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Summary:

At Barnes & Noble’s annual shareholder meeting in New York Tuesday, company execs said they’re still open to spinning off the Nook business, but it sounds as if a buyer has not come along.

Barnes & Noble store
photo: Flickr / keone

After a tumultuous — read: really bad — summer for Barnes & Noble, the company’s annual shareholder meeting took place Tuesday at the company’s flagship store in New York City.

I wasn’t there, but Publishers Weekly was and got a bunch of good takeaway quotes. Gregory Maffei, CEO of Liberty Media — which holds about 17 percent of the company’s stock — told investors, “Look, no one is happy with Nook, we know we need a new e-reader strategy but it’s not easy when you look at [the competitors] we’re up against.”

Barnes & Noble chairman and founder Leonard Riggio addressed investors, though, saying the company is “open to the idea” of paying a dividend to shareholders. He also responded to questions about why the company decided not to sell off the ailing Nook business. It still sounds as if a buyer — presumed to be Microsoft, which has a $300 million strategic investment in the company — declined to move forward: Riggio said, “Everything is on the table; we’re looking at all the doors. How we proceed depends on the opportunities we encounter.”

Riggio also got fed up with questions about why he decided not to buy Barnes & Noble retail stores and take them private: “I don’t want to buy retail and I don’t have to say why.”

  1. Maybe B&N should buy Kobo, which hasn’t had a retail partner since the shuttering of Borders, and has major market share in some countries.

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    1. Kobo seems to be doing quite well with the independent bookstores.

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    2. I don’t imagine Rakuten would be willing to sell Kobo. If anything, Rakuten could buy Barnes and Noble.

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  2. “I don’t want to buy retail and I don’t have to say why.”

    Kiss of death.

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  3. B&N should stop selling tablets all together. Instead they should focus on apps for mobile and PC platforms. B&N can be the alternative to Amazon instead of Apple.

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    1. Richard Hartzell Friday, September 13, 2013

      Being the alternative to Amazon (or Apple, for that matter) ain’t exactly a picnic. It’s like being a tennis player and saying “I’d like to be the alternative to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.”

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  4. Liberty media has a good amount of stock.

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  5. William J. Brown Friday, September 13, 2013

    I hate to say it, but there will be no good shareholder outcome here.

    I actually like Nook — my children both have gorgeous, almost-full-featured tablets, and tons and tons of “Magic Tree House” books loaded on them, with strict parental controls to boot — but the business was *done* even before the first Nook premiered.

    B&N doesn’t own the content.

    Apps to provide access to buy the content from publishers will become a dime a dozen. Look, in addition to Amazon and Apple, I can buy through Google Play too … what makes B&N “special”? The prices are all the same, the content is the same … c’mon. Where is the differentiation?

    Meanwhile, the retail business is being managed down the tubes certainly, but more-so, the business is simply declining due to changing consumer consumption demand and relentless competitive technology. If you have a household with 3 dedicated NOOK readers, 5 iOS devices (including iPad and iPod Touches, to go with iPhone 5’s) with NOOK and KINDLE apps, and access to e-books through your large county library system … plus Google Play … why would I ever want to go to experience the insanity of a retail store, with the terrible parking at most locations, the “hit or miss” of whether an item is even on the shelf (much less where it *should* be), and the long lines at scarcely maintained POS checkout?

    No wonder Riggio doesn’t “want to buy retail.” No kidding. And no, he doesn’t have to tell us why. We already know.

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    1. As a B&N employee, I can tell you our customers love coming to our store. We have plenty of parking and if a book is not in we can order it and have it in the store in 3-7 days. Not many other stores are going to do that for you. Our booksellers are well read and our customers often buy books based completely on our recommendations. Our customers do not consider their experience in our store “insanity.” They consider it a relaxing place to browse or leisurely sip their coffee.

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  6. I don’t know who they are talking about, but I, for one, love my Color Nook. Figure out how to make the business end work. You can’t let Amazon have a monopoly on the whole e-publishing business!

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