Barnes & Noble will offer $100 gift vouchers to customers who pre-ordered its Nook e-reader for delivery by Dec. 24, but who will not receive the device on time.
On Dec. 19, the Consumerist blog posted an e-mail received by one Nook customer, in which Barnes & Noble blamed "higher-than-anticipated demand" for any delay in the devices. "If for whatever reason we are not able to ship your [Nook] in time for arrival by Dec. 24," the e-mail continued, "with our sincerest apologies, we will send you an e-mail notification on Dec. 23 with a $100 Barnes&Noble.com Online Gift Certificate."
Previously, Barnes & Noble had announced on its Website that shipping of Nook orders placed after Nov. 20 would be delayed until the first week of January. Presumably customers scheduled to receive their Nooks by Dec. 25 ordered relatively soon after the device's Oct. 20 debut in New York.
Barnes & Noble has not yet responded to eWEEK's request for comment.
Meanwhile, a note on Barnes & Noble's Nook Website said devices ordered now have an expected ship date of Feb. 1.
Early reviews of the Nook have been decidedly mixed. Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal and David Pogue of the New York Times praised some basic features of the device while suggesting it suffered from software bugs and poor battery life.
Despite being described as a niche product by a Forrester analyst earlier in 2009, e-readers have become a much-hyped item this holiday buying season. Prices of the devices have fallen, driven by a price war between Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble over the Kindle 2 and the Nook, both of which now retail for $259. The larger-screened Kindle DX, which does not have a major competitor, continues to retail for $489.
In another sign that the e-reader wars have been escalating, more companies have been rushing into content deals with publishing companies. On Dec. 17, Sony announced a deal with News Corp. that would see the Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch and the New York Post made available on its e-readers for a fee. That move follows similar ones by Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble to port content from major publishers onto their devices.
Eager to gain more market share, both Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com have designed branded e-reader applications for their devices.
However big the hype, though, e-reader manufacturers have remained tight-lipped on actual sales figures. Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos has been previously quoted as saying that sales of the Kindle and associated e-books account for roughly 35 percent of the company's book-related revenue. On Dec. 17, Amazon.com announced that December would be the company's best month of Kindle sales so far.
In a Dec. 1 research note by financial advisory group Collins Stewart, analyst Sandeep Aggarwal estimated that Amazon.com would sell as many as 550,000 Kindle devices in 2009, producing Kindle-related revenue of $301.4 million for the year.
But further penetration of the overall consumer market may require a further price drop, at least according to one analyst.
"The cost of the display component is high and sales volumes are still modest, yet consumers demand and expect ever-lower prices," Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester analyst, wrote in a Sept. 1 research report. "The bottom line: E-reader product strategists will have to educate consumers and innovate to bring prices down. Even if they are entirely successful at both these feats, e-readers will never be mass-market devices like MP3 players."