The end of the Nook or the salvation?

From the very beginning, Barnes & Noble has faced an uphill battle with its Nook devices. As with the e-book market, B&N came to the e-reader market late and has been trying to play catch up with Amazon and its various incarnations of the Kindle ever since. That battle has turned into a bleeding hole of debt for B&N where the Nook is concerned and for the last several years there has been open speculation about whether or not the bookseller would continue in the e-reader market. The voices of doubt were silenced, or at least hushed a little, a year or so ago when B&N announced a deal with Samsung to bring out its first new Nook tablets in, well, much too long. But the sales figures spoke volumes and the Nook division continued to lose money and B&N went looking for yet another new CEO to helm them company.

Ronald D. Boire has been tapped to take over the leadership of the company’s retail division come September. Boire has spent the last year as head of Sears Canada. Before that, he spent almost three years as head of Sears in the U. S. He also also worked with Best Buy and Sony Electronics. It is clear B&N his hoping his background with electronics will help rescue the Nook. Part of me hopes they are right because competition is always a good thing and, frankly, someone needs to be pushing Amazon not only to make it better but to keep it honest.

However, Boire is walking into a mire of problems that will be difficult to fix, especially if he follows the pattern of his last two jobs and stays only three years or less. The morass of issues facing B&N isn’t going to be fixed quickly, especially since its corporate structure has shown an unwillingness to change in the past.

Some of the issues plaguing the Nook are no longer really issues as much as bad marks left in the minds of early adopters of e-books and e-readers. When the Nook first came out, people were up in arms when charges for a penny were suddenly appearing on their credit cards. It seemed that if you downloaded a free e-book, Nook’s system still charged you. It was only a penny but still, free is free.

Then there was the issue that you could only download books that came from B&N. Oh, there were very quickly work-arounds but not everyone was techie enough to do it. Then there was the problem when the first Nook tablet came out that a huge portion of its memory was set aside and unusable for apps e-books. It’s e-book store was difficult to navigate around and, for awhile at least, they talked about having to be in-store to download directly to your device. Otherwise, you had to side-load (I’ll admit, I don’t know if that ever actually went into effect. By that time, I was firmly in the Kindle family).

Now, just before Boire takes over, B&N has unveiled an “updated” website that is more than just buggy, especially when it comes to the Nook side of things. According to GoodEReader, this overhaul of the site has been two years in the making. Two years and they still managed to put up a site that was broken. The “Read Instantly” function of Nook for the Web was broken. This basically meant you couldn’t preview an e-book before buying it. But that wasn’t all that was wrong with the new site.

Another glaring error is the fact that any past purchases cannot be read online and the Nook Library does not recognize past purchases as being owned. If you click on any e-book you have bought in the past the only options right now is to archive it or purchase it again. If you try and buy it again there are a series of errors that do not allow you to complete the transaction.

Wait what?

To compound the problem, this broken site meant those using the Nook app on their iPhones and iPads were unable to buy e-books from the retailer. Why? Because B&N stood up to Apple and refused to pay a commission on every sale made through the app — and I don’t blame them. But that means the only way for an iOS user to get a Nook e-book is to buy it through BN.com and then sideload it.

Now, the initial reporting of issues with the site came in last week. So, I just wandered over to BN.com and looked at the Nook best sellers. The site is still wonky, at best. When I clicked on the first entry, Grey, I received after a longish load time, a message that there was no preview of the hard cover and I was looking at the e-book preview — which was only the cover. Now, the problem there was I hadn’t been asking about the hard cover but about the e-book. For the next entry, The Paris Architect – A Novel, I received a “we’re sorry, the page you requested in unavailable” error message. Whisky Beach, by Nora Roberts, was next in line. The first time I clicked the link, it took me back to the Nook homepage. So I went back to the best sellers list and tried again. This time, it took me to the product page and, as of right now, the page is still trying to load the product description more than a minute later. Clicking for a preview takes me to a new window and back to the Nook homepage. Finally, when I get to the fourth entry on the best sellers list, The Girl on the Train, I actually go a preview when I clicked through for one. So, one in four of the books I looked at in the Nook Read Instantly previewer actually worked. Not good, especially when we are talking about the best sellers.

I’m not sure B&N will be able to save the Nook. At this point, the company has lost over a billion dollars because of failures in this particular division. Boire will be the third CEO since 2009. As Goodereader says, Boire “has an impressive resume but an entire digital industry passed him by. He was not actively working in tech when the original iPad came out, or the first generation Kindle. He did not play a role when people gravitated away from visiting websites and a billion dollar app market developed. It remains highly dubious that he can fundamentally understand the core of the Nook business and their competition.” This is a concern I share, especially given the fact that B&N has proven that its corporate culture doesn’t like change. I hope he can help turn the division around but I’m not holding my breath. Even if he does, the retailer has so many issues, I’m not sure that plugging one hole will be enough to save it in the long run.

