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Barnes & Noble's e-Reader Nook Sold Out Already

Barnes & Noble Inc said on Friday it had sold out of its newly-launched Nook electronic readers due to high demand -- a pre-holiday miscalculation that analysts said could boost sales of rival Amazon.com Inc's market leading Kindle.

The news followed a similar announcement on Thursday by Sony Corp about its electronic reader.

Amazon shares edged up 0.5 percent, while Barnes & Noble shares were little changed.

"Amazon can reap the benefit of Sony and Barnes & Noble's failures here," said Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, who added that consumers looking for a wireless e-reader before the holidays now just have one main alternative -- the Kindle.

Industry experts have said that electronic readers sold by Amazon, Sony, Barnes & Noble and others will be top-selling electronic gadgets for the holidays. But demand is difficult to gauge because manufacturers do not releases sales results or sales targets.

Barnes & Noble said devices ordered from Friday will be shipped beginning the week of January 4. Gift givers will be issued a holiday certificate that notes a January shipping date.

"While we increased production based on the high consumer interest, we've sold out of our initial Nook allotment available for delivery before the holidays," the company said in a statement.

Moreover, e-readers sold in Barnes & Noble stores are in limited supply, said company spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating.

"We do anticipate having limited stock available in our highest-volume stores over the holidays," Keating said, adding the demand had "exceeded our expectations."

Sony said heavy demand for its latest e-reader, the Daily Edition, meant customers would receive their devices on a "first come, first serve basis" and shipments would not be guaranteed in time for the holidays.

Analysts say Barnes & Noble and Sony may have been too quick out of the gate with their e-readers to take market share away from Amazon, which holds the dominant position and says its Kindle is the best-selling product on its website.

"These two companies wanted to show the market that they would be competition to Amazon for the 2009 holiday season and now they have to face the consequences of that strategy and apologize to consumers for empty boxes under the tree," said Forrester's Rotman Epps.

Gartner Vice President Allen Weiner said the heavy consumer demand was undoubtedly a "positive sign" for the industry.

But he was quick to add: "There may be a lot of e-reader frustration -- it may be the Cabbage Patch doll of the year or the Tickle Me Elmo," referring to two popular toys of prior years that sold out quickly.

The various devices -- which range in price from about $199 to over $400 -- allow consumers to view a broad array of books, newspapers and magazines on a tablet-like device that is light and portable.

Amazon -- which itself was dogged with similar supply issues last holiday season -- said on its website that both its regular Kindle and its larger, pricier version, were both in stock and could be shipped in time for the holidays.