June 25 - Barnes & Noble's NOOK unit makes disappointing $776 million last fiscal year as plunging sales for the bookseller's digital and retail divisions point to more pain ahead. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Your Daily Digit today is $776 million. That's how much Barnes & Noble's digital business NOOK made in fiscal year 2013. It's not an impressive number, pushed down by slumping sales of tablets, e-books, accessories, and slashed prices. Falling sales for the unit lead to skyrocketing losses company-wide for the fiscal year and the quarter. Barnes & Noble, the largest U.S. bookstore chain, has been in a tough and costly competition for the digital market with deep-pocketed Amazon, Google and Apple. In that fight, it lost almost half a billion dollars last fiscal year, and had to repeatedly cut prices to try to attract shoppers. To contain those losses, Barnes & Noble will produce and market its tablets in partnership with a manufacturer it doesn't want to identify, and it will continue to develop its e-readers itself. But the NOOK business is not the only problem. Sales are falling in Barnes & Noble's retail division. One bright spot is college books - unit sales rose 7.5 percent. Not enough though to stop Barnes & Noble from predicting a drop in total sales this fiscal year.