HomeBusinessBarnes & Noble is...

Barnes & Noble is reinventing itself, but not its e-readers

My first e-reader wasn’t a Kindle, it was a Nook. It had a 6-inch 167 ppi E-Ink display and a tiny, terrible, but exciting LED display underneath. There was a headphone jack, wi-fi, and a music player built right in. Coming out a year before the iPad, it felt electric. It felt like Star Trek. It felt like the perfect bridge device between my smartphone and my computer. But soon Amazon turned its considerable might, and ability to subsidize its ebook business with all its other more lucrative businesses, against Barnes & Noble, and as it raced Amazon to the cheapest e-reader Barnes & Noble lost whatever identity its e-reader division was developing.

Now, years after Amazon won and Barnes & Noble lost, the company is privately held and it has a new CEO, James Daunt. Daunt was brought on in 2019 to help save the company that had been devastated by high rents on its stores, a precipitous decline in sales, and the aforementioned retail giant. Daunt’s vision for the indie bookstore killer approaches the ironic. The once giant of publishing is handing control of its stores to its managers, attempting to instill in each of its stores the independent spirit it used to quash. Wall Street Journal has a profile of the company out this week that’s a fascinating look at how Barnes & Noble is learning to compete with Amazon without cannibalizing itself in the process.

The Nook business doesn’t come up in the profile, and thats probably for the best. When you’re trying to rebrand your company as indie and cool you can’t show up with the Nook. While most e-readers are slim, with small bezels and sleek exteriors, the E-Ink part of the Nook line up looks like it stumbled out of 2012. Looking at it I feel the urge to ask the Glowlight 4 who the president is.

The Nook Glowlight 4 looks familiar…
Image by Barnes & Noble

And I don’t think it’s supposed to be this way. When Daunt launched the $149 Nook Glowlight 4 in 2021 he said that the company was looking to “reinvigorate Nook in the coming months and years.” Since than the company released four ebook-reading devices. There’s the 10-inch Android tablet made by Lenovo, that…looks like every other $130 tablet. But at least it’s got the Google Play Store on the home screen so you can choose which e-reader app you use.

Then there are the E-Ink readers. The flagship is the Nook Glowlight 4 which is a little more expensive than the Kindle and a little cheaper than the Kobo, and few features lighter than both. But it does have page turning buttons! The $99 Nook Glowlight 4e has page-turning buttons too, but sacrifices even more than the Glowlight 4 to keep its price low. Namely the quality kind of sucks. We had lots of issues with responsiveness which is probably the most frustrating sin an e-reader can commit. If I press a button to turn the page…I need the page to turn.

In September Barnes & Noble is going to try and turn things around with the $199 GlowLight 4 Plus. It’s waterproof. It’s got a headphone jack and Bluetooth. There is 32GB of onboard storage and a front-lit E-Ink display with 300ppi resolution and color temperature control. It’s not that first generation Nook from way back in 2009, but it feels more exciting than what Amazon is offering at the same price.

The problem is, like the other Nook e-readers its kind of dorky, and if you’re already in the Kindle ecosystem—which a lot of people are—there’s not a super compelling reason to switch over beyond a desire to cut the Amazon cord or because you love buttons.

You can’t see it, but this thing has a headphone jack.
Image by Barnes & Noble

The Nook lineup includes a couple of other features that should theoretically be compelling, but always come up just short. For example, you can access library books on the Nook, but keeping with the early 2010 theme of this lineup, you will need a USB cable and Adobe software. Meanwhile Overdrive can send books to your Kindle directly, and while it can be difficult to set up, Kobo has Overdrive built in.

It’s unclear how Daunt’s current “reinvigoration” of the Nook brand is going for the company financially, but from the outside I don’t see how it can be doing anything but breaking even. Anti-Amazon customers and Nook diehards who never switched can’t be that much of a market, and it also has to compete with Kobo to woo people opposed to Amazon—which analysts estimate owns between 68 and 83-percent of the ebook marketshare in the U.S.

With that kind of dominance Barnes & Noble either needs to fight over the scraps with Kobo (which is owned by Rakuten—the massive Japanese online retailer) or differentiate itself. Lackluster design and physical buttons aren’t gone be enough.

