Barnes & Noble needs to find growth somewhere: Wall Street expects the book seller’s sales to drop 3% this year, including a 5% decrease this quarter.
But this isn’t it: TheStreet.com reports that B&N is working on an e-book reader to compete with Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s reader. According to a “wireless industry insider,” the company is working with Sprint Nextel to power the device, after talks with Verizon Wireless ended.
If this is true, it’s a non-starter. We understand why Barnes & Noble thinks it needs to be in the e-book industry — it involves books, it’s in its infancy, there is no winner yet — but the odds of success are very low.
Will Barnes & Noble be able to build a better, more affordable, more popular piece of hardware than Amazon, Sony, or anyone else? Doubtful. And Amazon is already starting to run away with the best e-book buying platform — which it’s heavily subsidizing. So even if you only buy Kindle books for your iPhone, they’re cheaper than others’.
The bigger problem: Just like Blockbuster’s nascent movie streaming service won’t save its stores, even if Barnes & Noble is able to sell e-books — for its own hardware or someone else’s — it’s not going to make its declining retail business any better.