Barnes & Noble CEO Steve Riggio gave the most detailedaccount of how Barnes & Noble plans to navigate the digital waters in hisconference call discussing third quarter results on Tuesday. E-book sales atthe company have "simply exploded" Riggio said and B&N's market share ofe-books on some titles is already higher than its share for print books. E-booksales have been helped by the release of the Nook, which Riggio said isB&N's single biggest seller, but the company has seen good growth ine-books used across a variety of devices ranging from the iPhone toBlackberrys.
B&N remains committed to offering consumers access todigital content "however they want it," and Riggio told analysts that thee-book market "is not a two horse race" between Apple and Amazon, adding thatwith its core technology in place B&N is well positioned to benefit fromthe digital boom. He called the sale of e-books the new growth story forB&N, one that could rival the 1990s when the retailer began rolling out itssuperstores. He said 2010 will be a "watershed" year for the company as ittransitions from a bricks-and-mortar bookseller to an e-commerce retailer.
Its experience since returning to the e-book market lastyear with the purchase of Fictionwise has further convinced Riggio that themarket will be more consolidated than the traditional bookstore market where ittook B&N years to get its 18% (and growing) market share. He predicted thatB&N will top the 18% mark in e-books "overnight." While some analystsquestioned the need for B&N to develop its own e-reader, Riggio said thedevice helps bring people into stores and that the retailer plans to investeven more in its in-store Nook displays. He said its booksellers will become "e-bookevangelists." Riggio said he expects pricing of e-books to evolve with theagency model likely to become the dominate form of sale and said thateventually B&N will earn better margins from e-books than print books.