Summary:

When Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) announced its Nook e-reader in October, the ability to pursue a dual in-store and online sales strategy appe…

Nook (Front View)

When Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) announced its Nook e-reader in October, the ability to pursue a dual in-store and online sales strategy appeared to be one of the clear advantages it might have over Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN). But, as we first reported then, the chain didn’t plan to sell Nooks to go in all its stores for the 2009 holidays — and, as it turned out, the combination of demand and distribution issues kept the device from store shelves. Instead, most people who bought Nooks at B&N stores were placing online orders for delivery weeks or months into the future — not buying them for same-day use. I watched in one store as someone changed his mind pre-Christmas about buying a Nook because he wouldn’t get it until February.

But B&N says that’s all about to change now, at least in some stores. Hoping to get a retail boost from Valentine’s Day, the chain plans to stock most stores with Nooks by mid-week — even promising to update an in-store locator chart daily starting Wednesday. The popular themes in response to the news? Too little, too late or Nook meets Godzilla aka iPad and inevitably loses. Both are short-sighted.

Barnes & Noble stumbled with software and distribution but the Nook is still a potentially appealing device, especially to those more interested in a dedicated e-reader than a multi-purpose tablet. Fanboys, fangirls and early adopters may not flinch at the iPad’s price range but $259 leaves wallet room for a Kate Spade cover and a lot of books. In-store sales should also help when it comes to competing with the Kindle, which can only be ordered online. Amazon plays matchmaker for people who want to try a Kindle; B&N has working hands-on displays in every store. If people can try, buy and start reading the same day — or get instant gift gratification — Nook should have an edge, at least for the next few months.

Software update: As for the software knocks, B&N says users should see improvements with new release Nook v1.2. Devices are being updated automatically over the air this week or users can download it themselves. Among the promised changes: Better in-store access to free WiFi, easier to find which books can be shared, and, a personal favorite that covers a multitude of sins, “overall system improvements and battery optimization.”

Keeping connected: About that enhanced WiFi access. B&N wants owners to see the Nook as an in-store device, encouraging users to bring their devices into stores for access to exclusive content or offers through the store’s free WiFi. That push begins in earnest now with a free short story, a cupcake recipe, a 10 percent discount on CDs if the user shows the clerk the Nook, and more.

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

Comments have been disabled for this post