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Barnes & Noble Getting By With a Little Help From Its Friends

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) --  Barnes and Noble's trading symbol, (BKS - Get Report), tells it all. The company always was all about selling books and still is. But it has recognized that as a problem and is getting much-needed lifelines from some very influential partners --  Google (GOOG - Get Report) and Samsung.

Barnes & Noble shares were gaining 1.43% to $22.06 in midday trading in New York.


South Korea-based Samsung sent invitations to an Aug. 20 New York event with Barnes & Noble where a new co-branded e-book reader/tablet -- the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook -- will be announced. Earlier in the year, Barnes & Noble announced it would be spinning off its Nook business.

The new device will combine Samsung's tablet expertise (and hardware manufacturing capacity) as well as B&N's e-book reading software. The concept was initially announced in June. It's expected the 7-inch screened tablet will be one of the new devices featured two weeks later at Samsung's "Unpacked" event at IFA in Berlin alongside the next Galaxy Note phablet.

As part of the Samsung deal, according to Reuters, Barnes & Noble agreed to buy 1 million Galaxy Tab 4 tablets in the first year after launch. That could be extended to 15 months if the devices do not meet sales targets. The company still lists two tablets, the Nook HD and HD+, as well as the Nook GlowLight e-book reader on its Web site.

Google has made a big commitment to help too. Google reportedly has agreed to allow Barnes & Noble to use its new service to offer same-day book deliveries in a number of test markets. Google's Shopping Express will bring B&N goods to a customer's door the same day an order is placed if the customer lives in Manhattan, West Los Angeles or San Francisco. B&N has been delivering books from its local Manhattan outlets to customers willing to pay $25 a year for the special service. Barnes & Noble's books will also be sold on Google's Web site.

These agreements are to help B&N fend off its chief rival, Amazon (AMZN - Get Report). The latest blow from Amazon was its recently announced, $10 a month, all-the e-books-you-can read Kindle Unlimited plan. So far, Barnes & Noble has not offered a match for Amazon's offer.

But the writing has been on the wall for two decades. Amazon started as an online bookstore in 1994. Obviously, that changed over 20 years but it also wound up changing the book-selling industry forever. Instead of being burdened with the overhead of B&N's brick-and-mortar stores, a lean and mean Amazon brought book retailing into the Internet age. Click a button and your book is on its way right to your door. Buyers had to wait a few days for gratification but the upside was that they never had to travel to a store.

Barnes & Noble answered by closing retail stores. Amazon introduced Kindle e-book readers. B&N countered with its own line of readers called Nook. Amazon lowered book prices. Barnes & Noble dumped the B. Dalton stores it has purchased out of bankruptcy and closed more of its own stores -- a total of 60 in the past five years. B&N still operates more than 650 retail shops nationwide as well as another 600 college booksellers. But clearly the company is hurting.

Barnes & Noble is expected to report earnings on Aug. 19, the day before the announcement with Samsung. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect the company to announce a loss of 63 cents a share on revenue of $1.26 billion.

-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

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Gary Krakow is TheStreet's Senior Technology Correspondent.

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