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B&N is Shutting Down One of Its Top Three Digital Blunders on 15 March

6370983287_0f5792a0be_b1Barnes & Noble announced a slew of of closures on Thursday, including Nook Video, the UK Nook Store, and what had to have been one of B&N’s greatest digital mistakes.

B&N sent out an email on Thursday which informed users that the Nook’s own branded app store was going away:

Effective March 15, 2016, NOOK will no longer offer third party applications (Apps) for sale from the NOOK Store™. All of your existing Apps previously purchased from the NOOK Store will remain in your NOOK Library™ and will continue to be accessible on compatible NOOK devices. This means that you will still be able to download and install previously purchased Apps from the NOOK Library on your device.

The Nook App Store earned itself a eulogy because it is one of the reasons that the Nook platform failed.

I don’t really have time to explain this in depth, so here’s the short version.

During the early years of the Nook platform, before B&N sold rebranded Samsung tablets, its hardware strategy was built around custom Nook Android tablets.

Starting with the release of the Nook Color in 2010 and ending with the release of the Nook HD in 2012, B&N was building its own tablets and then trying to support them with an ebookstore and an app store.

Here’s the catch: You could load ebooks on to the Nook tablets from many ebookstores, but thanks to how B&N locked down the hardware you could only get apps from B&N.

That’s not a terrible idea on the face of it, but B&N could never make it work. They never had more than a couple hundred apps in the Nook App Store during that period, virtually guaranteeing that you would not be able to find the 4 or 5 apps you absolutely needed (I wanted OverDrive and Adobe Reader, and could get neither).

That is still a workable idea, if a user’s requirements are low enough, or if the locked down device costs a lot less than another tablet which perhaps shipped with Google Play.

Unfortunately, Barnes & Noble was charging about the same price for their ereaders cum Android tablets as Samsung and other tablet makers were charging for the Android tablets that shipped with Google Play.

If we look back to 2011, we recall that the original Kindle Fire, for example, torpedoed B&N’s plans to sell the Nook Tablet for $349 in late 2011 when the KF launched with a price tag of $199. (Even though the KF lacked Google Play, you could still do more with that tablet than you could with the Nook Tablet.)

$349 was the price of a premium tablet then, and it is still a premium price. And B&N thought they could sell what would best be described as an ereader at that price and that everyone would be satisfied with an anemic app store.

I wasn’t, and most people weren’t happy about it either.

This, folks, was one of the reasons why the Nook failed. B&N underestimated consumers who were savvy enough to figure out that they could read Nook ebooks on other hardware, but they couldn’t do jack with B&N’s tablets because of the sparse app store.

And so the only people who bought B&N’s tablets were B&N loyalists, the less tech savvy, and those with fewer needs.

Everyone else bought a gadget elsewhere, leaving B&N on the hook to sell millions of devices no one wanted to buy (hence the increasing number of two-for-one sales, refurb deals, and bundle offer in 2012 and 2013).

I don’t know that the Nook would have survived if B&N had never opened the Nook App Store; B&N made so many stupid mistakes that the platform was arguably doomed.

But I do know that the Nook App Store is one of the reasons that the Nook platform is dead today.

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Geoffrey Kidd March 3, 2016 um 9:41 pm

As far as I’m concerned, the Nook died the day B&N announced that one could no longer side-download the books to my personal PC. That, BTW, is why I no longer subscribe to Analog OR Asimov’s, since Amazon followed that same utterly stupid practice. I removed my credit Card information from the site and erased the two logins I had from my password vault.

Barnes and Noble screwed up their eBook program from Day Zero, and never really recovered.

Andrè M. Pietroschek March 4, 2016 um 12:45 am

So two lobotomized cheetahs would have come to the same result as 'global business bosses' once again. That is certainly nice to know.

Barnes & Noble will no longer sell apps through NOOK Store – Liliputing March 4, 2016 um 9:00 am

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Frank March 4, 2016 um 12:18 pm

At least B&N is still focused on it remaining digital content business, which are Books and Newsstand.

gordon20 March 4, 2016 um 1:01 pm

Your assumption that Barnes & Noble didn’t want to provide users access to the Play store is wrong. Google would not allow them to as long as they used their own Nook interface.

Nate Hoffelder March 4, 2016 um 1:14 pm

No, I didn’t assume that. My assumption was that B&N didn’t want you to sideload apps so that you would be forced to buy the apps through them.

I already knew that at that time Google wasn’t willing to work with very many device makers. That made Google Play an impossible option, but B&N could have still let us side load apps.

fjtorres March 7, 2016 um 1:34 pm

When people found a way to sideload, they promptly released updates to block them.
The Amazon tablets (and STBs) also lack Play but they have never tried to block sideloading on any of them. In the latest firmware for the FireTV they even let you add sideloaded apps to the homescreen, which didn’t use to be possible. Enough people are doing it that they took time to *accomodate* sideloading.
Just doing nothing would’ve been more customer friendly than what they did.

