ENTRIES TAGGED "B&N"
Bookshout and txtr aim to disrupt the publishing industry
It’s after midnight here in Frankfurt but I’ve got to give a quick shout-out to two of the most innovative announcements at today’s TOC Frankfurt. First up, txtr and their Beagle device. Watching txtr CEO Christophe Maire introduce the Beagle today reminded me of a post I wrote more than two years ago where I suggested that Amazon should offer an extremely inexpensive Kindle with no wifi or 3G and just have it connect to your cellphone to purchase content.
txtr beat them to it with the Beagle. Watch this video and see if you agree that every man, woman, and child should have one of these cute devices. The Beagle isn’t for you or I though. It’s for all those people who have yet to jump onto the ebook bandwagon. But imagine getting one of these free with your next cellphone purchase/contract. You buy ebooks on your phone and move them to your Beagle via Bluetooth. Brilliant!
Then there’s BookShout. I introduced BookShout CEO Jason Illian at TOC today and I told the audience he was about to make a very important announcement. Jason’s company is helping us take the first steps towards tearing down the walled gardens around two of the biggest ebook platforms: Amazon’s Kindle and B&N’s Nook.
As you’ll see in this BookShout press release, you can now import your Kindle and Nook ebook purchases into the BookShout social reader platform. I just moved all my Kindle ebooks into it. What a liberating experience. I was half-tempted to open my hotel window and yell out, “Mr. Bezos, tear down this wall!” 🙂
I’ll write a couple of more in-depth pieces about both txtr and Bookshout before the end of the week. In the meantime, let’s raise a glass and toast the industry innovators and disruptors!
B&N Nook HD tablets launch, with Nook Video on deck; Bjarnason argues against web-based ebook formatting; and taxes won't save journalism.
Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.
B&N pursues the “low-end tablet throne”
Barnes & Noble’s new HD tablet launch was the headline news this week. Reuters reports B&N introduced a 7-inch Nook HD tablet for $199 and a 9-inch Nook HD+ tablet for $269 — a price point B&N CEO William Lynch called a “wow price point.” Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps told Reuters the devices were a big improvement over earlier iterations and that they even “one-up Amazon in some areas.”
Laura Hazard Owen took an in-depth look at the tablets over at GigaOm and outlines a few of the improved areas. First, B&N is looking to improve discoverability with the new devices and bring the tablet shopping experience a bit closer to the in-store experience. Owen reports that readers can browse the store from inside ebooks to discover additional titles by that book’s author and similar titles in the genre. B&N also is launching Nook Channels to help readers discover books that are similar to other books they’ve liked. Owen reports the channels are curated collections of books with 40 to 50 titles — many of which are curated by B&N’s in-store booksellers. There also will be a new “Your Nook Today” button on the Nook home screens, which most notably will provide book recommendations based on the device’s content.
B&N also announced plans to launch a Nook-branded video store this fall, called Nook Video. Lauren Goode at All Things Digital has the need-to-know info on the service. Goode writes that it won’t be video subscription service, but will offer rentals and download purchases for streaming, and all content will be stored in the Nook Cloud. Goode also highlighted an interesting feature regarding owned physical DVDs:
“Nook Video will also create and store digital copies of the DVDs that you normally play on UltraViolet and Blu-ray players. So if you purchase a Blu-ray or UV DVD and sync your console with your Nook Video account, it will create a digital copy in your Nook Cloud. You could then, theoretically, watch it on another gadget, via the Nook app.”
Kind of like iTunes Match for DVDs. Joe Arico at Mobiledia argues that the Nook Video announcement takes the new Nook HD tablets to the next level and fills a crucial gap in the B&N ecosystem, making B&N “much more of a legitimate contender for the mid and low-end tablet throne.”
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.
Every ebook purchased today makes it harder to switch platforms tomorrow
In the age of the e-reader and tablet, every person that purchases an Amazon Kindle, Nexus tablet or iPad should be viewed as a customer Barnes & Noble will likely never get the chance to serve again.
That makes me wonder what goes through a consumer’s mind when they’re deciding which device to buy. I figure they’re mostly focused on brand, price, feature set, and perhaps what their friends and family recommend. But as Arico goes on to say:
Today, when a person decides which e-reader or tablet they’re going to buy, they’re also committing to the online retailer to supply books and other content.
You could argue that Amazon and B&N are making the decision less painful by offering reader apps on all popular platforms (e.g., Mac, Windows, Android, iOS). So the Kindle ebook you buy from Amazon can be read just about any modern device.
But what if Apple decides they’re tired of Amazon customers buying ebooks outside iOS and reading them on an iOS-powered device? Maybe Apple removes the Kindle app from their platform. (It could happen.) Or what if Amazon has a falling out with Google and the Kindle app disappears from all Android devices? You could replace “Amazon” with “B&N” in either of those examples and have the same problem.
