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Barnes & Noble fights back

A New York Times article puts Barnes & Noble – and its next e-reader – in the headlines.

By Husna Haq / January 31, 2012

Barnes and Noble's current tablet device, the Nook Tablet, could be getting an update, or a new e-reader from the company could be on its way.

Jim Sulley/HOEP/Barnes and Noble/AP

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Ever since a provocative New York Times article ran this Sunday proclaiming Barnes & Noble to be publishers’ last hope against Amazon, rumors have been circulating that the bricks-and-mortar retailer is set to release a new Nook this spring. 

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Buried amidst apocalyptic talk of the end of bookstores and Barnes & Noble’s valiant effort to take on books behemoth Amazon in a David v. Goliath fight, was this little gem: “At its labs in Silicon Valley last week, engineers were putting final touches on their fifth e-reading device, a product that executives said would be released sometime this spring.”

That was it. No further details were mentioned, and a Barnes & Noble spokeswoman declined to comment further, according to the article. It was barely a mention, but the tech world – and the publishing industry – took notice, firing off reports speculating on the newest device.

“Another tablet, perhaps a larger model (think iPad size but with a $300-$350 price tag)?” asked CNET. “An even more affordable e-ink e-reader that might allow the company to break the sub-$50 barrier? Or perhaps something more exotic….” 

Whether the new device is an e-reader, a tablet, or something else entirely isn’t yet clear. What is clear, “Barnes & Noble is trying to strike at Amazon with another device,” as the NYT states.  

Just two years into the e-reader industry, Barnes & Noble already controls 27 percent of the e-book market, compared to at least 60 percent for Amazon. Not a bad market share, considering Barnes & Noble’s late start. And this latest device is a signal the retailer is not backing down.

Indeed, that was the gist of the bold NYT piece, entitled “The Bookstore’s Last Stand.” In it, Julie Bosman chronicles Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch’s effort to reinvent the retail chain in the digital age, placing its bets, of course, on the Nook. She also paints a picture of Barnes & Noble as a sort of savior and last hope for the publishing world. Whereas traditional book publishers once saw large chain stores as the enemy, they now look on Barnes & Noble as a crucial place where readers can discover books. As Slate put it, “…all of publishing looks on them as their only hope, lest they get crushed beneath the heel of the Amazon e-book goliath.”

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