What would become of an independent Nook?

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?

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Comments
  • Anne Gerth

    Wow, worth pondering…

  • Richard Truesdell

    I see this as a good thing for Nook. With Microsoft having a substantial stake in the Nook business, and with it now being in the hardware business with the various versions of the Surface tablet, I see the next generation Nook moving from Android to a Windows OS. The nook could be re-branded and repositioned as a lower-priced Microsoft Surface device (Nook Surface?) in 7-, 8-, and 10-inch versions to do battle with Kindle.

    As far as taking the B&N bookstores private, that to me seems to be a fools errand with no long-term future except as a real estate play. But with so many former big-box stores vacant (can you say Borders, Circuit City, Linens and Things), can a real estate play make any sense? As Amazon and other Internet retailers put more pressure on big box stores, more will close diminishing the value of all the big-box store real estate built from the early 1990s all the way up to the 2007 economic downturn.

    Just one man’s opinion.

  • Stanislav Fritz

    I’m afraid I have similar feelings as you do. I prefer the Nook over iPad and Kindle for reading books. I liked the glow version. I especially liked the sideloading (although there are some significant bugs in the way Nook handles side loaded books).

    Unfortunately, I feel B&N cut their own throat on this one. I am co-founder of a small (micro) press. B&N is no better than Amazon (perhaps worse) in the way it deals with small publishers (not just self publishers). It focused exclusively on large publishers. With a little foresight, it could have gotten the small publishers to REALLY embrace them and perhaps make a difference in content for readers.

    I had the tiniest of hope when Microsoft invested in them, but as a former Microsoftie I also knew that this is a double edged sword and Microsoft drops the ball all too often in IMPLEMENTING innovation.

    So, ultimately, I am rather pessimistic and it saddens me as an Amazon without real competition is a dangerous thing. By carving off the digital part the founder of B&N may be focusing on the most profitable aspect, but as a former Amazonian also, I know the power of synergies and "spinning the flywheel." B&N is losing more than first meets the eye by breaking apart.

    I hope I am wrong, but I am not buying any stock in either portion of B&N at this point!

  • Michael Jahn

    What would become of an independent Nook?

    A slow and painful death spiral, that is what will become of the independent Nook.

  • Alexis Ashcraft

    I truly hope that this doesn’t go. I LOVE my Nook, as do my mother and grandmother. My bff hates the way the Kindle is laid out (as do I), and I do as well. Everything is extra $ on that thing, too. If only they’d compare and show how great the Nook really is, like set up a site where Nook lovers can post why they love the Nook. Do a huge campaign about it! I have so many ideas that could help them appeal to all…

  • MarkWWhite

    And what would become of an independent Barnes & Noble? What if it didn’t have to devote so much space in its stores to Nook? Or what if it could also be a showroom for Kindles and other e-reading devices as well?

  • Brian Howard

    Thanks for all the great feedback. This morning’s news about Nook’s $6.06 million Q3 loss certainly casts an even darker pall over the situation. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-28/barnes-noble-has-6-06-million-loss-as-nook-sales-slow.html

  • Doug Turner

    The main problem facing the Nook is the ecosystem. By using a proprietary UI and locking out the Google play store, what could’ve been a nice little table is instead a project for those who know how to root it, and not much more than an overpowered e-reader to the rest. My kids both have Nook Colors and my wife has a Nook Tablet. All 3 were rooted (nooted) out of the box and turned into nice tablets. The Kindle UI and ecosystem is just a bit better, but because it’s easier to root and upgrade (Jellybean FTW!) it’s a much nicer proposition. Untethering the Nook and allowing it to become a true Android device might be the thing that saves it.