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?

Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook Glowlight

Kindle vs Nook has been the definitive eReader comparison for the last 4 years. In 2013, Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook Glowlight represent the Kindle vs Nook comparison in eReaders.

These are both good eReaders. Both have good eInk screens, a built-in reading light, and both are light and compact. You can’t really go wrong with either. This Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook Glowlight comparison will go into details and help you find which out of Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Glowlight is better for you.

Please Note: B&N’s official name for Nook Glowlight is ‘Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight’. We’ll stick with the shorter and sweeter name.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook Glowlight – Nook Glowlight Advantages

Nook Glowlight brings some strong advantages to the table –

  1. Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight supports ePub. This means that you can buy ebooks from B&N or from Kobo or from Sony or from any other store selling Adobe DRM ePub books.
  2. [To Be Confirmed] Since B&N books use Adobe DRM they will, at some point of time in the future, be readable on other eReaders that support ePub. The problem is that B&N uses a special variant of DRM that includes the last 4 digits of your credit card. Most non-Nook eReaders don’t support this yet. However, this is an official Adobe DRM variant and should be supported on all/most ePub eReaders in the future. Why is this important? If you decide to switch to another eReader, you can take your library with you. With Kindle Paperwhite, you can’t switch to another eReader as they don’t support Kindle format (it’s proprietary).
  3. Nook Glowlight has a microUSB card slot. This allows you to add microSD cards up to 32 GB and greatly expand the existing 2 GB capacity (only 1.25 GB of which is available). Kindle Paperwhite has 2 GB memory (again, only 1.25 GB is available for users to use). However, there’s no way to add more memory capacity to Kindle Paperwhite.
  4. You have B&N stores you can go into. There are some interesting offers periodically like ‘Buy 1 eBook, Get 1 Free’. There are additional benefits like being able to read any book for up to 1 hour per day, and getting free WiFi in B&N stores. You also get store staff that are very helpful. Note: B&N Phone and Email support are very bad.
  5. The Nook Glowlight is $119 and has no ads. Kindle Paperwhite is $119 for the version that has Ads instead of screen savers. Nook Glowlight ships with a charger. Kindle Paperwhite charger is $10 on top of the price. So, for the ad-free versions, and with charger included, the Nook Glowlight is $119 while Kindle Paperwhite would be $149.

Nook Glowlight also has some interesting additional advantages –

  1. With the Nook Glowlight you can turn the light off. With Kindle Paperwhite the reading light is always on – you can only reduce the brightness.
  2. Nook Glowlight is slightly lighter at 6.95 ounces. Kindle Paperwhite is 7.5 ounces.
  3. Nook Glowlight has better construction and build quality. Note: This is somewhat subjective. However, Nook eReaders and Nook Tablets in general are better built and better to look at and more comfortable to hold than Kindles and Kindle Fire Tablets.
  4. Nook Glowlight ships with an anti-glare screen protector already installed.
  5. Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Glowlight both have free WiFi access at AT&T hotspots. However, Nook Glowlight also has free WiFi access at B&N stores.

B&N released Nook Glowlight a few months before Amazon. The upside of that was that B&N could get a lot of sales from readers waiting for eReaders with lighted screens. In fact, they couldn’t meet demand for the Nook Glowlight. The downside was that Amazon got the chance to make Kindle Paperwhite stronger, especially in screen resolution.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook Glowlight – Kindle Paperwhite Advantages

Kindle Paperwhite is a really strong offering and has some big advantages of its own –

  1. Kindle Paperwhite has better screen resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels and higher pixel density of 212 pixels per inch. Nook Glowlight has 800 by 600 screen resolution. This is an important advantage for the Kindle Paperwhite as it allows for sharper, clearer text and a better reading experience.
  2. Kindle Store has more range in books and better prices.
  3. Kindle Store offers a lot more free books. Amazon has an exclusive deal with lots of indie authors (indie authors get to promote their books for free 5 days every 3 months). Therefore, there are lots and lots of free and cheap indie books in the Kindle Store.
  4. Amazon has better infrastructure. This allows for better implementation of features like WhisperSync which syncs your place in a book across devices.
  5. Kindle customer service is very good. While you don’t have the option of just walking into a store and getting help, the online and phone support are very solid.
  6. Amazon is probably going to be around longer than B&N and is probably going to be in eReaders for longer than B&N. Those are two relatively safe assumptions to make.

Perhaps the biggest advantage is that the higher screen resolution of the Kindle Paperwhite allows it to offer a better reading experience than the Nook Glowlight. If you visit the Kindle Paperwhite product page it’ll be clear that Amazon realizes this. It’s why Amazon focuses on the Kindle Paperwhite’s screen resolution advantage so much.

