I did a bit of shopping in the last week (yea... who hasn't) and I had a few observations:
1. Barnes and Noble: Packed front of the store. The coffee shop was happening. Plenty of moms and daughters in the toy section actually buying toys (no boys...). There was quite the line up to talk to the in-store tech support on the Nook. (Judging from the overheard questions, this should be taken as nook success in selling to less tech literate than an issue with the nook.) The CD/DVD section was a ghost town; not one customer. Book sales were ok, but *far* less than prior years.
2. Best Buy. They were not pushing the Kindle. In fact, the sales people were avoiding talking it with customers. Apple sales were brisk (including an Ipad to yours truly for the misses) and for laptops. In my opinion, the mini 'store within a store' for Apple was working at Best Buy. TVs were moving. But the media section (CD/DVD) was barren of customers. Video game consoles were sitting in large untouched piles. Seriously, I must have watched $8k of Apple products moved, $3k to $4k of laptops, Similar sales of TVs, and not seen one video game sale or CD/DVD sale.
3. Target: Mad house. I have no idea if there were Kindles as with two kids in tow, we had to attend to business.
4. Costco and Sams Club: Interesting... due to 'negotiations with Apple,' all Apple products were pulled from Costco! Photos, TVs, and Kids toys were moving. But books were 'reduced in floor space' from November in both chain stores. A dramatic reduction in book shelf space.
What does this have to do with e-books? From what I can see, only a few hot items are selling. Retailers are definitely cutting back book shelf space which is not going to help p-books. In fact, shelf space is gravitating towards higher margin items.
I cannot state definitively how these anecdotal observations will impact p-book sales, but it is a headwind trend. More electronic devices to read ebooks is the positive trend. The negative trend is less retail attention to books. This all points to a transition year in 2011 for books. r.