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More on B&N: Staff Cuts, Market Share, a New Focus on the Educational Market, and a New Tablet

Along barnes noble logowith releasing their quarterly report on Wednesday, Barnes & Noble held an earnings call with analysts. (You can find the entire text over on Seeking Alpha.) Here are some of the highlights from the call:

A new focus on the education market

Barnes & Noble has confirmed my two week old story that they have a new focus on serving college students:

Barnes & Noble is a leader in the collegiate market, and we plan to aggressively leverage this knowledge and experience to innovate and become the leader in digital education. Our education applications are approaching their initial release. We’re planning to have a soft launch of our product prior to the end of the fiscal year to allow for testing and updates and plan a broader launch ahead of the 2014 fall back-to-school season. We will leverage our almost 700 campus bookstore relationships, which encompass 25% of the U.S. higher education student and faculty base, to bring the product to market. Our offering will also be available via a national website to students who are not served by a Barnes & Noble College bookstore and want a leading-edge digital learning experience. We believe that our educational applications will become the most innovative and demanded educational platform.

Staff Cuts

That inaccurate Business Insider story about the Nook hardware team getting sacked had a grain of truth. Or rather, the followup story from the NY Times was correct when they reported that B&N had gone through a major layoff:

This workforce reduction resulted in the elimination of approximately 75 positions. Thus far, charges associated with the recent reduction in force were approximately $2.4 million, which include benefits and severance arrangements, which will be recorded in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014. Since fiscal 2014 began, approximately 190 NOOK positions have been eliminated both through reductions and attrition.

Barnes & Noble confirmed in the Q&A section at the end of the call that Nook Media has a staff of around 500 people.


B&N is still claiming ownership of their Windows-only international Nook Store, even though it is showing every sign of being a Microsoft demesne.

(Huseby): As I said in my remarks, we have a very valuable digital content catalog, and we’re also in the process in connection with our work with Microsoft, to building an expansive international content catalog. We’re in over 30 countries and when a — we can leverage that content catalog that we’re acquiring as we pursue these partnership opportunities with other technology companies and put that content on their platforms.

A New Tablet

And last but not least, B&N has a new tablet in the works:

And I’m pleased to announce that in early fiscal 2015, we expect to launch a new NOOK Color device in collaboration with a third-party partner.

All signs point to this being another consumer tablet, but at least this time around there’s chance that B&N won’t commit to buying too many untis which they cannot sell.

Market Share

Shelf Awareness reported yesterday that B&N is claiming 20% of the ebook market. I can’t find that detail, but even if I did I would not believe it.

B&N sold $57 million in digital content last quarter, including video and apps. I don’t have market data to compare that too yet, but I do know that in the period from November 2012 to January 2013 the AAP tracked ebook sales stats which were worth over $300 million, by my estimate. And since they were only tracking about half of the ebook market, the actual ebook market value was probably well over $500 million for that period. If we simply assume that the 3 month period in late 2013 and January 2014 is equal in size then B&N has something closer to 10% of the ebook market than 20%.

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fjtorres February 28, 2014 um 10:29 am

Cue Mr Riggio’s personal assistant in 5…4…3….

Nate Hoffelder February 28, 2014 um 10:31 am

That’s rude, but it did make me LOL.

fjtorres February 28, 2014 um 12:16 pm

He does speak with all the authority and attitude of an insider, no? 😉

yuzutea February 28, 2014 um 11:55 am

Just to confirms, fiscal 2015 begins in May? Therefore, early in the fiscal year 2015 would be May-July, probably. Late in fiscal 2014 would probably mean March-April.

How successful has Nook been already in the digital educational market? Who are their competitors there?

Geert February 28, 2014 um 12:16 pm

From reading the information I assume that the whole education thing will be web based (that is why it will be available on all platforms), so this probably depends on the new B&N website which will be launched in April.

Nate Hoffelder February 28, 2014 um 8:17 pm

I was thinking it would be an app, but web content is another possibility. About all we know is that B&N phrased this like they plan to sell students and not to schools.

Nate Hoffelder February 28, 2014 um 8:19 pm

Are you sure that’s what Huseby meant by early? I’m not. At the very least I would have thought that early meant the first 4 months, while middle and late referred to the last 8 months.

An August launch is still a possibility.

fjtorres February 28, 2014 um 3:00 pm

In the NYT report on the state of Nook, the reporter clarified.

They "believe" they hold 20% share, from talking to the BPHs.
So its not based on any real numbers, just gossip.

The 10% estimate is probably high but it is at least based on semi-credible numbers.

Nate Hoffelder February 28, 2014 um 4:17 pm

Ah, so is this like believing in the tooth fairy?

fjtorres February 28, 2014 um 5:36 pm

Estimating total market size by talking with BPH execs?
What do you think? 😉

Whateveragain March 1, 2014 um 9:22 am

They said they weren’t going to make anymore tablets. Now they are. It seems like there is no one at the helm. B&N is sure to crash. That is unfortunate for the people who rely on them for employment.

We saw Sony making similar poor / odd decisions, and now they are pulling out. Both companies e-book divisions were managed by out-of-touch incompetents. I guess they go a little crazy.

Barnes & Noble Launches New e-Textbook App – Yuzu – The Digital Reader April 21, 2014 um 5:37 pm

[…] that Barnes & Noble was turning their attention to the digital education market (I scooped the official announcement by about 3 weeks). At the time I was hopeful that this pivot could save B&N’s digital […]

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