ENTRIES TAGGED "barnes & noble"

Publishing News: Democratized publishing and the digital divide

Nook Press launches, self-publishing raises digital have-not concerns, ebook subscription tests continue, and BitTorrent wants more books.

Will rise in self-publishing leave world’s digital have-nots behind?

Barnes & Noble announced this week it has upgraded and rebranded its PubIt! self-publishing platform and is launching Nook Press to better compete against platforms such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Laura Hazard Owen noted at PaidContent that the major feature update is the web-based authoring tool the company developed in partnership with FastPencil that allows authors to write, format, edit, and preview ebooks in a browser.

“What we are trying to do here is make self-publishing simple,” Theresa Horner, Nook Media’s VP of digital content, told Owen. “You can come to the product, write, edit and publish into EPUB without ever knowing any bit of technology.”

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What if the Game of Thrones characters were book publishers?

Similarities between the HBO series and our industry are remarkable

There’s no question that the publishing industry is going through a lot of changes. It’s the last industry to go digital, and as a result going through the fastest disruption. Watching the Game of Thrones is like watching a war between traditional publishing houses, startups, tech giants, indie publishers, and other players in the industry.

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Current state of formats and platforms

A free SPI Global whitepaper summarizing industry trends

SPi GlobalRemember the old days when PDF was pretty much the only way to distribute content and those PDFs were read on computer screens? PDF still lives, of course, but now we’re also faced with offering content in mobi and EPUB formats for consumption on a variety of platforms and devices.

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Goodreads + Amazon: Winners and losers

Tremendous potential, but will Amazon take full advantage of it?

I decided to wait a few days before writing about Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads. I wanted to let the dust settle before weighing in with my own opinion. Now that I’ve had some time to mull it over, here’s what I think: This has the potential to be a game-changer that could be the next, and possibly final, nail in the coffins of other ebook retailers…but only if Amazon actually does something with the Goodreads platform.

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Reverse showrooming

Improving the B&N shopping experience with...the Amazon mobile app

This past weekend a friend asked me to pick up a couple of books for them. Print books, btw, and they needed them later that day. That meant it was time to head to a local bookstore, something I’m doing less and less of these days.

B&N was the closest and when I walked in I immediately realized why online shopping sometimes offers such a better experience than in-person. My local B&N moved all their categories around from the last time I was there and I must have circled the entire store three or four times just to find the two books I needed.

Then there’s the reviews and top-seller lists I’m so used to seeing online. They don’t exist in the brick-and-mortar world, so I decided it was time to do some reverse showrooming.

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Why B&N should abandon hardware

They should focus instead on reader experience and new content sales models

The ebook retailing business consists of three elements: hardware, content, and selling model. Dedicated e-readers (think eInk devices) are losing momentum to tablets. Content is mostly quick-and-dirty print-to-e conversions, or “paper under glass”, if you will. The typical selling model is to buy one ebook at a time. Pretty simple. And not a whole lot of innovation happening in any of the three areas by the major players.

Recently there’s been speculation that B&N is about to ditch the hardware part of their Nook business and focus instead on content and licensing. If true, that’s probably the wisest thing I’ve heard from Riggio & Co. in a long time. Hardware has been, and will increasingly become more of, a fool’s game for B&N.

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TOC’s Global Ebook Market report

The only resource you need for current conditions & future projections

One year ago we published the first edition of our Global Ebook Market report. We focused on the major English language territories but also featured coverage of several other popular languages as well.

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B&N sorely needs to make a mark

The Nook price reduction may not be too late, but it's most certainly too little.

Ahead of its 7-inch Nook HD and 9-inch HD+ release this week, B&N has reduced the price of its Nook Color and Nook tablets. The Nook Color dropped $10 to $139, and the tablets dropped $20 to $179 for the 16GB model and $159 for the 8GB model. The price reduction might make a tiny wave for advertising purposes for a few days, and it brings the Nook pricing more in line with Kindle pricing Amazon already had, but $10-$20 is hardly going to leave a mark on the tablet market — and B&N sorely needs to make a mark at this point.

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Wikipedia’s EPUB export feature

This DIY ebook construction tool could have much broader potential

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I recently watched a couple of episodes of The Men Who Built America on The History Channel. Although I learned a lot about John D. Rockefeller, for example, I wanted more. I thought about looking for a good ebook about Rockefeller but decided instead to head over to the Wikipedia.

Like most historical icons, Rockefeller’s Wikipedia page is fairly extensive. It offered more than I was able to read at that moment and there were other people in the series I wanted information on as well. That’s where the Wikipedia’s EPUB export feature came into play. If you haven’t heard about this it’s probably because it didn’t generate a lot of buzz when it launched a couple of months ago. I think it’s one of the most under-appreciated features of the Wikipedia and offers plenty of lessons for all content producers and distributors.

