This article partners with my previous posting on Amazon Select.
Once upon a time, there were no e-readers.
As a child and later teenager, Borders was always my favorite book store. I’ll admit that I cried a little when they went out of business. Granted the writing had been on the wall for a while. Borders was slow to enter the e-reader market, had over saturated the country with more stores than were practical (I mean, there were at least six in my county alone!) and simply failed to embrace the digital era as fast as it’s competitors. So I was forced to find another favorite book store to take the place that Borders had in my heart.
Enter Barnes and Noble. Although for years I had only traveled to their store to use gift cards (and a rewards program I had to pay for? Please, I was broke!), I found myself willingly visiting their stores more and more often. They were also the only book store in town. With B&N’s willingness to innovate and it’s prime position as largest US bookseller, one would think that victory was almost assured.
Wrong. Amazon’s Kindle has dominated the market, with Apple’s iPad tussling with the more limited Nook eReaders. This last year, B&N reported an 11% drop in it’s Nook revenue – both from the sale of tablets and the sales of books. Why is this happening? Costs, costs, and costs. With brick and mortar stores, B&N has a necessarily larger bottom line that it must maintain. Second, it’s tablets lag behind the Kindle Fire or Apple’s iPad in performance and flexibility. While Nook Color does has similar capabilities, and has received excellent reviews, it’s sister tablets have given B&N a hefty amount of trouble. Oh, and remember that price-fixing case that the Justice Department got involved in? Yea, good old B&N was involved in that too.
So how does this impact you, the ebook writer/reader?
1.) As a writer, my sales on B&N website have been… well, flat. I mean, hovering around zero. I’ve sold maybe two dozen books there in about four months of selling. I’m sold that many on Amazon in a weekend. Is it worth it to keep open that possible purchasing stream? Or does it make more sense to go with KDP Select? (I’m just happy I’ve got a few good reviews on there, so at least my novel looks good!)
2.) As a reader, I was tempted to purchase a nook, especially because you can get books from the library as rentals on them (Pretty cool!), but in the end I got an iPad because I wanted more versatility. If I had known more about nook’s similarities, I would have considered it as well. But it just isn’t out there!
3.) As both, I wonder what would happen if Amazon came to truly dominate, rather than just overpower, it’s rivals? Would we see increased prices with dominance, coupled with reduced royalty rates? Would federal regulators step in to stop one company from controlling the majority of sales of the written word in the US?
Last, there is some good news for Nook. Microsoft just pumped a hefty chunk of change into it’s operation, for minority rights and the creation of a new operating system for nook tablets in college bookstores. Also, their expansion into the U.K. market will hopefully bring them some much needed new customers. One hopes that this will eventually expand to more European markets as well. Personally, I think B&N would be best served by trying to enter China BEFORE Amazon can get Kindle there. I mean, only a few hundred million people would be interested.
Will this be enough for Nook to hold off the heavyweights? Time will tell, but personally, I’m not betting on them yet.