In a move clearly designed to counter the rising power of Amazon in the physical bookselling space, Barnes & Noble has debuted a pilot program with Google for same-day delivery of books in Manhattan, West L.A. and the San Francisco Bay area according to a new report by the New York Times. The trial program pairs Google Shopping Express with Barnes & Noble’s brick-and-mortar retail, but it’s a program that’s unlikely to buoy the sagging fortunes of B&N too much.
The effort definitely could help Barnes & Noble shore up its retail losses, which have resulted in the closing of over 60 stores in half a decade, and it could provide a good case study about how companies might make the transition from having physical shopping experiences to the growing trend of consumers opting for the convenience of actually completing their purchases online.
The delivery service being trialled by Google works slightly differently than others, exploiting store inventory and couriers, while charging either a subscription fee for the Google Shopping Express service, which will be priced at an amount yet to be determined for annual membership, or charging $4.99 per delivery. The entire service is based on the experience of wanting something on the same day but not wanting it badly enough to venture forth from your cave, which means it probably stands a good chance of succeeding.
Barnes & Noble, however, is likely playing a game with diminishing returns; book sales are increasingly leaning towards digital purchases, and the company’s Nook business isn’t holding up too well. This partnership with Google Shopping Express will give the Internet giant a chance to test out the economics of its service with decent scale, but it won’t put the wheels back on the bus for a beleaguered book seller.