Microsoft, Barnes & Noble to split up; Nook continues its slide

It’s bad news in general lately for Barnes & Noble’s Nook property. Its tablet and digital media store haven’t fared well against the stiff competition of Amazon, Apple, Google, Kobo, and others, even with the demise of its one time chief rival bookstore chain Borders. While B&N entered a deal with Microsoft several years ago that saw the big Redmond company back Nook, it didn’t take off as well as hoped. Neither has B&N making a deal with Samsung to produce its current line of tablets (7″ and 10″ Nook-branded variants on Samsung’s Galaxy Tab line). Sales of the Nook line have continued to slide.

All of which has led to today’s news that Microsoft is formally exiting its agreement with Barnes & Noble. On top of that comes news of the latest sales figures, as reported by TechCrunch:

The Nook segment of B&N saw year over year quarterly revenues decrease 41.3% from 2013 levels to $64 million. Device and accessories sales fared even worse, dropping 63.7% from last year. Even Nook digital content sales dropped 21.2% to $45.2 million for the quarter.

Pretty sad state for what was a pioneer of a cheap, decent (for its time) smaller-sized tablet alternative to Apple’s iPad. While the original Nook tablet was quite popular at the time among enthusiasts for its ease of hacking into a “real” tablet (not limited to just Nook’s own store), Barnes & Noble never really kept up with the rapid rise of competing Android tablets. The rival Android tablets didn’t have the Nook’s limitations, and offered much better features at better price ranges.  Barnes & Noble did eventually make changes to the Nook—opening it up in 2013 to Google Play a prominent one, along with hiring Samsung to produce its tablets—but I suppose it might’ve been too little, too late.

On the digital media side, the Nook has an app for Android and iOS, meaning one doesn’t need to buy a Nook branded tablet to use its store. That said, the Nook digital store never really took off against Kindle, iTunes, Kobo, and Google Play.

While I enjoyed my Nook tablet at the time, today it’s sitting at a relative’s house, largely unused even by the niece I gave it to as a present. With cheaper and better Android tablets widely available, there’s no need for a Nook-branded tablet anymore. As for the digital media side, I suppose it’s facing the same problems the brick-and-mortar version has in staying afloat. However, Barnes & Noble still has plans to spin off the Nook side into its own stand-alone business sometime in 2015. While I can see why they’d want to lose the expensive-to-produce hardware side of things, also losing the one part of its business that’s relevant to today’s general shift to digital media doesn’t sound promising.

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Harrison Weber.

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