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Tag: Barnes & Noble (Page 1 of 2)

Nexus 7 First Impressions

My Nexus 7 arrived yesterday and after a night setting up and playing with it, here are some first impressions of Google’s 7 inch tablet. First off, it feels pretty good in my hands. It’s solid, but doesn’t have the dense heavy feel that my wife’s Nook Color has. And its compact size is perfect for the use I have in mind for it. I decided to get a Nexus 7 as a replacement for my eInk Kindle and Nook readers. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my eReaders, but they aren’t that useful for me on the road where they often cannot take advantage of the nearly ubiquitous free Wi-Fi at shops and cafes. My new Nexus should have no problems with wireless connections anywhere I shop or eat lunch. Additionally, I’ll be able to read my eBooks, comics, and digital manga on it regardless of whether I bought it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I could do this with my iPad too, but it is simply too big for my daily load out.

So how does the Nexus 7 compare to my iPad? In a word, it’s okay. A frequent iPad user will immediately notice the lack of finger tip real estate the 7 inch form factor brings and typing on the smaller screen is a bit of a pain. I didn’t realize just how much I depended on having the keys on the onscreen keyboard jump up at me as I typed. So it’s taken a bit of getting used to. An iPad user will also have to get used to the Android way of doing things. Apple’s lawsuits not withstanding, Android and iOS offer significantly different user experiences. Which you prefer is a matter of personal taste as either will get you where you want to go.

Another thing I noticed was that the Nexus seems a hair slower than my iPad. The interface responds fast enough, but I felt a little sluggishness using the apps. Now in fairness, this is just a first impression and I had a lot of stuff open as the night went on. That said, I like my Nexus. I spent a lot of time in the reader apps from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Viz. From text to manga, it was a pleasure using the Nexus 7 to read my books and comics. This is why I bought the Nexus, to have all of my books, manuals, and graphic novels in one convenient, network connected, and portable package. Plus, I now have my own Android reference hardware for my Android development projects. Amazon and Barnes & Noble make some nice 7 inch tablets too, but the one from Google is pure Android, which is what I want for development.

So on the whole, I’m liking my Nexus 7. It’s not an iPad, but I don’t need it to be.

And The eBook Prices Came A Tumbling Down

money going up in smokeWhen I started looking for some new iOS programming books for my Kindle last week, it wasn’t something I was looking forward to. The last time I had engaged in such a search, I was frustrated by the high cost of these books even in digital format. This time I was in for a surprise. Lower prices!

In the aftermath of the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) settlement between three of the major eBook publishers and retailers, I had expected that eventually eBook prices would come down. But I wasn’t expecting it to happen so fast. Nevertheless, Ars reports that eBook prices are already falling. As part of the DoJ settlement, publishers HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster, agreed to abandon the agency model in which eBook prices were set by the publisher, giving that power back to the retailer.

While Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Google Books have already started selling some eBooks below list price, no such luck at the Apple iBookstore yet. Apple is among the holdouts, publishers Macmillan and Penguin, determined to meet the DoJ charges in court next year. I can only hope that they will come to their senses and realize that lower eBook prices for the consumer can only grow the market for eBooks and other digital goods. While it means the inevitable decline of the hardcover printed book, major publishers still have back catalogs of thousands upon thousands of books waiting to find new readers and new life as eBooks.

Is the Sun Setting On the Nook?

NooksetAgainst the backdrop of Amazon Kindle Fire sales that may have exceeded 5 million units last quarter, Barnes & Noble made statements last week that implied they were seeking to spinoff the Nook division. All said, Barnes & Noble may not have the resources needed to grow the Nook business into a profitable competitor to the Kindle.

Ironically, many credit the Nook and eBook sales with helping Barnes & Noble avoid the fate that befell long time competitor Borders last year. It’s hard to see exactly how they would benefit from spinning off the Nook. It’s believed that both Amazon and Barnes & Noble sell their eReaders at a loss, intending to make up for that by profits on the content sold through that hardware. It makes sense that Barnes & Noble would want to escape the loss making part of the equation, but what partner would want to pick that up?

Much of the popularity of the Kindle Fire has been ascribed to its $199 price point. This low entry price is credited with a small decline in iPad sales in December. And it seems likely that despite some quality and usability issues, the Fire will take the number 2 tablet position behind the iPad. Again, one of the reasons Amazon can do this is that their profit comes from content sales on the Fire. A hardware only tablet maker has to make a profit on the hardware itself, which may not be possible at a $199 price point, or even the $249 of the Nook Tablet. If that is true, then Barnes & Noble will have a hard time finding a partner with the deep pockets needed to take that kind of risk.

