Barnes & Noble Nook sales plunge

Nook e-reader The company launched the Nook e-reader in 2009 but sales have struggled and it has had to cut prices

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US bookstore chain Barnes & Noble has seen its fourth-quarter net loss more than double to $118.6m (£77m) as sales of its Nook e-books and devices continue to drop.

Sales in the Nook business fell 34% from a year ago, leading to the division making a $177m loss.

To try to cut losses in the segment, the firm said its tablets would now be co-branded and produced in partnership with a third party manufacturer.

Shares in Barnes & Noble fell 17%.

Company-wide, Barnes & Noble's revenue fell 7.4% to $1.28bn.

'Big steps'

The firm launched its first Nook e-reader in 2009 in an attempt to take on Amazon's Kindle in the growing e-books market.

But it has been an expensive project and sales have fallen.

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In the year to 27 April 2013, sales fell 16.8% and losses have grown to $475m in the Nook division.

It now plans to significantly reduce losses in the segment by "limiting risks associated with manufacturing".

While it will continue to develop its e-readers in-house, its tablet line will now be produced and marketed with a consumer electronics manufacturer that it did not identify.

"We are taking big steps to reduce the losses in the Nook segment, as we move to a partner-centric model in tablets and reduce overhead costs," said Barnes & Noble chief executive William Lynch.

"We plan to continue to innovate in the single purpose black-and-white e-reader category, and the underpinning of our strategy remains the same today as it has since we first entered the digital market, which is to offer customers any digital book, magazine or newspaper, on any device."

Last month, it was reported that Microsoft, which already owns 17% of Nook Media, was planning to buy the division outright.

Competition

For the full year, Barnes & Noble said losses widened to $154.8m from $65.6m.

Sales fell at its retail business, which has 675 bookstores, but its college bookstore chain provided a bright spot as revenues grew.

Like book retailers worldwide, the firm has struggled to compete with cheap online vendors and downloads.

For the year ahead, the firm expects retail comparable bookstore sales to decline "in the high-single digits".

Earlier this year, Leonard Riggio, the company's founder, chairman and largest shareholder, said he wanted to buy back the company's retail operations, but not its Nook e-reader.

Barnes & Noble was originally a New York bookstore. Mr Riggio bought the branding rights in the 1970s, before building up a successful US-wide chain.

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