Today’s launch of an Android e-reader app marks Barnes & Noble’s first foray onto that platform — and a shift in strategy. Instead of “BN eReader for iPad” or “BN eReader for PC,” its e-reader apps and software are moving to the Nook brand. That will put Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) more in line with Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), which has been using the Kindle brand for both its e-reading devices and its platform.
But it looks like B&N will continue to diverge in one area: Amazon’ e-books are sold through the Kindle store (in the main bookstore, they’re referred to as “Kindle editions”) while B&N is using Nook for devices and platform but not book sales. Instead, books are sold through the eBookstore. This makes a certain amount of sense since B&N also provides e-book sales for other devices although it’s not a stretch to think it could switch to a Nook store for its own direct sales.
The timetable for the rest of the apps and software to rebrand is unclear; B&N simply says “coming months ” in its announcement. The iPhone and iPad apps will be rebranded when they are updated.
It’s a risky move in some ways. B&N is retaining corporate identity in the formal name for the app — Nook for Android by Batrnes & Noble — but it’s banking on people to recognize Nook as its e-reading brand just as they link Kindle to Amazon. Unlike e-tailer Amazon, much of B&N’s overall strategy for e-books is linked to its brick & mortar stores: coupons for in-store free drinks, special e-reading access in stores, physical points of sale for Nooks and accessories.
Not just for books: At the same time, B&N is finally trying to get some mileage out of one of the biggest distinctions it has from other e-reader iPad apps. Kindle and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iBooks are books-only; Nook/BN eReader is the only one that includes access to magazines and newspapers. B&N is using the addition of the New York Times subscription and single-copy sales to push for some publicity about that feature.
The lack of ubiquitous access across platforms has been one of the most frustrating things for me as a Kindle user with numerous subscriptions accessible only on the device. B&N hasn’t solved this completely — oddly, the Android app isn’t launching with access — but it’s closer. Does it matter for most readers? Probably not. But limiting access to certain apps or devices limits potential.
The NYT is already on iPad through the browser, through its iPhone app and though its iPad-specific but more limited Editors Choice app, which looks and acts like the newspaper but isn’t close to full content.