What’s A Book Lover To Do?

September 4, 2009 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

NookOn the heels of Microsoft finally stepping up and opening retail stores to answer Apple’s iconic dens of cool, comes another clash of the digital titans between Amazon andBarnes & Noble.

For the past couple of years, Amazon has been gaining incredible traction with its electronic book reader called “Kindle.” For those who haven’t heard of it, or who haven’t seen one, Kindle is a handheld electronic device that basically allows you to download books, magazines, newspapers and blogs into an “electronic book” that’s 1/3” thick and weighs just over 10 ounces. It holds 1,500 books and runs for literally days on a single charge.

For $9, or in some cases, even FREE, you can download a book from a library of more than 350,000 titles. Plus, through Amazon’s lightening-fast wireless WhisperNet, you can download the Bible or the entire works of Shakespeare quicker than you can read the Sermon on the Mount or the Act 3, Scene 1 soliloquy from Hamlet. It’s amazing!

But now there’s a new kid on the block. A newer, cooler, full-color electronic reader from Barnes & Noble, cutely and coolly named “nook.” “To be or not to be” was indeed the question, and apparently Barnes & Noble thinks Amazon has cornered enough of the market.

As is often the case with the second player to the market, B&N smartly let Amazon take the arrows. The question is, can they now claim the land. The next 90 days will tell a lot as nook enters its first big retail season. Armed with a simple touch screen, color and the ability to “loan” books to friends (a huge advantage over Kindle), nook does enjoy a number of features Kindle does not. Think iPhone vs. Blackberry.

The question is, how many bibliophiles are there, and how many are willing to switch from the Kindle they’ve already invested hundreds in, or are willing to plunk down $250 for a NICE-to-have, not NEED-to-have new item. Estimates put Kindle sales at 500,000 units in 2008 and some analysts have suggested Amazon could easily sell a million this year. As universities and even high schools begin to ponder the merits of downloaded text books, it’s easy to see how the market could be poised to mushroom in the next five years. The question is, how much share will nook be able to pull?

What’s most intriguing to me, is why Barnes & Noble didn’t completely torpedo Kindle with a $99 to $129 price point. Why not take the Gillette approach and give the razor away to sell the razor blades? That would have been a game changer.

I was given a Kindle as a gift two months ago, and I love it. Since receiving it, I’ve easily spent $100 with Amazon downloading books and magazines and even a few blogs. That will ebb and flow, but I can tell you, for $9 a crack, I’m much more likely to take a flyer on a book I’d like to read than I was when I had to buy a hardback for $29.95 and up.

I’m excited to see a nook up close and I think it will be fascinating watching the Kindle vs. nook Battle Royale this holiday season. If you don’t have either one, check ’em out. They’re fun. They’re addictive. And however the fight turns out, it will be fun to download and read about.

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.