What To Do About Nook?

Still my favorite Barnes and Noble store

OK, I’ve been seeing this article about nook everywhere on social media today and I wanted to address it quickly. Plus, Hank Garner asked for my opinion and I don’t like to let Hank down.


The Big Controversy

If you haven’t seen the article, you can do so here. It has the “not alarming at all” title of B&N nukes the NOOK with a 15 March deadline for customers to save content.

This is an extremely alarmist article title that isn’t accurate. Nook is shutting down their ridiculous app store (like for apps, not books), that was in place long before their deal with Google Play, in place since last year. Every app you can get on nook is also on Google Play, which they now have on their tablets (both old ones and the current Samsung partnership ones).

This “backup your stuff” cry is in regards to that and, honestly, I’m not sure what you would back up aside from a few standalone nook only apps that were most likely early pre-Comixology comic book apps.

Regarding their ebooks, they are committed to continuing ebooks, as, let’s face it, they have little choice in the matter. It’s just part of the industry now. They are looking to streamline costs, which will most likely include going down to a single version of their e-reader at a moderate price, instead of the multiple versions they are supporting now — but, that’s just a guess. They are probably also looking to outsource/third-party nook accessories, much like Apple does with iStuff accessories and cases.


How’s B&N Really Doing?

The real story is that B&N is doing better than many expected, with real improvements over last quarter and year-for-year. Also, surprisingly, their “other retail” items — toys, etc — are doing better than expected as well. So, B&N isn’t going anywhere. And, to be honest, I have a feeling that the increase in trade pub digital pricing may have something to do with that, because it makes paper copies more appealing.

Yes, they are looking to cut back overseas, so there is that. Nook users in Britain are going to kinda lose out, and that is unfortunate. I guess things just aren’t going as well in the overseas market and they are retreating. I think that is a mistake, but I don’t see their finances so who am I to judge? And, to keep from being more alarmist, no one in the UK will lose their books, they’ll be accessible through another vendor (Sainsbury).

The real issue here, for me, is to wonder why authors aren’t rallying around nook right now — and in a big way. Because, and let’s be plain, nook is the only real competition to Amazon/Kindle. And if nook goes down, Kindle will have free reign.


Preventing the Kindle Monopoly is Important

If you think the Kindle store will continue to have such author-beneficial policies once competition is removed, you’re kidding yourself. KU will look a lot more like Spotify, with authors losing royalties. And, I’ll bet other fees and pricing will change as well. Why would Amazon continue to operate on the fringe if there is no competition?

I, personally, think that every author should seriously reconsider where they sell their books. They should be on as many stores as possible, and authors should be extremely tactical when taking advantage of special programs (like KU or Nook Serial Reads).

We used to fight hard to get our books into every store, why are we now so eager to go exclusive? #selfpub #writers Click To Tweet

Also, I think that authors need to REALLY REALLY REALLY focus on selling their books and proving their value, instead of relying on 99 cent pricing, free, or KU — all programs designed to essentially devalue your book and prevent you from earning out.

Bottom line: Competition among retailers is good for authors. It costs you pretty much nothing to list books on platforms across the board (Draft2Digital anyone?), and it’s a good thing to make sure anyone who wants your book can get your book however they want it.


More is Ultimately Better

We used to fight hard to get our books into as many stores as possible — now, we seem to be falling over ourselves to give exclusivity to one store. To put it another way: Authors have power through retailer competition and they give that power away by going exclusive to a single retailer.

One of the big arguments to self publishing was control. “I own the eggs and I can move them to another basket at any time.” Can you? Really? Where will you go besides Kindle? If other retailers are available, the system keeps itself in check. If there is only one retailer, it will not.

Hugh Howey used to champion hard for having books in every store — then he changed his mind and went exclusive. He said it was for better sales and revenue via lending and KU, and for him that is probably true. But, is that a smart long term play? And, also remember, giant authors who go kindle exclusive generally have more business options than normal self-published authors. When you sell millions of copies of your books, I’m sure you’ll learn what they are.

For now, though, I would seriously recommend listing your books anywhere you can. Actively break down barriers to reaching readers and encourage competition among the retailers. Provide links to ALL of your sales channels instead of just Kindle by sharing a book page on your website on social media instead of direct links to a single store.

Maybe it pays off today, maybe later, but it doesn’t cost you anything, so why not?

Plus, if Amazon “wins” and becomes the only one left standing, trust me, you’re going to wish you had more options. Amazon has proven itself to be cut throat in every business they take on. And, if nook and kobo fold, self published authors will be the ones lined up to get their’s cut. After all, there is no big publisher legal team backing you up.

Just saying.

About Rob McClellan

Rob is the founder of ThirdScribe, a unique author services platform and social network. As a naval officer and diver, he spent a majority of his career doing a lot more than you would think with a lot less than you can imagine -- a skill that has proven extremely valuable in the start-up world. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

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