I’d love to see Amazon release an Android E-Ink tablet. These tablets are getting more popular in non-American markets where one two to companies don’t have a virtual monopoly on the e-reader space. You can buy one on Amazon or direct from the manufacturer pretty easily. I’m personally enamored with Onyx Boox and its line up of Android E-Ink tablets.

The Leaf 2 starts at $199, has page turning buttons, the Google Play Store, and a user experience that needs improvement.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The problem is the software experience isn’t always very good, and most Android applications aren’t built for E-Ink displays with their glacially slow refresh rates. This leads to a lot of friction that doesn’t exist when you use a traditional tablet or phone.

But Barnes & Noble has a lovely app experience. It could theoretically do away with a lot of that friction. Imagine an e-reader that supported the Barnes & Noble store out of the box but allowed you to also access your Kindle library, or easily check out a book from Libby, or scroll through your bookmarked articles in Pocket too.

Amazon will never build a Kindle with that flexibility—it ones you to stay right in the Amazon ecosystem. Kobo is similar. There’s a reason downloading a library books isn’t as seamless as buying a booking from the Kobo store. But Barnes & Noble is the bookseller that wants to show off its independent spirit. It wants its brick and mortar stores to express their individualism. So why not its e-readers too?

Source link

Most Popular


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More from Author

Read Now

Coachella Weekend 1 Recap, J Balvin’s Out Of This World Coachella Set, Metro Boomin & Future Top Hot 100 | Billboard News

It’s Monday April 15th, Billboard counts down the top 10 on the Hot 100, we’re running down all the headliners and special guest performers and some notable audience members that went down at the first weekend of Coachella, J Balvin gives us a behind the scene...

ACKO’s game-changing campaign with Disney+ Hotstar for ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 – Exchange4media

Amidst the exhilarating atmosphere that surrounded the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023, where...

China’s Economy, Propelled by Its Factories, Grew More Than Expected

The Chinese economy grew more than expected in the first three months of the year, new data shows, as China built more factories and exported huge amounts of goods to counter a severe real estate crisis and sluggish spending at home.To stimulate growth, China, the world’s...

Angel Reese Picked 7th by Sky in 2024 WNBA Draft as Fans Hype Kamilla Cardoso Pairing

Welcome to Chicago, Angel Reese. The Sky made the former LSU star the No. 7 overall selection at Monday night's WNBA draft, adding the high-profile forward to the mix alongside No. 3 overall pick Kamilla...

GM says it will move headquarters from RenCen to Hudson’s site in 2025

Detroit — General Motors Co. announced Monday it will move its global headquarters to the Hudson’s Detroit development next year as it works with billionaire mortgage mogul Dan Gilbert's real estate firm to redevelop the Renaissance Center, its current home a mile away.GM CEO Mary Barra,...

Spotify planning to launch Music Pro subscription with lossless

A recent report revealed that Spotify is planning to raise the price of its subscription soon, at least in some countries. And for those who think that paying $10.99 a month for a music streaming platform is already too much, the company may soon introduce an...

Ryan Gosling’s Viral Beavis and Butt-Head Skit Was 5 Years in the Making

People watch Saturday Night Live to laugh, of course, but there are laughs and then there are sketches that last forever. This past weekend, Ryan Gosling hosted SNL and the episode may have featured one of those all-time sketches. What starts as a discussion of AI...

Angel Reese, Caitlin Clark dazzle on WNBA draft’s orange carpet

For the top picks of the 2024 WNBA draft, what they wear could be almost as memorable as where they land.Editor's Picks1 RelatedThe latest crop of hoops prospects -- including Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso -- will learn where their pro basketball careers will...

Tesla lays off more than 10% of its workforce – BBC News

By Shiona McCallumTechnology reporter15 April 2024, 13:00 BSTUpdated 1 hour agoImage source, Getty ImagesTesla will lay off more than 10% of its global electric vehicle workforce.In a memo, first reported by news website Electrek, billionaire owner Elon Musk told staff there was nothing he hated more,...

Longtime Yankees voice Sterling retires after 35-year run

The legendary radio voice of the Yankees, John Sterling, is retiring effective immediately after more than three decades in the booth, he and the team said Monday.The Yankees and Sterling made the announcement after The Athletic reported on a planned news conference for this weekend in...