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nook-simpletouchThe low-cost Nook Simple Touch e-reader has disappeared from Barnes & Noble’s online storefront in the U.S. without a trace of its passing. A report by the Digital Reader, which first spotted the Nook’s disappearance, said that all references to the e-reader will also be removed from Barnes & Noble retail stores.

The $79 device, which had been Barnes & Noble’s entry-level Nook, competed with Amazon’s basic Kindle for the low end of the e-reader market. Now, the lowest-priced Nook is the $119 GlowLight, which lines up against Amazon’s Paperwhite. The disappearance isn’t all that surprising, considering the Touch hasn’t received a software update in quite some time.

Still, unless there’s a new version on the way soon, the move suggests that B&N has effectively ceded the low-cost e-reader market to Amazon.

It appears to be bad news for the Nook division, which saw across-the-board layoffs earlier this month following depressing holiday sales of Nook books and hardware. The cut-backs follow a consistent pattern, though: B&N is looking to ditch products and people who are costing more money than they’re bringing in. It wouldn’t be surprising if sales of the three-year-old Touch were meager at best, which lead to its discontinuation.

Barnes & Noble’s fate in the e-reader market is of particular interest to Microsoft, which invested $300 million in the Nook division in 2012.

Update: Barnes and Noble spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating issued the following statement in an email to GeekWire:

“The critically acclaimed NOOK GlowLight™ is the successor to both NOOK Simple Touch® and NOOK Simple Touch® with GlowLight®. These earlier models are available in limited supplies only at Barnes & Noble retail stores and are sold out online at BN.com. With the new NOOK GlowLight we are bringing our customers the very latest reading technology, featuring perfectly lit pages, sharper text and an advanced display for an optimized long-form reading experience. The new NOOK GlowLight is available both in stores and online, alongside NOOK® HD and NOOK® HD+, for the low price of just $119, with Barnes & Noble Members getting an additional 10% off this best-in-class eReader.”

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