How Barnes & Noble Can Lose Me as a Nook Customer


A long, long time ago (in a galaxy far away), I bought a B&N Nook.  Why?  Because I liked:

  • the design (the first Nooks were beautiful)
  • the touchscreen at the bottom, which makes navigating the device easy and searching for books more interesting than other eReaders (it lets you browse by the covers)
  • having a physical bookstore to go to, since I still buy hard copies
  • the various in-store bonuses (reading anything in the store for free, free food, etc.)
  • freedom from Amazon (I’m not a fan of Amazon’s attempt to strangle publishers, just as I am not a fan of publishers strangling writers)
  • freedom from a single store (the ePub format lets me buy books from all over the place; that doesn’t mean I go elsewhere to get them — just that I can)
Most of these things are still true.  I love my Nook and the freedom it grants me, and I still love going to an actual B&N store.  And I also love reading on the Nook.  It’s a wonderful device and the reading options are fantastic (adjusting font, etc.).
So what have I got to bitch about?  A few things, really:

Weak Browsing

First, B&N’s bookstore is annoyingly limited on the Nook.  When you want to look for books in a specific genre, the best you can do is go to a specific subgenre (Ebooks –> Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror –> Fantasy Fiction).  From there, you cannot adjust the search so it will show new releases, bestsellers, reader review averages, etc.  These subgenres might be also useful if every publisher and self-publisher didn’t mark their books with every single subgenre reasonably applicable to the book.  But they do, which means the same books show up everywhere.

Likewise, you cannot search by publisher, adjust the ebook cost (i.e., looking for science fiction books on sale), and just about anything else you’d expect to do in a bookstore.  Granted, you can do most of these things on the B&N website, but I can’t use the website when I’m out and about and in the mood for a new book.

One of the other annoying things, which is as true of other devices as the Nook, is the complete inability to filter out all the self-published garbage being thrust into the ebook market.  Don’t get me wrong:  some of the SPed books are probably really good.  And I may even read some of them.  But ebook stores are flooded with $2.99 and $0.99 books, which makes it difficult to find anything when you also don’t have the ability to filter books out (such as looking only at an average of customer reviews).  What you end up with in the store are ten pages mixed with cheap SPed books and all the major titles in a particular genre.

I should note that I’m not a typical book browser.  Most readers probably won’t be bothered by the Nook browser.  It’s simple, intuitive, and clear.  Likewise, it makes it easy for you to see the bestsellers in general, which many readers use to find books anyway (New York Times Bestseller, B&N’s list, etc.).  But for those of us who do want a better browsing experience, we’re S.O.L.  B&N can fix most of these things with a software update.

Infrequent Advertisement of Deals

My Twitter feed is flooded with Kindle deals.  Every day, it seems like dozens of traditionally published SF/F books are being temporarily marked down to $2.99 (which I assume are being advertised by Amazon).  The best the Nook has to offer is a section called “Steals ‘n’ Deals.”  The problem?  The section is limited to roughly 10 pages of books from a variety of genres.  You cannot browse for the deals specific to fantasy.  Lovely.

But the deals they have are also not the same as deals elsewhere.  Right now, the first page of “Steals ‘n’ Deals” has 4 books priced at $2.99 or less.  The other 6?  $3.99 – $4.98.  Those are nice deals, I suppose, but where are all the $2.99 sales?  I don’t know.  Maybe they exist, but since the browser is limited, they’re impossible to find.

Half of this could be solved by a software update, and half of it could be solved by offering customers more sales options.  Which leads me to:

Coupons:  Not for Nook Products

If you subscribe to B&N’s email list, you’ll occasionally receive coupons and other deals.  But every single one of these sales are not available for Nook users.  You cannot take 30% off of an ebook.  You can’t get a buy-one-get-one.  Why?  Because B&N seems to think Nook products should be excluded.

At what point does this make any sense?  The Nook is tied to the B&N store, which means that B&N must want us to buy books through them, rather than some other store.  But since the ePub format makes it easy to buy books elsewhere, there’s less incentive to buy from B&N than from a store which offers more sales and deals (and such stores exist).  If you want us to stay around, then you can’t exclude us from your deals!  Those of us who own Nooks bought them in part so we could keep buying books from B&N…but online.  Amazon understands this — perhaps because they are an online store, and so everything they do revolves around online sales.

It’s Not All Bad

Don’t get me wrong.  The Nook is a wonderful device.  It’s beautiful and I love using it.  But it’s not going to last forever.  Eventually, it’ll break, and I’ll have to find another device to use.  My next eReader may or may not be a B&N product.  That all depends on how much attention they put into incorporating their products into their stores.  I certainly won’t move to their competitor — Amazon — but in the next few years, there are going to be a lot of different eReaders to choose from.


Do you own an eReader?  If so, what complaints do you have?  What would you like to see changed?

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

4 thoughts on “How Barnes & Noble Can Lose Me as a Nook Customer

  1. I'm getting my first e-reader for Christmas. I'm married to the world's biggest tech geek and he's begged me to want one for years. I have refused because I love everything about books. The weight in my hand, the smell, the way the first pages feel stiff between my fingers and the way my hands want to tarry on the last one's of a great book. Dorky? No doubt, it's how I roll.

    I finally gave in because so many of my book buddies share their lists and get the jump on me because they dont have to drag their kids screaming and kicking from the bookstores for every purchase and my last desperate need to purchase the third book in a series at 3:00 am.

    I have no idea if I can ever love my new e-reader but I'm gonna give it a shot. I shall let you know:)

  2. I believe the coupon restriction is *partly* the publisher's fault. Under agency pricing, booksellers are severely limited in how often they can discount ebooks. B&N probably finds it easier to disallow coupons for all ebooks than figure out which they are allowed to discount.

    That said, I remember some booksellers didn't allow coupons for ebooks before agency pricing (I don't remember if B&N was one).

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