It’s never good when an analyst compares your fate to “collateral damage” in a “Nuclear Winter”. That’s how Credit Suisse’s Gary Balter sees Barnes & Noble’s fate in the book war escalating between Wal-Mart and Amazon.
Despite being a fantastic operator of its retail stores and running a fairly successful Web site, Barnes & Noble seems to destined by Balter to be crushed by forces far larger than itself. Namely Wal-Mart and the World Wide Web.
Yesterday, Wal-Mart announced it would be selling 10 upcoming hotly anticipated books for just $10 each. Amazon matched the move post-haste. So Wal-Mart lowered its price to $9. According to Balter, the comparable prices at Barnes and Noble ranged from $13.20 to $21 for the same 10. The books include Sarah Palin’s autobiography and the next offerings of Dean Koontz, John Grisham and Barbara Kingsolver, among others.(The full list of 10 is here.)
Not long after, news came out that Google would be launching an online site capable of delivering e-books to any device with a Web browser, with an initial library of about half a million titles.
Barnes & Noble, Balter concludes, “is gradually losing control over its destiny due to technology changes.”
This is an old saw for the book retailer, which has long outlived the doomsayers that called it dead a decade ago, but competing against $9 books and the giants of e-commerce is only getting tougher.
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