Barnes & Noble announced Feb. 8 that its Nook e-reader will be available in most of its stores nationwide by midweek, possibly bringing an end to months of delays for the devices. The Nook was also listed as “In Stock” on Barnes & Noble’s Website.
The retailer originally attributed the Nook’s holiday delays to what it called “unprecedented customer demand.” In a Feb. 8 press release, the company said it had ramped up production to cover the shortfall, and that devices will make appearances in most of its stores by Feb. 10.
Perhaps of more importance to Nook owners, Barnes & Noble announced that it will push software updates to users’ devices throughout this week. Early reviews for the Nook were generally positive for its hardware, but found deficiencies in software features such as page-loading times. Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal and David Pogue of The New York Times both suggested that those software bugs and poor battery life affected what was otherwise a solid user experience.
Barnes & Noble had originally offered $100 gift vouchers to customers who had preordered their Nook for delivery by Dec. 24 but did not receive the device on time. Previously, the company had announced that anyone ordering the device after Nov. 20 would have their shipment delayed until the first week of January, a date eventually raised to Feb. 1 for those ordering a Nook after Dec. 21.
Although originally described as a niche product by at least one analyst earlier in 2009, e-readers managed to become one of the must-have items of the holiday season, propelling something of a price war between Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Amazon.com’s Kindle e-reader. By December, the cost of both the Nook and the Kindle 2 had fallen to $259, even as the larger-screened and relatively uncontested Kindle DX kept its retail price at $489.
Competition will likely increase over the next few months, as Apple prepares to launch its iPad tablet PC and iBook store, and other e-reader manufacturers continue to update their own devices. Amazon has reportedly acquired Touchco, a New York-based startup that focuses on multitouch technology, which would potentially allow the Kindle to be upgraded from its current mechanical controls to include some touch-screen capability.
The Nook already includes an iPhone-style touch screen, along with its e-ink display, for navigation and book purchasing. At this January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, smaller e-reader manufacturers also demonstrated devices with a touch-screen element.
Barnes & Noble, along with Amazon, may also find itself increasingly in conflict with publishers over e-book pricing. Amazon has been in public conflict with a handful of publishers, including Macmillan, who want to raise the price of e-books from the Kindle store’s $9.99 to a range between $12.99 and $14.99. That move is widely seen as a gambit by publishers to improve their margins as devices such as the iPad continue to flood the segment.