Product Strategy and Innovation Blog

The Nook Fails At The Core Job-To-Be-Done


Almost three years after its initial December 2009 release, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, which was intended to compete with Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad, is facing serious loss of market share and shrinking revenue numbers–despite the fact that in August 2012, CNET called the updated Nook the best overall e-ink reader.

So, why is the Nook failing to sell? Easy: CNET is simply wrong. If we look at the market through a jobs-to-be-done lens, we see that Nook is intended to help the consumer do the “job” of reading published works (books, articles, etc.). The problem is that despite what CNET says, the Kindle and iPad help the consumer get that job done better–and not only the core job-to-be-done (the reading job mentioned above), but also consumption chain jobs (in other words, the things you need to do in order to actually get the reading material and then read it). And the iPad also enables consumers to execute hundreds of other jobs, making the platform and the product more valuable to the consumer.

Here’s how the Nook falls down where its competition succeeds: the iPad, with twice the Nook’s screen area and a high-density display that eliminates pixelation, provides a superior viewing experience. The reader doesn’t have to flip pages as often and is less likely to suffer eye strain–two desired outcomes that customers are hoping for (two needs they are trying to satisfy) when executing the core jobs-to-be-done.

When it comes to the consumption chain jobs, the Kindle’s lending function is superior, as is its interface with libraries. Kindle partnered with the digital distributor OverDrive for a fast and easy library checkout process. Nook users, by comparison, need to use a USB cable and must install software to download e-books from their local library, adding complexity and cost.

The Nook is also platform constrained. That is, it helps customers get one job done (reading published works), but that’s it. It’s not designed to enable the execution of other jobs. The iPad, by contrast, enables customers to execute hundreds of jobs. Since users in any market appreciate being able to get multiple jobs done on a single platform, the iPad wins, hands down.

Customers buy products because they have a core job-to-be-done, and they are only loyal to a product for as long as it is the best means of accomplishing that task. The Nook is not that product. Therefore, we can only predict its continued market share decline, especially as the price of the iPad continues to drop.

Tony Ulwick

Tony Ulwick is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Strategyn. He is the pioneer of jobs-to-be-done theory and the inventor of Outcome-Driven Innovation. His work has helped the world’s leading companies launch some of the fastest-growing products in history. His best-selling book, “What Customers Want,” and his articles in the Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review have been cited in hundreds of publications. His work has defined a new era in customer-centric innovation.

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