Barnes & Noble to split off Nook division

nook logoAccording to the Wall Street Journal, Barnes & Noble is going to split off Nook into a separate division.

Barnes & Noble Inc. said it would pursue a split of its retail and Nook e-reader businesses into two separate public companies, the next chapter in its bid to shore up its foundering business as readers’ book-buying habits evolve.

The bookseller said it plans to complete the separation by the end of the first quarter of the next calendar year.

This hardly comes as a surprise. If you’ve been following B&N news at all, you’ve seen that they’ve had several bad years in a row, and it hasn’t been getting better. Both segments are in trouble, but the Nook segment is falling faster than the retail segment (-19% sales for Nook, -1.9% retail, in the last quarter, according to the article).

I’ve written frequently about Barnes & Noble and their troubles, including my own issues with Nook books. While I understand their desire to shed hardware development costs, I’m not convinced the new partnership with Samsung is going to help the Nook brand. Check out this comment on the Engadget article I linked to. It’s telling.

I can purchase a $200 Samsung Galaxy 4 7 inch ‘Nookish’ tablet with:
1280 x 800 pixel display, 216 PPI
8GB/1.5GB memory
microSD memory slot
with camera
Android 4.4

Or buy ‘old’ tech Nook HD+ 9 inch tablet for about $200, with:
1920 x 1280 pixel display, 256 PPI
32GB/1.5GM memory
microSD memory slot
no camera
Android 4.4 with upgrade from AndroidForNook

I know. I recently said that the typical consumer doesn’t check device specs. But they do check prices, and they do notice screens. I don’t think only tech people will notice the smaller device with worse screen and less memory for the same price. Not to mention if they do any kind of comparison to a Kindle Fire HD, which is the same size, same screen, same memory and only $139.

I’d like to hope this isn’t the beginning of the end, but without some real new development on the Nook line and without the retail side to (sort of) prop them up, I’m afraid we’ll see no more Nooks in the next year or two. Unless it’s sold pretty much exclusively through Samsung.

1 Comment on Barnes & Noble to split off Nook division

  1. My hunch is that consumers split two ways in their purchasing:

    1. Full-featured tablet that’ll run a host of apps but costs a lot. Examples include the iPad, Samsung tablets, and the Kindle Fire.

    2. A speciality reader that’s little more than a reader but costs little. That’s an epaper reader from Amazon or perhaps Kobo.

    Some Nook models fall into the gap between the two. Consumers don’t see them having the same range of apps as the major tablets but they cost more than an epaper reader.

    Personally, I’d love to see Nook fill a hole in the epaper market, a smaller, pocketable epaper reader that has WiFi and uses a pair of inexpensive AA batteries, either alkaline or rechargeable. That’d be a real carry-anywhere reader. I’d suggest making it rugged and targeting grade-to-junior-high kids with it but not having styling that turns off adults.

    They hit three markets:

    1. Smaller and cheaper than any existing reader.

    2. Kids (currently unserved)

    3. Adults on the go.

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