97 Comments

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97 responses to “The end of the Nook or the salvation?

  1. “Boire has spent the last year as head of Sears Canada”

    No. He was only the acting CEO since October 2014.

    And he was hired to save B&N, not the Nook. Sears Canada is in much the same state as B&N, so he knows what he is getting in to.

    Frankly, I don’t understand why so many people think that the CEO was hired to save a $250 million money pit and not the $5 billion company. That just makes no sense.

    • If you thought I was implying he was brought in to save only the Nook, that wasn’t my intent. However, as part of saving the entire company, he has to do something about the money sink that is the Nook. If he doesn’t, the company is going to keep circling the drain.

      • You spent how many words talking about the Nook and how many words talking about B&N as a whole? Yes, you do imply that Nook will be his focus.

        • Tell me, are you going around to all the other posts about this issue and making the same comments or am I just the lucky one to catch you on what, I hope, is just a cranky day? You made your point. I don’t agree. Now move along.

    • He starts in September. At Sears Canada since October. Isn’t that close enough?

  2. Draven

    So he came from Sears (dying) and before that was at Best Buy (dying) and he’s supposed to be a good thing?

    • The problem with the dying retailers is the aging companies as much as it is the folks running it. Boire has had to cope with the legacy attitudes at other retailers, and that might give him better insight on how to get B&N out of its rut.

      Or at least that is how the hiring team is thinking, I bet.

    • That was my first thought. My second was he hasn’t been in any position for very long over the last few years. But the search committee and board saw something they liked. My problem is, did they see something that would help change the corporate culture in a positive manner or something else? My other concern is that the Nook division is bleeding money and it has to be dealt with to save the company — whether thedigitalreader agrees or not. Does he have the expertise now to do so? I don’t know. I hope so because, as I said in the original post competition is good for all.

    • Sears never recovered from the shift to “upper middle class” in the late 1960s through 1970s. What the company forgot is that it built its customer base by on serving everyone at the lowest possible prices during an era when you could buy much the same via mail order through the local hardware and dry goods store. Sears cut out the middle-man, so to speak, and sold directly to the customer. But if you were well-heeled, you could order a summer home along with your BVDs.

      When Sears shifted to “upper middle class,” it left itself wide-open to be undercut by discount retailers, who proceeded to do just that. You couldn’t buy a suit of armor at your local retailer (a Sears item around 1970), but you could get the dry good necessities of life, and that’s bought regardless of economic standing. And if you’re buying that and they have other items, why not get them all at one place? That’s what people were doing with Sears.

      The interesting thing is that Sears didn’t remember this. They had an inkling and acquires KMart for us (ahem) lower – end buyers, but they completely missed the start of the online sales revolution. That’s ironic because essentially it’s mail-order sales without the catalog.

      As of now, Sears, has taken a page from Amazon and offering sales from other vendors on their site. But Amazon is an established brand now, and Sear’s prices on clothing, at least, seems stuck in “upper middle class” land. Which means that if someone drops buy for clothes and goes “I can get that cheaper elsewhere,” they will, and get other items from there as well.

      The interesting thing, and how it applies to B&N, is how once a particular philosophy takes hold in a company, it’s hard to shake. Even if they do, they face an uphill struggle from competitors who stepped in to do what they didn’t.

      • TRX

        Sears’ schitck was their giant catalog, which let you order anything from aircraft to complete houses, surgical equipment, food, live chickens… if it existed, chances were it was in the Sears catalog.

        Sears ran its business over the US Postal System for communications and delivery.

        Amazon.com is doing the same thing as Sears used to, except the catalog and ordering are over the internet instead of via paper.

        • And the Sears catalog was recycled (in the country, at least) as toilet paper. The soft yellow order pages in the middle went first.
          There was even a song that made mention of this use:
          “Where I would set me down to rest, like a snowbird on his nest,
          And read the Sears & Roebuck catalog.”

  3. I have been a nook owner since early on and had no troubles with the first two I owned. But when I went to the HD, I had a world of hurt. They had to deregister and reregister it five times in the first year. When I complained about it, I actually got a reasonable customer service person who said I should have gotten a replacement after the second problem.

    They sent me an HD+ because they didn’t have any HD units in stock. I thought, cool, an upgrade. Now three months later, they’re sending me another one because this one makes me download books that I’ve had for years again and again. And if I have to redownload a book I’ve been reading, it’s lost my plce.

    I’m getting a new upgrade. The one I’m writing this on is a 16 gb, but they’re sending me a 32 gb replacement. I guess customer loyalty has some perks.

    I’ve got a terrible Kindle, but I’ve got the kindle for android program on my nook so I download my kindle books to my nook.

