Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader will make its debut in the bookseller's brick-and-mortar stores in Dec. 7, later than anticipated, and in limited quantities. However, Barnes & Noble is promising that all stores will have demonstration units, as the company seeks to wrest market share away from Amazon.com and other e-reader manufacturers during the holiday season.
On its Nook FAQ page, Barnes & Noble announced that "starting on December 7th, you can visit your local Barnes & Noble store and experience Nook. All stores will have a demonstration unit for customers to try."
In addition, a Barnes & Noble spokesperson told Reuters that only a very limited number of Nooks will be sold at "high-volume" stores starting on Dec. 7. This follows the bookseller's Nov. 20 announcement that people ordering the Nook after that date would have to wait until the first week of January 2010 for their e-reader to ship.
Barnes & Noble insists that high demand is the cause behind the delays.
"I called a few stores in the SF Bay area who all pointed me to the San Jose store," one commenter posted on a Barnes & Noble forum devoted to e-books. "So I called and they said they would have demo units, but no units for sale in store as all the stock was allocated to pre-orders."
Other commenters on the forum reported similar experiences. "Just got off the phone with our local store," wrote another, "who confirmed the demo units are slated to arrive on Dec 7th but they won't be selling the products physically in any stores-only online."
Yet another posting, supposedly by a Barnes & Noble employee, stated that "our demo has been pushed by until week of 12-7 as of this time. It has appeared [in] the near (large) stores, and we have been told that it will continue the process next week. However, due to the demand they have pushed the offering of additional product in stores back, so as to fulfill pre orders."
Barnes & Noble is not alone in its delay issues. Sony has also announced that delivery dates for its Reader Daily Edition, which includes a 7-inch touchscreen display, "cannot be guaranteed," although devices are expected to ship between Dec. 18 and Jan. 8.
The Nook, whose dual-screen format allows text to be read on an e-ink display while navigation and book-downloading is conducted via a separate iPhone-like touchscreen, is competing against Amazon.com's Kindle line of e-readers.
On Nov. 30, Amazon.com suggested that the Kindle had posted its best-ever sales for November. However, the e-bookseller continued its tradition of not breaking out any sales numbers. Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos has previously indicated that Kindle sales account for roughly a third of the company's book-related revenue.
Although e-readers have long been considered something of a niche industry, with Forrester Research predicting sales of around 3 million units in 2009, their manufacturers' claims of increased demand suggest that the market may be expanding. Helping that growth, of course, is the rapidly falling prices for many e-readers. Amazon.com has repeatedly lowered its e-reader prices in the face of competition from Barnes & Noble, with the original Kindle and the Nook now both selling for $259.