Barnes and Noble has been releasing dedicated e-readers and tablets since 2009. The nations largest bookseller has released 11 different devices and has experienced a gradual decline in hardware sales and e-books. This did not happen overnight and today we look at the exact moments in time when Nook users started to abandon the brand.
Barnes and Noble was one of the first big companies to capitalize on the emerging e-reader space in 2009 when they released the Nook e-reader that had 3G and wireless internet access. This was two years after the launch of the original Kindle and users flocked to the brand that was heavily promoted in the bookstores. One year later they released their first Android tablet, and it was a critical success.
The Nook Tablet Debacle
The first major disconnect between Barnes and Noble and their growing user base was December 21st 2011 when the company disabled the ability to sideload in apps from other Android markets. The 1.4.1 firmware update for the Nook Tablet closed a loophole that allowed people to install apps via the internet browser. Since it was around Christmas many people received this tablet as a gift and thousands of devices were returned, while the Nook Boards blew up with angry customers who said they would never do business with the company again.
Lack of Memory Angers e-reader Loyalists
In April 2012 Barnes and Noble unveiled their second generation Nook Simple Touch for $139. The prime selling point behind this model was the front-lit technology. Ironically B&N was a pioneer in this new lightning technology and the entire industry cloned their LED system later that year.
People did not realize how much the Nook e-reader brand has changed until they started to read the fine print. For the first time ever Barnes and Noble edited the memory partition to only allow 500 MB of user loaded content, even though there was 4 GB of total on-device storage. This now prevented users from adding their entire e-book library to their e-reader, which drove many ballistic.
Thousands of users returned their devices and the Nook Boards blew up once more in a feeble attempt to show the company their disdain and to try and get them to reverse the decision. As always, B&N did not listen to their users and begun to slowly lose the e-reader war to companies such as Amazon and Kobo.
You Can No Longer Backup your e-books
In early 2014 Barnes and Noble removed the ability to download eBooks that customers had purchased from the online Nook Store to their computer. They did this so users could not strip the encryption or read the Nook books on 3rd party e-reading apps. This was considered the last straw and many loyal Nook users and they began to openly mock the company for being out of touch.
Barnes and Noble Outsources Nook Design to Samsung
In August 2014 Barnes and Noble made the internal decision to outsource their new line of Nook tablets to Samsung. The end result was the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 7 and 10.1 inch editions.
The funny thing about this move is that there is no Nook branding anywhere on the physical device. The only aspect about the tablets that remotely have anything to do with Barnes and Noble is a few customized apps to browse the online bookstore and view your purchases.
The move to do business with Samsung resulted in B&N losing its cultural identity as a hardware business and now they just make apps and sell e-books. Many in the business thought this was a very poor decision and in the months leading up to the new hardware, many top executives were fired.
The latest statistics show that Barnes and Noble has lost over a billion dollars on Nook hardware, accessories and e-books since 2009. There are many reasons why the Nook business floundered, from the poor app store they had for many years before they switched to Google Play to taking the number two online bookstore, Fictionwise and literary doing nothing with their investment.
Why did you abandon the Nook brand? Was there a specific catalyst that we did not cover today? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.