    I’m publishing my first book on KDP in September. I can read the hand-writing on the wall!

    • I’m thrilled to hear you’ve had a good experience with their CSRs because I’ve heard too many horror stories about them. I will admit to being surprised by what you have to say about your kindle. I’ve had almost every iteration except the Kindlewhite and have never had a problem, at least not one they didn’t deal with quickly and, in all but one case, for free. That last case I was well outside of warranty. So I didn’t expect a free replacement. But they did give me a big discount on a replacement which I appreciated.

      As for publishing on KDP, congrats. I have been in the Nook store but had very few sales. In fact, B&N was always on the bottom of my sales sheet. So I pulled out of there long before I went to Amazon solely.

    • Lea

      And if I have to redownload a book I’ve been reading, it’s lost my plce.

      I have to say I had a similar problem with my kindle when I broke the last one. All my books disappeared (they were in the cloud, of course, but I had to pull them down) and they were no longer at the place I had previously reached. I’m not sure if there was a solution I just didn’t see, but I mostly started reading other stuff for a while and then trying to find my place.

      Part of this is likely due to my habit of reading with the wifi off to save battery power…

      • I can pretty much guarantee that was the problem, Lea. The books hadn’t synced with the cloud. I know because I’ve had the same thing happen and it is frustrating. Still, I tend to read with the wireless off and only sync periodically.

    • wanderingmuses

      Almost identical to our Nook experiences. We have a total of, I think, five here and one we gave to a friend. But we’ve gotten so frustrated we finally gave up and went to the iPad with the Kindle app. It’s just easier.

  4. It almost sounds as if B&N was so rushed that they didn’t bother (have the resources?) to beta test anything with the website. Which strikes me as a bit of a hint that perhaps someone is too busy rearranging the deck chairs to go look at the state of the bilge pumps.

    I’ve had a few gripes about the uploading-to-B&N process, but it does work, at least on the second try. (I have not had to try a third time, yet.)

    • Yeah, although two years in the making should give someone time to beta test. Or, conversely, once made aware of the major issues, they should have rolled back to the prior iteration until repairs could be made.

      As for the upload process, you have had better luck than I did. The last time I tried going with whatever they are calling their self-pub platform now, it kept borking the uploads. I finally ended up going through Draft2Digital.

    • From a QA perspective (and Kate can chime in too) the whole B&N site has always been dodgy on quality. I don’t think they have a very good test team/management, or the team is beleaguered by stupid management tricks and lack of support. This most recent rollout reeks of “we have to ship now, we’ll fix it later”, so I am very much afraid there are even worse bugs deep in the code that haven’t been discovered yet. If you have books up on that site, *carefully* monitor your sales and payments.

      QA is always the red-headed stepchild in software development. Nobody loves us πŸ™‚ We keep finding problems, we delay schedules, we ask awkward questions… and THIS debacle shows why we are necessary, warts and all.

      • That’s exactly what I figured. And I don’t want to think about the bugs that are going to show up as they fix the code because I have visions of them fixing one line but not checking to see what impact that change will have on the rest of it.

        And I will have you know, this red headed step child has no warts — at least none the public can see πŸ˜‰

        • This is why you should never take a software QA job at a place without good bug reporting and tracking software. It’s vital to the continued health and well being–and job security–of all QA folk to be able to show management that they did, indeed, catch “that bug” but some software developer downgraded it from “Critical” to “Suggestion”.

          Not that I’ve ever run into that problem in my 20+ years of QA work, of course… πŸ˜€

        • I have visions of them fixing one line but not checking to see what impact that change will have on the rest of it.

          Ninety nine bugs in the code on the wall. Ninety nine bugs in the code.
          Take one down; patch it around. 137 bugs in the code on the wall.

          πŸ˜‰

  5. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    I use a non-Nook Tablet and I prefer the ePub format. Of course, I also have Calibre on my PC to convert Kindle eBooks to the ePub format. I’m also not using the Nook software to read eBooks on my Tablet.

    I agree that B&N has screwed up their web-site and B&N has basically convinced me that it’s better to purchase eBooks from Amazon. I can de-DRM Kindle eBooks and convert them to ePub. It may be more work for me but its better than messing with B&N’s web-site.

    • Paul, I prefer the epub format as well and wish Amazon used it instead of mobi. As for the rest of it, yep, been there and done that. πŸ˜‰

  6. I just bought a Nook for the ePub capability– and then found that most of the memory is dedicated only to books bought on B&N. I went back to see how I missed that factoid. Arrrgh! It’s alluded to, and I missed it.

    • I’ve had several friends discover that the hard way. Hopefully, you can save your ebooks to an sd/micro sd card to use with your tablet (sorry, don’t know the specs, so don’t know if that is possible.)

