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B&N Nook is Failing Because They Make Customers Hate Them

10 March 2016

From GoodEreader:

Barnes and Noble is the only company in the e-reader and eBook sector that has nothing but alienated their customers. There have been many cases over the years where the lost users in droves, due to a myriad of factors. Recently, the bookseller announced it was closing their app store, video store and UK e-book store. Instead of making it easy for people to access their content, users have to jump through a million hoops.

Barnes and Noble was one of the first big companies to capitalize on the emerging e-reader space in 2009. They released their first e-ink device that year and it had 3G and wireless internet access.  One year later they released their first Android tablet, and it was a critical success.

Most of the executives that were put in charge of the Nook team were basically people from the bookstore division. Bookstores rarely innovate and they were put in charge of technology that changes in a monthly basis.

What did Barnes and Noble do to alienate their customers and start to lose millions of dollars every single quarter? It was a combination of bad hardware, software and terrible business decisions.

The Nook Tablet Debacle 

The first major disconnect between Barnes and Noble and their growing user base was December 21st 2011 when the company disabled the ability to sideload apps from other Android markets.  The 1.4.1 firmware update for the Nook Tablet closed a loophole that allowed people to install apps via the internet browser.  Since it was around Christmas many people received this tablet as a gift and thousands of devices were returned, while the Nook Boards blew up with angry customers who said they would never do business with the company again.

. . . .

You Can No Longer Backup your e-books

In early 2014 Barnes and Noble removed the ability to download eBooks that customers had purchased from the online Nook Store to their computer. They did this so users could not strip the encryption or read the Nook books on 3rd party e-reading apps. This was considered the last straw and many loyal Nook users and they began to openly mock the company for being out of touch.

. . . .

Barnes and Noble closes International Windows App. 

Barnes and Noble has been operating a Windows 8 e-reading app since 2012 that allows users to buy e-books and magazines. It was available in 40 different countries and instead of paying the bookseller directly it’s done via your Microsoft Account.

On August 7th 2015 Barnes and Noble announced that they were closing the bookstore and only US customers would have access. Anyone who bought e-books had a very limited window in which they could get refunds from Microsoft and then they would lose all of their content.

Many international users who wanted an alternative to Amazon were caught completely off-guard. One day they opened the app only to find out everything they bought was gone and the e-reading function was disabled.

Link to the rest at GoodEreader and thanks to Dave for the tip.


25 Comments to “B&N Nook is Failing Because They Make Customers Hate Them”

  1. B&N has the same mindset as the qig5 in that they believe ebooks are eating into their hard/paperback sales.

    And like the qig5, they are doing everything they can to kill ebooks — even at the risk of killing themselves in the process …

    • Actually, Allen, I think B&N is far worse than the qig5. When a B&N manager literally yells at me for buying a paper book for my son, the company as a whole is already dead.

      • I hope you threw it at him and said, “Screw buying it from a dump like this — it’s cheaper on Amazon anyway!”

        I know, over the top, but I had a best(worst)buy one try to insist over and over that I needed to buy the extended warranties on their junk. I’d told him no and to not ask again. And since they have to push it, he asked yet again …

        I indicated my cart of almost a thousand dollars of computer and networking gear and said, “All this was on my ‘would really like to have today’, but none of it was on my ‘just have to have right now’ or ‘can’t live without’ list.” and I walked out of the store without it.

        A week later I was going to Austin anyway, visited Fry’s and saved a few bucks doing it …

        • J. Arlo Mullinix

          I had the same thing happen to me at a Suncoast about ten years ago. I was buying about $150 worth of DVDs and the guy at the counter just wouldn’t stop pestering me about pre-orders and an EW Magazine subscription. I said to him, “I used to be able to come in here, buy what I wanted and leave and you are not letting me give you money. Let me give you my money.” Nope. Couldn’t let it go, so I flipped him a rude hand gesture and walked out.

          By the way, Suncoast went out of business.

        • I knew Circuit City wasn’t long for this world when they started bugging me about buying a warranty on movie DVD’s. I point blank asked the checkout guy just what was I supposed to be doing with a DVD that would make it rational to buy a warranty on it.

          “The movie costs $10. Soon it’ll be in the $5 bin or the $1 bin at a discount store. A warranty? Are you kidding me?”

          Not long after that the store announced they were going out of business. I don’t miss them.

        • @ Allen F

          “A week later I was going to Austin anyway, visited Fry’s and saved a few bucks doing it…”

          Well, Fry’s sucks big time, too. Everybody I know hates Fry’s. Me included. But we go there because they do have the cheapest prices. Yeah, I’m a money whore I guess. Or maybe a money saint — I’ll forgive quite a lot for the money savings!

          One of the worst things about Fry’s is the ignorant, yet arrogant help. I’ve learned not to trust anything their sales clerks tell me. Most of the time, I know far more about this stuff than they do. But they think they’re computer experts because they’re cool Millennial gamers and cell-phone thumbers. Bwahahaha… 🙂

          • That’s it, cheapest prices … that and more ‘bits’ to play with.

