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Barnes & Noble is extending price cuts on its Nook tablets, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
B&N (s BKS) reduced prices fairly drastically for Father’s Day, discounting its Nook tablets between $70 and $129. That was a big drop for a week-long promotion. But B&N said Monday that the slashed prices are sticking around for … well, at least for awhile, with no end date given, though it’s apparently still “limited-time pricing.”
So the 7-inch Nook HD tablet now starts at $129, down from $199, and the 9-inch Nook HD+ tablet now starts at $149, down from $269. The devices were both launched less than a year ago.
Nook Media President Jamie Iannone said this is to “help our customers gear up for a great summer reading season … We’re thrilled to keep in place our best prices ever and deliver great value to make reading more affordable.” But it’s not a great sign for the health of the Nook tablet business: If customers were snapping up these tablets, B&N wouldn’t have to slash their prices. To be sure, the 7-inch tablet market is crowded, but Amazon’s most basic 7-inch Kindle Fire is still $159 with ads and $174 without, while Google’s Nexus (s GOOG) 7 starts at $199 (for 16 GB; the Kindle Fire and Nook HD start at 8 GB). The iPad (s AAPL) Mini, meanwhile, starts at $329.
Plus, combine the price cuts with the multiple rumors that Barnes & Noble plans to phase out the Nook tablet line by the end of fiscal year 2014 (which would be a year from now) and it starts to look as if B&N is trying to clear out stock. (The company has already phased out the lower-end Nook Tablet and Nook Color.) We may get more answers from the company’s next earnings report, which comes out June 25.