Kindle Paperwhite also has the following advantages –

  1. [Unconfirmed] Amazon claims 8 weeks of reading with the reading light at its lowest setting and WiFi off. Reading = Half hour a day. B&N claims 2 months with light off and 1 month with light on. This suggests that Kindle Paperwhite has slightly better battery life than the Nook Glowlight.
  2. Kindle Paperwhite is slightly thinner and narrower. Nook Glowlight is 6.5″ by 5″ by 0.47″ while Kindle Paperwhite is 6.7″ by 4.6″ by 0.36″.
  3. Kindle Paperwhite has features like X-Ray. X-Ray lets you quickly get more information on the characters in a book. Basically, Amazon keeps adding little features like this that help enhance your reading experience.
  4. Kindle Paperwhite has support for Doc and Docx formats.
  5. Kindle Paperwhite has a small app store (a few hundred apps and games). Nook Glowlight does not.
  6. Kindle Paperwhite has a wider range of accessories available.

Kindle Paperwhite made the most of the 3 to 4 month gap between the release of the Nook Glowlight and the Kindle Paperwhite. As a result, it’s stronger.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook Glowlight – The Lighted Screen Issues

Both devices have issues with the lighted screens –

  1. Nook Glowlight gets ‘bright holes/spots’ in the lighted screen. These are somewhat common.
  2. Kindle Paperwhite gets ‘leaks’ and ‘shadows’ coming out from the lower edge of the lighted screen. These are also somewhat common.

It’s hard to say which is worse. However, it does make a case to wait for Nook Glowlight 2 and Kindle Paperwhite 2 if you can. Perhaps you get the Kobo Aura HD instead, with the added bonus of getting a higher resolution HD screen.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook Glowlight – How long will Nook be around?

There have been strong rumors that B&N is getting out of the Tablet business. There have also been rumors that it will get out of eReaders once the transition of the market from eReaders to Tablets has completed.

I don’t believe the latter (eReaders dying out completely) is ever going to happen. However, if the rumors are true, it seems that B&N MIGHT leave the eReader space in 2014 or 2015. If that happens, thanks to Nooks using ePub, you should be able to switch to another ePub supported eReader. There are some complications since B&N uses a particular type of Adobe DRM and most other eReader companies don’t support it yet. However, some solution will be implemented quickly (if it isn’t already present) since most companies will want former Nook owners to buy their eReaders.

The second problem is that you would be going with a company (B&N) and a device (Nook Glowlight) that might stop getting software updates. Why pick a company that might leave the eReader device market entirely in a year or two? Perhaps its better to go with Kindle or Kobo.

Please Note: This is based on rumors. So, it’s not a given. However, my assessment is that B&N will indeed leave the eReader space in the next few years. You should factor this in when choosing between Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Glowlight.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook Glowlight – The White Kobo Elephant in the Room

Kobo, with the Kobo Aura HD, has thrown the Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook Glowlight discussion for a spin. Neither Kindle Paperwhite nor Nook Glowlight have two big things which Kobo Aura HD brings to the table –

  1. A High Definition eInk screen with 1440 by 1080 pixels screen resolution and a whopping 263 pixels per inch pixel density. This is much better than the screen resolutions on Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Glowlight.
  2. A Reading Light that is without glitches. If initial reviews are correct, then Kobo Aura HD suffers neither from the ‘leaks and shadows from the lower edge’ that some Kindle Paperwhite screens suffer from, nor from the ‘bright spots’ that some Nook Glowlight screens suffer from. Additionally, you have a dedicated switch to turn the screen lighting on or off (Nook lets you turn off the light, but has no dedicated switch).

Kobo Aura HD also uses ePub and it uses ePub without any special DRM variant. That means you can very easily take your Kobo bought books to another ePub reader if you decide to switch.

You should definitely consider the Kobo Aura HD before buying either Kindle Paperwhite or Nook Glowlight.

Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook Glowlight – Which is the better eReader FOR YOU?

Please Note: Please read the previous section. Kobo Aura HD might be the better choice for you today.

If you can. you really should wait 4-5 months to see what Nook Glowlight 2 and Kindle Paperwhite 2 are like.

If you can’t wait, there are some cases that are easy –

  1. If you’re an existing B&N customer, or have a library of ePub books from Sony or Kobo, then Nook Glowlight is the better choice.
  2. If screen resolution and overall reading experience are your main criteria then buy a Kindle Paperwhite as its better than Nook Glowlight in those areas. However, Kobo Aura HD is best for the moment.
  3. If you’re an Amazon customer, then Kindle Paperwhite is the natural choice. This is even truer if you are an Amazon Prime member.
  4. If you’re focused on cheaper prices and/or on free books, then Kindle Paperwhite is the better choice.
  5. If you often run into problems with devices and/or if customer support is very important for you, then consider whether you prefer store support or online support. If you prefer store support pick Nook Glowlight. If you prefer online or phone support, then pick Kindle Paperwhite.
  6. If you want to buy a device and keep it for 4-5 years, then it’s a hard choice. Nook devices are better made – however, B&N might get out of eReaders in the next 2-4 years. Have no recommendation here.
  7. If you want a microSD card, get a Nook Glowlight.
  8. If you want the lightest eReader, get a Nook Glowlight. If you want the thinnest or the narrowest eReader, get a Kindle Paperwhite.

