The company’s web stores are doing great, too: B&N has a bigger share of the market in digital books (an estimated 20 percent) than it has in physical books.
That’s pretty good considering the Nook’s only been available for nine months, and the company still generates more revenue selling hardcovers and paperbacks than anyone, including Amazon.
Surprised? It’s easy to think about e-reading as a two-horse race, with Amazon’s austere text-centric Kindle facing off against Apple’s “magical” iPad, like PCs vs Macs or Protestants vs Catholics. And it’s true, Barnes & Noble lost money this past quarter, partly because it’s still sorting out its messy relations with its investors.
But Barnes & Noble is for real, and isn’t going anywhere. In the religious analogy, the Nook might be, I don’t know, Judaism, trying to adapt to a newer world while holding onto its traditional community.
Barnes & Noble has consistently gone for a hybrid strategy: providing touch and text, tightly integrating e-sales with its existing stores while also selling the Nook at Best Buy, letting its books be read on the Nook as well as other platforms. B&N’s apps for PC and Mac are arguably best-in-class (bonus points, too, for getting its Mac app out way before Amazon’s). The company is doubling down on (and rebranding) its apps for mobile devices. And it’s drawing on a solid base of neighborhood customer/members and university bookstores. Even as Amazon cuts its prices and diversifies its models to match the Nook, it can’t match Barnes & Noble’s deep reach into the real world.
According to B&N, its members with Nooks have increased their spending by 20%. The company’s building and staffing Nook boutiques in its stores. The idea is that you’ll go buy the Nook in the store, learn how to use it in the store, browse through titles (for free) in the store. And by the way, you might also want to buy some coffee, have lunch, pick up a photo album — all goods with better margins than books.
If the Kindle offers the promise of books anywhere at once and nowhere in particular, the Nook keeps alive the idea that books have a place. And the best place, Barnes & Noble thinks, is in one of its stores.
Photo credit: orb9220/Flickr
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Despite Reports, B&N Nook Competes Just Fine, Thank You
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