updated 09:15 am EST, Thu January 5, 2012
Barnes and Noble may separate and sell Nook line
Barnes & Noble conducted an unusual strategy Thursday that amounted to an attempt to sell its Nook e-reader business. Although its Nook sales spiked 70 percent over what they were last year, the company was considering both breaking out the Nook group both for separate reporting as well as a selloff. The company wanted to "unlock that value" in its digital business, it said, and was planning a review that by the end of the year would make a decision on the business.
Among the options would include a simple expansion outside of the US. Barnes & Noble was talking to "publishers, retailers, and technology companies" in other countries, it said.
The uncertainty about its Nook business came even as it was doing well with traditional retail. Retail sales climbed 2.5 points over a year ago and higher when just using comparable sales. Paper book sales were up four percent, the first time it had grown in five years, while the gaming section was up 30 percent and the digital side was up 43 percent both in web-based book sales and for every aspect of the Nook, including its e-book store.
The only weakness was in the Nook Simple Touch, which unusually lagged behind even as the Nook Tablet and Nook Color were doing well.
Jettisoning the Nook business would be a questionable step for Barnes & Noble, since it would leave the core company with what many still consider a dying paper book business and an attempt to shift many of its stores to general interest rather than just reading. The company might be anxious about Microsoft's lawsuit and hoping to offload the Android patent dispute to someone else.