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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