In a few very simple steps I was able to quickly and easily create my own EPUB file featuring bios of John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Thomas A. Scott. You can download my custom ebook here. I copied it over to my Nook and have been reading pieces of it each evening as time permits.

It’s one thing for someone to go in and create their own custom Wikipedia ebooks but what I don’t see through this service is a way to share your creation with others. The Wikipedia should offer a site where users can discover and download other custom ebooks created by others who have similar interests. Think of it as a Wikipedia playlist.

When will the book publishing industry offer something like this? You could argue we already have it with a service like Valobox.  Their pay-as-you-go model is terrific but (a) not many publishers have warmed up to it yet and (b) the content isn’t 100% freely available before you buy. With the Wikipedia model I can read as much as I want online before I ever bother splicing together a custom ebook. It’s still free to download, of course, but what if the Wikipedia introduced a modest fee for downloads (99 cents)? Or, what if they inserted ads in those downloads and monetized the content that way? Why couldn’t a traditional publisher do the same?

A platform where your content is totally free to access online and includes a self-service option to create your own customizable, portable version doesn’t seem like a viable model today. Then again, streaming music subscription models didn’t seem viable a few years ago but look at how popular they’re becoming.

Here’s a thought: B&N should create that Wikipedia playlist idea I mentioned earlier. They could offer all those custom ebooks, just like my Rockefeller/Carnegie/Scott one, to their customers. Creators could set a price for their ebooks but free is a better option. B&N uses the EPUB format so the output would flow nicely into the Nook ecosystem. It would also be a great way for B&N to get some lift from Wikipedia’s traffic, especially if a “send to B&N” button could be added to the EPUB creation process.

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Signs of life at Barnes & Noble

They're not about to knock off Amazon but their latest innovations are a pleasant surprise

I tend to be pretty open with my criticism when I feel an organization is doing something wrong. That’s why I feel compelled to also speak up and give credit when credit is due. In this case, I’d like to applaud some recent announcements by Barnes & Noble.

Taking on the discoverability problem

This recent article from Laura Hazard Owen highlights B&N’s news and the most important point can be summarized in one word: discoverability. B&N has always had the benefit of a brick-and-mortar presence and that presence brings with it years of knowledge about the art of discoverability, at least in the physical world. Now B&N needs to apply that knowledge to the online world.

Most importantly though, I’m thrilled that B&N is acting like a leader here and not simply following Amazon on the critical issue of discoverability.

I absolutely love B&N’s new Instant Collections feature (also referred to as Nook Channels). Yes, every ebook retailer has offered cross-sell recommendations from day one but they always feel very automated to me. B&N’s Instant Collections has more of a hand-curated feel to it. I was just looking over the History by Plot collection and I know I’m going to buy a few of those now. That’s rare for me as I don’t generally open my wallet for new ebooks without a recommendation from someone I know.

Shop from within the book — what a concept

Then there’s this comment from Theresa Horner, B&N’s VP of digital content:

We’re trying to integrate that shopping experience from right inside the book. We don’t require somebody to go to the shop.

Doesn’t that seem like something that should have been in every ebook reader app from day one? It’s so obvious but nobody had implemented it till now. Btw, when I tweeted this yesterday someone replied saying they don’t want to be bothered with ads and nags to buy from within the book. I’ve got to believe that’s not how B&N plans to implement this. If they’re smart they’ll make it unobtrusive yet easily accessible from within the book. Very smart.

If B&N has the benefit of discovery experience from their physical bookstores you have to say that one of Amazon’s advantages is their breadth of products. Books are where Amazon started but they’re only part of a much larger store now. B&N, on the other hand, pretty much lives and dies by the book industry. That’s why the decision to add “about 100 catalogs from such retailers as L.L. Bean and Pottery Barn for free browsing” is such an interesting development. B&N isn’t suddenly going to expand their online catalog to match Amazon’s so why not partner with some of the biggest names in non-book retailing and add their products to the Nook ecosystem? I’m assuming B&N receives a portion of any sales generated by L.L. Bean, Pottery Barn, etc., through this program, btw.

Making recommendations personal

The “Your Nook Today” functionality is also long overdue. I don’t need yet another screen telling me the current weather but I would definitely welcome product recommendations based on the content that’s on my device. Prior to buying a Nook with GlowLight I had a Kindle Touch with Special Offers. Those “special offers” were random, paid ads that had nothing to do with my interests. Since I never clicked through any of the offers I often wondered how much advertising money was wasted on them. Don’t just stop there though, B&N…feel free to steal any of these ideas I suggested earlier.

I’m pretty happy with my Asus Transformer Prime but if B&N keeps innovating like this they might get me to buy one of their tablets. Better yet, maybe they’ll just add this functionality into their Nook app so everyone can enjoy it.

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