Barnes & Noble, Google join hands to take on Amazon

Written by New York Times | Updated: Aug 8 2014, 07:03am hrs
Google and Barnes & Noble are joining forces to tackle their mutual rival Amazon, zeroing in on a service that Amazon has long dominated: The fast, cheap delivery of books.

Starting on Thursday, book buyers in Manhattan, West Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area will be able to get same-day deliveries from local Barnes & Noble stores through Google Shopping Express, Googles fledgling online shopping and delivery service.

Google Shopping, which began operations about a year ago, allows online shoppers to order products from stores like Costco, Walgreens, Staples and Target, and have them delivered to their doors within hours.

The partnership could help Barnes & Noble make inroads into online sales when its brick-and-mortar business remains stagnant. The company has closed 63 stores in the last five years, including some in bustling areas of Manhattan and Washington, leaving it with a base of about 660 retail stores and 700 college campus stores. Its Nook business fell 22% in the fourth quarter compared with the period a year earlier, according its most recent earnings report.

Michael Huseby, Barnes & Nobles chief executive, called the arrangement with Google a test and said that he viewed it as a way to increase the booksellers online reach and improve sales from its physical stores.

Its our attempt to link the digital and physical, Huseby said.

Amazon poses a persistent and growing threat to Google and Barnes & Noble. Its rise has contributed to lagging sales and diminished foot traffic in Barnes & Nobles physical stores, and it dominates the online market for print books.

Amazons popularity as an online shopping destination has the potential to undercut Googles lucrative search engine advertising business. By adding Barnes & Noble to its list of 19 retail partners, Google is making a more explicit grab for Amazons turf. The partnership also comes at a moment when many authors and book buyers are frustrated with Amazon because of what they say are its punitive negotiating tactics in its standoff with the publisher Hachette over e-book pricing.

Many of our shoppers have told us that when they read a review of a book or get a recommendation from a friend, they want a really easy way to buy that book and start reading it tonight, Tom Fallows, director of product for Google Shopping Express, said by email. We think its a natural fit to create a great experience connecting shoppers with their towns Barnes & Noble.

The competition to provide faster shipping has been increasing in recent years as retailers have scrambled to claim a piece of the growing e-commerce market.

Amazon has already taken the lead in same-day delivery, and on Wednesday the company announced that it had expanded its same-day delivery service to 10 cities from four. Amazons same-day service costs $5.99 for members of its Prime programme, and $9.98 for others. Walmart and eBay have also introduced same-day deliveries.

Googles approach differs from that of Amazon and other big retailers. Instead of relying on warehouses full of merchandise, Google is using a fleet of couriers who collect products from local stores, sort and bundle them and deliver them within a three- to four-hour window selected by the customer.