In what may be a surprise to many, DIGITIMES is reporting that shipments of Barnes & Noble’s nook eBook reader surpassed Amazon’s Kindle in March. The statement is based on information Digitimes Research obtained from upstream suppliers stating that the nook account for 53% of readers shipped to U.S. vendors. Barnes and Noble only began selling the nook at the end of 2009, while Amazon has been selling the Kindle for two years longer. The data suggests to me that the nook may benefit from being available in retail locations where people can see the device in person before deciding to purchase one, while the Kindle has been only available on-line.
Amazon recently announced that the Kindle will be available for purchase in Target stores, which may be a move to counter Barnes and Noble’s in-store sales. For their part, Barnes and Noble has partnered with Best Buy to sell the nook in the electronic retail giant’s stores. The two approaches indicate to me different strategies, where Barnes and Noble is associating the nook with electronic appliances while Amazon is associating the Kindle as a general appliance.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the iPad. April and May sales figures of both eBook readers will indicate what level of impact the iPad is having on the dedicated eBook reader sales. Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble are hedging their bets by making their eBook reader applications available for the iPad, so if consumers prefer the iPad, they will still be able to buy books from either book store. On the other hand, both companie’s eBook readers are cheaper and lighter than the iPad, and their e-Ink displays are very legible outdoors.
One thing to watch will be eBook sales. If Amazon and Barnes and Noble sell more eBooks on the iPad, there will be little reason to continue selling their own readers. Another thing to watch is the price of the Kindle and nook. If the prices of either significantly drop and the companies continue to market the devices, that will indicate to me that they are going to compete with the iPad. If prices stay where they are now, it is possible that either of the stores will sell out their inventory and possibly stop selling their readers. In the end both Amazon and Barnes and Noble are book stores and their primary goal is to make money on eBooks.