Can Google Save Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet?

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Barnes and Noble’s Nook tablet sales are struggling, but it is not because of lack of interest. Many buyers who have checked out the e-reader walked away after learning that the Nook HD does not support apps purchased on their Android phones. 

No one knows exactly how many Nook e-readers and tablets have been sold because Barnes and Noble does not disclose that information, but it is no secret that sales have definitely not met expectations. In the most recent quarter, revenues for the Nook were $316 million. That may seem like a lot, but it is actually an over 25 percent plunge compared with the same quarter last year. 

In January of 2012, Barnes and Noble announced that approximately one-third of its retail stores would be closed, resulting in just 500 or fewer locations surviving. This news, coupled with the Nook’s weak sales, spells trouble for the book chain and shows it is having difficulty with its digital transition. 

Buyers are not just looking for e-readers; they want multipurpose tablets that can do more than just present a book. They also desire technological movability between tablets and phones. 

In response, Barnes and Noble is unveiling a major software update and a drastically different strategy. The Nook tablets now have access to Google Play, Google’s online store that is home to digital books, music, movies, and magazines in addition to over 700,000 apps. For Nook users, this makes it easier to buy digital books from Google Play, instead of just from Barnes and Noble. The change also makes the Nook a full-fledged tablet that runs on the Android system. It can now compete with other tablets, like the iPad and the Kindle Fire, and its very connection with Google makes it more attractive to many buyers. 

The Bottom Line

Some observers worry that the change will do little for Barnes and Noble’s bottom line. Before the changes, users could only purchase e-books from the major chain, but now they are free to buy books from Google Play. Barnes and Noble will certainly lose some content sales, but the hope is that the new and improved Nook will draw in enough new customers to make up for the difference. 

It is clear that brick-and-mortar book stores selling real paper books are dying. Barnes and Noble needs the Nook to stay alive. Google may not save the Nook and the chain store, but Barnes and Noble is hoping it will.