Thursday, 9 July 2015

What happens when a retailer of eBooks goes out of business?

The folks over at Ink, Bits & Pixels have reported today that Nook may be about to cease operations in 38 out of 40 international territories (everywhere except the UK and the USA).

It’s almost eerie how close the timing of this announcement is to our last post (‘You Never Owned It Anyway’) because it demonstrates that when you have a licence, you can be dependent on the other party’s existence for that licence to be worth anything.

We joked that some of us might well outlive Amazon. If Nook does to the wall as Ink, Bits and Pixels have suggested then we’re going to see the potential ramifications of that store closure. 

They might:
a)  Cease sales and downloads of new titles

b) Cease downloads of existing titles

c) Both

The danger is that readers may lose content they have legitimately purchased, and be prevented by Digital Rights Management software from ever using that content elsewhere. 

Now, for Nook, it’s not as bad as it could be – because they use .ePub which is, while not totally fungible in terms of presentation (as code can be interpreted in proprietary ways), an open source format.

If you’ve got books with them, I suggest you go and download them all to a nice folder on your desktop – and then back it up. Insurance doesn’t hurt.

If they do go bust, and readers lose access to purchased titles, then I suggest contacting your bank/ credit card provider for any recent transactions (as you might be able to reverse them). 

Failing that, have a word with the publisher/ author. Anything we’ve sold, we’re happy to email out a backup file in case of loss. It’s not ideal, but it’s a fall back. Our stuff is all DRM free anyway so if you’ve got it downloaded anywhere then you should be able to copy it / modify formats as you need to.


With a bit of luck, it won’t come to that. There’s a fair chance Barnes and Noble will simply sell off Nook – possibly to Kobo. I’m not a huge fan of consolidation in the market generally, but we’re miles away from a monopoly. Amazon, Google and Apple in particular are clearly in this for the long run.

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