Sunday, October 11, 2009

Barnes & Noble Strikes Back

Besides opening up it's eBookstore back in July of 2009, Barnes & Noble is now striking back at perhaps its strongest competitor, Amazon and its Kindle. The Wall Street Journal has announced that B&N will be unveiling their own eReader, produced by E-Ink. It is widely speculated that the product launch will be on October 20th. Now B&N understands that an existing customer of the Kindle is a lost customer to them, basically because the Kindle funnels the customer to Amazon. I speculate that some of the tactics B&N will use to attract customers who don't already have eReaders today, as well as enticing those who currently use Kindles, are:

  • Leveraging B&N's existing partnership with Plastic Logic and Irex, announced a few months back. This deal gives their devices access to B&N's eBookstore. Making B&N's book content not exclusive to just their own eReader and potentially establishes an "open device/source" policy for all e-book devices. Perhaps eventually pressuring Amazon to open their device up to using content not just from their store, as well as Amazon's content to be available on devices other than the Kindle (like the eReader). This may be B&N's strongest long-term strategy in potentially gaining some of those lost customers back from Amazon.
  • Promoting B&N's Book Club membership deals and expanding this into the eReader content. Customers may want to seize on the savings, and will be reminded of it by B&N's in-store promotions and shopping experiences.
  • Exploring an "e-book loaner" program to get non-eReader and Kindle users to take advantage of their new device. Users would be able to recommend a book to a friend, and electronically allow him/her to read the book from their own device. Details on how the program would work are still in the works (as per the New York Times' article), but the strategy could give the eReader an edge.
  • Lastly, besides using AT&T's cell network to download materials onto the eReader, B&N's device will also work on Wi-Fi (currently not available on the Kindle). This will allow B&N's daily 14 million in-store customer walk-ins to try out the eReader, further promoting the device.
Sony is still trying to edge its way into this market, but I believe Barnes & Noble has the ability to win a sizable market share if their new strategy gains traction. Anyone with other ideas for B&N to try?

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