I’ve said for a long time that Barnes and Noble’s key to success in the ebook world was through their retail channels. The more they find ways to leverage the advantage of being both the neighborhood store AND an instant gratification web presence, the better they will be able to compete with Amazon. It looks like they are looking for creative ways to do that, and their latest one is actually pretty clever.
This newest promotion is called “Buy One NOOK Book, Gift One NOOK Book for Free“. The concept is pretty great all by itself; buy one qualifying ebook, and gift another one to a friend. What that means is now two people are participating in the NOOK ecosystem, or being tied more closely into that system. Maybe you have a friend that flips between the Kindle and NOOK apps on their iPad…now they have one more reason to use the B&N app instead.
The other hook is the really interesting part. You can’t jump online and take advantage of this promotion. Instead, you have to go into a physical B&N store to buy your book and gift the one to your friend. It’s the holidays, and there’s always a line, so probably while you are in there you’ll browse, maybe buy a book for a non-eReading family member or friend, and the next thing you know you’ve bought a few things besides that initial sweet ebook deal. That’s what makes this a great idea; even if only some of the people who take advantage of this pick up extra items, it won’t take much to drive extra revenue.
Think about the last time Amazon ran a deal like this (say, the AmazonLocal voucher). Chances are, you headed right for the website, bought your voucher, clicked over the eligible titles, bought those, and clicked away. Browsing a website can be a very narrow shopping experience, but a store is the exact opposite. There are items everywhere to tempt you, from the front door to the checkout line. Barnes and Noble is competing with Amazon (free ebooks!) but doing it while also stacking the odds that extra sales will offset the cost of free ebooks. This is how you fund competition against a much more aggressive competitor, and I hope the gamble works out for Barnes and Noble!