There are many good reasons for hoping Barnes & Noble has a successful launch of its Nook devices and UK shop, but the news last week that this roll-out has been delayed by two weeks does not augur well. It was Profile's Michael Bhaskar who said back in August that the company needed to make a "big splash", and one hopes that it still can. However, despite being a potential Nook customer and someone who has registered on the Nook UK website for updates, I have yet to receive an email from the company explaining why the promised Nook devices have yet to land in stores. On the Nook UK website the only indication of a date for the launch is provided on the original press release, which still lists "early October" as the arrival date.
So I had a look at the websites of the retailers listed at the foot of the Nook UK site. According to Sainbury's, which has taken the Kobo devices off its shelves in order to stock the Nook, they are "out of stock"; as they are at 'premier retail partner' John Lewis; and at Argos, and Curry's. None of these sites offered me the chance to pre-order one. At Waitrose its search engine simply replaces Nook with 'cook'. More hopefully, at Blackwell's I can order one, but I am told they are "usually despatched within 10 days", with no indication why this is the case. Only Foyles seems able to put an actual date on the device launch, that of 29th October, and it will also let me pre-order one. There is no mention of why the date has changed, but Foyles has emailed those customers who pre-ordered with an explanation.
The other big announcement last week, of course, was Amazon's Paperwhite, now coming to the UK from 25th October. Jeff Bezos even granted the BBC an audience. Amazon is also suffering a delay on Paperwhite deliveries. On its website it tells me that "due to popular demand, orders placed today are expected to ship in ths week of November 12th." The device will, however, be available in Waterstones' stores from the end of the month.
B&N faces many more hurdles than Amazon, it has to get its UK website up and running, as well as manage product launches in multiple third-party outlets, and make UK customers aware of who it is. By contrast, the timing of the Amazon announcement made it feel like a spoiler: deliveries for Paperwhite were already taking 4 to 6 weeks in the US before its UK launch date was unveiled. Its plan was simply to get the customer's attention back, and then spin it a tale. And it worked. As an e-reader customer, which device am I now going to choose based on the customer experience of trying to buy/or even order such a device today?
As Eoin Purcell says in this blog, Amazon is still the pace setter and is capable of moving faster and more aggressively than anyone else. That is true, but B&N gained marketshare in the US against this competition by getting its alternative offer out there and focusing hard on the basics.
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