Barnes and Noble's Nook E-Reader Delayed

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2009-11-09 Print this article Print

Barnes & Noble will push back the ship date of its Nook e-reader into December for many pre-orders, apparently in response to higher-than-expected demand for the device. Even as Barnes & Noble gears up to battle's Kindle line of devices, it faces a lawsuit from IT startup Spring Design, which alleges that the bookseller copied its dual-screen format. The price of certain e-readers has been declining as competition heats up between various manufacturers.

Barnes & Noble suggested that demand for its new Nook e-reader would push back the shipping date for some pre-orders from November into the second week of December.

Blogs such as Brighthand also reported that no in-store Nook units would be available for sale until at least December, and perhaps next year. An integral part of Barnes & Noble's e-reader strategy, as it seeks to compete with's Kindle line, is leveraging its bricks-and-mortar locations to sell the devices.

Mary Ellen Keating, a spokesperson for Barnes & Noble, told eWEEK that "Nook has quickly become the fastest selling product at Barnes & Noble. In fact, there is so much consumer interest in Nook, that pre-orders have exceeded our expectations." According to Keating, pre-orders will begin shipping on Nov. 20, while new orders will ship Dec. 11. 

No firm pre-sales numbers for the Nook have been offered, however. Barnes & Noble could potentially follow in the footsteps of, which regularly declines to break out specific sales numbers for the Kindle. 

Last week, Barnes & Noble's Nook rollout hit a potential roadblock when Spring Design, a small IT startup, announced that it would file a lawsuit against the bookseller for allegedly copying its Alex e-reader.

"Spring Design unfortunately had to take appropriate action to protect its intellectual property rights," Eric Kmiec, Spring Design's vice president of sales and marketing, said in a Nov. 2 statement. "We showed the Alex e-book design to Barnes & Noble in good faith with the intention of working together to provide a superior dual screen e-book to the market."

Spring Design asserted that its discussions with Barnes & Noble over the Alex e-reader extended back to the beginning of 2009. Both the Nook and Alex e-readers feature a dual-screen configuration that pairs an e-ink display with a color LCD touch-screen.

When approached by eWEEK for comment, a Barnes & Noble spokesperson said that, "As a matter of policy, Barnes & Noble does not comment on litigation."

The Nook is scheduled for release at a price-point of $259. Barnes & Noble's eBookstore, launched in July, currently boasts over 700,000 downloadable books along with 500,000 free public-domain volumes from Google. While Spring Design has not announced a release date or price point, it had suggested previously that the Alex will make its debut sometime in 2010.

Both devices, along with other e-readers from IT startups such as Plastic Logic, all aim to carve their own market-share away from and its popular line of Kindle e-readers. Given that positioned the Kindle as a mass-market item, as highlighted by its high-profile launches for each successive device, some of these e-readers have decided to focus instead of very specific market segments; for example, Plastic Logic will aim its QUE e-reader at the SMB (small- to medium-sized business) and enterprise markets.

Despite the media attention devoted to e-readers, the devices still occupy a relatively small market segment. Forrester Research predicted that some 3 million units will be sold in the U.S. with 2009. However, the increased competition is already driving the units' prices down-as evidenced by the Kindle cost-cuts initiated by in the wake of the Nook's announcement-which may attract more users in the coming year. Sony has also been reducing the pricing of its e-readers in recent months.

As a whole, the e-reader industry faces a potentially massive threat from Apple and its much-rumored Tablet PC, which sources have alleged will feature a media-downloading component. This would directly compete with and Barnes & Noble, which have been signing deals with publishers to port their periodical content onto their respective devices. Given that Apple has remained extraordinarily tight-lipped about the existence of such a device, however, the effect on e-readers is largely conjecture at this point.

In order to take advantage of the popularity of other Apple products, Barnes & Noble and have introduced book-downloading Apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch. During the Windows 7 launch on Oct. 22, announced that it would offer a Kindle application allowing users to download and read e-books on their desktops and laptops.

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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