Is Nook leaving PC and Mac to Kindle?

Courtesy of The Digital Reader (also covered by TechCrunch), we get the surprising news that B&N has stopped supporting its Nook for PC and Nook for Mac Reading Apps.

  1. B&N has ended support for Nook for PC and instead expects users to use Nook for Windows 8 and Nook for Web.
  2. B&N has ended support for Nook for Mac and instead expects users to use iPhone and iPad Apps and Nook for Web.

There are a few problems with this approach.

Nook for Windows 8 doesn’t cover Nook for PC, neither does Nook for Web

Windows 8 penetration is in single digits. The overwhelming majority of PC users are on Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. All those Windows 8 licenses sold are mostly just that – licenses. They aren’t yet actual machines running Windows 8.

This means that B&N has told the 90% or so of PC users using Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP to forget Nook.

What about Nook for Web?

Well, Nook for Web doesn’t support all books. It doesn’t even support most books. This means that users who are on Windows 7, Vista, or XP simply can’t read their books any more – unless they have a Nook device or have a smart phone that has a Nook reading app.

What are all these users going to do?

Switch to Kindle. Perhaps stop buying books from Nook. Perhaps go to Kobo.

Nook for Web doesn’t cover for Nook for Mac, nor do the iPhone Apps

B&N’s decision to end support for Nook for Mac is similarly strange.

Nook for Web doesn’t support a lot of books – so Nook for Mac users can’t just switch to that.

Mac users who don’t have, or don’t want to read on, an iPhone or iPad are stuck.

Again, all these users will switch to Kindle or Kobo.

Is B&N giving up?

That’s the first thing that comes to mind.

Combine all the signs –

  1. Heavy losses from Nook devices for B&N last quarter.
  2. Massive fire sales for Nook HD and HD+ this year.
  3. Ending Nook for PC and Nook for Mac Reading Apps.

It seems that B&N is giving up.

Well, there is one other possibility.

Is B&N cutting off poor performing Apps & Devices?

Perhaps B&N decided to focus on the devices and reading apps that are doing well.

  1. Perhaps that means focusing on Nook for iPhone and Nook for Android and Nook Study. And to cut off Nook for PC and Nook for Mac.
  2. Perhaps it means focusing on Nook eInk eReaders or the next generation of Nook Tablets (perhaps built using Windows 8). Which would mean clearing out stock of Nook HD and Nook HD+.

That is a possibility. It’s certainly better than the alternative i.e. B&N leaving the ebook space completely, or perhaps just giving up.

Strange that B&N is ending Nook for PC and Nook for Mac

There were strong rumors earlier this year that B&N was ending Nook Tablets and would focus on reading apps instead. Those rumors seemed to be validated by the fire sales going on for Nook HD and Nook HD+.

However, the end of the Nook for PC and Nook for Mac reading apps puts us in a quandary.

If B&N is ending Tablets and focusing on reading apps, then why is it ending Nook for PC and Nook for Mac?

  1. Were these performing badly?
  2. Were users on these not buying books?
  3. Were these leading to piracy?
  4. Are there not enough resources to run these well?
  5. Is B&N just leaving ebooks entirely?

It’s hard to say what the reality is.

Why is Nook leaving PC and Mac to Kindle?

The crux is that B&N is leaving all these users to Kindle and Kobo.

Perhaps it’s just 5% or 10% of the market. However, it’s very strange to not even contest it.

Perhaps it’s just 1% or 2% of the market. Perhaps people just don’t read books on desktops and laptops. In that case, it’s understandable.

Would love to know the actual figures for both Kindle for PC/Mac and Nook for PC/Mac. Is it that there just isn’t a market there? Or is B&N running out of resources and/or the will to fight?

Quick Review of Kindle for PC, Kindle differences

While the Kindle 3 was going through a bunch of drama (shipping date for new Kindle 3 orders went from Sept 4th to Sept 8th, there was a glitch that showed wrong expected delivery dates to users) managed to read Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood on the newly updated Kindle for PC.

It’s a very good book through a depressing one. The open ending, which is supposedly brought to closure in her new book, is painful. The reason it was so much fun was that Kindle for PC is quite well done. Actually prefer it over the iPad. Carrying a 22″ monitor around isn’t very convenient so iPhone still has its place.

Just wanted to review the differences in reading between Kindle for PC and Kindle.

