December 22, 2009, 12:00 AM

Barnes & Noble gives gift certificates to make up for late-arriving Nooks

Barnes & Noble on Friday notified customers who ordered the Nook e-reader in time for Christmas that the device will be delayed. To make amends, the bookseller plans to issue gift certificates to affected customers.

Barnes & Noble Inc. on Friday notified customers who ordered the Nook e-reader in time for Christmas that the device will be delayed. To make amends, the multichannel bookseller plans to issue $100 gift certificates to the retailer’s online store, www.bn.com, to affected customers.

Barnes & Noble said the delays affected "a very small percentage of customers" who may not receive their Nook in time for Christmas Eve. "We are working very hard to keep up with the demand and to get all Nook orders out the door and to customers on or before Dec. 24," says a spokeswoman. “Unfortunately, there may be a very small percentage of customers who may not receive their nooks before the holiday.”

The multichannel bookseller has taken orders for as many as 50,000 of its Nook readers-and somewhere between 500 and a couple thousand may be affected by delay, estimates Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey. That translates into $50,000 to $200,000 worth of gift certificates.

Barnes & Noble, No. 41 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide (a PDF version of the company’s financial and operating profile can be ordered by clicking on its name), launched its Nook e-reader in October, and said last month that strong demand had exhausted its supply. As a result, it says that orders placed after Nov. 20 will not be filled until January. The expected ship date for Nooks ordered today from bn.com is Feb. 1.

The delays may hurt the Nook’s ability to compete with the next generation of devices, which will feature full-color screens and other bells and whistles, says McQuivey. “Given that they are already coming in relatively late to the game-there are already millions of these e-readers out there-they didn’t have a strong chance to be a leading contender in first place,” he says. “By launching this holiday season they had chance to get a leg up on next year’s fierce competition, but now they don’t have as strong a chance.”

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