Barnes & Noble Considering A Nook Spin Off

After reporting less than stellar stock returns, Barnes & Noble is seriously considering spinning off, or even selling its expensive, but popular Nook business to allow the Nook to ramp up its competition with Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad.

Right now, the tech world is weighing three options with the pros and cons of each.  This article does a good job of breaking all of it down.  Barnes & Noble can keep an active role in the business as it is now, which is not likely, it can take a backseat, yet still hold the reigns, or it can sell the business entirely.

Sales of all Nook e-readers combined were up 70% during the 2011 holiday shopping season, compared to a mere 2.5% growth of regular book sales.  That definitely goes to show that something needs to change, or the retailer will end up with the same fate as Borders, which declared bankruptcy earlier this year.

I think that Barnes & Noble’s best bet would be to stay invested somewhat in the business because the e-book is the way of the future.  Despite the lackluster reception of the Nook Touch, the Nook Color and the Nook Tablet have been doing very well.  I am not saying that print is dying out by any means, but e-books are definitely going to take an increasingly larger role over the next few years.  Consumers are already flocking to Amazon for both print and e-books because the prices are better.  So, the Nook would be a lifeline in case the print side of the business suffers.

Barnes & Noble recognizes that there is work to do to catch up with the Kindle, so the competition is going to get much more intense if the Nook gets more attention via a spinoff or separate company.

It will be interesting to see what this potential new development means for the Kindle.  Amazon reported record breaking Kindle sales in 2011 because of the much anticipated Kindle Fire and by offering the prices to beat,  All three members of the Kindle Family took the top selling spots on Amazon. The Kindle will most likely remain firmly on top of the e-reader market for the time being.


Does Anybody Really Care About Kindle vs Nook Battery Life?

There’s been a certain degree of controversy arising from competing claims about the battery life of the Kindle vs the new Nook.  I’m finding it a little bit silly overall, so I thought perhaps it would help to outline the situation and explain what is really going on.  Here’s what we’ve got.

A fairly short while ago, Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) announced the pending release of their new touchscreen Nook eReader.  It would have a better screen than the old Nook, a whole new interface, and basically all the essentials that you would expect from an eReader hoping to compete with the Kindle.  Among these was a battery life measured at an impressive 2 Months.

Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) responded to this claim based on the information available at the time.  The Nook Spec Sheet indicated that they had derived this estimate based on 30 minutes of reading time per day on average.  Since up until now the Kindle had been estimating its battery life based on 60 minutes of reading per day (I guess they assume that their customers like books more?), it was a simple enough matter to change the metric a bit and display the same claim.  No fanfare that I saw, just a quiet change of the product page.

Barnes & Noble didn’t like this, of course, and released a detailed report explaining how they performed the testing side by side with a Kindle.  In their testing, the Kindle came out with 56 hours of reading time while the new Nook managed an impressive 150 hours.  Both of these involved the WiFi being off, of course.  These numbers are impressive, it must be admitted.  Even the Kindle performed far better than Amazon had claimed at any point.  Now, I don’t have information specifically indicating that they took into account battery discharge while the devices were either off or on standby, but it seems fair to assume and hardly matters in the grand scheme.

What’s happened here is that Barnes & Noble has allowed the focus to fall away from the feature that really makes their new Nook stand out to potential customers, the touchscreen, and focused on a comparatively minor point.  Really, when your charging schedule on these things has reached a point where it is better measured on the scale of a calendar than a clock there isn’t going to be a lot of issue anymore.  I can understand why it would be important to them to emphasize this, having actually managed to run through a full charge of the original Nook in 2 days before, but it really isn’t the big deal it is being made out to be.

I don’t know if this is some kind of effort to draw attention away from the fact that their great new product was somewhat anticipated by the earlier release of the eerily similar new Kobo eReader, or if they have simply got different priorities than those that make sense to me, but I’ll admit I don’t get it. I love the Kindle‘s long battery life.  When it comes time to charge, I’ve usually known I was getting close for about a week.  Will it be nice to see the same happen to the Nook?  Of course.  When it comes right down to it, though, I don’t think many people care enough to count the days.  There’s just no room for either pride or outrage on this matter.  So why does it keep coming up?

Barnes & Noble Steps Up the Kindle vs Nook Competition With New Nook eReader

The much awaited Barnes & Noble announcement on March 24th has taken place and provided the marketplace with a new Nook eReader that is far better suited to compete with the Amazon Kindle than the Nook Color has so far managed.  It seems like a long overdue and very welcome update to the increasingly dated original Nook offering.  Due to ship before Father’s Day, specifically by June 10th if the B&N website is to be believed, we should have some more hands-on information in the near future.  For now, looking at the feature list, there’s some reason to be excited about it.  The feature list is almost point for point a comparison against the Kindle.  Here’s what they’ve got for us:

E Ink Pearl Touch Screen

This one was a bit obvious, but finally the Nook gets a better screen.  Even if B&N had done nothing besides throw the Pearl screens into the existing first-generation Nook, it’s a no-brainer.  Still, glad to have it.  While I’m somewhat skeptical of the usefulness of a touch screen, it’s likely to be more user-friendly than the one on the old Nook and we have to hope the implementation is smoother than the Sony equivalent.  I have little doubt that it will be.

2 Month Battery Life

You say the Kindle is good for a month of reading without recharging?  Then of course the Nook must be good for two!  In all seriousness, do we really need to worry about how long the charge will hold once we’re over a month?  My only complaint on this point is that it is misleading.  In truth, all they’ve done is give us a battery with the same life as the Kindle and measured the expected battery life with an assumed 30mins of reading per day instead of the previously assumed 60mins.  In response, Amazon has changed the info on the Kindle page to match.  No, they didn’t change any hardware, just the metric.

Newer, Lighter, Smaller Form

One of the biggest complaints about the old Nook was the size and weight.  Now, it’s shorter, lighter, and even has a dark frame to make the screen stand out more.  All good news!  The Nook is now around an ounce lighter, an inch shorter, and only a little over 30% thicker than the Kindle.  It will be far more comfortable to read on for extended periods than the original Nook ever was.

Who Comes Out Ahead?

Well, Amazon still has a couple things going for them.  More internal memory is nice, though of course the Nook still allows use of an SD card so the point is moot.  There’s no 3G version of the new Nook, so that’s still a plus for the Kindle.  For some reason B&N seems to have gotten rid of the web browser, so that’s something to take into account.  No matter how either side tries to play things up at this point, though, it seems that we’ve got something of a tie.  Unless you have very specific needs, the two are fairly even.  While I would have loved to see some sort of innovation from the new Nook, at least they’re back in the game and you can’t find much wrong with the product they’re presenting us with.