updated 11:00 pm EST, Sun January 29, 2012
Barnes and Noble tries third-gen Nook reader
Barnes & Noble in an elaborate study of its business gave away plans for a third-generation Nook e-reader. Scant details were given to the New York Times, but it would ship sometime in the spring. The bookseller's recently established pattern suggests it's an E Ink reader like the Nook Simple Touch rather than an Android tablet.
The plans came amidst word of publishers being eager to keep Barnes & Noble alive to avoid putting too much power in the hands of Amazon and, to a lesser extent, Apple. To publishers still hoping to cling to the traditional print model, it represented keeping both print and retail in prominent positions, where they could better push their back catalogs and sell a more diverse set of titles. Amazon and Apple not only reduce the incidental discoveries more common to paper books but let authors make an end-run around major publishers to get more control and more revenue.
For Barnes & Noble, the Nook lineup has seen it become a technology company as much as a bookseller. It now accounts for about 27 percent of e-books, according to CEO Bill Lynch. Stores now have prominent Nook sections, and the company now has about 300 people working on its devices. The Nook Color and Nook Tablet, while not as large as the Amazon Kindle Fire, have contributed a small amount to Apple losing iPad share, even if they don't directly compete.
Publishers may still have reason to be concerned. Barnes & Noble has warned that 2012 could result in a loss, even after former Borders shoppers turn to its retail stores. The company has similarly toyed with selling the Nook group. Investors balked at the idea, which many inside and out have seen as a way to guarantee printed books would die quickly.
Amazon is still the leader in e-books by a wide margin, possibly with over 60 percent share, while Apple is small but growing. Although full data isn't available, Apple is believed to have the edge in digital magazines through its app support and more powerful hardware.