As new customers hoping to order a Barnes & Noble "Nook" ebook reader are greeted with the news that the next available stock is not due until February 2010, the sought after device is seeing eBay sales success for those that did pre-order early.

The online auction site has seen sales of the Nook hit as high at $749 from sellers that can ship the device in time for Christmas. To put this in perspective, the price of the device brand new from Barnes & Noble is $259.

The $749 (plus $30 shipping!) sale was a buy-it-now purchase, as was a $699 sale, while recent auction sales have hit $650, $558 and $550 as a best offer bid in early December managed the $589 mark.

The Nook's popularity appears to have caught Barnes & Noble, who could be making a fortune in pre-Christmas sales, unawares. "Demand for the product in our stores and online has surpassed our expectations", the retailer told the WSJ back in November.

As well as a black and white E-Ink display, the Nook offers a 3.5-inch colour screen (which differentiates it from the rival Kindle range from Amazon), Wi-Fi, 3G connectivity and a microSD card slot.