BN says Nook e-reader delayed in stores to Dec. 7

Even then there won't be many available; online orders delayed to Jan. 11

A steady stream of customers at a Boston-area Barnes & Noble bookstore checked out mock-ups of the Nook e-reader, and several expressed disappointment that the device wasn't available in stores today, as the retailer had originally promised it would be.

Signs inside the Framingham, Mass., store said the device will be on sale the week of Dec. 7, although store officials could not disclose how many devices would be available then. Earlier, signs had said the in-store sales would begin today.

Various news reports have quoted Barnes & Noble officials as saying that the in-store stock available the week of Dec. 7 would be very limited and that the devices would be available only in the highest-volume stores.

Barnes & Noble spokeswoman Carolyn Brown said something slightly different in an e-mail to Computerworld today, noting that "demo devices are scheduled to be available in our highest volume stores the week of Dec. 7," and those same stores are "also expected to receive very limited inventory [for sale] at a date yet to be determined." She did not indicate which stores will be included.

Barnes & Noble has 725 retail stores, as well as another 636 college bookstores and 50 B. Dalton stores.

Also today, announced that it is further delaying shipments of online purchases of the Nook to on or around Jan. 11, a week later than the Jan. 4 date posted for the past week or so.

In a blog post, Barnes & Noble said customers who order the Nook beginning today, "should expect their devices to ship on or around Jan. 11, 2010."

Brown said pre-orders are starting to ship this week, adding that Barnes & Noble is "committed to doing everything we can to ensure everyone who ordered a Nook before November 20th will receive it in time for the holidays. Due to the high demand, we are prioritizing our pre-orders."

On Nov. 20, reported that Nooks for pre-order were out of stock and said deliveries would start after Jan. 4. For its part, Sony reported on Nov. 18 that it would have problems fulfilling orders of its Daily Edition e-reader. With those devices facing shipping delays, today noted that it has Kindles in stock and available for immediate delivery and said that November has already been a record Kindle sales month.

An elderly man and a middle school student visiting the Framingham Barnes & Noble store both said they wanted to check out the Nook before buying one, since the advantage of buying a Nook over buying a Kindle from is the fact that you're able to try it out before buying it. Both said that having the ability to browse the Web more fully might give the Kindle an advantage over the Nook, although they each said they would prefer not to buy a Kindle without seeing one first.

Still, they and several other customers were enthusiastic about the Nook, even though they only had the opportunity to hold the nonfunctioning plastic mock-up, which was quite a bit lighter than the actual device.

A store clerk who gave his name only as George was offering customers a paperback book that weighs about the same as the Nook for comparison purposes. He also offered a variety of comparisons with the latest Kindle, which sells for $259.

"People are very, very excited about the Nook," George said, noting that customers had mentioned the fact that Nook users will be able to lend books to one another for two weeks and the fact that the device uses Google Inc.'s Android operating system.

Margaret Moore, community relations manager at the Framingham store, said Barnes & Noble employees and the community of traditional booksellers are warming to the e-reader trend. "It's a great thing," she said of the e-reader. "It's seen as another way to read."

Barnes & Noble hasn't characterized the delays facing in-store Nook supplies and online shipments as either a good or a bad thing for the retailer, but last week it noted in a statement regarding its second-quarter financial results that "overwhelming customer demand" for the Nook is causing the company to ramp up production of the device, which has resulted in "higher production costs than originally anticipated" and is leading to "increasing future investments" related to the company's digital strategy, including a need for additional people, technology and in-store marketing support.

Because of those factors and since retail traffic will "remain challenged" during the holiday season, the company lowered its full-year earnings forecast to between 33 cents and 63 cents per share, down from a prior forecast of 59 cents to 89 cents per share.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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