      • I’ve been using the same microSD card for years and it has all my sideloaded books on it. It’s the only reason I’m still with nook.

      • Unfortunately, you can’t because the device is not built with the capability of adding a memory card, at least not the Nook Glowlight I bought last December. I took it back for a refund the next day.

        I still use my first generation Nook because I prefer the epub format. That device lets me use a memory card. I would love to upgrade to one with a better battery, but none of the Nook dedicated ereaders meet my needs, and I don’t want to read on a backlit screen. I’ve not bought a Nookbook since.

        Then I tried to buy a Kobo during a Christmas sale online. The order never would go through. After several calls to customer service that were dropped, I finally got a representative to confirm that I can’t have a different mailing address for my credit card (PO Box for security reasons) than the physical delivery address for the device. (?!?) So at least according to Kobo, I can’t be their customer.

  7. B&N, as a company, really isn’t sure what to do with itself.

    The first time I ever set foot inside of a B&N store, I thought I was in heaven. Comfy places to sit and check out the books, and a pile of those, and no one trying to rush me out. It really did seem like heaven.

    However, there was a downside to that. With more commerce being performed online, B&N doesn’t have that edge. Nice chairs aren’t going to cut it when people have nice chairs of their own they’re already shopping from. They’ve never really found their niche in the new digital landscape. :/

    • It’s even more than that. Those comfy chairs are disappearing. Store layouts don’t emphasize books anymore. You walk in and you see stuff for the Nook, knick-knacks, etc. Too many of their clerks aren’t familiar with their inventory — and I treasure those who are and who have a love for books. Then there is the issue that so much of the local ordering control has been taken away. Regional demands aren’t given the weight they once were and that is a shame.

      • Damn.

        I haven’t been in one in years. We don’t have one locally, and I haven’t really looked for one while traveling, so I didn’t know that.

        Yeah, they’re hosed.

        • Several years ago, when Sarah was here for a workshop, we went to the local B&N. I knew the manager at the time and we were talking about their stock. She told me then that once a week, they received an email from corporate telling them what books to pull from their shelves. It didn’t matter if the books were selling in the store. The decision was made on a regional or national average of sales. That was why some books only had a shelf life of a week or two. From what I’ve seen and heard since then, things haven’t changed much.

          • The same top-down decision-making process killed Borders.

            Is this a sign that B&N will go the same way? A possible answer lies in remembering that brick and mortar book stores aren’t really in the book business. They’re in the lumber business.

            B&N’s fumbling with the Nook is a direct result of that fact. Readers want stories. Print books (and ebooks) are just media for conveying those stories. B&N specialized in selling paper media. Now ebooks account for at least 1/3 of book sales (which doesn’t even count indie, so the real figure is probably much bigger). Trying to recapture some of that market share by launching their own ereader wasn’t a bad idea, but they seem to have grossly underestimated the differences between the print and ebook markets.

            Meanwhile, the number of independent book stores is growing. It doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to surmise that print books are on their way to becoming a niche market where smaller stores capable of catering to local tastes can survive; even thrive, but big chains can’t be sustained.

          • That’s just…sad.

            And people wonder why I like Amazon rather than put my books in brick and mortar stores.

      • This does not bode well. About thirty years ago, local bookstores went gift-shop mode before going under. If it didn’t work for them, it won’t work for B&N.

  8. So I’m thinking those bugs will get fixed right about the point DoJ reminds B&N it gave out book credits as part of its settlement Abojt price fixing. If you then make it too difficult for people to access said books (and yeah, if I gotta side load I think that’s getting there) then the company is no longer in compliance with the settlement.

    I just let the B&N membership I’ve held since 2000 lapse. I suspect I’m not alone. The straw that broke the camel’s back with me was when the local B&N basically upgraded their coffee register but still didn’t leave a way to demagnetize the anti-theft devices. This was something that I know multiple customers had mentioned and was always a hassle. There were other things, but basically the unwilling to change thing trickles all the way down. I’m not even going near the general unwillingness to support indies.

    • James, you may be right. The next six months to a year will be interesting to watch. As for the membership, I let mine lapse years ago. It seemed like I was having to pay more and more for less and less. Then I started looking at how often I actually found the book I was looking for in the store — or how often a book I ordered actually made it to the store and I was notified it was there — and decided to save that money. Now that I think about it, the local B&N is about five miles or so from my house. I haven’t been in it for almost a year. Instead, I find myself buying from local indie stores or online.

