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"Strong Nook Sales Boost B&N Online Sales" Story? It’s Just Spin

File it under Silk Purses and Sow’s Ears.

Just in case you hear a business headline that seems to suggest that the nooK is spurring huge increases in online sales for Barnes & Noble, don’t let the spinmeisters mislead you. The real meaning of today’s Barnes & Noble quarterly earnings report is exactly the opposite of the spin from B&N. Here’s what they are saying:

Online (B&N.com) sales rose 32% to $210 million. B&N.com sales accelerated during the quarter and were up 67% in January compared to January 2009.  CEO Steve Riggio attributed much of the online sales gain to the launch of the nook e-reader, which began shipping in the middle of the quarter. He added that nook sales have been ‘strong at our bookstores since the product became available earlier this month.’

Excuse me?

$210 million in total online sales for the quarter ended January 31 is being presented as some kind of triumph and indication of the power of the nooK?

I know, it can be hard to keep track of all the zeroes, but how does B&N’s $210 million in total quarterly online sales compare with Amazon’s total online sales for the quarter?

Amazon’s figure was $9.52 billion for the quarter ended December 31, 2009, or 45 times those of B&N.com.

In 1997, when Barnes & Noble launched its online bookstore, my neighbors at Cambridge’s Forrester Research used the catchy wordplay “Amazon.toast” to predict how the competition between B&N, then America’s largest bookseller, and the upstart Amazon would play out. Let’s just say that Forrester didn’t nail that prediction. In 2003 B&N accounted for about 20% of U.S. bookselling market share, and Amazon for about 10%. The two companies still account for roughly 20% and 10% market share, but they have changed places.

But the markets don’t seem to be fooled by the latest Barnes & Noble spin job, especially after the company’s launch of the Nook was marred by one misleading claim after another. At mid-day in the markets the company’s stock is down about 5 percent.

It’s 7 pm EDT June 10, 2009 – Kindle DX Release Day – Do you know where your Kindle DX is?

Today is Kindle DX Release Day for Amazon, and anxious Kindle DX buyers have been checking their emails all day for those “Your order has shipped” messages. My DX will arrive tomorrow, and I am sure I will have impressions to share. Meanwhile, Engadget has posted a nice 29-photo gallery of an early Kindle DX unboxing, and Steven Levy of Wired.com has posted a balanced review of his test run.

Get your order in now and you can still get your Kindle DX this week with 1-day shipping.