An auspicious setting and the unveiling of a possibly revolutionary device – it could be a make or break moment in the company’s history. No, we’re not speaking of tomorrow’s much anticipated announcement by Apple from the very same venue in Cupertino where Steve Jobs dramatically unwrapped the Macintosh exactly 30 years ago. Instead this was New York City, at the flagship store of Barnes & Noble.
In August, the nation’s last standing bookstore chain presented for the first time the latest edition of the Nook e-reader, its first new tablet in over a year. B&N has committed to purchase one million of the e-readers from partner Samsung, but Jeremy Greenfield, editorial director for Digital Book World, wonders why anyone else would want to buy one.
“It’s essentially a next generation Samsung Android tablet with a few extra features that supposedly enhance the reading experience,” Greenfield tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “Samsung has been very successful with this strategy. It has mid-sized products called ‘phablets,’ which are somewhere between a phone and a tablet. It has products that are geared specifically toward business. And now it has one that is geared specifically toward reading with Barnes & Noble.
“The question that I have is how much is this going to move the needle for Barnes & Noble? This product doesn’t need to be a runaway success for Samsung to benefit from it,” Greenfield points out. “It just needs to find a small niche market. But for Barnes & Noble, which had at one point much larger ambitions in the tablet marketplace to be successful, I think this device – the Nook Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 — needs to find a wider acceptance.”
As tablet sales boom, dedicated e-readers would seem increasingly archaic in a world mushrooming with devices. Yet Greenfield isn’t ready to put them on the endangered species list.
“I don’t think that they’re going to be the exciting new segment that they were three or four or five years ago. It doesn’t have your entire life on it, like your e-mail and all of your information. You don’t have to closely guard it. And while we haven’t quite seen a free e-reader yet, we’ve seen very, very inexpensive ones,” he explains. “So I think all of those things combined will mean that the e-reader will continue to be a niche product.”