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Wheelings & Dealings: Google and Barnes & Noble Combine Forces in Effort to Topple Amazon

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August 07, 2014

Wheelings & Dealings: Google and Barnes & Noble Combine Forces in Effort to Topple Amazon

By Joe Rizzo
TMCnet Contributing Writer

We know Amazon as the world’s largest online retailer. I was recently reminded that when the company began in 1994, it started as an online bookstore. Since that time, you can buy just about anything from Amazon. Well, almost anything. Right now the company is in, what is describes as, negotiations with Hachette, one of the biggest publishing companies, over their next contract.

Amazon has always been a company that prides itself on putting service to its customers above all else. So it seems strange that if you want to purchase a book that is published by Hachette, you will see a message offering you the option of signing up to receive an email when the book becomes available. This doesn’t seem like the company that allows you to make your purchases with the simple click of a button.

This seems like it is a good reason behind Google (News - Alert) joining forces with Barnes & Noble. I believe that at this point in time, some estimates show that in the U.S. Amazon controls about a 50 percent share of all book sales, this includes both physical and electronic books. In the past 10 years it seems that Amazon has been steadily growing in the book market, while Barnes & Noble has been shrinking, in addition to so many small bookstores closing their doors.

Google is already competing with Amazon in the shopping world through Google Shopping. This service has been around for about a year now and it allows online shoppers to order products from stores such as Costco, Walgreens, Staples (News - Alert) and Target. Once ordered, you can expect to have your items delivered within hours.

Thanks to the joining of forces, beginning today people who use Google Shopping Express to purchase printed tomes can expect to see same day deliveries. As of now, the service is available in Manhattan, West Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

This could be the extra push that Barnes & Noble needs to stay in the game. The fact of the matter is that less people actually go into a bookstore these days, when they have the convenience of quickly ordering them online and receiving them in a day or two. Over the past few years, Barnes & Noble has closed 63 stores. You wouldn’t think so, but staples, such as their biggest stores in Manhattan and Washington have closed.

I have often said that we live in a generation of people who need to be connected all the time everywhere. I now have something new to add to that, this generation also wants everything right away. Apparently, there is no time to waste. When they order something they want it preferable today. But will wait for the next day.

In an email, Tom Fallows, who is director of product for Google Shopping Express, mentioned, “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. We think it’s a natural fit to create a great experience connecting shoppers with their town’s Barnes & Noble.”

If it is a choice between seeing a message from Amazon stating that they will E-mail you when your book becomes available, or clicking on Google Shopping Express and reading it that night, which would you choose? It seems like this cooperative “test”, as Barnes & Noble’s CEO, Michael P. Huseby, calls it, could be what both companies need to compete with Amazon.

While most online shopping sites have a warehouse full of items that can be processed from one location and sent to the customer, Google’s approach is slightly different. The method that Google is using is a fleet of couriers. Essentially, they collect the products you ordered from local stores, they then sort and package them together and deliver your order within a four hour time frame.

If you subscribe to Google Shopping Express, this service is free, otherwise, it will cost you $4.99 per delivery, per store. Still considering that you all you have to do is go online, the cost doesn’t seem to be a factor that will dissuade you. Google has not announced what the subscription fee will ultimately be, but membership will be free for the first six months.

To process the orders, Barnes & Noble will have a person on site whose job it is to take online orders for books, toys, games, magazines, as well as other items. If you order through Google, it will collect the orders and hand them to a courier. Depending on store size, Barnes & Noble stores will have 22,000 to 163,000 titles. You can also place an order directly through Barnes & Noble on its website.

Partnering with Barnes & Noble adds to the growing number of Google partners, which at this point totals 19. Taking advantage of Amazon’s ongoing dispute with Hachette, this partnership could be a small foothold in an arena that Amazon has had control of for quite a while. It will be interesting to see what else Google has in store as it carries on its competition against Amazon.

Edited by Adam Brandt

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