Barnes & Noble's Rude Awakening: Tech Markets Are Winner-Take-All

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Liberty Media's (LBTYA)

In tech, it's winner-take-all.

It's not like Coca-Cola (KO)

When a technology market consolidates, there is one winner and everyone else needs to find something else to do.

In the case of e-book readers, that winner is Amazon (AMZN)

This story has been true since the tech sector began.


This is not the same thing as grabbing all the sales. IBM stared down two generations of mainframe competitors: the original BUNCH (Burroughs, Univac, NCR (NCR)

Notice that Burroughs and Univac became Unisys (UIS)

In search, for instance, Yahoo! (YHOO)

It's true that the e-book market may have consolidated prematurely, because as Statista notes, e-books still represent less than one-third of the total book market.  Real books, so far, have survived.

That should tell Barnes & Noble all it needs to know.

It has a niche and a survival strategy. It's a book shop. It's the last surviving big book shop. As Amazon has consolidated the e-book market, it has consolidated the book shop market. To the extent that there are profits to be had selling books in shops, Barnes & Noble should have them.

Of course, that's not a great market. Retailing in general is gravely threatened by e-tailing. There are no longer secure niches anywhere in retailing, thanks to e-tailing. The days when you could just print money running a big box retailer are gone.

But that doesn't mean you can't make money in retailing, even out of big boxes. Many companies do.

Macy's (M)

If you want to know why companies like Amazon forgo profit and constantly cut prices to maintain market share -- this is the reason.

Profits come when the market consolidates. And when those profits come, they come in a rush, leaving you with a choice of either pocketing the profits or going into other tech markets. Amazon chose to pursue other tech markets. It chose cloud. It chose other devices. But that's another story we'll tell another time.

For now, learn the lesson. When tech markets consolidate, there's only one winner.

In e-books, it's not Barnes & Noble.

At the time of publication the author owned shares in AMZN, COST, HD, YHOO, KO and GOOG, but held no positions in any of the other stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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