Barnes & Noble Closes its eBooks

Barnes & Noble.com today announced that, effective immediately, it will no longer sell electronic books.

It told its customers that they have 90 days to download any eBooks that they’ve already purchased but not yet downloaded. “After December 9, 2003, eBook titles that have not been downloaded to the appropriate readers will no longer be accessible,” B&N.com e-mailed its customers who ever have purchased eBooks. “As always, we appreciate your patronage, and we regret any inconvenience this may cause you.”

We know that Barnes & Noble.com has been reducing its eBook operations for the past two years, but its announcement today was sudden and unexpected.

The core reason for B&N.com’s decision is that its eBook sales never reached the company’s expectations. Those expectations were devised during the height of the dot.com bubble. B&N’s then spent rather lavishly on its eBook operations, hiring a 200+ person staff based in lower Manhattan, plus tried to create a wholesale operations for selling eBooks by purchasing for ‘dot.com bubble’ prices a variety of eBook startup companies. Nevertheless, it eBook retail decisions were hesitant and largely based upon whatever its archcompetitor Amazon.com. A step behind and a step late.

eBook sales worldwide have steadily risen year after year, a trend that shows a steady market upon which a reasonable retailer can build a business. But that trend hasn’t risen to Barnes & Noble.com’s dot.com bubble anticipations. B&N has cut staff and operations during the past two years, but its expectations were so high that there still was practically no way that B&N.com profi or even retrieve the costs it has already sunk into its eBooks operations. The executive bureaucratic response to that problem is, of course, to stop altogether selling eBooks. Barnes & Noble.com did that today.

eBooks aren’t dead; sales have been steadily rising. What died today was Barnes & Noble.com’s eBook sales business plan.

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