B&N is Shutting Down One of Its Top Three Digital Blunders on 15 March

Barnes & Noble announced a slew of of closures on Thursday, including Nook Video, the UK Nook Store, and what had to have been one of B&N’s greatest digital mistakes.

B&N sent out an email on Thursday which informed users that the Nook’s own branded app store was going away:

Effective March 15, 2016, NOOK will no longer offer third party applications (Apps) for sale from the NOOK Store™. All of your existing Apps previously purchased from the NOOK Store will remain in your NOOK Library™ and will continue to be accessible on compatible NOOK devices. This means that you will still be able to download and install previously purchased Apps from the NOOK Library on your device.

The Nook App Store earned itself a eulogy because it is one of the reasons that the Nook platform failed.

I don’t really have time to explain this in depth, so here’s the short version.

Starting with the release of the Nook Color in 2010 and ending with the release of the Nook HD in 2012, B&N was building its own tablets and then trying to support them with an ebookstore and an app store.

Here’s the catch: You could load ebooks on to the Nook tablets from many ebookstores, but thanks to how B&N locked down the hardware you could only get apps from B&N.

That’s not a terrible idea on the face of it, but B&N could never make it work. They never had more than a couple hundred apps in the Nook App Store during that period, virtually guaranteeing that you would not be able to find the 4 or 5 apps you absolutely needed (I wanted OverDrive and Adobe Reader, and could get neither).

That is still a workable idea, if a user’s requirements are low enough, or if the locked down device costs a lot less than another tablet which perhaps shipped with Google Play.

Unfortunately, Barnes & Noble was charging about the same price for their ereaders cum Android tablets as Samsung and other tablet makers were charging for the Android tablets that shipped with Google Play.

If we look back to 2011, we recall that the original Kindle Fire, for example, torpedoed B&N’s plans to sell the Nook Tablet for $349 in late 2011 when the KF launched with a price tag of $199. (Even though the KF lacked Google Play, you could still do more with that tablet than you could with the Nook Tablet.)

$349 was the price of a premium tablet then, and it is still a premium price. And B&N thought they could sell what would best be described as an ereader at that price and that everyone would be satisfied with an anemic app store.

I wasn’t, and most people weren’t happy about it either.

This, folks, was one of the reasons why the Nook failed. B&N underestimated consumers who were savvy enough to figure out that they could read Nook ebooks on other hardware, but they couldn’t do jack with B&N’s tablets because of the sparse app store.

And so the only people who bought B&N’s tablets were B&N loyalists, the less tech savvy, and those with fewer needs.

Everyone else bought a gadget elsewhere, leaving B&N on the hook to sell millions of devices no one wanted to buy (hence the increasing number of two-for-one sales, refurb deals, and bundle offer in 2012 and 2013).

I don’t know that the Nook would have survived if B&N had never opened the Nook App Store; B&N made so many stupid mistakes that the platform was arguably doomed.

But I do know that the Nook App Store is one of the reasons that the Nook platform is dead today.

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