March 6, 2012

The Nook is headed to the UK


According to Wired magazine’s Epicenter blog, Barnes & Noble is sponsoring a March 19th event in London for tech developers. The move would be a savvy one. B&N’s devices have consistently received higher marks than Amazon’s from tech critics, and yet the company has not met earnings estimates of late. A UK expansion of Nook sales, and subsequent eBook sales, would certainly represent a way to close that gap.

Tim Carmody of Epicenter reports:

“The rumors have been around for months, but UK entry of Barnes & Noble seems to be for real now,” wrote Jellybooks’ Andrew Rhomberg in an email. “London Book Fair is just 1 month later, so spring launch happening after all?” A Barnes & Noble representative did not respond to a request for comment.

After a long delay where it focused on the US domestic market, Barnes & Noble has recently indicated that it’s ready to get serious about international expansion. It’s also hired experts in international publishing to develop its global strategy. In December, Barnes & Noble registered for business in the Netherlands and reached out to bookstore partners there; in January, the company signaled its desire separate its digital Nook business from its US-based brick & mortar stores, which may better allow it to seek further international partnerships.

The move makes a lot of business sense. B&N has leveraged its stores to promote their eReaders, more than doubling the amount of floor space devoted to marketing the platform. The move would almost have to be supported by a UK brick & mortar presence, of which there is a lot of separate speculation. Again, Epicenter reports:

Waterstone’s would be the UK chain best positioned to partner to sell Barnes & Noble’s Nooks. So far, both chains have been mum on any potential or proposed partnership, but sources speaking off the record say both companies are in active negotiations to bring the Nook to Waterstone’s.

The biggest question of all though is how eBook retail would be handled on the UK Nook. Would consumers find themselves in a B&N storefront every time they load their Nook, or would B&N create a special Waterstone’s edition that allowed the company to sell its own eBooks? We’ll have to wait until the 19th to find out.


Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.