Nook in the UK: Barnes & Noble to Host London Event for Developers

Digitally altered promotional image from Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble is sponsoring an event for developers in London on March 19th, possibly signaling a spring entry of its Nook e-reading and tablet devices into the UK and Europe.

The event is hosted by Mobile Monday London, and will feature both a panel discussion with Barnes & Noble director of developer relations Claudia Romanini, a hands-on workshop for Nook developers, and a ninety-minute period for “networking,” so that UK media and development folks can introduce themselves to the Barnes & Noble team (and vice versa).

“It’s a timely moment to look at the market given Wednesday’s much heralded ‘expected announcement’,” writes Mobile Monday’s Jo Rabin, referring to Apple’s anticipated introduction of the iPad 3. “With 73 million tablet devices sold in 2011, this means that tablets accounted for around 25% of mobile PC shipments last year. Although this was still still dominated by iPad a lot of the excitement and commentary seem to be around the Kindle and the Nook – combining as they do a content ecosystem with the delivery of that content.”

The open question is whether this is merely a preemptive effort by Barnes & Noble to maintain interest in its platform or whether it signals the imminent entry of the Nook to the UK and Europe.

“The rumors have been around for months, but UK entry of Barnes & Noble seems to be for real now,” wrote Jellybooks’ Andrew Rhomberg in an email. “London Book Fair is just 1 month later, so spring launch happening after all?” A Barnes & Noble representative did not respond to a request for comment.

After a long delay where it focused on the US domestic market, Barnes & Noble has recently indicated that it’s ready to get serious about international expansion. It’s also hired experts in international publishing to develop its global strategy. In December, Barnes & Noble registered for business in the Netherlands and reached out to bookstore partners there; in January, the company signaled its desire separate its digital Nook business from its US-based brick & mortar stores, which may better allow it to seek further international partnerships.

Waterstone’s would be the UK chain best positioned to partner to sell Barnes & Noble’s Nooks. So far, both chains have been mum on any potential or proposed partnership, but sources speaking off the record say both companies are in active negotiations to bring the Nook to Waterstone’s.

Unlike partnerships between mega-bookstores, building a real development platform requires a more public approach. After all, Nook isn’t just about books, but magazines, newspapers, games and other tablet applications. All of those require developers to build the applications or at least port them from other Android-compatible platforms to create a vibrant ecosystem

At least, that’s what Barnes & Noble wants its digital platform to be — and what any company will need to compete with Apple, the App Store and the iPad, not to mention Amazon’s Kindle.

Tim is a technology and media writer for Wired. He loves e-readers, Westerns, media theory, modernist poetry, sports and technology journalism, print culture, higher education, cartoons, European philosophy, pop music and TV remotes. He lives and works in New York. (And on Twitter.)

Follow @tcarmody on Twitter.

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