Case | HBS Case Collection | March 2013 (Revised April 2014)

Barnes & Noble: Managing the E-Book Revolution

by Alan MacCormack, Brian Kimball Dunn and Chris F. Kemerer


The case describes competition in the market for E-Books, and Barnes & Noble's Strategy in this industry. As a traditional retailer, B&N was challenged by the introduction of digital technologies that allow books to be published, distributed and sold to consumers electronically. New competitors like Amazon and Apple attacked the traditional industry structure, creating many uncertainties over the long-term viability of traditional retailers. Amid this uncertainty, B&N must decide how to compete, in terms of both devices that can read E-Books, as well as standards for their distribution. Should they create a separate digital business, centered around their "Nook" E-Book reader, or maintain an integrated strategy? And how should they think about the fragmented standards for distributing E-Books? The case allows students to probe the dynamics of platform-based industries, as well as what happens in traditional industries when attacked by new competitors adopting new digital technologies. It is developed using public source material.

Keywords: innovation; product development; technology strategy; platform competition; Standards; disruptive innovation; Innovation Strategy; Technology; Product Development; Technology Platform; Standards; Disruptive Innovation; Retail Industry; Publishing Industry; North America;


MacCormack, Alan, Brian Kimball Dunn, and Chris F. Kemerer. "Barnes & Noble: Managing the E-Book Revolution." Harvard Business School Case 613-073, March 2013. (Revised April 2014.)