The resignation of William Lynch as CEO is a big blow to Barnes & Noble. If not for the sake of his day-to-day and/or long-term presence, then at least for the sake of morale.
His appointment as CEO in 2009 and his plan to build-up the company’s digital infrastructure was rightfully acclaimed as forward thinking — the only logical phase for the company to pursue. Manufacturing a line of e-readers and tablets would provide the means for the selling of digital content for years to come. This could have allowed the company to better absorb losses coming from its brick and mortar stores and/or phase them out completely. The goal was to become a viable alternative to the likes of Amazon.
Even though the strategy looked good on paper, any long-term viable success would require that implementation goes 100% smoothly. Unfortunately, there were a few misses along the way. The limitations of the early Nook Color in 2010/2011 likely hindered potential momentum out the gate. I also think the (fair or unfair) perception of a struggling book company making their own tablets didn’t help. At the time, any non-Apple manufactured tablet didn’t have a good rep. Budget friendly tablets didn’t really take until Google came along with their $199 seven-inch Nexus; soon followed by the Kindle Fire at the same price (the Kindle Fire came out first, but it appears that the Nexus has taken off more then the Fire).
I’m not sure if Barnes & Noble’s strategy was doomed from the start. Perhaps, some altercation to the strategy would warranted different results. At this time last year, the formation of Nook Media as a separate subsidiary with Microsoft was deemed positive. Since then, it’s hard to identify just how Microsoft has benefited from the arrangement. It’s quite puzzling that B&N never seemed to maximize the potential benefits of such an arraignment (i.e. never any real discussion of future Nook products being Windows 8 based).
Regardless why the Nook strategy bombed, I’m saddened by what appears to be a repeat of the struggle that Borders previously experienced prior to its demise in 2011. Even if the Nook strategy would have taken off, I realize B&N’s book stores would have slowly disappeared. My hope (as naive as it may have been) was that for the sake of novelty, there would always be a few remaining stores here and there. Maybe that still happens in some capacity, though the remaining uncertainty is unsettling.
I suppose I should also mention that I am quite the hypocrite. While rooting for the success of Barnes & Noble, I am doing so while using the Kindle. Why I’m not supporting the Nook product line is a long story in itself… one that I’m sure I’ll eventually blog about.