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Barnes & Noble Nook tablet

Uncredited, Associated Press

Barnes & Noble strategy: Time to turn page?

  • Article by: LESLIE KAUFMAN
  • New York Times
  • January 3, 2013 - 8:07 PM

For Barnes & Noble, the digital future isn't what it used to be.

Eight months after affirming its commitment to build its business through its Nook division, Barnes & Noble announced holiday sales Thursday so disappointing that it raised questions about its ability to pull off the transformation from its traditional retail format.

Retail sales from the company's bookstores and its website, BN.com, decreased 10.9 percent from the nine-week holiday period a year earlier, to $1.2 billion, the company said. More worrisome for the long-term future, sales for the company's Nook unit -- which includes e-readers, tablets, digital content and accessories -- decreased 12.6 percent over the same period.

"They are not selling the devices, they are not selling books and traffic is down," said Michael Shatzkin, chief executive of Idea Logical Co., a consultant to publishers. "I'm looking for an optimistic sign and not seeing one."

The nation's largest book chain has invested heavily in a tablet to compete with offerings from Google, Apple and Amazon.com.

While other companies do not break out sales of digital tablets, Amazon has been saying sales of its Kindle Fire have been very strong. Analysts say Apple's iPads also appear to be doing well.

"The problem is not whether or not the Nook is good," said James L. McQuivey, a media analyst for Forrester Research, "what matters is whether you are locked into a Kindle library or an iTunes library or a Nook library."

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