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, Google’s 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 & Noble’s chief executive, called the arrangement with Google “a test” and said that he viewed it as a way to increase the bookseller’s online reach and improve sales from its physical stores.
“It’s 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 & Noble’s physical stores, and it dominates the online market for print books.
Amazon’s popularity as an online shopping destination has the potential to undercut Google’s lucrative search engine advertising business. By adding Barnes & Noble to its list of 19 retail partners, Google is making a more explicit grab for Amazon’s 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 it’s a natural fit to create a great experience connecting shoppers with their town’s Barnes &