Barnes & Noble appears to be distancing itself and its products from the e-reader and e-book category, and trying to move into more of a role as a maker of low-cost tablets. The shift is ongoing and subtle, but a recent development seems to indicate they’re not all that concerned with devoting a lot of resources to maintaining the e-book business.
B&N told The Digital Reader that it has officially dropped support for the Mac and PC (pre Windows 8) versions of the Nook standalone reader software, and now directs users to the web-based version instead. It’s not a perfect replacement, however; as the Digital Reader points out, that leaves a huge percentage of Nook e-books unsupported as not all titles in the store support the web-based version of the application.
Nook tanking these apps means that Barnes & Noble’s efforts around e-books officially now trail Amazon’s in terms of cross-platform access, but it’s likely B&N is setting its sights on a broader goal of becoming a player in the low-cost tablet space with Nook hardware, as it has recently introduced features that both add Play store functionality to the Nook HD line, and unlock key missing features like a browser for the Simple Touch, making them more than just e-readers.
The simple fact is that Nook being an e-book brand no longer makes any sense for the company, based on its recent financial performance and what looks like dwindling returns from that side of the business. Tightening up the ship, so to speak, indicates that Nook is serious about trying to reinvent itself – something it clearly has to do, or else face the risk of falling by the wayside altogether.
What’s particularly interesting about this development is that it’s timed with Apple’s own announcement that it will be bringing iBooks to the Mac via a dedicated app in OS X 10.9 Mavericks. Apple’s own e-books business is more just about offering its users one more component of an already-strong ecosystem, and there’s no way Nook needs the added competition, so officially throwing in the towel before that new challenger even appears makes a certain amount of sense.