Barnes & Noble is still a big name in the book retail and ebook world. The Nook has been fairly successful, and there’s plenty of speculation about the company’s next move. But there’s also some confusion, because it doesn’t immediately seem to be obvious what B&N is trying to do. If B&N have a masterplan, they’re playing their cards very close to their chest.
A case in point: earlier this month, B&N held a developers’ workshop in London. Many people speculated that the company would be announcing a UK launch for the Nook, which seemed a reasonable expectation. But the event came along and seems to have been quite vague in terms of delivering answers. If B&N launching a Nook in the UK this year or not? If it is, why not say so? If it isn’t, why hold the developers’ event in London in the first place?
There has also been speculation that B&N could end up buying UK retailer Waterstone’s. That would be a big, bold and risky move. More likely, for now, is a deal to see the Nook in Waterstone’s stores, but even that deal – long discussed, much hyped – seems to be conspicuously failing to materialise. Perhaps B&N is holding back on making its big announcement. Perhaps the deal isn’t as certain as some people suggest. Either way, once again we’re left with confusion.
Then there’s the recent news of B&N apparently planning to set up its European operations in Berlin. That would kind of make sense. There are rumours that B&N could hook up with Germany’s Thalia or DBH, and possibly with Centraal Bookhuis in the Netherlands. So perhaps B&N is carefully laying the groundwork, ready to suddenly make a massive announcement. But they sure seem to be taking their time about things.
Meanwhile, B&N appear to be preparing to launch something called the Nook Audio. This was first mooted a couple of months ago when the initial Nook Audio trademark application was filed. As The Digital Reader points out, there is now a (currently rather bare) product page for a Nook Audio OE250 device, which has April 1st listed as a publication date (hmm…). Anyway, it’s hard not to think that perhaps the Nook should be prioritised before the company moves into another highly competitive market. Edit: the Nook Audio turned out to be a pair of headphones.
Here’s why this is slightly frustrating: B&N is in an excellent position to challenge the Kindle, in Europe as in America. Having used a Kindle for some time now, I would say that it’s far from perfect. In fact, the real threat to the Nook (and the Kindle, for that matter) might be the iPad 3, which has stunning screen resolution. To be honest, I don’t see why anyone would really want to get a Kindle or a Nook when an iPad 3 can do the job and has so many other features. So I’m wondering if B&N is thinking the same thing. Could a drastic overhaul of the Nook – a tabletification of the device – be on the cards?