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No One Wants to Buy the Nook Touch, So B&N Cuts the Price to $79

December 8th, 2012 by · 39 Comments · hardware news

Trying to compete with Amazon in the ereader market is beginning to resemble an elaborate game of chicken, with Amazon daring their competition to step over the side of  a cliff and not fall.

I’m pretty sure that’s how Barnes & Noble feels today. It seems that B&N’s ereader sales have been disappointing so far this holiday season, so in order to boost sales B&N has taken one more step into oblivion.

They’ve dropped the price of the Nook Touch to $79.

That’s the second price cut in only a few months (the Nook Glow was reduced to $119 in late September). When you factor in the frequent sales on the refurbished units, I suspect that  Barnes & Noble is probably regretting even thinking about getting into ereaders.

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39 Comments so far ↓

  • Robert Nagle

    Nate, I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love my Nook Simple Touch. Their hardware was always ahead of the Kindle by 6 months, and they supported epub right off the bat. I bought a Tablet for my nephew, which he loves, and although it’s hard to tell on the basis of whom I talk to on the bus, but most Nook owners are very happy with their product. (I actually bought a Tablet from the sale you listed yesterday –thanks!, but mainly for testing and playing mp3s).

    I play with a Kindle Touch and SimpleTouch and never ceased to be amazed at how much easier a Simple Touch is to use than the Kindle equivalent.

    The main problem with BN and Nook is 1)their website sucks and 2)most people have a relationship with Amazon which goes beyond books, so they prefer Amazon as a one-stop solution.

    With refurbished Tablets selling temporarily for $99 it’s hard to complain. I look forward to buying a Glow in January or February when that price drops. I’ve come to prefer the e-ink minimalism of a simple touch to the LED tablet. Perhaps you can make the argument that the Kindle Fire HD is better than its Nook counterpart, but in my mind, the Simple Touch family is still better than the K4.

    I don’t see the price drop as bad news for BN. It might even be good news because more people are willing to take the plunge. Whether BN will still manufacture devices or just adopt a device as their in-house brand remains to be seen; I would love for BN to keep offering e-ink devices and resist the temptation to distribute devices only if they can play Netflix or pandora.

  • Robert Nagle

    Let me add: the retail price of Nooks from BN.com has always been rather high — when compared to competitors. Maybe they bundle deals with that. I still think Nook’s “true price” for the simple touch is more than $65.

    • Isles

      B&N has kept the price of their E Ink Nook in line with Amazon’s main Kindle eReader ever since the price wars started back in 2010. Both companies worked their way down from $199/$189 to $99 together, matching prices within hours of a new drop. It was fun to watch that happen, especially for those of us who didn’t have a lot of money to throw around at the time.

      I loved my NST, and I hope that the NST will be around for a long time as well, but B&N made a serious mistake in not upgrading the NST or the Glo for the holiday season. All of the focus is on their tablets, so no wonder their dedicated eReader sales are starting to decline. They could have at least re-released the NST with a newer high-definition display. Then it could sit alongside the Nook HD tablets in a promo picture.

      • fjtorres

        That was something we were discussing around here last month: that Nook staying with a spring release cycle instead of shifting to fall like Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and even Sony, they were risking getting steamrollered during the holiday sales season.
        Wiith ebooks showing an even stronger seasonality than pbooks heading into Xmas with a six month old model (the Glo) and an 18 month leftover model was courting eink disaster.
        Hopefully their tablets will fare better.
        I rather like the 9incher myself but I’m waiting for a simpler, more stable hack.
        Failing that I’ll have to “settle” for the FireHD9.

        • Nate Hoffelder

          Indeed. I suspected that B&N’s spring launch plan was a mistake a month ago, and today’s news confirms it.

          The worst part is that B&N is forced to price-match to an ereader which is cheaper to produce and does not have nearly as many returns.

  • fjtorres

    Let’s see now:
    - last XMAS Nook STR underperformed expectations, i.e., they ended up with a warehouse full of them
    - they tried giving them away with subscriptions
    - they tried BOGO sales
    - they tried selling them at $49 on black friday
    - and they *still* have STRs in stock? After 18 months?
    How many of those things did they build anyway?

    The STR is getting a little long in the tooth: in the 18 months since it was intro’ed Amazon has done two full generations of their entry-level Kindle and two generations of their Touch Kindle.

