Barnes & Noble, the venerable book merchant whose history spans three centuries, is in the midst of a strategic identity crisis: how to admit defeat on its Nook platform while turning its last-bookstore-standing status into a de facto monopoly. Barnes & Noble did not spark the e-book revolution – now accounting for 22 percent of all book sales – nor has it proven particularly good at evolving it. So now it’s back to basics, which is to say, back to books.
RIM’s new CEO Thorsten Heins, who joined RIM in 2007 and previously served as a chief operating officer, said during a conference call that he would hone the current strategy rather than abandon it. “I don’t think that there is some drastic change needed. We are evolving … but this is not a seismic change,” Heins said. RIM’s U.S.-traded shares tumbled as investors wondered whether Heins could reverse the BlackBerry maker’s decline, closing the day down 8.5 percent.
Barnes & Noble cut its Nook sales forecast for this year and shocked investors by saying it was considering a sale of the electronic reader and tablet business, sending its shares down sharply. The bookseller has been banking on the Nook for growth, so news that holiday sales of the basic touchscreen e-reader were disappointing raised investors’ fears that Barnes & Noble was struggling to keep up with Amazon.com’s Kindle. “They’re going to have to raise capital for Nook if they want to stay viable,” said Morningstar analyst Pete Wahlstrom.
Let the low-end tablet wars begin. Barnes & Noble unveiled a Nook-branded tablet on Monday, the company’s answer to Amazon.com’s recently announced Kindle Fire. At $249, the 7-inch Nook tablet is a bit pricier than the $199 Fire, but Barnes & Noble is betting that consumers will pay the extra $50 for the device because it offers faster processing speeds and 16 gigabytes of storage space compared to the Amazon tablet’s 8 gigabytes. Both devices hit shelves next week. Barnes & Noble, which operates a chain of 700 U.S. bookstores, also lowered the price on its Nook e-book devices in an effort to take on Amazon’s line of Kindle e-readers, which were recently reduced in price.
Barnes & Noble sent out invites on Monday to a Nook-related event coming up on November 7. Most tech watchers expect the company to use the occasion to unveil a new version of its Android-powered Nook Color tablet e-reader, which could sport a better screen and upgraded hardware.
In an interview with Reuters, the head of HP’s PC business Todd Bradley gave the throngs of people who lined up outside stores to snap up discontinued and deeply discounted TouchPads hope that the company wouldn’t abandon them, saying the tablet could be resurrected. This, as the TouchPad was on track to become the second-best selling tablet of all time behind Apple’s iPad.
Some see e-readers as the poor cousin to more glamorous tablets, but that may soon be about to change. Billionaire media mogul John Malone, whose Liberty Media owns DirecTV Group and the QVC shopping channel, may be interested in buying the Barnes & Noble chain specifically for its Nook e-reader, according to a person familiar with the company’s thinking behind the deal.
Retailers risk losing the majority of mobile device users unless they make mobile shopping easier and more engaging, writes Jessica Woh. While 89.7 percent of Americans aged 18 to 64 have mobile phones, only 49.1 percent use their phones to shop, according to marketing service Arc Worldwide. Consumers who use mobile phones to shop are able to compare prices on the go and are seen as less likely to make impulse buy, Woh adds.