Despite the reports and rumors that swirl around bookseller Barnes and Noble, the company has managed to keep its head above water in the retail bookselling space, both physically and online. Reports that the chain will close three hundred brick-and-mortar stores over the next several years was one of the first real nails in its coffin as far as critics were concerned, and coupled with lagging sales of devices and ebooks, many were certain that it was an indication of the company’s doom. But with product launches over the last few years that continue to demonstrate B&N’s commitment to its Nook line of devices, there is evidence that the company still stands behind its plan to innovate with the device and to keep moving forward.
One area that B&N continues to hold its own is in the college textbook market. While the company’s off campus stores have suffered, demonstrated by the recent closing of its flagship New York store that had become a college bookstore over the recent years, its growth on college campuses is surpassed only by Follett.
Now, B&N is combining its retail academic strength with its dedication to digital by announcing the pending development of Yuzu for college textbooks. According to an announcement on the Barnes and Noble College site, “Yuzu is a digital education platform by Barnes & Noble that makes the everyday learning experience remarkably gratifying. It’s an online ecosystem that enables the collaborative, free flow of information between learners and educators, making it easier than ever to teach, learn, discover and digest. Yuzu combines the passion of the mentor and the curiosity of the student to create something never before seen in our industry.”
By building a single-app interface that works through tablets or web-browsers (meaning students no longer have to choose what type of device they bring to college), B&N hopes to build a platform where students, educators, and virtually any stakeholder in the academic process can seamlessly interact with the text or material, regardless of the content’s publisher. It will integrate access to the online bookstore in order to keep all of the user’s content in one location for accessing, studying, and collaborating.
While this concept isn’t exactly new, what may make the difference is the iconic logo behind the platform. Many other startups have tried to build this wholly integrated learning world, but they didn’t come with the backing of a relatively successful and known academic brand. While this launch could finally be what it takes to bring this type of digital learning nirvana to a broader audience of users, it could also be the platform that puts to rest some of the rumors and speculations about B&N’s ability to stay afloat.