    I’m thinking that at this point, Nook Media out to try selling them unlocked, as eink tablets. At $49.
    Either that or blister-pack them through CVS at $39.
    Cause I don’t think they have the financials to lanfill them like the legendary ATARI VCS ET cartridges and they have to do *something* to clear the things out.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      The K4 models differ only by color, so I am hard put to call them different generations.

      And the Nook Touch would have made a decent E-ink tablet last year, but now it is running an outdated version of Android. It would need an update before it is unlocked.

      • fjtorres

        The new K4 is supposed to have the whiter background of the paperwhite.
        (shrug)
        They at least bothered to change the bezel color and relaunch it.

  • Isles

    As of right now, bn.com is showing the NST still at $99.

  • flyingtoastr

    Really trying to earn those Amazon affiliate bucks today, huh?

    • Nate Hoffelder

      I would hope that you don’t reaslly think that’s how things work, that by bashing B&N I earn affiliate fees from Amazon.

      Actually, I know you’re better than that; I recall your comments on TI selling off their chips business.

      Why do you write it, then?

      • Sturmund Drang

        Nate, you should consider the possibility that calling your readers “stupid” will drive them away. flyingtoastr is a contributor to your blog whose opinions I enjoy.

        • Nate Hoffelder

          One, would you rather that I ignore the fact that flyingtoastr attacked my integrity?

          Two, from where I am sitting flyingtoastr’s main contribution is heckling me every time I write something about B&N that he doesn’t like. One of the few times he went beyond that was in the comments for the post about Texas Instruments, so I don’t know what you could enjoy about his contributions.

  • Paul

    I just received a Nook HD. I can confirm that it can survive a 5ft drop onto tile (tiny dent at the side but otherwise ok). The email setup has to be done manually but the screen is a treat.

    Its very competitive with the Kindle HD in that regard and feels a lot lighter.

  • Christopher

    The Nook is really an inferior product compared to the Kindle. I have been a loyal Amazon customer for several years and have never been disappointed by Amazon’s customer service or products. Many people are ingrained into the Amazon ecosystem with books, apps, music and movies. These by far are much better than what B&N has to offer to their customers. Amazon got the head start in the ebooks/ereader business and I predict that within 5 years you will see many B&N stores closed.

    • Richard Adin

      @Christopher: I know that people parrot their love for the Amazon eco system but I don’t see it as being all that great. Customer service is outstanding, but take that away and I see nothing spectacular about the Amazon system. Granted, I also do not see anything great about the B&N system. Since I’m not looking to buy a TV on a weekly basis, it doesn’t seem to me to be all that important that Amazon also sells TVs.

      As for how the book parts of the websites are set up, I personally prefer B&N’s website. I find Amazon’s website too busy and too annoying.

  • cookie

    They are decent reading devices, but Amazon kicks their ass with the cloud features.

  • BruceMcF

    I take it that the tabloid-sensationalist headline is because “B&N matches Amazon price” would convey the entire actual content of the story and lead to fewer click throughs?

    • Nate Hoffelder

      I think the title accurately summarizes the situation. I don’t see a reason for the price cut other than poor sales.

      • BruceMcF

        The headline claims more than poor sales for the Nook, it goes on to explain the reason for the poor sales ~ not that B&N has been left pricing their ebook reader at a $20 premium over the market leader, and were now dropping the price to match the market leader, but that nobody wants the device.

        • Nate Hoffelder

          If Mike Cane’s comment about the search results is true (and not just a result of Google’s quirks) then i am arguable correct – or at least close enough that my title is not tabloidistic.

    • fjtorres

      The Nook has Touch and the K4 doesn’t.
      If Nook Media has to price match a lower-spec product (and a cheaper to manufacture one) how likely is it to be because sales are going like gangbusters?

      • BruceMcF

        What is the hardware parts cost differential for an early 2011 vintage eInk display with infrared touch versus a later 2012 vintage eInk display without? The cost differential is surely smaller than if the Nook Touch had the same vintage of eInk display as the Kindle Touch.

        • fjtorres

          Only if the *volume* of orders is the same.
          Your logic would suggest the remaining Vizplex eink models should be much cheaper than the latest K4. The Kobo Mini runs $79 too.
          With Amazon soaking up at least 50% of eink’s production they get way better prices (and better access to the latest tech) which is why Nate thinks it’s a fools game to try to compete with Kindle on price only. Which is what the Nook STR has been doing all year.
          What you need to look at isn’t just this one move but *all* the moves Nook STR has gone through this year. When you do that, the (snarky) headline fits perfectly.

