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In a mad scramble to rewrite its autobiography as something that isn't filed away in the Greek tragedies section, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS ) is hosting a media event next Tuesday.
It's been a year since the leading -- and bleeding -- bookseller introduced the Nook, so an update is in order.
The original model had potential. Matching Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) Kindle $259 price point, yet raising the stakes with a second small color screen, was a spunky move.
However, when it became clear that it wasn't going to make a dent in Kindle's market -- and with the successful debut of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad -- B&N resorted to a price war.
It shocked the market by aggressively pricing its Nook at $199, with introducing a Wi-Fi-only model at a mere $149.
Maybe B&N figured that the competition would let the Nook corner the entry-level market, but that wasn't the case. Amazon, Sony (NYSE: SNE ) , and even Borders (NYSE: BGP ) responded quickly with markdowns of their own.
B&N backed itself into a corner, and that's a dangerous place to be for a resources-strapped company fighting a hairy proxy battle for its independent survival.
What can it possibly announce come Tuesday? It's hard for B&N to take prices lower, and it's not as if it's a feature or two away from relevancy. Kindle is going to walk away with the dedicated reader space, while Apple and the flurry of tablets will take over the high-end and graphical textbook market.
B&N's best move may be to kill the Nook altogether at this point and see if it can turn a profit on digital delivery for rival readers and tablets. It's not going to do that, though. You don't schedule a media event to announce your retirement. B&N is going to come out with something flashy, powerful, and with a few interesting functions that no other dedicated e-reader can offer, but it's still not going to be a major player in this space.
Its potential buyers are well-read. They can see that this won't end pretty for B&N next week.
What would it to take for you to buy a Nook? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.