  9. Uncle Lar

    One of the (many) things I appreciate about Baen is their willingness to serve up e-books in whatever format a reader prefers. Here are the options for download of a typical monthly release:
    HTML Format Zip
    Ebookwise/Rocket Format Zip
    Mobi/Palm/Kindle Format Zip
    EPUB/Nook/Stanza Format Zip
    Microsoft Reader Format Zip
    Sony Digital Reader Format Zip
    RTF Format Zip
    I used to DL my purchases as HTML and just use any browser, but lately prefer the epub format and use the free Stanza reader software. The two page format just seems more booklike. Of course if I want once I’ve purchased a month I can DL it again in mobi and sideload (thanks for putting a name to what I’ve been doing all along) to my plain vanilla Kindle reader.
    It would seem to me that if they were smart B&N would borrow a page from the Baen playbook and just sell books in as many formats as there was a market for. Never used a Nook, but if I were in charge I’d get the techies to configure the new model to read multiple formats. I suspect it would sell like hotcakes. But they won’t. Absent Baen all the publishers and major distributors and vendors are all about control over profit. Which is why they are all dinosaurs in their last death rattle.

    • I hear you. Baen spoiled me when it comes to e-books and multiple formats. Jim Baen was ahead of the game with webscriptions and the publishing industry has never really forgiven him. But, as a reader and a writer, I celebrate his foresight and applaud Toni and company for continuing to push the field.

      • carlton mckenney

        Have you noticed how B&N rewarded Baen? If you do a search for “Just Released” books under the SF&F umbrella you will get no Baen books. I noticed this 3 years ago and went thru the hassle of filing a formal bug report. About 1 year ago when the bug was still not fixed I notified Toni directly. When I went into the new and “IMPROVED” website today, same damn problem. If I lookup the new books directly they are there with the correct release date. There appears to be a filter somewhere that tells the search function to ignore Baen books.
        And then they notified me of an upgrade and bug fix for my Samsung and Nook HD app. I applied the fixes. SURPRISE! All my books that I downloaded from Baen are missing.
        I want to know what B&N has against Baen.

        • I quit connecting my NSTs to the internet a couple of years ago because every time they pushed out an update they borked something. I don’t trust them anymore.

          • Everybody wants to meddle in your devices. I really hate it. Kindle for win8 is barely functional, but they keep trying to force it’s use (I like the Kindle for PC just fine) probably because the kindle library is hidden except through the Kindle. I wouldn’t mind so much if it worked.

            Don’t even get me started on gurgle.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Yeah, Kindle for Win 8 is the pits. Fortunately, I got the old Kindle for PC. Oh, don’t get me started on what B&N did to Nook for PC. [Frown]

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          There are two new-book sellers where I live. One is in walking distance, and the other is a BN.

          The walking distance store, if it has a new Baen hardcover on the shelves, it will be the first/big one for the month.

          If one makes enough visits to the BN, one may see the Baen new offerings on the shelves before they disappear, never to return until paperback.

        • That reminds me of when I went into a Borders and asked for one of David Weber’s books. No, they didn’t have it. So I asked if they could order it. Couldn’t find it by his name or by title in their system so they asked for the publisher. I told them Baen. Nope, not in the system. Was it even published yet? Yes, it came out a week ago. They were totally clueless and either didn’t want to go through the steps to order the book for me or Borders, too, was playing games. Or both. That would surprise me one bit.

  10. Lea

    I remember when my cousin was first thinking about buying an ereader, her husband made the comment that we should look at which company looked more stable and safer. Considering multiple bookstores similar to B&N had closed, Amazon seemed like the safer bet. I bought a kindle and never looked back.

    That is still all true.

    • Your husband had a good thought and one a lot of folks never consider, no matter what the purchase. I did much the same. Even so, I still back up all my ebooks on the off-chance Amazon suddenly disappears or has a catastrophic server crash or something.

      • Anachronda

        Yeah, I used to back everything up, too, until that one fateful day I turned the wireless of my Kindle on and discovered that my wife had amused herself one night by buying a hundred free cookbooks. My backup regime has yet to recover.

  11. I’ve got a Kobo, and they seem to be hanging on. The Nook never really appealed to me (I like ePubs so the Kindle has never been an option. It’s also why I almost never buy e-books from Amazon since they don’t offer epub.)

    • That is why I love tablets. You can download apps that let you read whatever format you want. Then, as Paul suggested, there are ways around DRM — not that I am advocating you use them. No, never. I would never advocate anything like that. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

      • Heh, mostly it’s a matter of time to do it. I went with the reader with the widest range of options. I’m still working on getting some stuff in there. *shifty eyes* I don’t use enough of the tablet to actually make it worth the extra cost. Oh were you implying something? Let me clean my glasses must have clean missed it. *Polishes halo*

    • Lea

      I will admit I mostly just buy the books from kindle, but they do have a way you can send books to your kindle that are not in their format. I know I’ve done it with pdf’s, I don’t know about epub.