Then what is the point of the announcement? Is this some tasty bait being dangled before the likes of Google perhaps? While Google already has an eReader tablet, it has not been a great success, nor has their eBooks store relative to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The Nook Tablet is powered by Google’s Android operating system, and is arguably one of the best Android tablets on the market. A Google Barnes & Noble partnership could be profitable for both and give publishers a viable counter balance against Amazon. Still, it’s hard to see this happening. And in the absence of additional resources, the sun may be setting on the Nook far too soon.

Runners in Different Races: Amazon Fire vs iPad

As expected, Black Friday sales of the Kindle Fire were very good and some analyst project that Amazon will sell 4 to 5 million Fire tablets before the end of the year. While there have been some indications that sales have cooled a bit, right now there’s no reason to believe that the Fire is going away any time soon.

The thing I find most interesting about the news I see is the continuing comparison to the iPad. Many stories cast the Kindle Fire as a potential “iPad killer” when clearly the hardware and software indicate a different target. Amazon’s new tablet is first and foremost, a Kindle. It’s an eReader first and was probably initially intended to be a response to the Nook Color than the iPad. As I’ve ranted here before, the Kindle Fire was made for book lovers making the initial move into digital. The Fire and iPad are horses running different races. If anything, over the long term, the lower spec’d Fire is more likely to drive iPad sales as many Fire users get hooked on digital media and seek out a more capable tablet still compatible with most of the media they’ve already bought.

It’s too early to tell if the Fire has made a significant dent in iPad sales, but it does look like it has claimed at least one victim as Dell has recently dropped its own 7 inch tablet. Dell has always been pretty quick to drop products that have no long term profit potential, so this move speaks volumes. As for the Nook, Barnes & Noble has been claiming good sales and a doubling of its Nook business since last year. We won’t really know if the Nook tablet has gained any traction until Barnes & Noble’s next quarterly report.

Competition is generally a good thing for the consumer, so I hope the Nook tablet won’t fall victim to the Fire too soon. However, the days of other 7 inch tablets that lack strong ties to eBook and media stores may be numbered.

New Nook Tablet Plays With Fire At High Price

Barnes & Noble unveiled their new Nook Tablet today, boasting higher specs than Amazon’s Kindle Fire in nearly every measure, including price. The new Nook weighs in at $249 versus $199 for Amazon’s tablet. Barnes & Noble also announced immediate price cuts of the current Nook Color to $199 and the Nook Simple Touch to $99.


Sometimes Less Is More

Clearly, these moves are in response to Amazon which makes the higher price of the new Nook rather puzzling. Even more puzzling given that anyone who’s been watching the iPad vs. everyone else tablet wars has already seen this movie played out before. Barnes & Noble calls the new Nook a better value than the Kindle Fire because it has a faster CPU, more system memory and data storage. And they’re right, in a rationale world, the higher spec’d, better performing tablet should command a higher price. Consumers should flock to it, right?

But isn’t that what a number of tablet makers claimed when they went into battle against Apple’s iPad? They offered tablets with more features, raw processor speed , and memory than the iPad. And some of them could play Flash videos and games too which the iPad still cannot do. This greater performance came at a greater price than the base iPad which was entirely reasonable being a better value. But in the end, most of these tablets were utter market disasters. Even the most successful of them have scarcely made a dent in the market share of Apple’s iPad.

Consumers are looking for value, but that doesn’t always correspond to the better hardware. Amazon has an enormous media and online retail data infrastructure to plug the Kindle Fire into. This is entirely analogous to the integrated ecosystem that Apple has built around iOS devices. When you buy an iPad, buying movies, music, and apps is drop dead easy. If Amazon produces a similar user experience with the Fire, the higher spec’d Nook won’t even get a chance to play. Sometimes less is more.

It is good that Barnes & Noble seems to have gained an ally in Netflix, but launching a new tablet at $50 more than the latest from the Amazon juggernaut could be a fatal mistake. Techies love the faster hardware, but they are not the market that is at stake here, nor are the people happily using iPads and other full function tablets. The real market consists of that larger, aging population of people who are increasingly annoyed that so many physical bookstores are disappearing.

These book lovers are being forced by necessity into buying their first eReaders. Little do they know just how quickly they’ll be hooked on eBooks. Once that happens, they’ll be well primed to buy other digital content. This crowd is not going to go for the tablet that costs $50 more than the one from the company that they’ve probably ordered books from in the past. I mean, really, who hasn’t bought something from Amazon in the last 10 years?

I think, B&N can build some advantages with their physical stores and the ability to not only showcase the Nook, but also popular and up and coming authors. But they’ve seriously got to lose the $50 premium. Price matching the Fire with the slower, older Nook Color is not going to cut it either. I think this fall is setting the stage for whether the last major U.S. bookstore chain survives or closes the book on the era of popular printed literature.

Amazon Lights Kindle Fire, Nook Color May Get Burned

Amazon Kindle FireIn probably one of the worst kept secrets in tech history, Amazon unveiled its much anticipated new color Kindle today, the Kindle Fire. In addition to the Fire, Amazon is releasing 3 new eInk Kindles, a $79 non-touch model and two touch screen Kindles. One with WiFi and the other 3G.

