With few exceptions, retailers haven't quite managed to bridge the gap between their online stores and brick and mortar locations. Barnes & Noble, however, might be onto something, and the answer lies in near-field communication (NFC).
In an interview with Fortune magazine, Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch revealed that his company will soon embed NFC chips into its Nook devices.
"We can work with the publishers so they would ship a copy of each hardcover with an NFC chip embedded with all the editorial reviews they can get on BN.com," Lynch said, noting that the experience could lead up to what he calls a "frictionless purchase experience" just by touching an in-store book to a Nook eReader.
The idea is exciting, and the exact sort of thing that Amazon, with its lack of physical locations, can't possibly keep up with. In short, it's all about B&N leveraging its most significant assets.
Lynch wouldn't commit to answering whether the feature would arrive this year, though it seems somewhat likely that Barnes & Noble would introduce it with the next iteration of the Nook tablet.
The B&N CEO is surprisingly candid elsewhere in the interview, which he closes with the argument that the media and analysts haven't given B&N quite enough credit for what its done in the technology sphere. "What we want is the recognition from investors and others to say these guys have built something special here," he said. That may just be true, but if his company's NFC experiment bears fruit, it's certain that he will eliminate all doubt.