Will anyone miss the Nook?

Barnes & Noble might soon be sending its flagship e-reader to the great beyond.

By TheWeek.com Feb 25, 2013 2:08PM
Stack of Library Books copyright Fuse, Fuse, Getty ImagesThe New York Times reports that Barnes & Noble (BKS) is scaling back hardware production, which is a big deal if your sole piece of hardware -- the Nook -- was widely touted as the cornerstone of your company's future. 

According to inside sources, executives of the nation's biggest bookstore chain are considering "a move away from its program to engineer and build its own devices and focus more on licensing its content to other device makers." In other words, Nooks could disappear. 

The past few years have been less than kind to B&N as it has struggled to compete with Amazon (AMZN), which has mastered the art of selling books at steep, unmatchable discounts, and whose Kindle -- the Nook's direct rival -- commands an estimated 55% of the e-book market. 

Despite impressive reviews of its newest line of Nook HD tablets, slumping 2012 holiday sales are apparently prompting B&N executives to re-evaluate the company's hardware strategy. The under-the-radar device has simply failed to generate much noise in a marketplace littered with Kindle Fires, iPad Minis, and Google-backed Androids.

While B&N's nearly 700 physical stores nationwide are surprisingly profitable (for now) --producing $317 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (or Ebitda) in fiscal 2012 -- developing and manufacturing the Nook has proven costly. According to The Wall Street Journal, B&N's Nook business suffered $262 million in Ebitda losses for the fiscal year 2012, prompting the company's chairman and biggest shareholder, Leonard Riggio, to "express interest in buying out the retailer's consumer-bookstore chain, raising the prospect that the company could be split in two." Bloomberg confirms that B&N is considering Riggio's proposal.

That said, giving B&N's tablet division the scalpel treatment might save the Nook's life -- at least in theory. Lumbering yet lucrative, the company's retail division is projected to shutter as many as a third of its megastores within the next 10 years as consumers continue to migrate online. A newly nimble Nook Media LLC, on the other hand, could refocus its resources into R&D to manufacture a product with a real identity, one capable of carving out a place for itself alongside cheap Kindles or luxe iPads. 

Or maybe it's just too late. "We've moved beyond a game of specs," Horace Dediu, an independent analyst based in Finland, tells the Times. "Now it is about your business model, about distribution, and economics of scale." Basically, Amazon has Barnes & Noble's digital division beat every which way.

Perhaps the Nook was destined to fade away from the moment it went on sale in 2009. With no recognizable talent for technology or marketing wizardry behind it, it's easy to see how the iconic '80s bookseller could be left gasping for air behind the Apples, Samsungs, and Amazons of the world. Perhaps the Nook's death knell sounded a long time ago and we just didn't hear it.

Which, for a device as unassuming as the Nook, might actually be appropriate.

More from The Week
Feb 25, 2013 3:41PM
I really like my Nook I use it all the time. I also go to the B&N store when I want to buy a hardcopy book even though its farther away than the local Books a Million.
Feb 25, 2013 4:02PM
My Nook Tablet is so much more user friendly and compatable that any of my friends Kindle. The only thing a Kindle offers that  out does the Nook- is the glare screen. Other than that in a side by comparison- my Nook tablet out performes the Kindle Fire. So Yes- I would miss Nook.
Feb 25, 2013 4:04PM
My nook is great, the only problem I have is the price of the books.
Feb 25, 2013 4:21PM
Yes I would miss my Nook it was a lot cheaper then other brands by far when I got mine and still use it daily it is very user friendly and have found authors that I never would have in store
Feb 25, 2013 3:53PM
I would miss the Nook since all 17 of my novels are published on BN.com and downloadable as Nook books!
I use my Nook daily.  Its the perfect size for my purse.  May daughter loves her's as well.  We would both miss the Nook.  

Feb 25, 2013 4:42PM
Well, if the Nook had any chance to hold up in the marketplace before, it sure doesn't now after articles like this come out.  Who is going to spend a couple of hundred bucks on a one of several versions of the same basic thing if it doesn't look like it is going to be around for the immediate future.  Of course, B&N could spin off the hardware business and sell the nook brand to another party who is more eager to continue and push forward...maybe that is actually what they're thinking at this point.
Feb 25, 2013 5:10PM
Love my nook would really miss it plus user friendly
Feb 25, 2013 4:35PM
I went with a Nexus 7 inch when I was in the market for a tablet. Quite honestly, the Nook and Kindle both seemed to have odd GUIs. Besides, I can get an app for the nexus to buy books from Nook or Kindle. Both of which are comparable in price to the google book store.
Feb 25, 2013 7:38PM
Wait a minute here!  I love my Nook e-reader.  Before I bought it, I considered both the Nook and the Kindle - and the Nook won hands down.  And still does.  I have no interest in the Nook Color or the Nook Tablet - they don't offer me anything I can't get on my computer or on my cell phone.   But the Nook itself.  I NEED it!
Feb 25, 2013 7:07PM
I LOVE my Nook.
Really really love it.
I would miss it very much.
And frankly so would all of Amazon's users once the lack of competition drives prices higher.

Feb 25, 2013 2:22PM
Store closings are coming for B&N.    Here in North Texas everyone goes to "Half Price Books" chain when you want book, CDs, DVDs, etc.    New titles and even greater selection than any B&N mall store.    

Feb 25, 2013 5:25PM
I worked in an Amazon.com Warehouse and I know how the employees and the product are treated, and I would never own a Kindle for the simple fact that product is mishandled and the employees are treated poorly. I wish people would stop buying from Amazon all together, but unfortunately that will never happen.
Feb 25, 2013 5:53PM

We buy books....New and used....We have a library...


Any current info, i can download off computer or read in paper or articles...

Anything over 10 pages, I prefer to have a copy of, if important or interesting..?


If into reading the HERE and NOW...I guess e-readers are fine ??



DON'T DEPEND ON WIKIPEDIA for absolute facts...IT CHANGES for a WHIM..

And so will your future information, at the mercy of the writers and Governments.

Feb 25, 2013 7:22PM

I wouldn't miss it at all as I do not have one, want one and like what it has done to B&N.


They thought that they would be the Tops, The Best of the ebook world. Unfortunately when they did so they forgot and neglected that they are a Book Store who sells and help promote Books. THe Books that can be held, smelled, treasured, cherished shared bent, and dog-tagged for years to come.


I feel that the Nook and the attention spent on it was a great concept but a poor practice when you are the largest Book Store in the world.

Feb 25, 2013 3:33PM
I like B&N as far as those big chains go, I would much rather shop at a Barns and Nobles than a Book-a-million but I went to buy my ebook the Nook was like $200 and the Kindle was about $49 that's an insane price difference that  makes me wonder why anyone has ever bought a Nook.
Feb 25, 2013 3:37PM
Don't know anything about Nook.  Love my Kindle
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