Review of Kindle for PC, Kindle differences

Here are the big ones –

  1. No cost of entry for Kindle for PC. Nearly everyone has a desktop PC or a laptop they can use.
  2. It wasn’t a bad experience. It was mostly during the day and no LCD headache – Perhaps it’s the iPhone and iPad’s reading distance or the fact that they are read on mostly at night that causes headaches.
  3. Highlights are much easier on Kindle for PC.  
  4. On Kindle for PC the smaller font sizes read well and the larger font sizes are grotesque. On Kindles nearly all font sizes look great.
  5. The color modes on Kindle for PC are really good – Sepia is beautiful and night mode (white text on black) looks pretty good too. It makes you wonder why Kindle doesn’t have a low light mode with white text on a black screen. It would look really good.
  6. There were multiple times that an urge to read on the Kindle almost made me switch to K2 – Especially later on in the book. Reading on the Kindle clearly feels better.
  7. One big advantage of Kindle for PC is getting so many words on one page. The full screen mode makes things even better.
  8. Book Cover View is something Amazon needs to get on to the Kindle 3. It looks really pretty and is especially useful when going through your Archive. It’s crazy how much easier going through the Archive is on Kindle for PC.
  9. There’s this neat little feature – After buying a Kindle Book at Amazon, if you send the book to Kindle for PC, Amazon will offer a button that opens up Kindle for PC for you (if it’s already open it’ll take you to the Home Page).  
  10. Really missed the malleability of the Kindle. With Kindle for PC you have to contort your posture and neck to suit the screen. The Kindle, on the other hand, can be moved and twisted and turned freely. Missed reading in bed too.

The three things that really stood out were the much larger screen area and having more words per page, that it was quite a decent reading experience, and that Kindle for PC is free (zero barrier to entry).

Users who are starting off with Kindle for PC are getting to experience a lot of the Kindle ecosystem and the reading experience is good enough to hook them into reading more. No wonder Amazon are finding that lots of people who start off with Kindle Apps go on to buy the Kindle.

It was also interesting to finally hit the device limit for a few books. Between testing on iPhone, iPad, PC, all the Kindles, and sharing books with my Mom, by the time the Kindle 3 arrives might not have any good books left to read on it.

Kindle, Kindle for PC Differences that weren’t a big deal

Here are some things that didn’t make much of a difference –

  1. Color. Kindle for PC has color and you realize that unless you’re reading textbooks or illustrated books color makes little difference. For Oryx and Crake there wasn’t a single page where there was an issue.  
  2. Animated Page Turns and being able to touch the screen. Some people like to put a lot of stock into being able to turn pages with your fingers. Not sure it’s such a big deal. The lazy part of me is glad to keep a finger on the page turn button and not have to do much. The PC has a touchscreen but the mouse (or the down arrow) was just less effort.
  3. Locations are just as annoying on Kindle for PC as on Kindle. Luckily the percentage complete gives some idea of progress. It’s also a little disconcerting that you have no idea how much of the current chapter is left.   
  4. Another downside of locations is you have zero idea of how long the book is compared to your mental map of book sizes.  
  5. Page Turn Speed. Yes, it’s faster – However, you have to either keep your hand on the mouse all the time (too much work) or grab the mouse and click it whenever you turn a page. It just seems like there is a very minor difference in page turn speed.
  6. Focus on Reading. Kindle for PC does a surprisingly good job of disappearing. You have to make sure it’s taking up the whole screen and after that the interface is designed to not interfere. There’s none of the ‘look how pretty my page turns are’ nonsense you see in iBooks.
  7. You’re getting the same books. It’s not like you miss out on feature X by reading it on Kindle for PC. Well, there is Text to Speech. However, apart from TTS there’s no big missing feature.

Just a day or two ago had tried out NookStudy and both Kindle for PC and NookStudy manage to avoid the temptation of doing too much. Even a few additional options or flourishes would ruin them. Kindle for PC is a little better as it presents fewer options (and they’re well-chosen ones).

Overall, Kindle for PC is very well done. Would never choose it over Kindle 3 but it’s a great add-on.

Amazon ramps up Kindle for PC adoption with an Asus deal

Amazon seems to have really taken the platform approach to heart. The latest move towards making the Kindle platform dominate every possible reading channel is Amazon’s partnership with Asus – starting today select Asus laptops and netbooks will come preloaded with Kindle for PC.

Gizmodo report on the Asus-Amazon Kindle tie-up and even like it –

Frankly, we’re not the biggest fans of pre-installed software cluttering up fresh screens, but this sort of partnership surely makes sense with certain devices — in particular, convertible tablets that you’d use to read.

You know what would also make sense? ASUS preloading some sort of Amazon application on its Eee Pad.

Asus sells millions of netbooks and millions of laptops and if the partnership goes well we might see Kindle for PC pre-installed on all of them.

What does Asus get out of this?

