When Barnes & Noble announced that it had partnered with Samsung to try and salvage its endangered Nook line of e-book readers, things seemed mildly interesting. Samsung has an untold number of tablets available for purchase, so the prospect of a dedicated book reader seemed like it had some potential promise.
After the dust settled however, it was clear the results weren’t quite what some had hoped: the Galaxy Tab Nook was simply a standard Galaxy Tab 4 pre-loaded with B&N Nook software and the Nook UI replacing TouchWiz. The price was set at $199, significantly higher than the various offerings by Bezos and Friends. The duo then paired for yet another offering, this time a modified Galaxy Tab 4 10.1, but priced higher than the smaller Tab Nook.
It is perhaps unsurprising that a new report by the Wall Street Journal indicates Tab Nooks had a less than stellar sales situation this most recent holiday shopping season.
Specifically, the WSJ reported that revenue from Nook hardware and content (i.e. e-books) was only $56 million, a decrease of a whopping 55% compared with the same 9 week holiday performance measurement last year (ending January 3rd). More specifically however, it was the hardware that did most of the damage: both the readers and accessories saw sales drop by 65% to $28.5 million compared with Q4 2013. Digital content, interestingly enough, only fell by 25% to $27.4 million, a much more modest drop to be sure, but a significant one nonetheless.
Suffice to say this is a trend that doesn’t seem likely to stabilize as e-book readers approach commodity status and even higher end tablets are starting to slide under the $200 mark. Likewise, Barnes & Noble has been contemplating establishing its Nook brand as a separate spin-off company (related to the digital retail of college textbooks), something that may become increasingly difficult with these disappointing results. According to the WSJ, James McQuivery, an analyst at Forrester Research, believes users are “abandoning” the Nook, “Otherwise, you’d have seen stabilizing digital content sales” and then suggested B&N would be better off combining the Nook business with its online store, bn.com.
With such sour sales this past holiday season, it’s unlikely 2015 will see another such invitation.
Assuming that B&N wants to continue making use of the Nook brand for future products and/or services, something drastic needs to be done, and quickly at that. Meanwhile Samsung can’t be too happy either, given that its own situation is sliding and the failure of this once-possibly powerful partnership is no doubt on rocky ground at the moment, if not all but terminated.