While Barnes & Noble Chief Executive Officer William Lynch describes Apple’s iPad as a great product, even a "juggernaut," he also has a few criticisms. Mainly that it’s expensive and weighs too much.
Once Lynch could be certain that New York-based Barnes & Noble could build a tablet with similar dimensions to the best- selling iPad that was also cheaper and lighter, he went ahead with the project after killing it twice. The result is the 9- inch Nook HD+ that went on sale Wednesday for $269. The least expensive iPad sells for $499 and weighs 27 percent more.
"We think there is a big market there" below the pricing of the iPad, Lynch said in an interview. "We’re starting this product at $269 for a large-format tablet, which is a wow, disruptive price point." The largest U.S. bookstore chain’s new devices, which also include a 7-inch Nook HD starting at $199, will also take on Amazon.com’s updated set of Kindle Fires that were announced Sept. 6. The online retailer, which also pitched its new devices as a cheaper competitor to the iPad, starts its 7- inch tablet at $199 and an 8.9-inch at $299.
Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have increased access to content beyond digital books and touted specifications such as screen resolution and processing speed as selling points to expand their customer base beyond readers.
Nook Video, announced Tuesday, will allow users to buy movies and television shows from providers such as HBO and Walt Disney Studios. The video, like other Nook content, can then be stored via cloud computing and accessed on multiple devices.
"Side by side with the new Kindle Fires, they are competitive," said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst for Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. Getting consumers to choose the Nook over an iPad will be much more difficult because Apple customers care less about price, she said.
Barnes & Noble has anchored its future to digital books by investing in the Nook at the expense of profits as more readers embrace the technology. Revenue from the Nook unit, which includes devices and e-books, surged 34 percent to $933 million in the fiscal year through April 28 while sales at its retail and college units declined 1.6 percent to $6.6 billion.
Releasing new devices is part of Barnes & Noble’s plan to maintain and expand its 25 percent share of the U.S. e-book market - a portion it never attained in the market for printed books. Digital content sales, which are more profitable than printed books, more than doubled last year to $483 million.
This marks the fourth straight year that Barnes & Noble has announced a new device for the holiday shopping season after unveiling the first Nook in October 2009. This time it will face more competition following new tablets being released by Google, Microsoft and possibly a smaller version of the iPad.
That hasn’t stopped Barnes & Noble from producing the most Nooks ever for the holidays, Lynch said. The devices will help it gain share in tablets as well as it being featured in Target and Wal-Mart outlets while top competitor Amazon isn’t, he said.
Wal-Mart said it would stop selling Kindles last week after Target took similar action in May.
"For new customer acquisition, that’s a strength," Epps said.