ENTRIES TAGGED "discovery"
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.
Why don't our own websites enjoy the same content access we offer Google and Amazon?
As my O’Reilly colleague Allen Noren recently reminded me, online discovery pretty much begins and ends with search engines. Look at the analytics of any website and you’ll find the inbound traffic largely comes from Google. So what are we doing as publishers to take better advantage of that fact? What do we expose to those search engines to ensure more of the results displayed point to our websites?
Today’s search engine access is generally limited to our metadata, not full book content. As a result, books are at a disadvantage to most other forms of content online (e.g., articles, blog posts, etc.)
Here’s the big question: At what point do we expose the book’s entire contents to all the search engines? As Allen pointed out, we give all our content to Google Book Search and Amazon but that introduces middlemen. The publisher’s website doesn’t benefit from those programs. So why do we offer this privilege to Amazon and Google but our own websites don’t get the same benefit?
You might point out that Google and Amazon are able to limit reader access to that content. Even though we’ve given them the entire book they don’t let someone read it from cover to cover for free; access is limited to a certain percentage of the total work. Fair enough, but look at this bold example by Craig Mod. Keep in mind that Craig’s goal isn’t to simply let everyone read his book for free. As he puts it:
I also believe that we will sell more digital and physical copies of Art Space Tokyo by having all of the content available online. The number of inbound links to the site should increase exponentially. read.artspacetokyo.com is one of the largest collections of publicly available text about the Tokyo art world online. Organic search traffic should increase accordingly, and by having upsells on every page, the conversion to paid users should follow suit.
Craig goes on to say he’ll report the results at some point. I can’t wait. Even if his experiment doesn’t lead to a large number of paying customers there will undoubtedly be many lessons to learn from it.
Old ebooks and clever thinking can create new opportunities for publishers.
I’ve got quite a few ebooks in two different accounts that I’ve read and will never read again. I’ll bet you do, too. In the print world, we’d pass those along to friends, resell them or donate them to the local library. Good luck doing any of those things with an ebook.
Once you buy an ebook, you’re pretty much stuck with it. That’s yet another reason why consumers want low ebook prices. Ebooks are lacking some of the basic features of a print book, so of course they should be lower-priced. I realize that’s not the only reason consumers want low ebook prices, but it’s definitely a contributing factor. I’d be willing to pay more for an ebook if I knew I could pass it along to someone else when I’m finished with it.
The fourth in a series looking at the major themes of this year's TOC conference.
Several overriding themes permeated this year's Tools of Change for Publishing conference. The fourth in a series looking at five of the major themes, here we take a look at discovery in publishing.
An index in an ebook offers a level of discovery search can't touch.
Why should digital publishers invest in index creation? Because ebooks that give readers efficient ways to access what they need are ebooks that will sell.