Barnes & Noble Tosses Nook to the Discount Pile

Barnes & Noble has dropped the prices on its Nook tablet product line with the Nook Color, the 8 GB Nook Tablet and the16 GB Nook Tablet now retailing for (US)$150, $180 and $200 respectively. That amounts to a $20 reduction from the Color’s original price and $50 the 16 GB device.

Nook Tablet

The Nook Tablet

Now averaging about $176, the Nook is among the cheapest tablet devices on the market — even less than Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7.

What this means, however, is unclear. Certainly the tablet market has become highly price sensitive, with providers jockeying to offer the most features at the lowest cost. Apple may be the exception to that rule with its “cheap” tablet priced around $700, but even Apple does not seem to be immune to the cost-cutting: Rumor has it a 7-inch iPad will be coming to market, presumably at a lower price point.

Furthermore, there are signs that the e-reader/tablet market is about to undergo another shift. Rumors are circulating that Amazon is about to release several new versions of its Kindle e-reader and tablet line in the near future. The buzz is that price cuts on some older-model Kindles are being driven by Amazon’s need to make room for its new products.

Grim Losses

Barnes & Noble’s decision to slash the Nook’s retail price may be more than a matter of competitive pricing.

The Nook is arguably the weakest of the major tablet products on the market, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook division has posted some grim losses over this year and last.

As Amazon did with the Kindle, Barnes & Noble is using revenues from its other operations to keep the Nook afloat. How long that will continue, though, is debatable.

Still Room to Grow

The Nook still has room to grow, according to Dan Israel, strategy lead for mobile at Sapient Nitro.

“Look at projections for the tablet market and they are nothing short of mushrooming,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

People need to remember that the traditional buyers of the Nook are highly price conscious, he continued. “I think Barnes & Noble is lowering the price to make sure it is competitive on the low end of the market.”

It could wind up goosing sales even more than expected, since the cheapest product is now in “impulse buy” territory, Israel added. “It is so affordable now you can get one on a whim or get one for your kids.”

A Product for Book Lovers

It is also important to remember that the Nook is a product for book lovers — not shoppers who want to buy from Amazon, Israel continued.

“Nook buyers aren’t necessarily concerned about the number of apps that work on it or the robustness of the screen — in that respect they are purists. They just want to read.”

All of that translates to a commodity device — and commodity pricing.

The Digital Camera Model?

Yes, the Nook is a device for hardcore readers interested in little else. Whether that is a good thing or not, however, is still up for debate, Azita Arvani of the Arvani Group told the E-Commerce Times.

In general, a price reduction for Nook was inevitable, she said, with fierce competition from Apple, Google and Amazon in the low-priced 7-inch tablet market.

With the Nook clearly more of an e-reader than a tablet, the question must be asked: Which way is the e-reader market headed? Could it be relegated to the niche-bordering-on-extinct category of digital camera?

Also, the issue of the Nook making money for Barnes & Noble — or rather, not making money — is not one that can be dismissed, Arvani added.

“The hardware margins are razor thin in the low-cost tablet market,” she observed.

Eventually, Barnes & Noble will have to decide that the Nook is able to sell enough e-books and other digital goods to make up for the cost of the hardware, Arvani said.

Barnes & Noble did not respond to our request for further details.

Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.

Related Stories

How does the quality of customer service delivered by government compare to that of the private sector?
Loading ... Loading ...

E-Commerce Times Channels

Cloud Health Services, Part 1: Benefits and Complications

The cloud offers a host of potential uses, according to the healthcare industry and academic medical center representatives who participated in a Healthcare Information and Management Systems Societysurvey last year.

Application hosting was the top use, identified by 90 percent of the 64 respondents.

Other potential uses cited:

  • Disaster recovery and backup – 84 percent
  • Hosting primary data storage such as application data – 74 percent
  • Hosted email services – nearly 70 percent
  • Managed services – 52 percent
  • Virtual servers – 36.5 percent
  • Security – 36.5 percent

The global healthcare cloud computing market will reach US$35 billion in 2022, from about $20 billion in 2017, according to BCC Research.

