From Tech News World:
After Barnes & Noble bled serious cash trying to create its own Nook e-reading tablets to compete with Amazon’s Fire and Apple’s iPad — eventually, scrapping most of the Nook-building unit — I figured it was pretty much down for the count. The announcement in June of its deal to let Samsung give select tablets the “Nook” brand seemed more like a cry for help them a business decision that had much chance of success.
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I’ve encountered just a handful of Nook owners, but all have loved their Nooks. They liked Barnes & Noble. They were fiercely, surprisingly loyal for reasons I didn’t fully understand.
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The point is, Amazon and Apple were squeezing Barnes & Noble in the digital space because they just did everything at least as good, if not better, with a broader range of products and services. I’m a busy person — I just didn’t have the mindshare to spend on Barnes & Noble.
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Here’s where this new Nook gets really weird.
In retrospect, I think one of the reasons Barnes & Noble was able to sell as many Nooks as it did was its retail stores. While nowhere near as cool as a big independent bookstore with lots of cobwebs and character, Barnes & Noble environments are still sweet for book lovers.
In addition, there’s something comforting about being able to walk into a store and buy something concrete with a human interaction. Apple, of course, has made major headway with this tactic, building hundreds of Apple Retail Stores around the world. Heck, Microsoft even started copying the tactic.
Amazon doesn’t have this, so this brick-and-mortar distinction gives Barnes & Noble a chance to maintain its own chunk of the market, if not grow it.
Unfortunately, Barnes & Noble announced in June that it would split off its Nook Media business unit from the Barnes & Noble unit by early 2015 — so what gives?
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If you remove the physical nature of Barnes & Noble, I have a hard time seeing much of a growth play for Nook Media — it all comes back to other bigger and better players in the space, namely Amazon and Apple.
Instead of being an anchor stuck in the mud to the boat that is Barnes & Noble, the new Nook has the potential to become a paddle to build a richer everywhere experience for Barnes & Noble — but it seems as if Barnes & Noble is getting ready to toss the paddle overboard, too.
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Earlier this month, it partnered with Google to enable same-day deliveries from local Barnes & Noble stores through Google Shopping Express. The service is available only in a few cities, but it connects the physical book world to readers who are living in a bring-it-to-me on-demand world.
The arrangement with Google was a test to gauge whether Barnes & Noble could use its online reach to improve sales at its physical stores, CEO Michael P. Huseby told The New York Times.
“It’s our attempt to link the digital and physical,” he said.
If that’s the case, why not make it possible to use a handy new Nook device to let a customer have the option to order a physical book for same-day delivery? Even if people who read e-books end up preferring digital editions, some books they want to read on paper, to keep, to put it on their shelves at home. I don’t think this number is huge, but such a strategy builds and connects — it maintains Barnes & Noble as a relevant brand to consumers.
Link to the rest at Tech News World and thanks to Lisa for the tip.
PG says when someone writes the history of the ecommerce/ebook revolution, the BN chapters will be a saga of one missed opportunity after another:
- good hardware paired with a terrible ebookstore
- powerful physical store presence and ereader distribution undercut by an unwillingness to seriously compete on ebook pricing
Ultimately, PG thinks it comes down to a lack of digital chops by top-level management.
Despite a successful strategy of driving physical bookstore competitors out of business with aggressive pricing and stocking, nobody at BN ever seemed to understand the first commandment of high-tech success:
Build the coolest thing you can, then go for the biggest possible user base using the most aggressive pricing and promotion strategies you can think of. Once you develop a big and loyal user base, you’ll be in a position to print money. Spend money to get rich.