Barnes & Noble and Google – an Amazon-beating combo?
August 7, 2014 | 6:31 pm
A widely quoted report in the New York Times details a partnership between Barnes & Noble and Google to create a same-day book delivery service utilizing Google Shopping Express. According to the report, “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.” Barnes & Noble is already up on the icon panel of Google Shopping Express partners.
With the Amazon/Hachette spat still unresolved, the NYT unsurprisingly chooses to put an anti-Amazon spin on this news, claiming that “Amazon poses a persistent and growing threat to Google and Barnes & Noble.” B&N, fine, but Google? I don’t see how Amazon is moving into the realms of search. Facebook might be conceivably more of a rival in certain of Google’s key business areas, but Amazon? Yes, they might be a threat to Google’s ambitions to move into their territory, though Google Books and now Google Shopping Express – but vice versa? After all, neither the Fire OS or the Amazon Fire Phone, or even the Firefly contextual search feature, appear to have exactly – ahem – set the world on fire, so Google’s role as custodian of the world’s biggest mobile platform appears in no imminent danger.
And yes, the NYT claims, “Amazon’s popularity as an online shopping destination has the potential to undercut Google’s lucrative search engine advertising business” – but how likely is that potential to be realized? By definition, advertisers on Amazon are already going to be shopping and browsing there, so many of their purchase-focused searches are likely to stay within Amazon itself already. I doubt Google is losing too much business from that. Remember this is also the Amazon that analysts are drubbing for its latest financial figures, indicating that its reinvestment pool is likely to be challenged in future, which hardly sounds like a very solid base to build a major challenge to Google from.
So Amazon doesn’t seem likely to figure high on Google’s hit list. What about B&N’s priorities though? Yes, as Michael P. Huseby, B&N CEO, says in the NYT article, this partnership is “our attempt to link the digital and physical.” But B&N’s efforts in the digital space already seem to have misfired when they jettisoned Nook. Extra outreach to customers through same-day delivery and Google Shopping Express’s additional audience seems a good idea, but the pilot launch covers a pretty small area, and comes late in the day. I’d watch this development with interest, but I won’t hold my breath waiting to see Amazon tremble.