Barnes & Noble’s fate is just more evidence that being better isn’t enough on its own

There’s news today that B&N’s founder is looking to buy the store’s retail and web business, but not the Nook business, and the Nook business could be spun off or even discontinued, but whatever happens, it’s likely to be de-emphasized.

My family owns two Nook Simple Touch e-readers, and we like them, but they have one very big problem.

I got a $25 Nook gift card for my birthday. I’ve seen a couple of books I wanted in the past 3 months, but nothing available as a Nook book. As I recall, all of those books have been available for Kindle.

The Nook is the better device, and I’m not sure it’s even close. But better hardware and better technology isn’t enough. You have to have something to buy. Especially when the consumption device is break-even or near-break-even. I remember, some 20 years ago, having a conversation with a friend. My Amiga was a much better computer than his unremarkable Dell PC, but he retorted, “None of that matters if you, you know, like having software!”

A year later, Commodore was out of business. Twenty years later, Dell is struggling, but by Commodore standards, Dell’s bad years would have been pretty good.

I’m impressed with the Nook tablet range too, but there again, being locked in to what Barnes & Noble has to sell makes me hesitant to buy one. Will everything I want to run on a tablet be available for it? If I’ve learned one thing over the last 20 years, it’s that when in doubt, you’ll be better off going with an open system over a closed one.

So, with no books to buy, one of our Nooks spends the bulk of its time displaying library books; I loaded the other one up with public domain e-books and other stuff I converted into epub format to keep handy. We’re happy, but neither of these uses makes B&N any money.

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