I'm convinced Barnes & Noble has no idea what the hell they're doing. After looking like they were gonna be late, then "oops, we sold out," now Barnes & Noble says that at minimum, they won't have Nooks—even to demo—in actual retail stores until Dec. 7 at the earliest, in order to fill pre-order demand. This is only gonna get more ridiculous, just watch. [WSJ]
Oh, come on! New consumer products being sold out after launch is common.
That was true for most of the major games consoles (certainly the Xbox 360 and Wii), the Canon 5D Mk II camera, the iPhone, and the Kindle itself. Just to name a few off the top of my (still half-asleep) head. Picking on B&N for this is hardly fair.
What's more, if you knew anything about product manufacturing, you'd know that production volumes have to be gradually ramped up. While it might sound simple to just start manufacturing earlier or to delay the launch until there's a large enough stockpile, that might not be compatible with a Holiday Season launch. What's more, it's risky if the product isn't that successful (as you get left with unsold inventory).
Lastly, it's better to err on the side of caution and be sold out, as this can create more demand downstream, by making the product seem more exclusive and in-demand.
Judging anticipated sales volumes for new products is very difficult, esp. when it's in a new, or growing market segment. Probably gadgets suffer worse than most as they're often breaking new ground that has little or no sales history.