What we learned from the Nook developer event

Barnes & Noble has yet to reveal the date of its forthcoming UK launch of its Nook e-book reader although its app developer conference did offer some glimpses into how it might be marketed into the UK, a guest blogger on FutureBook writes.

After weeks of expectation, it seemed crushingly inevitable the announcement was not revealed at the conference. Developers at yesterday’s event, held in Centrepoint in central London, seemed somewhat bemused that repeated attempts to get some indication of a European launch were batted away with no comment beyond the previously announced intention to expand its digital offer internationally. So sensitive were Barnes & Noble about this, that the five Nooks that it gave away to developers in a prize draw were not actually brought to the UK – the retailer said it would ship them out at a later date.

Speaking to FutureBook, B&N director of developer relations Claudia Romanini said nothing should be read into the fact it held its first developer conference outside of the United States in London. She said: "We go to a lot of international events because we get a lot of requests to see the device and touch it. I was in Berlin last week – most of the developers who will produce apps come from Germany or the UK."

So while a concrete launch date remains beyond us for now, we did learn a bit more about who the Nook sells in its millions to. Barnes & Noble’s Steven McDonnell introduced Julie, a 38 year old mother, who was the typical Nook buyer. An interesting target market when you could argue tablets are still very much in its infancy and driven by early adopters. However, 70% of Nooks have been bought by women, aged between 25 and 45. McDonnell revealed the typical Nook owner comes into a branch to play with the device three times before they buy it.  Romanini said: "She’s not technical. She most likely has a smartphone but is not a big app consumer – she’s a little afraid of data consumption so won’t download a lot of apps. So we decided to approach the device from a content perspective."

McDonnell also showed how the retailer used the device to drive traffic instore. A recent Angry Birds promotion, where B&N had the exclusive on selling the toys, gave Nook owners a Mighty Eagle (which allows players to skip a level) if they brought their Nook to the store.

McDonnell was also keen to stress the difference between the Nook stores and those of Android and iOS. He said the Nook store was "heavily curated"; it still has apps in the thousands but it was unlike the Wild West of the App Store or Google Play. Of these apps, 98% are paid content.

Speaking on a panel later in the day about the evolving tablet market, Romanini said how the Nook was being used to target children. She said B&N had a 37% share of kid's books and 38% share of picture books. Her seven year old asked her for a tablet and she said her initial reluctance about other types of entertainment content taking over from her child’s reading time proved unfounded. “It’s been the opposite. She has to read a certain amount on the Nook before I will download games for her. It works really well and I think it’s important for parents that they feel they have this quality and safety over content." One unexpected feature was how her daughter was using the recording function to track how well she was reading.

When talk turned to differentiating between the devices, Romanini said she felt the e-ink Nook was more for ‘purists’. She said: "They want an immersive reading experience." Whereas the tablet devices were for more diverse readers. She said: "They are more for people who want to snack on content, whether it’s books, magazines or apps. But it’s still about the reading experience." But UK consumers are no clearer as to when they will experience it.

This blog was authored by a guest blogger who attended the Nook development evening but who preferred to remain anonymous.

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