Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Barnes & Noble partners with Samsung, but what about the nook?

Earlier today, Samsung announced that Barnes & Noble's eBookstore will be available on its new $299 E6 eBook reader. There was no word as to whether or not B&N will sell the E6 in its stores.

B&N's nook eBook reader has been plagued with delivery delays, software problems, poor performance, an unwieldy user interface and promised features that still haven't been implemented. After an initial burst, the appearance is that consumer interest has died down considerably. Nooks are available for immediate delivery at B&N stores across the country, including many stores that weren't initially scheduled to stock the device.

B&N, like many other vendors, is learning that the eBook reader market is evolving at light speed. It seems like every Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturer with an assembly line is building one. At the same time, Apple is changing the rules of the game with the iPad. B&N is a bookseller, not a consumer electronics manufacturer or even a strong user of technology. Rather than try to continuously update the nook and introduce new devices in order to stay competitive, it might be better off by reselling products from companies like Samsung and Plastic Logic that are devoting major resources to hardware. Let the hardware companies shoulder the technology risk; B&N can be the "arms merchant" supplying them content to battle Amazon and Apple.

I wouldn't be writing this if the initial launch of the nook had gone well, but just about everything that could have gone wrong for B&N did. They blew the Christmas season and disappointed many buyers once they received their readers. If I were making the decisions at B&N, I'd continue development work on the existing nook to implement all the functionality that the company promised its buyers, but turn to other partners for future eBook readers.
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