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The B&N College / EpubCheck Press Release Raises More Questions Than it Answers

BBarnes-Noble-Nook-Simple-Touch-with-GlowLight-vs[1]arnes & Noble has put out a press release today that has me scratching my head. The purported reason for the pr is that B&N wants to tell you that B&N College has contributed to EpubCheck, but I am interested in this release because some details don’t add up.


Barnes & Noble College, a subsidiary of NOOK Media LLC, the leading retailer of content, digital media and educational products, announced today that its digital education team has made significant updates to the open source EPUBCheck tool, creating a new way to evaluate EPUB files to ensure they adhere to industry standards. Originally created by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), EPUBCheck is a tool to validate and detect types of errors in IDPF EPUB files. The updates created by the NOOK Digital Education team make it more manageable and easier to facilitate the tool’s integration into publishing workflows and workflow management systems.

EpubCheck is the open source tool everyone uses to make sure their Epub ebooks comply with the Epub spec. Lots of companies and individuals have worked on it, so B&N’s contributions aren’t really all that newsworthy.

But as I read this press release I started wondering why B&N wanted to tell us about this. That is a simple question; they wanted the free advertising from the news coverage.

And I am also wondering why B&N made sure to include a mention of B&N College. This is a B&N subsidiary that runs 600 or so college bookstores under contract to various colleges and universities. It originally belonged to B&N and then was sold off to B&N Chairman Len Riggio before being bought back by B&N. It was later merged into Nook Media, for reasons I never understood.

Why did B&N choose to mention the college bookstore subsidiary? Sure, this division did develop NookStudy in 2009 so they do have some digital chops. But why mention them when B&N could just refer to Nook Media?

I can’t help but wonder if B&N is laying the groundwork for something. Maybe they’re selling off B&N College and want to raise its profile first? Or maybe they plan to launch something related to digital textbooks?

Or maybe I am reading too much into this. What do you think?

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steve October 8, 2013 um 9:25 am

I believe that B&N College was put into NOOK media because Microsoft is going to make a big ereading push into the educational market. It is an open secret that there is an Office app in the works that is can be used for ereading and buying ebooks, but integrated with Office’s productivity tools. In past interviews, the old NOOK CEO William Lynch alluded too all the work NOOK Media was doing with digital classrooms, that they had numerous pilot programs running.

Well, we haven’t seen anything really come out yet. Presumably Microsoft’s purchase of a stake in NOOK Media was about something, something other than patents.

Nate Hoffelder October 8, 2013 um 10:51 am

That was what I thought at the time, but it’s now close to 18 months later. I wonder what is taking so long.

fjtorres October 8, 2013 um 5:59 pm

Microsoft’s investment was about getting an ebookstore for Win8.
And that’s about it.
If they were to do anything more with Nook they would have already.
When MS buys an existing company they (like most tech companies) don’t buy just the product but also the staff and management behind it. With Nook that is not doable so all they’d be buying would be the publisher contracts and a declining market share. Hardly worth a big investment right now.
At this point waiting is the wise move: either Nook recovers by next spring, making it a worthy buy, or it doesn’t, and they can pick up the pieces cheap at bankruptcy court.

Kevin October 9, 2013 um 8:11 am

I also wonder about the ePub3 compatibility mentioned elsewhere in the release. As far as I know, Nooks don’t support ePub3.

Nate Hoffelder October 9, 2013 um 9:00 am

The latest version of EpubCheck tests for Epub3. That was added in (I think) late 2012.

Kevin October 9, 2013 um 9:15 am

I know about that; my point is that Nook doesn’t support ePub 3, so it’s odd that BN is promoting a standard that they don’t participate in.

fjtorres October 9, 2013 um 9:35 am

Not so odd.
The upcoming Nook SW release will have to claim at least partial epub3 compatibility and promise full compatibility "real-soon-now". Assuming they go ahead with the SW release, of course. They can always change their minds…yet again…

Iaminvincible October 9, 2013 um 5:11 pm

I find trying to divine B&N’s motives is like finding sense in madness. Who knows?

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