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B&N is Not Getting Out of eBooks, Expands "B&N Education" Team at Nook Media

With manybarnes noble logo managers leaving, revenues down, and news of nearly 100 people being laid off, Barnes & Noble’s ebook division looks to be in disarray. This has led many pundits to assume that B&N would either sell off or shut down Nook Media, and there has even been speculation that B&N might simply walk away or be acquired as a unit by Walmart.

It now looks like none of the crazier possibilities are going to happen, and in fact B&N is showing signs that they plan to stay in ebooks. While investigating the departure of the most recent Nook Manager, last night I came across evidence that there is a team at Nook Media that has a new manager, new focus, and several job openings.

Barnes & Noble Education Technology is described as "an exciting incubator at the heart of Nook Media". I have found signs (a job listing on LinkedIn) that suggest this team has been around for a year or more, though what brought it to my attention was that the team got a new manager.

windows-nook-tablet-new[1]Roger Bishoff, formerly of Microsoft, is the new Engineering Manager at B&N Education. According to his LinkedIn profile, he took on the job in late January, and is still based near Seattle.¬† Given that Nook Media is based in NYC and Palo Alto it is rather curious that a new manager would be based in Seattle, but apparently he’s not the only one.¬† LinkedIn is showing that there is at least one other ex-Microsoftie working for B&N in the Seattle area, and there’s also a new job listing for B&N Education based in Redmond.

There is also a spate of job openings in both NYC and Palo Alto which mention B&N Education, though of course that doesn’t tell us much more than, like most tech companies, Nook Media is hiring.

But I can report that my other sources have been telling me that B&N was working on a new and expanded version of Nook Study, the digital textbook app which B&N launched in mid-2010. A rumor to this effect has been circulating since at least the summer of 2012 (and was apparently started by B&N saying that a Nook Study iPad app was coming soon).

I’m told the new Nook Study will also show the influence of Pearson’s investment in Nook Media in December 2012. That educational publisher bought a 5% share of Nook Media for $90 million. According to my source Nook Study will be integrated with Pearson’s OpenClass LMS product, with the goal of providing a new product to college campuses that would combine Pearson and B&N college stores.

This may or may not have been one of B&N’s long term goals when Nook Media was spun off in early 2012, and it would explain why the 700 odd B&N College stores were included in Nook Media at the time.

So what does all this mean?

Other than B&N isn’t planning to sell off or shut down Nook Media, not much. I doubt that the rumored MS acquisition is still in the works; if that were the case I would expect to see dozens of jobs based in Redmond, not a handful.

Update: I also don’t believe the wild speculation coming from Business Insider that B&N had fired the Nook Hardware team; that has already been denied by B&N.

But as for what B&N is planning to do next, only they know.

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fjtorres February 10, 2014 um 12:46 pm

Hmm, maybe Nook Media pivots to the drastically mis-served educational ebook market and spins the consumer ebooks to Microsoft under the XBOX Books banner?

flyingtoastr February 10, 2014 um 1:13 pm

BN has had positions in Seattle since the MS deal. Not many, but it’s been a section of their careers site for a while.

I’ve been saying that this is what BN should have been doing for a while. Amazon can outspend BN in the trade market, but they’ve got nothing in education (I’m sorry, the have an affiliate website for a whopping two schools… lol). BN has a huge presence on campuses already with tons of free marketing, hundred-year-old relationships with the textbook publishers, and Apple in the 90’s proved that a company can survive by hitting the education market hard.

Nate Hoffelder February 10, 2014 um 9:40 pm

Yes. But not very many.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) February 10, 2014 um 1:20 pm

B&N needs to figure out a marketing strategy. Their Nook forums are almost empty. They do not offer any advertising opportunities for indies–and while indies may not be all that and everything, they can still drive a significant amount of traffic with very little encouragement needed. B&N used to have a program for getting reviews on their site (they tapped bloggers) but they only did it for a short while. Even Kobo, which has few reviews, is offering a 50 percent off coupon for people leaving an honest review.

B&N lacks an easy-to-find blog (they do have one, but it’s fairly dry and boring, consisting of a few reviews) and any kind of effective newsletter. These are some BASIC things they could be working on. Put a few coupons in your newsletter and watch how many people sign up. Link to your blog and FB for the possibility of more coupons…anything. TRY SOMETHING.

flyingtoastr February 10, 2014 um 1:29 pm

BN is in the midst of rebuilding their website, which should be relaunched around April, according to the investor call with Husseby last quarter.

But really, BN offers a (very good) affiliate program for indys, and includes oodles of indy titles in their rolling "$2.99 or less" promotion in their NOOK shops. What more do you want? Free television promos for "Awesome Indy Novel That Hasn’t Been Edited AT ALL"? Marketing is *your job*, not the retailer’s.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) February 10, 2014 um 1:44 pm

I wasn’t talking about offering indie marketing ops, other than as a potential idea of something they could do to generate TRAFFIC to their site. The banner thing you speak of is great and hopefully the indies who are featured do their part to get people to B&N. My real issue is that as a READER I don’t see them or use them. I go to their site often because I’m a B&N affiliate. I haven’t seen the banner thing you describe, but then, I usually plug in a book title and go to that title (or author). I don’t see a lot of "Other" books once I’m there.

My point is that they need to do more to GET people there to see these banners. And then things to keep them there looking around (possibly easy access to a blog/forum or discussions on the books if they exist).

They did redesign their site a couple of years ago and it is MUCH improved from when they tried to run ads for unrelated products down one side of the page. That was annoying as all get-out and slowed the site loads significantly. Thankfully that is gone.

Barnes & Noble Launches New e-Textbook App – Yuzu – The Digital Reader April 20, 2014 um 9:17 pm

[…] Digital Reader was the first to report earlier this year that Barnes & Noble was turning their attention to the digital education market (I scooped the […]

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