In general, the Kindle Paperwhite is a better choice. The only exceptions are – if you want ePub support or want an SD Card slot or have an existing library of ePub books or don’t like Amazon.

Kindle Paperwhite came out 3-4 months after Nook Glowlight. Amazon used that time to deliver a better screen resolution which leads to a better overall reading experience. It also polished the Kindle Paperwhite quite well. That makes for a good, solid reading experience.

For now, Kindle Paperwhite wins the Kindle Paperwhite vs Nook Glowlight comparison. Kobo Aura HD might be better than both. However, the best choice of all would be to wait till October 2013 for Kindle Paperwhite 2 vs Nook Glowlight 2.

Why are so many companies investing in Nook Media (B&N’s Nook spin-off)?

The news that Pearson just invested $89.5 million in Nook Media, giving Nook Media a $1.8 billion valuation (more than B&N itself), means that we now have –

  1. Microsoft having invested $300 million for a 18% stake in Nook Media. It has also promised $300 million more.
  2. Pearson having invested $89.5 million for a 5% stake in Nook Media.

Here is Pearson’s official announcement of its investment in Nook Media. An interesting snippet –

Pearson will invest $89.5 million in cash in NOOK Media, gaining a five per cent equity stake. Following the transaction, Barnes & Noble will own approximately 78.2 percent of NOOK Media and Microsoft will own approximately 16.8 percent. Subject to certain conditions, Pearson will earn the option to purchase up to an additional five percent ownership in NOOK Media.

Pearson’s strategic investment in NOOK Media will help accelerate customer access to digital content by pairing the company’s leading expertise in online learning with NOOK Media’s expertise in online distribution and customer service.

There are two very interesting things here:

  1. Microsoft and Pearson have both invested in Nook Media at a very high valuation. They have both added in provisions to invest more.
  2. Nook Media gets $389.5 million now and another $300 million from Microsoft in future (surely, there must be conditions) and some undisclosed sum from Pearson in future if Pearson decides to get another 5% stake.

Suddenly Nook Media is a $1.8 billion valued company with $389.5 million cash. That’s stunning if you consider that –

  1. ALL of Barnes and Noble currently has a market valuation of $883 million.
  2. B&N just announced that Nook Holiday Sales have been below par and it’s not going to meet its projections for Nook Sales for 2012.

It all makes you wonder.

Why are so many companies investing in Nook Media?

There are a few reasons –

  1. Amazon. Amazon looms over all of books as a very, very dangerous adversary. Sooner or later we are going to see Publishers start to team up against it much more obviously. First, they used Apple and the Agency Model. Now, it’s going to be Nook and some new strategy.
  2. Nook Media actually has a good chance of doing well. It’s almost like a recurring revenue business with high up-front costs and relatively lower costs down the line. Customers that B&N has on Nook are going to stay with B&N until and unless something markedly better comes up.
  3. Transition. The Dinosaurs are figuring out that they have to transition. How do they transition? First, they invest in companies that will let them invest. Second, they start making their own companies. Third, they figure out which works better.
  4. B&N customer base. This might come as a surprise to some people – B&N customers will pick Nook if all other things are equal or close. Time after time we see Amazon customers and B&N customers disregard lots of flaws in the devices and in the closed garden. Why? Because there is trust and a relationship built over years (sometimes over decades).
  5. Nooks are very good devices in physical device terms. B&N tends to ship devices before the software is polished. This time, with Nook HD and Nook HD+, it really stretched things to an extreme – amazing hardware, alpha-level software. If B&N figures out how to make great software for Nooks right from launch (and it’s a big IF) then Nook Media has a bright future.
  6. B&N is still a player in the Tablet Market and it’s still a strong player in the Reading Tablet market.
  7. What other option do companies like Microsoft and Pearson have? Will Apple take an investment? Will Amazon take an investment? Will Google take an investment? What’s left?
  8. B&N Stores. B&N has very good retail footprint. It’s safe to assume Nook Media will enjoy a special relationship with the 700+ B&N Retail Stores and the 660+ B&N College Bookstores.

We are going to see a LOT more of this.

We have the Big Six Publishers merging with each other. We have Publishers and Companies investing in Nook and colluding with Apple.

It might be 4 years too late. But Publishers are finally waking up to the fact that Amazon wants the ENTIRE cake for itself. Perhaps it’s not too late. Perhaps there’s still time to prevent the New Gatekeeper from destroying the Old Gatekeepers.