Will B&N Learn From Amazon's Mistakes?

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Barnes & Noble's (NYSE: BKS  ) release of its Nook e-book reader is starting to parallel the 2007 launch of's (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) Kindle.

B&N has already filled its initial quota for orders that it can ship by its Nov. 30 debut. A second wave slated to be sent out on Dec. 7 has also been maxed out. According to this morning's Wall Street Journal, new customers are now being given a Dec. 11 shipping date.

As we learned from Amazon during the 2007 holiday season, selling out isn't necessarily an indicator of consumer demand. The leading online retailer had supply-related issues. The Kindle appears to be a success these days, but Amazon has yet to provide hard numbers. All we know is that the Kindle has gone through three price cuts in less than two years.

So what's going on at B&N right now? The Nook is certainly cool -- with a few bar-raising features that include e-book sharing, a secondary touchscreen, and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android as its engine -- but it's certainly not the kind of gadget that would command two waves of sellouts sight unseen. If the Nook is a winner, it will be when it's out in the wild, as B&N shoppers see other book lovers toting around their readers and cashing in on in-store digital promotions.

So if demand is iffy, we're down to one of two theories:

  • B&N is having supply issues.
  • B&N is controlling supply to give the illusion that this is the next Tickle Me Elmo.

The first possibility makes sense, since the original release date also sadly comes just after the critical Black Friday kickoff to the holiday shopping season. It is indicative of a race against time that the leading bookstore chain is losing.

The deliberate-tightening theory is intriguing, but managed dissatisfaction will only get B&N so far. If it wants to take on, Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) , and the smaller players already on the market, it can't let the 2009 holiday season go by without making sure it pumps out as many of these suckers as possible. Anyone seriously considering a Nook for a holiday gift but frightened by the creeping release dates will just go with a Kindle or a Sony gadget instead. B&N also has to realize that the shelf life of its Nook may also be an Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iTablet announcement away from extinction.

The clock is ticking on the Nook, and time truly is money this time.

Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Apple and are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been shopping online for about as long as has been in business. He owns a Kindle, but he doesn't own shares in any of the companies in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (2)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 2:51 PM, lquadland10 wrote:

    As a BN bookseller I have many customers who are waiting until they can see the product in the store. One of the reasons is they want to see the print enlargement feature for their parents who have eye problems. How easy it is for them to operate. They have had friends that had the kindle and they did not like it for their parents. Just another reason people are looking at it. SO I don't know about everything else you are talking else but in one store that I work at the intress is their as well as the pre sales.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2009, at 4:29 PM, doodaddy wrote:

    Another option I'd like in the survey: I'm waiting for a very friendly DRM policy before I get locked into any one vendor.

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