Ellis March 9, 2016 um 8:15 pm

That’s kinda hard to believe since most tablets offer their own android skin and it wasn’t that the Nook tablet didn’t come with Google apps, you couldn’t sideload them, either. That wasn’t coming from Google, that was B&N’s choice.

Guess again.

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Mark Ritchie March 4, 2016 um 2:38 pm

Y’all are not pointing out that Google Play store came to the Nook HD line in May 2013. It was effectively a Version 2 of Nook HD, and it made that tablet pretty much awesome. I used mine as an almost-full Android tablet from that point onward. The only reason I didn’t go to a Samsung Nook was that they downgraded the screen quality from the HD to the Samsungs. So now I’m a happy iPad Mini owner.

Jim Deibele March 5, 2016 um 2:35 pm

Biggest problems I have with the 3 Nook HDs I got for my kids is the proprietary connector for charging and how sensitive they are with power. You have to get a power adapter that works – Ankier makes at least one with 4 outlets that lets us charge 2 Nooks at a time.

I ended up putting CyanogenMod on them. You can still add the Nook app from the Google Play store. We use the Nooks when traveling because I can put movies on MicroSD cards and plug them in.

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NF March 5, 2016 um 3:56 pm

I owned 2 Nooks and the first thing I did was put CyanogenMod on them…

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Ken J. March 7, 2016 um 1:12 pm

I was gifted with a Nook Tablet about a year after its release. The Nook App store was possibly the most awful experience of my online shopping life. At best the content appeared curated for small children; I despaired of finding apps which did anything useful and well.

The sad thing is, I still prefer the Nook app e-book reader interface to the Kindle app, but it looks like I better be making plans for the likely Nook future.

oj829 March 7, 2016 um 2:01 pm

Y’all are not pointing out that Google Play store came to the Nook HD line in May 2013. It was effectively a Version 2 of Nook HD, and it made that tablet pretty much awesome.

Still couldn’t sideload apps.

Still had minimal storage for sideloading books to the main nook library app/reader.

All moot now, I suppose, but I still use my Nook HD. Still love it. Great screen, light weight, easy to hold, and its biggest deficit (inaudible speakers) has been solved with acquisition of a refurb’ed JBL Bluetooth speaker.

So long, Nook…

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Michael N. March 8, 2016 um 4:18 am

I bought two of the original Nook for me and my wife. My only complaint was that the battery didn’t last long. I upgraded to a Simple Touch and was happy with it over all, but it had to be kept warm On cold winter days. If I put it in the door pocket of the minivan it would shut down completely until it warmed up. I love the Nook! I did not get it for apps, I got it for books. I was also happy that I could download the Nook app on my Samsung tablet or my phone! I just hope they continue to sell e-books and keep the accounts open, since I have a couple hundred books to download if it’s going away as well. As an e-reader, I love the .epub format, which is non-proprietary… and the main reason I didn’t get a Kindle.

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raphael March 9, 2016 um 10:43 pm

Read real books. Problem solved.

Laura March 17, 2016 um 4:58 pm

My memory is very different. I remember the Nook Color being quite popular with the tech savvy because it was cheaper then comparable Android tablets at the time and very easy to mod.

Nate Hoffelder March 17, 2016 um 5:04 pm

I took my Nook Tablet back because it was a $200 ereader passed off as a tablet, and so did a lot of other people. Thta’s why it was so easy to get them as refurbs, or in bundles.

A small group of modders may have liked the Nook hardware, but that doesn’t negate the fact that B&N’s hardware efforts were a huge failure.

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Heather June 7, 2016 um 11:48 am

How do I get apps on my nook ?

Nate Hoffelder June 7, 2016 um 11:50 am

The Nook HD and Nook HD+ both have Google Play.

What model do you have?

Dr H May 3, 2017 um 5:52 pm

As Mark Twain might have said, "rumors of the Nook’s demise have been a bit premature". B&N is currently selling 5 different varieties of Nook, from a 6″ eReader only, to a 9.6″ full featured Android tablet.

I bought my first Nook HD+ in 2013, and it came with all of the "Google Play" apps preinstalled (in fact, it took me a while to figure out how to disable the Google apps that I never used…)

I was able to sideload books onto the Nook from day 1. Yeah, it was most straightforward to put them on the micro SD chip (64Gb), but you could also put them into internal memory (32Gb) by simply copying them from your PC into the internal "B&N Downloads\Books" folder. Never had a bit of problem with it. Paid $169, and I own four of them.

'Course, I never wanted a "full tablet" — I was primarily interested in a good reader, with a good, high-res screen. The Nook filled that bill handsomely, and continues to do so.

Oh, and even though B&N no longer sells apps through their store, you can DL and install apps from the Google Play Store directly onto the Nook.

Don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Nate Hoffelder May 3, 2017 um 6:40 pm

The fuss is about B&N hasn’t developed a new device of their own since 2013. All of their recent devices were from Samsung or Chinese OEMs.

The fuss is about B&N used to be the second largest ebookstore. Then they imploded five years ago, and have been in decline ever since.

The fuss is about b&N only has about a fifth the digital business they had at their peak.

So yes, there’s a lot of reasons for fuss.

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