Barnes and Noble has been making Nook e-readers for a decade and they are one of the last ones from the early days still developing Nook products. This includes e-readers, tablets and accessories. The largest bookseller in the US is still going to compete in this segment, but what is next for the Nook?
The Barnes and Noble Nook used to be a billion dollars business early in the e-reader heyday. The released their first device in 2009 and it features an E Ink screen at the top and a color LCD touchscreen at the bottom, there was nothing like it. The released a few new generations of products and got into tablets, when the landscape was noticeably less competitive. In late 2012 Barnes and Noble moved into the UK and started selling readers, tablets and ebooks. In 2014 they signed a distribution partnership with Microsoft and they released a co-branded app all over Europe. B&N was on an expansive expansion campaign, but it was not to last.
Nook decided that they were spending too much money on hiring staff and developing Nook products in-house. They signed a deal with Samsung, so instead of B&N making their own tablets, they contracted it out. They also fled the UK, shuttered their European app, closed their Android App Store, and their video service. B&N closed down their research and development center in Santa Clara and fired the entire staff, they were the ones designing Nook hardware and software. The hardware was outsourced to Netronix Inc, the same company that does everything for Kobo. The software was outsourced to Bahwan CyberTek, Indian firm, which rarely updates the Nook app for Android/IOS or even Nook firmware.
From around 2015 to 2018, the Nook was on life support. There was no message or state of the brand from their various CEOS that came and went during this period. Things might be picking up. B&N was sold and delisted from the New York Stock Exchange and taken private. The new CEO of Barnes and Noble, James Daunt, has stated that the bookseller will continue to support the Nook e-Reader. He made it clear his initial focus will be on improving B&N’s physical stores. “If you improve the stores, everything else will rise,” he said. He told Good e-Reader that there are no plans to discontinue the Nook line as long as the devices keep pace with the Kindle.
Barnes and Noble currently has two e-readers they are selling, the Nook Glowlight 3 and the Nook Glowlight Plus, which is a 7.8 inch e-reader. They also are marketing various tablets they are selling on their website. One is a very basic entry level one, primarily competing against the $49 Fire 7.
What’s next for Barnes and Noble? They will likely continue to release a new e-reader every two years, their MO has been incremental updates, nothing that will take the world by storm. I believe they will simply tread water for the next few years, the only thing they might adopt is color e-paper, but they will be one of the last ones to embrace it. I just don’t believe the leadership is there to support the Nook and there are too many hands in the cookie jar. Netronix makes it and the design is changed, depending on who is in charge of the Nook department now. The software is done by this really terrible Indian firm and they are slow at fixing anything.
I believe the Nook will be around for a few more years, but they will eventually either shutter the division or try and recoup costs, by selling all of their customers to Kobo and scrap selling tablets and e-readers. They don’t even advertise the e-readers in the stores anymore, they are hidden by customer service.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.