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Barnes & Noble considers selling Nook business

updated 09:15 am EST, Thu January 5, 2012

Barnes and Noble may separate and sell Nook line

Barnes & Noble conducted an unusual strategy Thursday that amounted to an attempt to sell its Nook e-reader business. Although its Nook sales spiked 70 percent over what they were last year, the company was considering both breaking out the Nook group both for separate reporting as well as a selloff. The company wanted to "unlock that value" in its digital business, it said, and was planning a review that by the end of the year would make a decision on the business.

Among the options would include a simple expansion outside of the US. Barnes & Noble was talking to "publishers, retailers, and technology companies" in other countries, it said.

The uncertainty about its Nook business came even as it was doing well with traditional retail. Retail sales climbed 2.5 points over a year ago and higher when just using comparable sales. Paper book sales were up four percent, the first time it had grown in five years, while the gaming section was up 30 percent and the digital side was up 43 percent both in web-based book sales and for every aspect of the Nook, including its e-book store.

The only weakness was in the Nook Simple Touch, which unusually lagged behind even as the Nook Tablet and Nook Color were doing well.

Jettisoning the Nook business would be a questionable step for Barnes & Noble, since it would leave the core company with what many still consider a dying paper book business and an attempt to shift many of its stores to general interest rather than just reading. The company might be anxious about Microsoft's lawsuit and hoping to offload the Android patent dispute to someone else.

by MacNN Staff



  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Nook Simple is a POS

    "The only weakness was in the Nook Simple Touch, which unusually lagged behind even as the Nook Tablet and Nook Color were doing well.

    That's because the Simple Touch is a POS and I could tell that within 5 seconds of picking it up. If you're accustomed to using a high pixel density color screen, you can't go back to a relatively low density, black and white screen. Also it is L-A-G-G-Y. It's the e-reader you give to your 10 year old so that if they damage it, you don't care because it only cost $99.

    I think BN is also thinking about selling off Nook while it has some value to a potential sucker... er, buyer. The handwriting is on the wall, it's going to be iPad and Kindle and a bunch of also-rans. Though I do find it puzzling why they'd want to give up control over a device that gets people to buy their e-books.

  1. Inkling

    Joined: Dec 1969


    From buggies to feds

    It's hard to imagine them selling their Nook business. That'd be like a buggy maker with a popular version of the new-fangled car selling that portion of its business off to concentrate on buggies. But corporate executives have made dumber moves.

    climacs is right. If B&N sells off their Nook business this'll reduce the competition to iPad v. Kindle or more accurately the iBookstore v. Amazon's store. And unless Apple shows more interest in ebooks (and not just glitzy interactive ones) soon, the field will be dominated by Amazon alone.

    The only good news about that is that'll make the federal anti-monopoly moves against Amazon that much more inevitable. Right now, Amazon reminds me of Microsoft circa 1995, when I tried to warn Windows-doting friends that they were doing business with an unprincipled bully. They didn't listen to critics like me and neither did Microsoft's management.

  1. RoboBobo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    They should keep nook

    Barnes & Noble can compete.

    They can compete, and they'll be better off for doing so. They can leverage their brick and mortar business, they can realize that going into the areas they need to go into in order to have a full ecosystem - is both an investment and an area of new income opportunities.

    Their growth and expansion needs, couldn't be more obvious.

    So they decide to quit instead. Eh, its easier for some management types to take that type of action.

    Sitting in their cubicles - those managers don't have technical skills, and therefore "nobody" has any technical skills (outside of Apple and Amazon), and they need to cut and run.

    Only Amazon and Apple can compete - yeah right, I'm sure there are some very talented people at B&N right now, mad as heck.

    They can sell off Nook - or they can fire those managers, that's really the choice. Obviously B&N can't compete with those managers in the way.

  1. mqualben

    Joined: Dec 1969



    People don't prefer a separate store for each format. Didn't B&N learn anything from Netflix-Qwikster backlash? B&N has a good thing going with Nook. As someone who builds e-books, I much prefer the EPUB format used by Nook and others, vs. Kindle's MOBI format. Kindle is the Netscape 4 of e-book readers--quirky and plagued with bugs.

  1. driven

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Doesn't' make sense

    The hybrid strategy (Brick & mortar + digital) makes a lot of sense and offers them some unique advantages over the pure-play competition. Selling off what's arguably the most valuable part of their business doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, other than as a short-term "cash out" move.

    As to the simple touch, I love mine. Perfect for reading outdoors, it's fast, has a super clear ePaper display and it goes about 2 months between charges. I've read about a dozen books on it already. I still use my iPad as a reader for color copy, but the simple touch has been my go-to device for reading.

    Someone else in my house has the Kindle. Same ePaper display, but it's been sent back twice for repair. The Nook quality is better. Both are great devices though.

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