STRUGGLING E-BOOK MAKERS Sony and Barnes & Noble appear to be on the verge of throwing in the towel.
Both Sony and Barnes & Noble (B&N), maker of the Nook whose business plan has been changing recently to reflect troubled trading conditions, have made announcements that will delight the other big players - Amazon's Kindle and Kobo, distributed in the UK by bricks and mortar retailer WH Smith.
Barnes & Noble has already reshuffled a number of management positions this year and it has recently come to light that it has made substantial layoffs in its engineering department, with some sources claiming that the entire department has been shut down, though the company denies this.
It told Business Insider, "We've been very clear about our focus on rationalizing the Nook business and positioning it for future success and value creation. As we've aligned Nook's cost structure with business realities, staffing levels in certain areas of our organization have changed, leading to some job eliminations. We're not going to comment specifically on those eliminations."
Nook is B&Ns first entry into the UK market but has failed to catch on, with units often available at discounted prices. In its native US however, where it has a strong bookshop presence, it is relying on the Nook to keep it going in a changing marketplace.
Meanwhile Sony will shut down its North American e-reader store and exit the market. Customers will be transferred to rival Kobo, but the 3G connections of the readers will be discontinued.
In a statement as part of a FAQ on its website, it told customers, "Unless a customer chooses to not be included in the transfer process, Reader Store will transfer customers to Toronto-based eReading company Kobo - an admired eBook store and reading community. We strongly believe that this transition will allow customers to enjoy a continued high-quality e-reading experience."
At present there are no plans to close the UK operation, however, it seems inevitable that the firm will probably seek parity between territories in the coming months. This would be a major shot in the arm for Kobo's UK distributor WH Smith, which is constantly looking for new ways to supplement the dwindling market for that magazines and books that are its stock in trade.
We have contacted Sony in the UK for comment, but it has not responded yet. µ