Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Barnes & Noble Gets the Nook Ready for Its Dirt Nap

Barnes & Noble hasn’t killed the Nook. But it’s getting ready to remove its e-reader’s life support.

The bookseller announced today that it’s going to stop manufacturing the full-color versions of the Nook tablet, and will farm that work out to unnamed third parties (very good bet: Microsoft), who will co-brand the would-be iPad and Kindle Fire competitors. B&N says it will continue to “develop” black-and-white versions of its e-readers.

This comes as zero surprise.

In part, that’s because Nook tablet sales have been tanking. And, in part, it’s because this is exactly what the New York Times said B&N was going to do in a well-sourced story back in February. B&N tried to semi-deny that report at the time, but didn’t put much enthusiasm into its spin.

And now it is putting even less effort into the Nook. Despite its plans to keep pushing out low-end e-readers, B&N is essentially calling a halt to its plans to play in the hardware business. Instead, it is playing up the idea that it can do well simply by selling digitized books.

While B&N’s Nook division dropped 34 percent this quarter, B&N says that digital content sales … well, they dropped, too, down 8.9 percent. But the company says digital book sales were dragged down by the “device sales shortfall,” and also because last year was a really good year for e-books, because of all that mommy porn.

Say this for Barnes & Noble: Just a few years ago, no one thought the bookseller had any business trying to produce its own e-reader. And then, for a brief period, they looked like they were going to prove the doubters wrong, and showed that an old-line retailer could compete with the world’s most sophisticated consumer electronics companies.

Nice run while it lasted.

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