What would become of an independent Nook?

*This article originally appeared on the website of Book Business, a TeleRead sister publication.

While predicting doom for Nook, as Book Business columnist Michael Weinstein put it, has become the favored pastime of the book and tech press of late, it’s hard not to read the news of B&N Chairman Leonard S. Riggio’s bid to purchase the chain’s retail stores and take them private—leaving the company’s foundering Nook Media division to fend for itself—as the beginning of the end for the little e-reader that could. (OrNook maybe it’s the end of the end for the little e-reader that couldn’t quite.)

It’s not without a little sadness that I’m pondering the end of the Nook, and not just because I own one. Nook always seemed to me to be the reader’s e-reader. The one that, from a product design standpoint, was just a little friendlier: easier to hold (with that elegantly beveled back), the first to glow for night reading, and more amenable to side-loading.

Sure, the UX leaves something to be desired, and yes, there’s a ton more content available for the Kindle. Still, I can’t help but recall when when Sega’s Dreamcast gave up the ghost—inventive, more innovative, but ultimately no match for the Playstation and Xbox behemoths.

With reports swirling that B&N plans to scale back on device manufacturing to focus on content, could this be Nook’s denouement? Or might untethering the Nook unit from the travails of the retail side be just what both sides need to best face the future?

What do you think?

4 Comments on What would become of an independent Nook?

  1. MarylandBill // March 7, 2013 at 11:04 am //

    I keep hoping that B&N and Nook can figure this out. Yes, they need to make improvements (particularly in how their store is organized… if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for, you are unlikely to find it on B&N), but their reader is still really nice.

  2. Sad if nook does go away. Now I wish I had never purchased one. I was going to get the new HD but not now. I guess we can expect no support as well.

  3. I’ve switched to a Kobo mini because my Nook Simple Touch became flaky after less than a year of use. The last time I tried to use it, it wouldn’t connect to the store to download recent purchases. I’ve taken it in to B&N and they couldn’t help. The person helping even called their service center to reset it because it wasn’t responding to touches after about the 8th page turn.

    I bought the Kobo from a local indie book store and now they get a slice whenever I purchase something. The reading experience is so far at least as good as it was on Nook and I’ve already figured out how to get definitions out of the Kobo.

    The Nook, as hardware and software, just seems half baked.

  4. I liked the Nook Simple Touch when I bought it shortly after it became available, but it has been nearly two years now, and it has not seen any significant enhancements (apart from the price, which is now about half of what I paid). The Glowlight has essentially the same firmware and hardware except for the front-lit screen.

    Meanwhile other models such as the Paperwhite and Glo have leapfrogged the Nook, with higher resolution screens and, by most accounts, better front-light technology. And other niches are filled with Kindle PW’s 3G option, and Kobo’s Mini model.

    So it is hard to recommend the Nook at this point to anyone new to the market. I trust there will be new devices coming out, as B&N has suggested. But what B&N needs are more Nook customers, not necessarily people upgrading to newer Nooks. For that they need to offer something more than just page turn buttons. Most of what they need to do is ‘software’ (UX as you say) rather than hardware, though.

    As far as side-loading goes, Nook comes in last place, as you must physically connect it (or an SD card that you have purchased separately) to a computer. Of the onboard storage, only about 250KB is available for side-loaded content. The competitors do not partition the storage so you can use it more flexibly, according to your own priorities. In addition, they include a functional web browser which allows direct downloading of content from gutenburg, dropbox, etc., which is arguably more convenient than having to ‘wire up’ to a computer.

    Kindle does not have SD expansion, but the Kindle’s personal documents service (includes 5GB free storage) more than makes up for that in convenience, as you can email (or use SendToKindle apps and browser plugins) 3rd party content that is managed much like content from Amazon, including sync of reading position and annotations between devices.

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