Barnes & Noble Mulling A Break From Hardware Sales In A Move That May Split Company

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According to a number of reports, beleaguered bookseller Barnes & Noble could be shuttering its Nook hardware division and focusing primarily on connecting its digital content to other tablets and readers. In a related report, B&N founder Leonard Riggio is considering a buy-out of the company’s consumer division and spinning out the Nook and collegiate sales divisions while maintaining the bookstores.

Sales numbers for the Nook line look bad. By the end of the holiday, book sales dropped 10.9 percent over last year while Nook sales fell 12.6 percent. Both Amazon and B&N guard their sales numbers and instead crow about short-term percentage gains, but little has been said about post-holiday sales barring a short mention last January. Although the Nook is arguably often the better product when compared to similar models from Amazon, neither company can stand up against the Apple/Samsung juggernaut.

An NYT report notes that B&N isn’t completely abandoning hardware but will focus more on partnerships with hardware manufacturers and software distributors like Microsoft.

For its part, B&N claims that there are no plans to discontinue the Nook products. This is all still obviously conjecture at this point, and plans could change as partnerships are modified.

What will the ebook market look like without a third ereader? Not much different, sadly. The ereader of choice will always be a general-purpose, 8-inch tablet and only a certain subset of customers will want an e-ink device. While the Nook’s Glowlight models were first to market and superior to Amazon’s offering in many ways, the Kindle is still an early adopter’s darling, a market that B&N never cracked.