, too.

      Reply
  14. Monika Holabird24 September, 2017

    I’ve wondered for years why Barnes & Noble didn’t make their own subscription-based ereading service like Kindle Unlimited, but without exclusivity…

    And why they didn’t leverage the ONE thing they had over Amazon in the bookselling business: physical bookstores. One of the downsides indie authors lament about not going trad pub is not seeing their books in physical bookstores… but what if indie bestsellers made it into print in the B&N physical stores? How many indies would have flocked from KDP Select to try B&N and maybe see their book on the shelf? B&N could have slowed or turned around the slow bleed of indie books out of Nook and into Amazon’s exclusive KDP Select… But if Nook readers can’t find the books they want to read at B&N, what else would happen but them hightailing it to Amazon, where they can get any books they want?

    Was it all just to appease the big traditional publishers? Not like those publishers were going to withhold their books from the largest bookstore chain.

    Unfortunate decisions and sad outcome for what could have been something great…

    Reply
  15. Rhonda Wise24 September, 2017

    I love my Nook and had so many high hopes for it. At first I could and did read things from many places on it. Especially old, out of print books – as in Medieval, Victorian and early 20th century. Then the Nook changed so I could no longer read those books. And when my CC expired and was replaced, I suddenly could not read the books purchased on the Nook because they had been purchased with a different CC number. Now I can only easily read Nook purchased books, online items and books saved as txts because of changes to the Nook reading platform. So much for reading anything from the massive number of e-books I purchased at the onset. I still, however, like my Nook tablet. I am not surprised, however, that B&N will no longer support it – they never supported it properly.

    Reply
  16. Cathryn Cade24 September, 2017

    Barnes & Noble top management in the last 10 years seems to present a textbook example of ostriches doing everything possible to avoid opportunity. They were a great company who were already in the digital marketplace. They could have hired decent management who understood running a digital biz, and been even more successful. They didn’t have to ‘beat’ Amazon, just hold the course into the future of reading. Instead, they choose to fall back and sell cards and toys. Sigh…

    Reply
  17. Suz24 September, 2017

    They should just sell out their Nook business to Kobo and let us read our Nook books on Kobo’s excellent devices. BN could have really given Amazon a run for the money but they hired the wrong people and stopped listening to their customers. They put out their latest e-ink reader and did nothing to enhance it to keep up with the competition. If the company isn’t interested in their own product – why should customers be interested in them. You have to give loyalty to receive loyalty and Barnes and Noble is a huge fail.

    Reply
  18. Sharon Coates24 September, 2017

    I have over 1000 Nook ebooks. These are not my physical files to keep and read on other devices. I can’t even import them to another reader. If they stop supporting my ebooks I lose all my library. This is not fair. Please give me my files and let me choose what reader app I want to use to read my books on.

    Reply
    1. Mary Jo26 September, 2017

      I agree with you. I have close to 700 books in my archive library. I hope they do something so we can save these books. We paid good money for these. I don’t know much about the other program they mentioned. Kobo??? Can that by chance open the nook books?

      Reply
    2. Lizabeth S Tucker27 September, 2017

      If they do the same thing as Kobo did with Sony, you will be notified that you have X amount of days to verify your collection has been transferred. After that date, you won’t be able to access those books and will have to rebuy them. I hope they don’t do what they did with the last couple of models of Sony eReaders where you couldn’t connect the two. I have my Sony ebooks on the Kobo account, but I cannot read them on my eReader unless they were already downloaded onto it.

      Reply
  19. […] Nook had a long, fruitful run, appearing first in 2009 as a unique LCD/e-ink hybrid device. The Digital Reader believes that existing Nook users will be transferred to Kobo, a competing e-book […]

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  20. […] Nook had a long, fruitful run, appearing first in 2009 as a unique LCD/e-ink hybrid device. The Digital Reader believes that existing Nook users will be transferred to Kobo, a competing e-book […]

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  21. […] Nook had a long, fruitful run, appearing first in 2009 as a unique LCD/e-ink hybrid device. The Digital Reader believes that existing Nook users will be transferred to Kobo, a competing e-book […]

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  22. […] Nook had a long, fruitful run, appearing first in 2009 as a unique LCD/e-ink hybrid device. The Digital Reader believes that existing Nook users will be transferred to Kobo, a competing e-book […]

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  23. The Nook, she is dead |26 September, 2017

    […] Nook had a long, fruitful run, appearing first in 2009 as a unique LCD/e-ink hybrid device. The Digital Reader believes that existing Nook users will be transferred to Kobo, a competing e-book […]

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  24. […] Nook had a long, fruitful run, appearing first in 2009 as a unique LCD/e-ink hybrid device. The Digital Reader believes that existing Nook users will be transferred to Kobo, a competing e-book […]

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  25. […] Nook had a long, fruitful run, appearing first in 2009 as a unique LCD/e-ink hybrid device. The Digital Reader believes that existing Nook users will be transferred to Kobo, a competing e-book […]

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  26. The Nook, she is dead - Blog26 September, 2017

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  28. Laura27 September, 2017

    I thought the original Nook and the Nook Simple Touch were the best ereaders of their time. Nook Color/Tablet and Nook HD/HD+ were excellent as well. Now I’ve switched to Kobo ereaders and regular Android tablets. Their failure in the ebook market is a whole other story.

    Reply
  29. Lizabeth S Tucker27 September, 2017

    Kobo sucks. When they took over the Sony bookstore, they never managed to make it user friendly with the last couple of models of the Sony eReader. I still have my Sony, but it mostly is used for free books and library books. Got a Kindle for everything else.

    Reply
  30. […] I wrote last month that B&N was throwing in the towel on the Nook, a lot of people read it less as the speculation I thought I was writing and more as a declaration […]

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