Barnes & Noble says the Nook family of e-readers and tablets set holiday sales records, with overall sales up 70 percent from last year. The company isn't dishing out hard numbers, but says the Nook Tablet "exceeded expectations" while sales of the Nook Simple Touch "lagged expectations" — a dynamic B&N says indicates "strong consumer preference for color devices." Content sales were up 11 percent as well, and B&N expects Nook content to be a $750m business by the end of 2012.
In fact, Barnes & Noble thinks Nook has so much potential it's considering spinning the whole thing off, with CEO William Lynch saying it's time to "unlock" the value of the Nook business. Discussions have begun with publishers, retailers, and tech companies about the future of Nook, with a particular focus on international expansion — an important consideration as Amazon expands the Kindle brand overseas. The discussions are preliminary, and the split isn't guaranteed: there's no set timetable for a decision, and B&N says it won't talk about anything "unless and until a decision is made." We'll see what happens — and if the Nook is indeed so successful that Barnes & Noble has to set it free.