Hey, Barnes & Noble, Where's My Nook?

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If Barnes & Noble doesn't get its act together, its Nook e-reader may never get out of the starting gate.

With Christmas less than three weeks away and Hanukkah approaching this weekend, it'd be logical for stock of the Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader to be piled high at every one of the bookseller's retail outlets in the country. But if you walk into a store today, you'll be hard pressed to find a Nook.

Barnes & Noble is also selling -- for an extra $200 -- Plastic Logic's larger format QUE, but you'll still have to wait until January. At that point, though, you might as well wait for the Nook, which is due in stores, according to the bookseller, in January also. Or, you might just order a Kindle from Amazon today, and be able to actually hand someone a gift on the big day.

Barnes & Noble reports that it is working on fulfilling the orders placed before Nov. 20, attempting to get those Nooks out before December 25. The company told InformationWeek that it won't start shipping the Nook to fill orders placed this week or later until January 15. Orders placed between November 20 and last week would ship no earlier than January 5. The bookseller will have demonstration models available in stores so customers can try the device -- and see what they are missing.

The Nook's delay is one of a few challenges it faces in the market. The device faces tough competition from the already established Amazon Kindle and Sony eReader. Succeeding in a market from that position is difficult, but not impossible (see Apple's iPhone). The Nook also offers some unique features that it couples with Barnes & Noble's retail outlets (such as free previews of entire books when the user is inside a Barnes & Noble), which could earn it a loyal fan base.

Barnes & Noble is also facing a lawsuit from Spring Design, which has developed a dual-screen Android-based device called Alex. Spring claims that the bookseller misappropriated trade secrets and violated the parties' non-disclosure agreement when it allegedly copied Alex features into its recently announced Nook e-book.

So it's a long road head for Nook ... if only it could get started down the path.

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