Brian Howard is Editor-In-Chief of Book Business magazine and Group Digital Editor for the Publishing Business Group, where he covers with great interest the evolution of the book publishing industry, paying special attention to the intersection of publishing and consumer technology. An award-winning journalist, he’s a former Editor in Chief of the Philadelphia City Paper and Grid and Cowbell magazines.
His writing has appeared in consumer outlets such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine’s The Philly Post, Flying Kite, The Courier-Post, Magnet, and Orlando Weekly, and business publications including Target Marketing, Inside Direct Mail and Teleread.
After heading off to Penn State to pursue a chemical engineering degree, Brian transferred into the English department at La Salle University. Some 20 years ago he stumbled into the offices of the student newspaper, The Collegian. He has been on deadline ever since.
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While predicting doom for Nook, as our columnist Michael Weinstein put it, has become the favored pastime of the book and tech press of late, it’s hard not to read the news of B&N Chairman Leonard S. Riggio’s bid to purchase the chain’s retail stores and take them private—leaving the company’s foundering Nook division to fend for itself—as the beginning of the end for the little e-reader that could. (Or maybe it’s the end of the end for the little e-reader that couldn’t quite.)
It’s not without a little sadness that I’m pondering the end of the Nook, and not just because I own one. Nook always seemed to me to be the reader’s e-reader. The one that, from a product design standpoint, was just a little friendlier: easier to hold (with that elegantly beveled back), the first to glow for night reading, and more amenable to side-loading.
Sure, the UX leaves something to be desired, and yes, there’s a ton more content available for the Kindle. Still, I can’t help but recall when when Sega’s Dreamcast gave up the ghost—inventive, more innovative, but ultimately no match for the Playstation and Xbox behemoths.
With reports swirling that B&N plans to scale back on device manufacturing to focus on content, could this be Nook’s denouement? Or might untethering the Nook unit from the travails of the retail side be just what both sides need to best face the future?
What do you think?