Important side note: Barnes & Noble announced on 1/5 that they are examining the Nook side of their business, saying the Nook line has built up a lot of value over the past year or two and that “it’s the right time to investigate our options to unlock that value.”
Most pundits are saying that this is company-speak for wanting to sell the Nook line, and I’d agree. Obviously, no decisions have been made yet, but it does validate exploring these buyer options. This also throws an interesting wrinkle into the valuation and pricing for a possible acquisition.
Update: B&N CEO William Lynch told CNBC on 1/6 that the Nook “will continue to be Barnes & Noble’s e-reader.” Whether this is a firm stance or simply a bargaining move has yet to be seen, but it’s a quickly evolving story nonetheless.
This post continues from Part II of “Who will write the next chapter for Barnes & Noble?” that was posted on 1/5, and Part I that was posted on 1/3.
The last potential Nook buyer is a little bit of a left field option, but I think it’s a company that could radically shake up its place in the tech/mobile industry should they choose to act on it. Like all of the previous options I’ve laid out, the reasoning lies in the potential to bring existing online services to a quality hardware device to facilitate those services and promote heavier use.
Okay, maybe Evernote isn’t that much of a left field choice. I mean, the note-taking and personal curating service was named Inc. Magazine‘s Company of the Year in 2011.
However, Evernote has made it clear they want to move beyond simply note-taking and personal curating. CEO Phil Libin is very public about his desire for Evernote to become a 100 year company, and has gone to great lengths to making that happen. Evernote has been buying up several smaller companies, and still has hundreds of millions of dollars from investors.
Money and startup acquisitions aside, there are two bigs reasons Evernote could and should look into buying up B&N’s Nook division.
The first reason revolves around Evernote’s stance on developers. The company has embraced the developer community practically from the beginning, not only allowing, but encouraging them to find new ways of implementing Evernote into more and more facets of our online lives. Evernote even has an Evernote Trunk section on their site dedicated to the Evernote-related apps and services that developers have created.
That’s why a Nook acquisition makes sense for them, because the Nook gained a lot of fame in early 2011 as a “hacker’s tablet” since it was a cheap and solid device that could be easily rooted. Pairing that kind of a device with the developer-friendly service is still largely just symbolic, but it would reinforce that 100-year strategy and the innovation that it requires.
The second reason Evernote needs to look into buying the Nook line is the potential that Evernote software has already shown when integrated with the hardware.
Case in point: The HTC Flyer. Granted, the 7-inch tablet never made waves in the tablet market and was recently discontinued. However, most critics lambasted the Flyer for its high pricing, not because of the device itself. And what was so special about the Flyer? Aside from the ability to unlock more features with a specialized stylus, the Flyer was also integrated with Evernote. In fact, ZDNet called the Flyer the “magic Evernote tablet.”
By signing in with your Evernote account to the device itself (similar to signing in with a B&N account on the Nook), you can quickly and easily take screenshots or write notes with the stylus and automatically save them to your notebooks. Audio notes have built-in time stamping, and that same time-stamping feature allows you to attach notes to calendar events.
Evernote was a perfect software complement for the Flyer, but the Flyer’s $500+ pricing killed any chances of it catching on.
This is where the Nook provides an excellent opportunity for them. They could take the time to build a device that fully integrates Evernote into the entire user experience (an EverNook if you will), taking the features that worked so well with the Flyer and streamlining additional integration.
For instance, the Flyer had the ability to save and copy passages from its HTC e-book app, a feature that could easily be transferred and improved with the more robust Nook e-book library.
Evernote could also build upon B&N’s aforementioned Nook Friends social network, keeping the reading recommendations aspect and integrating Evernote’s notebooks. Although, given the overall lack of utilization of the network as it is now, Evernote may not want to try and save that sinking ship.
However, social sharing aside, if Evernote can get its hands on quality hardware and deeply integrate its software (without the need for a Flyer-like stylus), there is plenty of opportunity for Evernote to make good on its promise and become the 100 year company it wants to be.
Where do we go from here?
Naturally, these last 3 posts have been nothing but conjecture. However, should B&N choose to part ways with the Nook line or the company as a whole, whoever swoops in and snatches it up could make a strong push and shake up the market like Amazon did with the Kindle Fire in 2011.
The common thread here is clear. The market has spoken, and has shown that a competitively-priced device that facilitates existing online services and can get through the day to day media consumption will be a popular option.
Now all that’s left to do is wait and see what Barnes & Noble chooses to do, although I doubt that book will be finished anytime soon.