What does the demise of the Nook tell us?

The Nook, the Barnes and Noble e-reader is dead, sort of, maybe. What does this tell us about the state of the e-book market? The short answer is nothing, but the longer answer is slightly more interesting.

First let’s remind ourselves about the Nook, this is Barnes and Noble’s e-Reader/modified Android tablet brand. In the UK they have a very checkered history, they withdrew from the market in 2016 and transferred their customers over to the digital platform offered by the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s which then stopped doing e-books six months later, shunting the customers on to Kobo. Mostly in the UK we remember the Nook for the HD+ model because it it had a hole in the bottom left corner, presumably so that you could hang it on a nail in the privy.

What Barnes and Noble are actually doing is getting out of the hardware business, or more properly getting out of the business of selling hardware at near cost to drive e-book sales. This should come as no surprise since nobody can compete with Amazon when it comes to things like this.

The more interesting part of the story is quite how well Barnes and Noble do in e-book sales, a quick look on Google would have you believe the opposite but they sold 19 million e-books in the US last year. Sure, that’s less than ten percent of what Amazon did but it’s not nothing. By the same token you can find stories of doom and gloom about all e-readers and for that matter Android tablets as analysts fail to understand that most readers are quite happy with their reading device and will change it when it breaks or when we leave it in the seat pocket of a plane (once in 2009, very nearly again last month).

Commentators are quick to point to any drop in e-book sales as a portent that digital is dead, this seems to come from the flawed notion that digital and physical books are in competition and a desire to protect ‘real’ books. The good news is that more people are reading year on year and although e-book revenue is falling in the UK this is more to do with the reduction in the average price of a Kindle book and the heavy discounting sales promotions that authors are encouraged to participate it. Finally consider Kindle Unlimited; Amazon are never very free with their data but a lot of their most active digital readers have subscribed to KU and who know how this get factored into sales.

In summary, despite what some would have yo believe e-books are alive and well and show no signs of going anywhere.

About Mark Willoughby

Mark Willoughby is the author of "After the Event" an adventure story set in a future full of superheroes, giant robots and aliens. He is currently working on a spy novel so he has a very dodgy looking search history.

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