  12. CACS

    The continued problems B&N are having with the Nook will be sad news for friends who work and travel abroad in less developed areas of the world. They have chosen the Nook over the Kindle. Apparently, if there is a problem it is easier to comply with their warranty terms.

  13. Asked for and received a Nook as a graduation gift. Nothing fancy, just the bare-bones basic model. Looking back, I’m kind of glad I didn’t actually pay for it.

    Of the handful of titles I actually loaded on it, the majority are the Classics that I got credit for free when I activated the Nook, and Baen that I purchased from Webscriptions and then side-loaded. I think the only items I purchased from the Nook Store are a pair of subscriptions to lit mags that I don’t read anymore but can’t figure out how to unsubscribe from. And when I try to use the Nook itself, it will randomly start cycling through the pages of whatever I’m reading. Still haven’t quite figured out how to stop it: it either stops on its own or I manage to hit the right button, not sure. Haven’t bothered with tech support because I barely ever used the damn thing to begin with.

    As for the stores themselves, I agree with the above sentiments, B&N really has no clue what it wants to be: book store, toy store, gaming store, hobby shop, coffee shop, or writing nick-nack shop. And the staff seems less and less interested in helping customers. I went into my local B&N to buy a copy of MHI. Couldn’t find any in any of the new release spots, so I went to the front desk and asked if they had it in stock. The lady looked on her computer, said it was in stock, and suggested I check the Sci-Fi section. I told her it wasn’t there, and she told me to wait while she checked the back room. Five minutes later, she came back with a copy in hand and apologized for making me wait: she’d walked by it a few times and hadn’t seen it because it was the very last copy they had it stock, and they’d had dozens the last time she’d been back there.

    Fast forward to a month ago. I went into the same store looking for the third book in John Ringo’s Black Tide series. Same thing, only this time when I asked the folks behind the CS desk for help, they said “it’s on the shelf.” When I said that there were no copies on the shelf, I got multiple annoyed glares, one eye roll, and a gruff, “look pal, if the computer says it’s on the shelf then it’s on the shelf,” followed by a “maybe,” if there were any copies in the back. I realized that asking them to check wouldn’t be worth the effort so I walked out of the store empty-handed.

    Honestly, B&N seems more and more like Borders back in the bad-old days. Damn shame: I never cared for Borders, but B&N used to be an awesome company.

    • That has become my basic experience whenever I go into B&N and is why I haven’t been to one in a year or more. And that is a real shame because our B&N used to be a great store. Of course, that was before it moved across the highway into “bigger and better” digs. That, too, is part of the problem B&N has. Like Borders, it over-expanded and kept going bigger when the economic signs were already there that they needed to consolidate and start downsizing.

      • I must confess that I still go to B&N on a fairly regular basis. Mostly to camp out in the in-store Starbucks for a couple of hours while I pound out a couple thousand words of my novel, and to by the occasional gun magazine. The latter is only because I don’t want my folks giving me grief when American Handgunner or RECOIL shows up in the mailbox.

    • adventuresfantastic

      I had a similar experience a couple of years ago. I couldn’t find the latest Jack McDevitt novel even though it had been out a week or two and the computer said it was on the shelf. I asked a clerk (one who is always friendly and helpful), and he found a copy in the back. They hadn’t been taken out of the box yet.

  14. Elliott Starr

    I have an original Nook since shortly after they first came out. Sad to say, I no longer buy books from B&N ever since they removed the download button from the books I already have. Like most of us, I buy most of my ebooks from Amazon( and Baen, of course), and run them through calibre so I can convert them to ePUB. When my Nook dies, I don’t know what I will do. I do have a smart phone, but don’t like the size of the screen to read on it. I guess I’ll have to get a tablet(hate their screens for reading) and get some ePUB reader I already have all my books in ePUB and the thought of the work of converting them to mobi is daunting. I have generally had good customer service for my Nook in the store, but by phone, oy vey.

    • Kobo is still making eInk eReaders, and Amazon still does as well. Since you are already running everything through Calibre it wouldn’t be any more difficult to put your books on one of those (or whatever else comes out) than what you’re doing now.

    • Also, the N1E was designed to replace the battery. So as long as you can still order batteries off eBay, Amazon or they are carried at Batteries+ you should still be good as long as the screen and OS don’t die.

    • Anything you bought from Amazon you ought to be able to redownload. So you’ll only have to convert everything else. :/

      • Elliott Starr

        That’s close to 1000 books.

        • Elliott Starr

          Also, backed up on two external hard drives. Too many to leave on my computer, which could crash, and then where would I be?

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Yeah, that’s why a few years back I purchased a couple of external hard drives. One’s the “main” data drive and the other’s the backup.