Companies usually pay good money to get pre-installed on machines. Some examples include –

  1. Anti-virus companies paying $40 to $50 per Anti-Virus subscription purchased (after the free trial).
  2. Toolbar companies paying $1 or more per toolbar install.  
  3. Companies paying extra to get featured – For example via a page during the Install Process or via an icon on the Desktop.

Amazon are probably paying one of –

  1. 25 cents to $1 per laptop on which Kindle for PC goes out.
  2. $5 to $10 per Kindle for PC install on which user buys a book. 

In addition to this nice bonus from Amazon Asus need to have Kindle for PC on their soon-to-be launched Eee Pad tablet. There are a non-trivial number of people buying the iPad for its reading abilities and most of that stems from Kindle for iPad. If the Eee Pad comes with Kindle for PC in-built, and perhaps even some bonuses, Asus balance out that iPad advantage.

Asus and Amazon’s take on the deal

The Press Release (at the Gizmodo link) has the usual Mutual Admiration Society membership pledge –


Kindle is something our customers have been asking for and by p copre-installing Kindle for PC on select long battery life products, we believe we are providing our customers an even richer PC experience.

Actually, Amazon don’t really praise Asus in the Press Release which is rather surprising. You’d think they’d mention that Asus started the whole netbook threat and scared the living daylights out of every laptop manufacturer in the world. The reason why every laptop company is now selling $1000 laptops in the $500 to $700 range.

The Asus models that will include Kindle for PC are –

  1. Asus Seashell Netbook 1005PE-U27 in Black, White, and 2 other colors. This retails for $372 and promises up to 14 hours of battery life.
  2. Asus ultra thin and light notebooks – Asus UL-30A-X5K and Asus UL30VT-X1K. The first retails for $649 and has up to 12 hours of battery life and a 13.3″ HD display. The second is $749 and includes a NVidia G210M graphics card with 512 MB graphics memory.

Asus and Amazon say that there will be more laptops and netbooks added to the list.

What impact could this have on Amazon?

There’s actually a huge difference in the use of software that is pre-installed and software that has to be downloaded separately. Anti-Virus companies are not stupid to be paying manufacturers like HP $50 per activation.

The power of the default dictates that people usually choose the default option. If Kindle for PC is the default ebook reading software on Asus computers then Asus laptop/netbook owners who want to read an ebook get to choose between two options –

  1. Spend 10 minutes to find a good reading software, another 5 minutes to install it, and if everything goes according to plan they have an eReader software on their PC. It’s a lot of time and uncertainty and making decisions and quite a bit of effort.
  2. Start off Kindle for PC and start reading in 15 seconds.

It doesn’t matter how much prettier another ebook reading software is or how well animated the page turns are – 15 seconds is going to beat 15 minutes every single time.

What moves might the Amazon-Asus deal trigger?

Well, actually this is a reactive move and not exactly a proactive one.

  1. Sony and Google have been in bed so long they’re beginning to find each other’s lovable quirks annoying. Google supplies Sony with free books. Sony promises laptops with Google Chrome. Google Editions is definitely going to be on Sony laptops.
  2. HP and Barnes & Noble signed up a deal where B&N now have a store on the HP site and it wouldn’t be a surprise if HP computers soon came pre-installed with B&N eReader software.
  3. Apple obviously has its various offerings which it can use to promote iBooks. iPhone actually gets iBooks very soon – in iPhone OS 4.0. Mac may get it soon after that.

What this move will do is get all these partnerships and Apple to move faster on their plans.

Is PC reading of ebooks finally becoming important?

It certainly seems so. There are a few very good reasons for ebook companies to take note of the PC –

  1. eReader software for the PC is the gateway drug to the eReader+eBook eco-system. Whether a user buys their first ebook to read on Kindle for PC or on B&N eReader is likely to determine whether that user buys a Kindle or Nook.
  2. Every ebook sale is an ebook sale.
  3. Apple’s arrival means soon Macs will come with iBooks preloaded making it imperative for Kindle and Nook to make inroads into PCs and offset that Apple advantage.
  4. Google’s arrival in ebooks will mean Google diverts as much book related traffic as they can to Google Editions.
  5. It’s possible that Kindle for PC is seeing lots of usage and Amazon wants to build on that.

Basically, the first eReading software that captures a reader has the best chance of locking that reader into its ecosystem and capturing all of that reader’s book purchases for the rest of her/his life.

It might seem like dramatization – However, the power of the default and early mover advantage are hard to overcome. Take even the biggest companies – Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple. The areas they’ve struck an early lead in and dominated are mostly out of reach for everyone else (including other behemoths).  

It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the War is on and that it’s for the entire future of Publishing and Books.