And just like that, the Nook matters again. Yes, in the war to win the hearts and eyeballs of readers continues to rage on, and Barnes & Nobles has just proved that it’s not out of the fight.
In 30 seconds or less, the Nook was upgraded from being a humble ebook reader with an attractive color screen, a market where Amazon dominates. A software patch pushed the Nook into the crowded space of tablets, where Apple dominates.
Soon the Nook will have full access to the Android Marketplace, which includes the kinds of games and apps that makes the iPad so popular.
Here are five reasons why this matters to you as it relates to the Five P’s of Marketing (loosely interpreted, of course):
- Place (distribution)
1.PRICE: Nook competes on price and features. Everyone from the media to the average buyer is enamored with tablets. The venerable iPad 2 is one of the most coveted gadgets on the marketplace, but with prices starting at $499, it’s not exactly within reach of all buyers. For a while, the Amazon Kindle was the device to beat, but it’s still a black and white technology in a color world. At $250, the Nook offers a sharp, full color display. It may not be as full featured or sensitive as the iPad, but it suddenly feels light years ahead of the Kindle, but with a very attractive price point.
2. PRODUCT: Physically, the Nook is a nifty product that fits nicely in a purse or backpack. It’s sturdy, offers plenty of features, and is promising to support Adobe Flash. For those of you (like me), who own an Apple iPad, the lack of Flash support can sometimes be truly annoying. As a technology company, Apple is forcing us into an HTML5 future that doesn’t really exist yet. But the Nook’s Android operating system supports Flash, which means we can use the web as it exists today. Plus, it supports Angry Birds, which is an amazingly addictive casual game. Y’know, for something to do with the Nook in between reading books. Take that, Kindle!
3. PLACE (aka distribution): When it comes to retail, nobody currently in the tablet or ereader game can truly stand up to Barnes & Nobles. In just about every major city across the US, there’s a Barnes & Nobles retail store. You want a Kindle, you need to go find a store that stocks it (try Best Buy) or go to Amazon.com. Actually, Best Buy sells both the Kindle and the iPad, but they also sell thousands of other products that compete for your attention. They also sell cheaper knockoffs from Pandigital and Acer, which they’d be happy to sell to you. Yet, Barnes & Nobles is focused on selling their Nook, which places in the spotlight. And at any given time, there’s usually a friendly, smiling B&N sales associate on hand to help demo the Nook. If you compare shopping at an Apple Store or a Barnes & Nobles, you will find that they both offer an excellent experience. Top notch. But there are far more Barnes & Nobles store than Apple Stores, so B&N has a true advantage there.
4. PROMOTION: Apple has an amazing digital ecosystem that starts with the iTunes Store. Amazon has their incredible online website, which also dominates their field. Barnes & Nobles dominates nothing but their retail locations. They are not typically known as a promotions powerhouse, Barnes & Nobles has a lot of support from devoted readers. B&N can promote the value-added features of the Nook, but for now, they just have to keep selling ebooks. The new Nook will give them an amazingly efficient promotions channel to upsell readers on new and old ebooks. The Nook will not be positioned as an iPad killer. The Nook will be your friend with benefits.
5. PEOPLE: B&N has a great sale staff. So does Apple. But let’s change our interpretation of “people” for a moment. When it comes to gathering “people” in one place, nobody can compete with Barnes & Nobles. It’s the ultimate hang out for readers. They provide couches and sell Starbucks coffee. They want you to stay. In this case, “people” will want to go to the B&N store to explore new ebooks and make a few purchases. And if you own an ereader like the Nook, you’re likely to hand it to your friends. I find that I’m a little more proprietary with my iPad, since it includes a lot of my personal stuff. The “people” will be Nook owners who evangelize this humble, but capable ebook reader.
Right now, we’re looking at an inevitable shift from traditional books to ebooks and ereaders. This latest Android upgrade to the Nook makes it clear that Barnes & Nobles plans to be part of this future, no matter what shape it takes.