Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader sales plunge during holiday season

Total sales in the Nook division were down by more than half; content sales dropped 25%

nooke e reader

A Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader. 

Credit: Reuters

The holiday shopping season wasn't merry for Barnes & Noble's Nook division, which experienced plummeting sales of the Nook e-reader as well as content and accessories for the device.

Total sales in the Nook segment, which includes devices, accessories and content, came in at US$56 million for the nine weeks through Saturday, according to figures released by the bookstore chain on Thursday. This represents a 55.4 percent decrease compared to 2013's holiday shopping period. Device and accessory sales were down by 67.9 percent and came in at $28.5 million. Digital content sales tallied $27.4 million, a 25 percent drop from the previous year's figure.

Barnes & Noble has struggled on the digital front, where Nook sales have proved lackluster. The company hasn't been able to fend off Amazon's popular Kindle e-readers and the plethora of tablets from companies like Apple, Samsung and Google that allow people to download and read books by using an app.

In December, Barnes & Noble announced that it was buying out Microsoft's stake in the Nook division for $120 million in a cash and stock transaction. The companies entered a partnership in 2012 in which Microsoft invested $300 million to obtain a 17.6 percent stake in a newly created Nook Media subsidiary consisting of Barnes & Nobles' digital division and college bookstores. Microsoft may have lost around $315 million on the Nook partnership after factoring in funding guarantees and arrangements that obligated the tech heavyweight to pay Barnes & Noble to support Nook device and content development, among other stipulations.

That news of dismal Nook sales follows June's announcement that Barnes & Noble was splitting into two companies. One would handle retail stores and online sales and the other would comprise Nook digital operations and the chain's college bookstores. The separation should be complete by August 2015, the company has said.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

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