            I’m the one you see picking out my own motherboard, CPU and whatnot and not letting them put it together for me. 😉

            I’ve never gone there for tech advice and they faster than ‘worst buy’ at just walking away when I growl that I’m ‘just looking’ as I pile what I’d like in my cart.

          • And yet, Fry’s will price match Amazon, or other on-line prices from well-known retailers.

            Barnes & Noble wan’t even price-match itself.

      • Wait, what?

  2. Wow. I had no idea of the depth of their incompetence; I’m firmly in the Kindle camp for the books I buy.

    This whole debacle could be used in case studies to business students. As in, “do the opposite of everything B&N did.”

  3. I am one of those who really loved my Nook Tablet HD+. It was a so-so tablet, but the very best reader I’d ever used. B&N’s failure to either reach out to their existing customers or even try to understand the eBook phenomenon is one more example of how inertia-ridden the whole bookselling industry has become. I’m sorry we won’t have lots of choices when it comes to who we buy our eBooks from. At least Smashwords is still healthy.

  4. I bought one ebook from B & N a few years back. And their desktop software to read it didn’t work. I never bought another. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

    • Ah, you must have a Mac. The B&N Mac app was broken for years and no one seemed to care. It was a regular topic on the forums, but no one from B&N ever replied. Fortunately, I still have an older version of the app which will open books for me when I need them.

      And, of course, I gave up my Nook for a Kindle when it came time to upgrade.

      • Yes, I’m on a Mac. I’m surprised no one ever tried to sue B&N for letting people continue to download the app. I finally bought an ereader last year — a Kindle.

  5. Two things have made me stop buying ebooks from B&N.

    The first was when they locked down the Nook. I had already transferred all my files to a separate computer, so I still have those.

    The second was when I tried upgrade from a first generation Nook to a Glowlight. Got it home and discovered that I couldn’t add a memory card. The internal memory was partitioned so that I couldn’t side load the 3rd party ebooks I had on the original. I took it back for a refund the next day.

    Now I only use the Nook to read the books I bought from 3rd parties, such as subscriptions to things like Galaxy’s Edge. If I could find a good ereader with a decent battery life that would let me transfer all my epub files to it, I’d drop the old Nook in a heartbeat. I tried Kobo, but it won’t accept my PO Box as a billing address (!?).

    • There’s a variety of Android-based eink reader/tablets, some with Google Play pre-installed. Would that suit you?
      Many of them are available via… Amazon. 🙂

    • Think hard about Kobo. If you use Calibre, Kobo (and the old Sony) are apparently the only ereaders that allow you to set up categories/shelves for your reader from within Calibre, separately from those for the primary Calibre database. That’s very, very handy, and the devices are pretty sturdy.

      • Karen, I don’t use Calibre, but that’s simplly because I haven’t gotten around to it. It’s on my list of things to look into. I tried repeatedly to buy a Kobo, which is the epub reader I would prefer. Their online store wouldn’t accept a PO Box as a billing address. Not accepting a PO Box for a shipping address, I can understand. I made multiple calls to customer service hoping the peope I had talked to were mistaken, and the result was always the same. They weren’t set up to accept a PO Box as billing address.

  6. When I was already a Kindle owner, I thought about also buying a Nook. If I recall correctly, the Nook could display magazines in color and that interested me. I went to the local B&N where they had Nooks set up. A salesman was trying to sell one to a woman standing beside me. He started telling her all the wonderful things the Nook could do that the Kindle couldn’t. Lies. I walked out empty-handed, but not without correcting him in front of the other customer.

  7. I heard good things about the Nook, almost to the point of wishing my son had bought one instead of a Kindle. Now I’m so glad I have my old K3. I download books, put them through Calibre (I only use it to organize my library, I swear), and sideload them to my device, and never worry about anyone taking them away from me.

  8. The hardware was great. I have two Nook Colors that still work, although I don’t use them any more, and a Nook Touch that still holds a charge very well, that I do use.
    However, the first thing I did when I got them was to root them and install Cyanogen Mod. The limitations destroyed the usefulness of the device.
    The other PITA was the special charger that had to be used. With a normal micro USB charger, it took forever to charge it up. But the devices themselves are solid.

  9. The thing that gets me is, Barnes & Noble has been doing this for years, across multiple CEOs, and yet it still doesn’t even seem to realize it has a problem. How long can it continue to bumble along ticking off all its would-be best customers?

    • As long as those customers’ fears of hypothetical future Amazon misbehavior keeps them coming back. That can be a long time. Look at how long the Detroit automakers got away with their practices, counting on customers’ desire to “buy American”.

      Corporate culture doesn’t change overnight and B&N’s core culture is “they need us more than we need them”, just like the BPHs. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for change.

  10. Call me nuts, but I think if you call yourself a BOOKSELLER, then sell every form of books and make it very easy for customers to acquire what they need, in what format(s) they want, as affordably as possible. I don’t understand by B&N didn’t go all gung-ho with every possible way to entice readers & writers–every way! The lost possibilities.

    And since years have gone by with me wishing they’d get on the ball, with no visible signs they understand what the words “innovation” and “customer care” mean, I have given up on them.

    But, hey, surprise me, B&N. Actually care about ALL readers…all…and do something cool. Or is it too late?

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