B&N moves fuel UK Nook hopes

Barnes & Noble is strengthening its relations with UK publishers and app developers in the run-up to this month's London Book Fair, The Bookseller has learned.

The US book giant has had face-to-face meetings with a number of publishers ahead of the fair and has scheduled further half-hour sessions at the show (April 16th–18th). The meetings have been set up by B&N senior manager of digital products Claire Israel and Matt Mullin, manager of digital content, publishers said. Nook Developer, B&N's app development team, is also sponsoring LBF's "App Zone" for the first time.

A B&N spokeswoman declined to reveal the exact nature of the meetings, and insisted that it met "with publishers as part of ordinary course of business", but the approaches have encouraged hopes that the bookseller could use the LBF as a platform on which to launch its e-reader, the Nook, or the Nook Tablet, in the UK. One publisher, who declined to be named, said B&N had promised a "big announcement".

Hazel Cushion, m.d. of independent Accent Press, said the email she received from B&N alluded to developing an e-book business in the UK market. She added: "I think it would be great if the Nook launched in the UK because I think that competition is a good thing. It is good for consumers to have different options in the marketplace."

Michael Bhaskar, digital publishing director at Profile Books, said "everyone" was hoping there is going to be some kind of Nook announcement, "and it makes a lot of sense to launch at LBF". He added: "I really expect something to happen soon because missing Christmas was bad enough in terms of missing a sales opportunity. Certainly there is room for a major new entrant into the market in the UK." Juliet Mabey, publisher at OneWorld, said the company had "a very constructive meeting" with B&N.

B&N chief executive William Lynch revealed to The Bookseller last year that it planned to take its Nook platform outside of the US, where it would rival global competitors such as Amazon, Kobo, Google and Apple, all of which have an established international presence.

It has also just reaffirmed its intention for an international launch by incorporating Barnes & Noble Digital Media GmbH in Germany.

While B&N has long been rumoured to have been in talks with UK bookshop chain Waterstones, which has previously said it wants to bring an e-reading device to the market before the summer, the direct approaches from B&N's digital content team to publishers do not appear to support this.

Anticipation of an imminent launch of the Nook in the UK has also been growing since Barnes & Noble sponsored a developer event at Mobile Monday London last month. B&N opened its platform to international developers last year, but until now it still requires content companies to have a US tax identification.

Mary Ellen Keating, senior vice-president, corporate communications at Barnes & Noble, declined to be drawn on the retailer's plans. She said: "Barnes & Noble always attends the book fair and we meet with publishers as part of ordinary course of business. We have no announcements."

Waterstones also declined to comment.