  15. Holly

    This is why I still mostly buy paper books: I just don’t trust someone else to have control over my library. The only ebooks I’ve bought (except one short story-and that only because I downloaded a free ebook from the author and liked it so much I wanted to pay her) are from this gang.

    And if y’all had them out in paper, I’d buy those.

    • It’s possible to back-up your library on any ereader than can connect to a computer. Just copy the books to the hard drive. You can only reload DRM books back on the same reader, but they’ll be backed up.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Agree, I have all of my eBooks backed up on my hard-drives.

        I also remove the DRM from any eBooks I purchase.

    • TRX

      The Epic of Gilgamesh was pressed into clay with a split stick. The tablets are just as readable today as they were when they were written 4,500 years ago.

      Not like that newfangled “paper” stuff, that is ridiculusly fragile and simply disintegrates when wet. Yeah, the storage density is higher, but it’s not permanent storage like clay.

      (the chiseled-stone guys claimed clay wasn’t as permanent as stone, but it’s close enough, and orders of magnitude cheaper…)

      TRX – (glancing at a hard-sectored 180 Kb 8-1/2″ floppy disk next to a 2″ floppy disc on the shelf. And there’s a real “Winchester” 30 Mb disc pack in the other room.)

      • One night we arrived at church and found a treat: One of the members (who served as a proof-reader for one of the modern bible translations), had a table set up with pages from historic bible translations into English. I thought they were reproductions, which was impressive enough, only to learn they were the original pages. We chatted about that, and it turned out that the high rag content made the paper hold up well.

        In comparison, modern paper after a certain period contains acid, which hastens breakdown. Those first English bibles will be holding up well long after much of the paper from our time has crumbled into dust.

    • Pure plug Most of my work is now out in paper the last two will be out soon. πŸ˜‰

  16. The main question in all of this is if the Nook folds, will the epub format go away as well?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      I doubt that the ePub format will die if the Nook reader dies.

      It seems to be the “format” of choice for most non-Amazon eBook stores.

      But of course, I could be wrong. [Smile]

    • Considering ePub is the rest of the world’s first choice (at least last time a looked about 2 years ago) I don’t think ePub is going anywhere. I’ve also heard that .azw3 is basically an epub in a kindle wrapper (I don’t have a kindle so have never looked into it). Amazon is THE eBook king in North America, and when I last looked 2 years ago they were expanding internationally, but they were pretty far behind in sales rankings everywhere English wasn’t the primary language. Things may have changed since then (probably have) but I don’t see epub going away.

    • Nah. For one, mobi is proprietary to Amazon and Apple et al won’t want to pay to use it. For another, there would still be iTunes, Kobo and other “stores” that use it.

  17. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Slightly off topic but I remember when people were complaining about the Big Chains (B&N & Borders among others) were killing the independent bookstores. (Of course, it’s now Amazon’s fault. [Wink])

    At the time, I heard about a bookstore owner complaining that he had to close his doors because of the Big Chains.

    Unfortunately, I had visited his bookstore. I had a big problem finding parking and his store didn’t have the books I wanted.

    Then and now, I thought the independent bookstores died because they didn’t meet the needs & desires of their customers.

    We saw what happened to Borders for that reason.

    Barnes & Noble seems to be heading down that path.

    I’m not concerned about the Nook reader, but as a bookstore (online and otherwise) B&N appears to be failing.

  18. My gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, bought me a Nook in 2011, and it was sort of nice for a while. They had (don’t know if they still do) a free book every week, and that’s all I would get. Mostly, the books were things I would not have selected on my own, and that gave me some exposure to new material. (SugarBelly is sitting on me and keeps poking at the keyboard, so ignore extra characters or spaces.) I did get one book I really, really liked, which was “The Last Boy,” about Mickey Mantle. However, the constant resets I’d have to do when the controls went glitchy were a pain, and when it died the last time I just pitched it.

  19. AND: I have a review up on Amazon of Angus Trim’s first book, “Ranger Ask Not.” He says his second is ready to launch.
    Per advice, I will note in future reviews that I accessed the book through KU.
    I’m still not clear what impact, if any, reviewer rating has on how much promotion the author gets. BUT: In the past week, I have written TWELVE reviews, and my rating moved from 43,259 to 41,021, and my guess is that MOSTLY that move was due to the FOUR ‘Helpful’ votes I got on those 12 reviews.
    I have things to say about that. But I won’t say them here. I won’t….

  20. Oh, by the way: also reviewed David Pascoe’s series ‘Unquiet Gods’ on Amazon and on my blog. Here’s the blog url:
    http://habakkuk21.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-unquiet-gods-series-by-david-e.html

  21. Back in March I detailed why I quit shopping at B&N ( https://westfargomusings.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/goodbye-bn-youve-driven-me-into-the-arms-of-another/ ). Almost all of the things that they had going form them, from a reader’s standpoint) they have killed. I don’t think the big wigs in the suits at B&N understand their customers. They don’t understand their readers. Of course, I don’t think the publishers really understand readers either, so they aren’t alone in that. They are the last major book chain, they should have a built in customer base for transitioning people from physical books to eBooks. But they seem clueless and have mucked it up at nearly every step of the way. The last time they were at the forefront of the hardware was when they released the NookColor and the NookSimpleTouch. That was 4 years ago.