          The STR is by all reports a decent enough reader but the market–for a variety of reasons– prefers Kindle.
          Think of it as a Zune vs iPod thing; the Zune had way better sound quality and a bunch of user-friendly features that *objectively* made it a better music listening device but the market prefered the iPod. It happens.
          One of the advantages of being a market leader is that you don’t *have* to be better. Though it helps.

        • Nate Hoffelder

          There’s the licensing fee for the Neonode touchscreen, and there is also the assembly cost to attach it to the E-ink screen. The Nook Touch also has more expensive components like a metal frame inside the shell as well as more parts for the shell.

          The extra manufacturing cost adds up quickly, and it’s pretty clear that the Nook Touch is not nearly as cheap to make as the basic Kindle.

  • Mike Cane

    I said months ago I suspected Nook Touch sales fell off a cliff because it disappeared as a rooting search term leading to my blog. Things just don’t disappear that quickly and there were no changes in Google that would account for that (all other search terms remained).

    There’s nothing to complain about in this deal. It has a microSD slot, hardware page turn buttons, and can be rooted. Let’s see if they still offer a $20 Off coupon pre-Xmas or if this drop is all there is. (All the same, I’d love a $99 GlowLight one!)

  • Isles

    Every time I stop by my local B&N, there is always a few people who walk up to the Nook desk and talk to the reps. I usually see about one person ever two hours who ends up buying a device, and lately, it has always been tablets. I’m sure they get a lot of walk-in sales like this, but Amazon undoubtedly does ten times more. Now there’s a figure I’d like to see them release: how many Kindle’s are sold per hour?

    • fjtorres

      Will a WAG, do?
      About a thousand.
      (Based on global annual sales of 10 million.)
      Could be as high as 1600 per hour or even one every three seconds.
      US alone? Maybe one every 10 seconds.

  • CaroleDee

    I ‘moved to the dark side a few weeks ago when Amazon was offering the Kindle Fire for $139. I’ve had a Nook color for a while now and while I find it far easier to navigate than the Kindle, I was sick and tired of B&N taking months to release Indie authors that Amazon had available 18 hours after the author submitted. I still plan to use my Nook, but I’m happy that I have a fallback (other than my husband’s tablet) when my favorite Indie authors put out new releases :)

  • steve

    A simpler explanation. The Simple Touch is a year and half old at this point and price cuts would be inevitable at some point along the way. Also, the line is probably up for a refresh shortly.

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  • willem

    E-readers are heading for niche status, that is if they survive at all. There are good indications that all ereader sales, including the Kindle, have dropped from last year.

    Nor am I convinced that B&N really cares about building a sustainable hardware business.
    If they spun off the Nook side in an attempt to ultimately sell it then they need to boost the digital side of things.

    It is not like their Nook division has ever shown a profit.

  • Sarra Cannon

    If the Nook is struggling, it probably has more to do with B&N’s crappy website than the actual reader itself. Amazon has mastered genre lists and search capabilities, doing everything it can to match readers with the books they are interested in reading. They have also embraced Indie books, which often provide readers with quality books at lower prices. B&N’s site/browsing is counter-intuitive and clunky. If they would fix their website, embrace Indies on a larger scale and do occasional ebook coupons for their membership holders, they might see better ereader sales as well.

    • Carole

      I absolutely agree with most of your comment, except Amazon’s ability to categorize genres. A book I recently reviewed, which should be considered Futuristic Sci/Fi Romance was lumped into the general Sci-Fi series category. Someone bought the book and left a scathing review saying it was porn. (There was one love scene, so if that’s porn in that guy’s opinion then he is obviously very sheltered.) But I felt bad for the author for getting bad press because of Amazon’s genre screw up.

      I should concede that the whole thing wasn’t Amazon’s fault, though. There are other reviews that clearly speak of the romance aspect of the book. So, it’s the reader’s fault for not checking into those. Not to mention the author doesn’t mention the romance aspect in the synopsis. Live and learn, I guess.

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  • Shawn E. Bell

    I’ve owned a number of Nooks, a few iPads (including the iPad Mini – which is my second go-to, next to the K3 keyboard), Kindles, and other eReaders and tablets. I use them to check eBook formatting for customers.

    I’ve never really been a fan of the Nook; navigating is a PITA, and just getting stuff from the store is a chore.

    Not so with the Kindle (although I really do wish the Fire had the option to group books like the Kindles do). Buying, loading, navigating and reading is ridiculously simple.

    Whenever I read recreationally, I use my Kindle K3 – never any of the Nooks.

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