Let’s look at this a bit differently: What if B&N comes out with a killer tablet that has all sorts of terrific features not found on any other device? And what if you’ve spent the past 5 years building your Kindle ebook library but the B&N device doesn’t support the Kindle app? Unless you’re prepared to abandon your library you probably won’t purchase and enjoy that new B&N tablet.
This doesn’t seem to be on many people’s radar right now but every ebook purchased today makes it harder for that customer to switch platforms tomorrow. Or, as Arico says later:
A customer who purchases an e-reader is paying for admission into a store they may never leave.
What do you think? Consumers may not have buyer’s remorse today but is this platform lock-in something they’ll eventually regret?
Amazon's launch, Judge Cote's decision and an uninspired B&N add up a one-horse race
Do you suppose that trademark grin on the side of every Amazon box will get a little bigger now, maybe even showing some teeth?
The countdown has begun. Two noteworthy things happened yesterday. First, Amazon introduced a slew of new Kindle devices. Nothing revolutionary but some nice new features nonetheless. Second, and more importantly, Judge Cote approved the ebook settlement. I tend to think Amazon is probably more psyched about the latter than the former. After all, this means they can use their deep pockets to sell ebooks at a loss (OK, make one dollar of profit for each imprint) and drive the competition out of business.
It’s a victory for consumers, or so we’re being told. So what’s B&N, the #2 player, going to do now? Can they really match Amazon on pricing for very long? I don’t see how. And what’s the “why-to-buy” for a Nook anyway? I bought my Nook with GlowLight because I wanted to support the underdog. I’m in the minority though and I’m pretty sure yesterday’s developments will make it even harder for B&N to win over more new ebook/device customers.
Since there’s not a lot of innovation happening with these devices and platforms I figure B&N only has one option left. It’s the step some of us thought Amazon would take yesterday but they didn’t: Take a page out of the cell phone business and offer a low-end device for free that comes with a longer-term revenue commitment.
Remember this old line?: “Nobody ever gets fired for buying IBM.” There’s a similar belief that’s rapidly growing in the consumer space: “Nobody ever regrets buying Amazon/Kindle.” After all, you can get plugged into the $79/year Prime membership program and buy just about anything effortlessly, you get access to all those free ebooks, video, etc. Why wouldn’t someone buy a Kindle device?
The bigger question B&N has to answer is: “Why would someone want to buy a Nook over a Kindle?” If B&N doesn’t act quickly and with a really agressive campaign it’s clear their ebook market share will decline.
What do you think? Is the door rapidly closing on B&N’s opportunity to be a leader in the ebook space?
P.S. — Maybe the ideas I suggested in this earlier post aren’t so crazy after all.
How audiences want to experience stories, B&N's price of admission, and ebook bumping.
Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the publishing space this week.
Audiences want to be part of the story
Martin Bryant at The Next Web took a look this week at the first phase of research company Latitude’s new project, The Future of Storytelling. The group interviewed 158 pioneers in the media space to find out just how audiences want to experience stories in the future. Bryant reports that respondents’ “key demands are summarized in Latitude’s report as ‘The 4 I’s’: Immersion, Interactivity, Integration and Impact.”
Significant data from the study includes consumer desire to have an effect on story direction (think soap operas or serial TV dramas and deciding what happens to a character, for instance); to have stories told on multiple platforms and to cross over platforms; and to actually participate in the story in the real world. One respondent is quoted in the study report (PDF):
*A purely fictional club that exists solely in Joe's imagination
If you saw our earnings announcement yesterday you realize we need to get creative in a hurry. Flat Nook performance in a rapidly growing ebook world just isn’t going to cut it. That’s why we brought our brightest minds together and created the exciting new Nook Membership program.
What's next if device sales from the two market leaders have plateaued?
I was disappointed to read that B&N’s Nook business was basically flat year-over-year. How could that be in such a red hot market? Ebook sales are skyrocketing and everyone seems to be buying new devices.
The more I think about it though the more I realize that B&N’s results are consistent with other data points we’ve seen this year and part of a broader industry trend.
Nook gets webby, Baldur Bjarnason gets angry, and publishing gets surveyed.
Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the publishing space this week.
B&N launches Nook for Web
Just last week, Valobox co-founder Anna Lewis (@anna_cn) wrote a post about the strengths of the web and lamented that ebook publishers have “remained oblivious” to the advantages — her post was part of last week’s Publishing WIR. This week, Barnes & Noble stepped up to the webby plate and announced Nook for Web.
A call for NewCo to expand its focus, ereading data is influencing content, and Hugh McGuire talks ebooks at TEDxMontreal.
B&N plans to open Nook stores worldwide; Joe Wikert says their store focus need a technology turn. Elsewhere, WSJ reporter Alexandra Alter looks at data generated by ereading, and Hugh McGuire argues ebooks belong on the web at TEDxMontreal.