“Damn them! Damn them all!”
Those are the words echoed by actor Charlton Heston as he discovers at the end of the original Planet of the Apes that Earth had been destroyed by a nuclear war. They can also be the utterances of millions of Barnes & Noble customers.
The nation’s largest bookstore chain and second largest bookseller blew up its e-book business. The Nook has been a big loser for years and now will no longer be in the U.K.
Though B&N recently announced 2016 would represent its fewest number of store closings in years – and that it’ll grow by four new stores in 2017, it will not stop the bleeding from the digital sector.
In the third quarter of last year, B&N profits rose by more than 10%, though total sales fell 1.8%, linked largely due to crappy online sales that offset decent in-store activity.
Nook sales declined by 33% in the third quarter vs. last year. Digital content sales slumped by 23%. Online sales overall declined 12.5%.
So what does this mean? Diginomica.com reports as follows:
“This decision impacts every tablet B&N has ever made, but the company insists that all existing Apps previously downloaded from the NOOK Store will remain in customers Nook Library and will continue to be accessible on compatible Nook devices.
“From 15 March, customers will also not be able to rent or purchase video content from the NOOK video store, which will be closed down completely on 30 April. If customers want to keep the content they’ve already purchased, they need to transfer content to other providers.
“Meanwhile in the UK, e-books will no longer be supported by B&N. Instead, customers need to open an account with supermarket chain Sainsbury’s. In a less than encouraging proviso, B&N adds that if a book can’t be transferred to the Sainsbury’s platform, a Sainsbury’s Entertainment voucher will be issued as compensation.”
Meanwhile, Amazon just opened its second brick and-mortar store, in San Diego, with rumors to be opening hundreds more. It certainly stands to benefit from B&N’s digital failures.
McGraw-Hill Education, one of the largest publishers of school textbooks, just said sales of its digital content and online programs surpassed print sales last year and looks to have peaked.
Oren Teicher, the CEO of the American Booksellers Association, said sales in 2016 for independent bookstores are up and on a similar growth trajectory to 2015’s growth. So the sky’s not falling, but B&N looks to be struggling.
For those who love printed books and bookstores the elimination of the Nook may not change things other than Amazon will continue to get bigger. However with Amazon lacking a large digital competitor, it’s possible it will seek the opportunity to raise digital book prices. Publishers and authors will appreciate that and consumers won’t have much of a recourse. Will Apple fill the void? Will a new digital book retailers develop? Whatever the news will be, we know you won’t be reading it on the Nook.
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