Cloud computing lets user organizations avoid heavy capital expenditures, and it requires less skilled IT staff, according to a report from the Cloud Standards Customer Council, an end-user advocacy group dedicated to accelerating cloud adoption.

The cloud also offers the following potential advantages:

  • Easier scalability and ability to adjust rapidly to demand;
  • Better security and privacy for health data and health systems than in-house systems;
  • Improved information sharing through standard protocols — although vendor contracts and technical impediments remain a problem;
  • Support for rapid development and innovation, especially for mobile technologies and the IoT; and
  • Better analytics capabilities, through services such as intelligent business process management suites and case management frameworks to mitigate medical mistakes.

“Cloud services in healthcare is a rapidly evolving area, and a case where cloud makes a lot of sense from a cost management and portability perspective,” Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research, told the E-Commerce Times.

However, all is not rosy in cloud healthcare land. Standardization has been a problem, so information sharing is not quite as easy as it should be. Security also has been problematic.

Everyone Wants to Get Into the Act

Major cloud players Google, Microsoft and Amazon have been pushing into the healthcare field, along with several smaller firms. Facebook and Apple also have been showing interest.

“We’re seeing a great deal of interest in the cloud in the healthcare industry,” remarked Joe Corkery, Google Cloud’s head of product healthcare and life sciences.

Most have been offering traditional cloud-based services such as hosting and Software as a Service, as well as security, data storage and data crunching. Google and Apple have been leveraging the Internet of Things through mobile devices.

All providers have an eye on the IoT, which is expected to generate a huge market, sparked by smart cars, homes, cities and the ubiquity of mobile devices.

“Offerings that are more enterprise-focused — like Microsoft Azure, IBM SoftLayer and Dell Virtustream — should have a significant advantage because of their higher focus on security,” observed Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

On the other hand, smaller companies “should have a significant advantage, thanks to the strong privacy laws, if they have that extra focus on security,” he told the E-Commerce Times, and don’t have “a bad reputation for the cloud, like Apple, or a bad reputation for privacy, like Google.”

The Healthcare Tower of Babel

Interoperability is a real issue in the healthcare industry. Some blame the problem on legislation — specifically, the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health.

The HITECH Act was designed to promote the adoption and use of electronic health records, but the legislation’s overall design pushed interoperability in a limited way, according to Julia Adler-Milstein, an associate professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT put off defining criteria for the Health Information Exchange until the second stage, Adler-Milstein pointed out.

Further, interoperability is not just a technological issue, she noted. There are also governance and trust issues, business agreements and confidentiality issues.

“Multiple standards, as well as flavors of those standards for medical and health data, have been developed over time … based on the changing needs of the technology products being developed,” Google’s Corkery told the E-Commerce Times.

The Office of the U.S. National Coordinator for Health IT earlier this year released its 2018 Interoperability Standards Advisory.

However, the advisory is for informational purposes only. It is non-binding and does not create or confer any rights or obligations for or on any person or entity.

International standards organizations have stepped in to take up the slack. Health Level 7 International “has taken an active role in the development of standards,” Corkery noted.

HL7v2 is “the dominant data exchange format used in clinical settings today,” he added.

Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources — managed by the nonprofit FHIR Foundation, which is closely affiliated with HL7 — is an emergent standard, said Corkery.

At the industry level, the Google Healthcare application programming interface is an attempt to get around the interoperability problem.

The API provides “a cloud-based implementation of several widely deployed standards — HL7v2, FHIR and DICOM — to ingest, store, query and analyze data using protocols and formats that clinical systems use today,” Corkery said. “The intent … is not to replace existing standards, but to deliver interoperability between clinical systems and Google cloud services.”

Cloud Health Services, Part 2: Privacy and Security

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard.

Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.

Related Stories