Barnes & Noble recently reported that revenue from its NOOK hardware and eBook division would be well short of earlier expectations — and now The New York Times reports that B&N is reconsidering its approach to the digital book space.

While the bookseller isn’t ready to stop making NOOK eReaders and tablets, according to the New York Times the company could shift much of its focus to partnering to make its digital content accessible on tablets from other hardware makers.

B&N NOOK lineup

B&N already offers NOOK apps for Android, iOS, and Windows. But by partnering with hardware companies such as Samsung or Microsoft to preload a NOOK app on devices, B&N could attract more customers for its digital media.

The move would make sense — B&N probably isn’t making much money by selling eReaders for as little as $79 and tablets starting at $199. The company’s NOOK products are primarily designed to be content delivery systems that make it easy to purchase apps, books, and other digital media.

But the move would also be a bit of an admission that B&N hasn’t been able to keep up with Amazon, which continues to offer its own low-cost tablets and eReaders, and which continually counts Kindle hardware among its bestselling product categories.

NOOK hardware over the past few years has been great, offering premium features at affordable prices. But the platform hasn’t been as popular with customers as Amazon’s Kindle devices… possibly because of Amazon’s prominence not just in the eBook space, but also in digital books and movies as well as an emphasis on the subscription-based Amazon Prime service which offers access to streaming videos and book loans for an annual fee.

But NOOK hardware has also always held a special place in the hears of tinkerers: every B&N tablet since the original NOOK Color has proven hackable, with independent developers porting CyanogenMod and other custom versions of Android to run on the tablets.

While the New York Times says B&N isn’t giving up on selling its own hardware, it’s not clear whether we’ll see next-generation hardware from Barnes & Noble this year, or what it will look like if we do.

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One reply on “NYT: Barnes & Noble could scale back NOOK hardware, focus on digital content”

  1. Received two hard cover books for the holidays and tried to either return them for a B&N credit in-store credit or, even more progressive, potentially as a Nook credit – but was merely scolded and dismissed by the store manager. Apparently there are NO returns without a receipt, even though one of the two books had a B&N sticker on it and both were sparkly new. There’s a reason Amazon does so well, despite having lower overhead without a brick & mortar presence – they take care of their customers, existing or potential. Bottom line: I got two hard cover books collecting dust in my garage and wouldn’t mind if/when B&N fails.

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