While this Bloomberg report describes the Kindle Fire as a tablet computer, and much has been made of it being an “iPad killer”, I think Barnes & Noble has more to be concerned about than Apple. At $199, it’s $50 less than the Nook Color and its lack of a camera and microphone is more evidence that the Kindle Fire is more of a response to competitor B & N in filling a hole in the the Kindle lineup from which the Nook Color had garnered some success.

Amazon has an extensive Kindle Fire page that reveals a powerful color eReader prepared to take back any ground lost to the Nook Color in children’s books, magazines, or games like Angry Birds. Like Kindles before it, the Kindle Fire is clearly designed to sell Amazon books and content, including movies and TV shows.

I suspect that Amazon has discovered that iPad folks and Kindle folks are two different markets. They overlap a bit, but not enough to make the Kindle Fire a more general purpose tablet like the iPad. And Amazon’s well developed information infrastructure, which will leveraged in the Fire’s Silk browser, will more than deliver on the promises they’re making content wise. The Kindle Fire is a nuclear powered reader’s tablet. The iPad will feel the heat, but the Nook Color will be the one getting burned in all likelihood.

Of course the game is not over yet. Barnes & Noble is expected to be announcing the next Nooks soon. And I would be surprised if the Nook Color doesn’t see a price drop ahead of the Kindle Fire’s November availability date. So stay tuned!

More info:

A New Challenger Has Appeared: Google’s eBook Reader Now On Sale

Google is now selling its iRiver Story HD eBook reader exclusively at Target in the U.S.. We speculated here back in January that a Google branded eBook reader may be in the works and now that that shoe has dropped, what does this mean to the larger tablet vs eReader battle that is shaping up in the marketplace?

Well first of all, it may mean that Barnes & Noble, makers of the Nook eBook reader are none too happy to have Google as yet another competitor in its pitched battle with the Amazon’s Kindle. Indeed, I wonder if this is why Barnes & Noble is no longer an advertiser on Google’s Affiliate Network. They’ve moved to Linkshare, which I should note means I have to update the Nook ads on this web site!

Google iRiver Story HD eReaderThe reader itself has so far garnered only mixed reviews. The design is clearly inspired by the Kindle, and in a market that is moving to touchscreen eReaders as witnessed by the recent Nook and Kobo offerings, seems a little dated. But as I previously argued, I don’t think Google is trying to capture the eReader market and their survival, unlike Barnes & Noble, doesn’t depend on that. Like the Nexus smartphones, the iRiver Story HD is probably a hardware reference platform intended to encourage other players to enter the market.

If Google follows form, they’ll probably freely or cheaply license the underlying iRiver Story tech to 3rd parties who want to jump into the eReader market. It seems pretty clear by now that Google wants to be a part of any device that can access the net and consume digital product. Amazon is already giving readers a big price break on Kindles if they are willing to have ads display on the device’s screen saver. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see this on the Google eReader at some point in the future. If 3rd parties in Google’s eReader ecosystem follow suit, then Google wins big time, much as they are with the proliferation of Android based tablets and smartphones.

In the end, I doubt Amazon or Barnes & Noble have much to fear from Google itself. However the legions of eReader competitors Google may give rise to are another matter entirely.

Borders Sale Seen As More Likely

Publishers Weekly has reported that the likely sale of ailing bookstore chain Borders in part or whole may be one outcome of recent actions. The bankrupt company has sought court permission to sell some assets that do not have any current lien against them.

I suppose it’s a good thing that I used up my remaining Borders Bucks this morning. Given that rival Barnes & Noble has shown little public interest in acquiring Borders intact or any of its assets, I think any buyout of Borders will be quickly followed by a total liquidation.

The book business has changed. While Barnes & Noble is in better shape, recent actions intended to reduce its interest payments speak to a continuing struggle to stay afloat. It’s hard to say whether B&N would benefit from the loss of Borders, or if Amazon has already done so.

The end of Borders will accelerate the push towards eBooks because of the very real problem of finding a new book bookstore nearby. Faced with the option of waiting several days for a book to come in the mail, or downloading the same book for a few bucks less instantly, many will opt for the eBook.

eBook readers are rapidly moving into sub-$100 range and free eReader software is ubiquitous. Faced with fewer locations to sell physical books, publishers are being forced to sell more eBooks to survive. In particular, I’m sure that they are working very hard to make as much of their back catalogs available in eBook format as possible. They’d better be quick about it too, or someone else will!

With or without Borders, bookstores will survive. But the age of the large bookstore chain seems to be coming to an end. Many of us are going to need some new places to hang out.

Kindle eBooks Coming To Your Library: Cha Ching!

