July 9, 2013 Last Updated 9:53 am

Exit of CEO may end B&N’s tablet efforts, but the NOOK could live on through a sale

I can only imagine the panic that occurred at both Barnes & Noble and Borders when word was leaked that their arch rival, Amazon, was entering the device market. If the giant online retailer owned the device, and its platform, then it might well own the future.

The first generation Kindle was introduced in November 2007, only months after the first iPhone was launched (it’s hard to imagine now, isn’t it?). Barnes & Noble announced the NOOK in October of 2009 (Borders didn’t open its own eStore until 2010, far too late to be competitive).

NOOK_books-smWhile many interested parties urged the big book retailers to fight Amazon, it was never going to turn out well for the late comers. It was like asking a horse farm to compete against the automakers by building their cars.

By all accounts the NOOK is a fine product, though I’ve never been tempted to buy one. But now that CEO William Lynch has resigned I think it is safe to assume that the device business will be sold off. Speculation is that Microsoft might be the buyer. This could be a good fit and would guarantee Microsoft at least some entry into the book market by partnering with a retailer.

The problem with the market is that both readers and publishers are not really interested in competition on the platform side of things. Sure, we all want competition so that prices fall, but competition on platforms is a different animal altogether.

Already the eBook publishing market is divided in a big way: with Amazon dominating text and Apple dominating touch. Somewhere in this mix is Google, and if Microsoft does invest more in NOOK, they could become a bigger player, as well. The challenge for book publishers is that they now are forced to think of their projects in two separate ways: one for the Kindle market (including Kindle and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone market) and one for the “enhanced” book market. Those that want the greatest possible reach go for ePub but then limit the ambitions of their projects.

Somewhere in this mess lies the magazine side of the business. For now at least, the Android side of the business is dominated by replica editions. One wonders what it would take to alter this situation. I’ve always figured that until Google committed itself to turning this situation around that nothing would happen. Maybe the answer is Microsoft and NOOK?

  • […] Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch’s resignation on Monday only adds to the retailer’s recent turmoil, on the heels of a negative earnings report and news that it will outsource the manufacturing of its Nook e-readers. This latest wrinkle is fueling speculation that the company will sell the Nook business. […]