Barnes & Noble discontinuing 3G Nook?

Engadget claims that Barnes & Noble is phasing out the 3G Nook. Does that mean a new Nook is coming?

Gone baby gone?
Barnes & Noble

We're not sure quite what to make of this rumor, but Engadget is reporting that Barnes & Noble is phasing out the Nook 3G.

Engadget doesn't cite a specific person or anonymous source, but says it, "Received hard evidence from within B&N that the Nook is being discontinued, with sales to seemingly continue until stock is exhausted." The "outfit" (we assume that means Barnes & Noble) is apparently "encouraging retail partners to not send out any 'bulk requests' for the Nook 3G, as there simply 'will not be sufficient quantities to fulfill those orders.'"

The article then goes on to say that "the company never actually received a huge amount of Nook 3G bulk orders to begin with, so maybe Wi-Fi really is everywhere these days."

As we said, it's a little hard to decipher what this means, but we should point out that Engadget's story about the Nook Color getting an update to Android 2.2 and possibly blowing up if you rooted it (installed custom Android firmware) ended up being just a tad off base. However, this latest story was written by veteran Engadget reporter Darren Murph, so we're taking it more seriously.

One thing worth pointing out is that it would seem odd for Barnes & Noble to discontinue the 3G/Wi-Fi version of the Nook and tell customers they could only get the Wi-Fi-only version. The fact is, Amazon offers both a 3G/Wi-Fi Kindle and Wi-Fi-only Kindle, and Barnes & Noble would most likely continue to offer models that compete with what Amazon's got.

While Barnes & Noble remains heavily focused on marketing the Nook Color, the more likely scenario is for the company to refresh the Nook e-ink line, which launched in November 2009. Whether that ends up being a substantial makeover or just some modest design and parts tweaks is unclear, but some industry insiders say that Barnes & Noble may be losing money on its e-ink readers (which is why it hasn't quite matched Amazon's prices). Therefore it would behoove the company to release a product that was more cost-effective to produce.

In any case, we think that Barnes & Noble will continue to offer some sort of sub-$200 3G-enabled Nook as long as Amazon is offering one. But to be clear, that's just speculation. We have no "hard evidence" to prove some change is coming to the Nook line, and Barnes & Noble doesn't comment on rumors.

Update: A Barnes & Noble rep told us that the Nook 3G sold very well during the holidays and remains on sale both in Barnes & Noble stores and in its retail partners stores. She would not comment on the Nook "roadmap" going forward.