    Instead of their products getting better and being more customer friendly, they kept falling behind the competition while getting more customer unfriendly. That usually isn’t a winning combination. Maybe this guy can turn the culture around within B&N, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

    My prediction: Nook is dead or sold off in under 5 years and B&N might be dead as well.

    • I think you are right but I give them less than 3 years before they either spin off the Nook or kill it outright and let tablet manufacturers set up kiosks in the stores to replace the Nook. The news that they are going to split off their university bookstores also shows that there is going to be some major shifts. How that impacts the bottom dollar, I don’t know but will be watching.

      • News today says they are going to shut down most of their international interests. At this point I’m thinking it might only be a year before the Nook customer list is sold to someone else.

  22. Griz

    My big problem with B&N is international travel. Baen will sell to me anywhere in the world. Amazon has my US ship to address on file and will sell me a book overseas. B&N refuses me when I’m out of the US. I gave up on them.

    • That is why, when my son was about to be sent to Germany, I checked that his Kindle would still work using his US billing address. I knew he could open an account through the German Amazon but wanted his to be able to continue accessing his US account. He can and still enjoys his Kindle — and the Baen books I send him πŸ˜‰

  23. I love browsing bookstores, but I have to drive about a hundred miles for some good ones. I want to support indies, because, if I don’t, they won’t exist someday. However, I’ve come to realize that many indies just do not share my tastes in fiction. After two years of fruitlessly taking lists of books I want to purchase and having maybe one or two in stock out of a dozen on good forays and none on bad ones, I’ve nearly given up. The clerks are always pleasant and helpful and offer to order, but I didn’t drive a hundred miles to pay full price to have to wait a couple of weeks for them to order a book for me. I can order it Prime from Amazon at a discount and receive it in two days. The indies make it awfully hard for me to remain their customer.

    • I am a lot more understanding of an indie bookstore not having something I might be interested in, unless it is on the best sellers list, than I am B&N. There is no reason B&N shouldn’t have all of Weber’s or Ringo’s or most of Nora Roberts’ or Louis L’Amour’s books on hand. But, nine chances out of ten, if I go into a B&N to buy something that isn’t on the top ten list and is science fiction, they won’t have it. I long ago gave up on them when it came to non-fiction. Since I rarely wanted the latest best selling non-fiction book but wanted something for research, I would have to order it and that was always hit or miss with them. Either they wouldn’t order it or, if they did, I usually never got a call telling me it was in.

  24. freddie_mac1

    I’ll consider switching to a Kindle when they come equipped with memory card slots and support a wider variety of file formats (two of the main reasons why I purchased a Nook).

    I’ve had my Nook Simple Touch for 3-4 years with no problems; fantastic way to get the newspaper so I can read it on the train, and my books live on the memory card (no trust in the cloud for me). True, I could convert Kindle files to Epub and load them onto my Nook, but why bother? I’m willing to hunt for non-Amazon sources if necessary, but I’m not going to let Amazon dominate my reading experience.

    To get around BN’s removal of the download button in the library, I’ve started using the Nook for PC app: purchase a book on the PC (I never shop via the Nook itself), refresh the app, download the file to the PC, then transfer it to the memory card. Since I’ve always side-loaded content since Day 1, this isn’t an inconvenience.

  25. I’d say this is probably the end of the Nook. They are closing their international eBook access (excluding the UK) next month.

    http://the-digital-reader.com/2015/07/08/the-beginning-of-the-end-bn-shutters-the-international-nook-store/

    • Someone commented that perhaps Microsoft would take over the market from B&N. Maybe so, but they already walked away from Microsoft Reader. I bet they stay away. Could be wrong. Could be they dumped Reader to make room for a move like this.

  26. Pingback: Is it time to worry if you have a Nook? | Twisted Writers

  27. Robotech_Master

    Honestly, the way B&N has been treating the Nook lately, it’s as if they’re TRYING to strip away any last shreds of relevance the platform has. The botched website upgrade is only the latest straw. A few months back, B&N removed the ability to download e-books outside of the B&N Nook and app ecosystem. It has also removed the ability for the Nook app to read sideloaded e-books from other sources.

    Really, it’s kind of weird when you get right down to it how Amazon has been able to catch lightning in a bottle with the Kindle while no other company seems to be able to do the same thing even when their hardware is roughly similar.