The Nameless Horror

Quick thoughts on the Nook thing

"The Nook thing" being reports that Microsoft are thinking of buying up B&N’s Nook arm and killing the hardware division.

  • While B&N’s ebook sales have (presumably) been OK, hardware sales have been less than stellar. Kudos to them for doing it, but the Nook hasn’t made huge waves, except briefly as a cheap Android tablet before the market was swamped with such, and as an ereader-tablet-hybrid producer it can’t compete with Amazon’s financial clout (needed to keep Fire prices low and hardware decent) or Apple’s consumer demand (technically the iPad isn’t an ereader, but if you have one it certainly fills that niche).
  • Dedicated ereading devices, with the possible exception of ultracheap original Kindle-style e-ink budget ones, are, and have been for some time, rapidly approaching the end of their consumer lifespan. They’ve done enough to create an ebook market. But now our other devices - phones and tablets - can handle reading perfectly well, as well as doing other things. Now there’s no need to keep producing hardware unless you’re desperately trying to keep your store locked down (Sony, AFAIK), or are trying to break into the full tablet market itself (as Amazon has with the Fire).
  • The Nook store is cross-platform these days already. It doesn’t need a dedicated device.
  • Microsoft has its own entries in the full-blown tablet market, and even if they’ve bombed (as they appear to), it doesn’t need to try breaking into the market again, and certainly not with Android.
  • It therefore makes perfect sense that they’d kill the Nook hardware if they took control of the division. This would not affect the storefront at all. If anything, they’ll broaden it to give them bigger market spread.
  • The loss of the Nook hardware would’ve happened anyway, even if B&N stay in business and all is well. They were losing money on them, and dedicated devices for a niche activity are mostly doomed.
  • The money will probably help shore up B&N a little, and that’s a good thing.
  • The only bit I can’t really fathom is why MS would see an ebook retail front (the part of the subsidiary they actually want to own) as something they’d fork out money for. Yes, they’re predicting a return to profit within four years, but that’s a risky horse to back given the shifting state of the ebook retail market and the amount of cash they’re fronting. Especially when you consider that their core OS business is looking shakier than ever with Windows 8 widely considered a flop. Is it just another attempt, as they’ve done with the Windows software marketplace, to find a way to emulate Apple and become content distributors to reap their 30% ad infinitum?