Readers of all ages and backgrounds love a trip to Barnes & Noble for the selection, the atmosphere, and the service. And that really great coffee. But lovers of e-books have ignored Barnes and Noble’s proprietary Nook ereader in favor of the iPad from Apple and Kindle from Amazon. As a result, the foray into its own tablet has hemorrhaged losses to the point that the retailer appears to have given up on the much ballyhooed effort.
Today, sales indicators revealed that even though electronic tablets sold amazingly well during the past holiday season, the Nook wasn’t a beneficiary of the trend. In fact, even though Barnes & Noble hasn’t officially made an announcement, the consensus is that they’re ready to turn the page and let go of their beloved — but largely unsuccesful — Nook.
Licensing their unparalleled content to third-party electronics manufacturers like Samsung and Microsoft (as most analysts suggest) would seem to be the solution that will get Barnes & Noble out of the hardware business and focused on the “providing content” business. You know, where they belong.
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The Nook also took a shot to the proverbial solar plexus when Barnes & Noble founder and chairman Leonard Riggio declared that he wanted to buy the company’s stores and website. But the Nook ereader? Not so much. Even though reviewers and analysts thought the Nook was outstanding.
The entire decision to move into the hardware business was provoked by the notion that the company had to do something to move beyond brick and mortar in order to compete with Amazon and their Kindle and the like. But that very decision betrays a lack of understand of their own brand identity.
Which is perhaps at the root of the problem. Barnes & Noble’s brand just wasn’t strong enough to move beyond their core customer — who after all, were also being lured by other ereader makers.
It’s as if the company forgot Rule #1 of brand identity. Stick with your core competency.
The company isn’t completely down for the count. Barnes & Noble still has over 600 retail locations and their prized content. Plus all that really great coffee in every store.
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Not that executives will need it to stay awake at night after their ill-advised journey into the world of ereaders.
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