By Ingrid Lunden
Just as Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is launching a new Kindle (but not the Fire tablet, yet) in Europe, one of its big competitors is taking one more step in its bid to enter the European market: Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) has incorporated a new company, Barnes & Noble Digital Media GmbH, in Germany.
The company filing dates from March 15, just around the time that the U.S. company came to London to promote the Nook to developers - an event that seemed to leave those developers with more questions than answers.
Apart from the fact that having a digital presence is essential for any bookseller looking to take a piece of growing revenues for e-books, expanding outside of the U.S. market is crucial for B&N if it wants to get more scale for the Nook - an important part of attracting more developers to the ecosystem and also improving its margins on the tablet. Currently the Nook only has around a 3.5 percent share of the market, according to IDC.
When B&N hit London last week for its developer event, many came away from the sessions on building for the Nook platform with the sense that the idea was not yet fully formed. For starters, billing and even the ability to collect revenues from apps required U.S. bank accounts, something that most independent European developers - the bread and butter of the app stores - would not have.
Although at the time the company would not confirm whether the event was organized in the lead-up to launching its Nook tablet on this side of the pond, there have been rumors swirling for months now that B&N will partner with large booksellers here to move ahead on such a strategy. In the UK, many believe its partner will be Waterstones, which has both spoken glowingly of the Nook and Waterstones in the past, and has said it will be launching its own tablet later this year.
In Germany, Buchreport notes that there are several strong incumbent players, including Thalia and DBH, and these could be potential partners. Moreover, B&N already has a partnership with German bookstore aggregator BookWire.
But as with the UK, B&N will be entering a crowded market: both Amazon and Apple are doing very well over in Germany. A survey from the University of Hamburg noted in a survey that 57 percent of respondents had purchased books from Amazon, while 27 percent from Apple's iBookstore.
In the Netherlands - another key market for B&N, given that so many there speak English it's an obvious way of extending much of its current content - the bookseller reportedly in line for a partnership is Centraal Bookhuis.