If you live outside the United States, and you have NOOK books, now would be an excellent time to download them safely to a hard drive and find out how to strip the DRM. Apparently Barnes and Noble‘s expansion into international markets was driven by Microsoft, and since the two companies have disentangled they are pulling the plug.
It’s not super shocking since Barnes and Noble seems to barely keep their heads above water in the United States, but it’s still an ominous sign for the NOOK business. While this is purely anecdotal, I was in Barnes and Noble last weekend and didn’t see a single person browsing the NOOK displays (though someone ahead of us in line bought one of the plain eInk NOOKs!) The store pretty much smacks you in the face with NOOKs and accessories when you walk in the door, but most shoppers seemed to bypass it and head right for the actual books. I do think it is a positive for Barnes and Noble overall that their “Get Pop Cultured” events seem to be bringing in customers; we were there for one of the kid-themed ones, and there were quite a few families at the event as well as just shopping, considering it was a holiday weekend.
Still, dropping the international business like a hot potato isn’t the best way to inspire confidence, and they’re basically ceding everything outside the United States to Kobo/Rakuten and Amazon. I wonder if they’ll actually bother to shut down any international websites, or just leave them as burned out husks like they did with eReader and Fictionwise. Both those sites are, shockingly, still up, but with links to Barnes and Noble instead. In true B&N fashion, only some of the eReader links work, and none of the Fictionwise ones do…which means B&N was both too lazy to shut down Fictionwise and eReader sites completely, AND too incompetent to properly redirect the trickle of customers stumbling there by accident.
The lesson in all of this for international readers is clear: download your books. NOW. Then download Calibre or another service that can help remove any B&N rights management, and save those books to a hard drive or flash drive while you can. Because nothing in B&N’s track record indicates they’ll make any of this easy as they shut down their international business.