Soon it will be possible for Kindle readers to check out Amazon Kindle eBooks from their local libraries. eBook lending from public libraries in the U.S. has been around for a few years now, but not in the Kindle format which effectively left most Kindle readers out in the cold.

This is certainly great news for Kindle eBook readers, but I think the timing of this action is the real story here. Recently, publisher Harper Collins sent chills to libraries everywhere by declaring an absolute limit of 26 loans on any of its eBooks in a library’s collection. And much has been made of the maintenance of artificial scarcity of digital goods like eBooks. eBooks don’t wear out, and an unlimited number of copies can be made at virtually no additional cost. So why limit the number that a library can loan out, much less impose some limit on the total number of times a copy may be loaned?

Obviously Harper Collins and other publishers don’t want library eBook loans to kill eBook sales, or print book sales for that matter. And I think there is some validity to that. I have no problem with a library having a limited number of licenses for a given title. But this “wear out” factor Harper is trying to introduce is just stupid. Those eBook loans are more likely than not, going to drive sales, not kill them. Libraries are great advertising, and unlike a bookstore, even obscure titles get shelf space, indefinitely! Libraries help sell the back catalog in physical space.

So what does the entry of Amazon into the fray say? It says that Amazon sees a money making opportunity. During my recent visit to the Myopic Bookstore in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, I saw a puzzling sign in the store. It said that the use of barcode scanners was prohibited. I’d never seen any signs like that before. Later I thought about it and figured that maybe it was to keep competitors from inventorying their stock. But it also occurred to me that perhaps some people were coming into the store using it to browse books that they would later look up and buy on Amazon. There are plenty of smartphone apps to facilitate that kind of activity.

While Kindle readers certainly don’t need to go to libraries to buy or borrow books, it would not surprise me if Amazon’s data shows that a lot of them do. It is also very likely that the libraries that will loan Kindle books, will also have physical copies to browse and loan as well. I suspect that it is much easier to make a sale when a reader has had time to really get to know a book in person. Up until now, Barnes & Noble, and Borders with their free Wi-Fi have probably helped drive Kindle book sales via this access to physical books. If this is true, then Amazon has no doubt seen a slight decline in sales consistent with the declining number of bookstores.

Amazon’s entry into the library then makes good business sense. It’s entry may also send a pause to Harper Collins and other publishers. The Kindle has lost some market share to Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and the Apple iPad, but Amazon still maintains a lot of leverage on publishers. Publishers that won’t play ball with library loans, may find it a lot harder to sell titles to Kindle readers. The large bookstore chains are not coming back. Publisher fortunes will soon rest largely on digital sales. Right now Amazon is to eBook sales what Apple has been to digital music. Until publishers come up with similarly popular distribution channels, the road to eBook sales will continue to pass through Amazon.

That said, Amazon’s endorsement and support of library eBook lending will reap benefits for all readers of eBooks who want to borrow them from public libraries.

Barnes & Noble’s Conquest of Space

The growing popularity of eBooks, the success of online bookseller Amazon, and the implosion of Borders would seem to argue that large bookstores are more liability than asset. But Barnes & Noble is seeking to refute that logic by hosting in-store events to promote PubIt authors. PubIt is the eBook self-publishing platform Barnes & Noble launched back in October of last year. Michael at Good eReader writes,

Barnes and Noble is taking advantage of their tangible retail spaces and large book stores, that are a great place to showcase their own authors and build their brand internally. Meanwhile Amazon has a virtual website only and cannot put its own authors in the forefront, while their Digital Text Platform continues to be THE most popular self authoring program on the internet.

Marketing eBooks has been a concern of mine from the very beginning of the Learncrest venture. The online avenues are apparent and easily available, but how does an eBook author cross over into 3D space to promote his/her digital works? Now it looks like B & N is providing just that bridge and going somewhere that Amazon cannot easily follow.

In another current promotion, Barnes & Noble is offering a free cup of coffee to anyone who comes into their stores and tries out a Nook Color eBook reader. Again, this isn’t something Amazon could easily match to promote the Kindle. But I think it may also reveal that B & N’s underlying strategy is not very different from that of a movie cineplex. As high as movie ticket prices may be, that’s not really where a cinema makes its money. Movie theatres make most of their money from concessions sales. The profit margins on soda and popcorn are very high, and I suspect that the same can be said for the sales of eBooks relative to paper ones.

People spend a lot of time on the internet, but we are still physical beings living in 3D space. Free Wi-Fi and in-store promotions that encourage customers to bring their Nooks to the store with them, coupled with events to promote eBook authors is a powerful one two punch to promote your most profitable products. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt to have good old fashioned books on the shelves to be purchased in either physical or digital form.

How well this strategy plays out against Amazon remains to be seen. But with Barnes & Noble’s eBook market share having risen to 25% and strong sales of the Nook Color, they must be doing something right.

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