Monday, April 30, 2012

The Future of The Nook?

The latest news regarding Barnes and Noble's Nook platform is that Microsoft is infusing $300 million dollars into the ereader.  What does this mean for the ereader market?  What about for readers who own or might own a Nook?  What about for authors?

In the recent past, there has been talk of Barnes and Noble spinning off the Nook division to a buyer.  I've always thought that this would be the death of Barnes and Noble, because without the Nook they would just be like Borders, and we know what happened to them.  Why would they ditch a part of their business that is doing well and keeping the afloat?  I think part of the answer can be found in how they address Nook users, or more accurately, how they are NOT addressing Nook users.  Let me explain.

If you've ever surfed the website, you know that the powers that be at Barnes and Noble have just not put much time or effort into making it easy to find things, and not just individual books, but best sellers, genre leaders, etc.  By contrast, is doing a bang-up job of helping readers find the books that they want.  And I'm not the only one that has noticed this, either.  And yet, despite their lack of attention to making things easy for Nook buyers/readers, ebooks are helping to keep Barnes and Noble going.

It just doesn't seem like they have things figured out, or even the first clue about how to get things started.  If I had to guess, it's not that they have no ideas, but that they don't have the atmosphere in their offices to have people go out on a limb and try something new.  Even if they are imitating Amazon with some things, if they work, why wouldn't they do it?  That's just smart business to do what works, even if its an incremental improvement; actually, ESPECIALLY if its an incremental improvement.  Businesses don't have to do one thing incredibly well, they need to do dozens of things just a little bit better, and they'll be successful.  Yet Barnes and Noble seems to just want to sit on what they have and not try to improve things at all, let alone incrementally.

So, back to the announcement that Microsoft is infusing Nook with millions of dollars.  What does this mean to the ereader industry?  Well, it means that a company with deep pockets is serious about making in-roads into a market that they feel is ripe for taking market share from the leader, i.e., Amazon.  In truth, Amazon's share of the market in the U.S. has been slipping, but they are still the leader by a good margin, and they are fighting to keep what they have and continue to grow it.  Microsoft is a software company, and that's what continues to evolve as we are moving from normal desktop software to mobile apps.  If they can have a part of the growing tablet market that also happens to crossover to the ereader market, that's a pretty tempting piece of the pie.

What about the Nook users, what does it mean for them?  Well, hopefully it will mean innovation.  With that amount of money, it means that they will have the resources to devote to people who can start making changes to the platform, doing research and development, marketing and more.  Hopefully it will mean that buying new books for the Nook becomes easier, more friendly, and that it generates positive word of mouth.  It means that people who are thinking about buying a Nook will have more reasons to go with the Nook versus any other ereader.

And finally, what does it mean for authors?  Hopefully, it means that the Nook folks will match the royalties that Amazon offers.  They aren't much less right now, but they should have no problems equaling what Amazon throws out there.  Also, it means that they have the resources, i.e., money to start innovating ways to make it attractive to authors to publish their ebooks on the Nook versus anywhere else.  It also means that they can start looking outside the U.S. borders to international markets.  Canada is a great place for them to cut their teeth, and they can move on from there to the easy English-speaking markets:  England, Australia, New Zealand, and others.

All in all, I'm excited for what the Microsoft money infusion could mean for the Nook.  It was only a matter of time before a new start-up company introduced the Kindle-killer, or for an established company with lots of money to try to enter the market.  We're seeing the latter, but the former could still happen as well.  And it all means good things for readers AND authors.  Embrace the change!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April Doings

So it's been a bit since I've provided an update on things.  The industry continues to change rapidly, and some days its a major effort just to hold on for the ride.

I believe that I now have 4 different books in progress: 2 fiction and 2 non-fiction.  One of the fiction is a short story that is close to being done, but I've been helping out other writer friends with their books so haven't had much opportunity to finish it up.  The second fiction work is a sequel to my first novel "Coordinates For Murder".  If you haven't read it yet, I encourage you to check out a free sample on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and if you like it, buy it.  I'm getting noticed across the pond in England, which is a blast!  My 2 non-fiction books are things that have been on my mind, and I'm finally doing something about them.  The first one is a primer on how to do not only an ebook, but a print book AND an audio book too.  No reason why the big publishers should have all of the fun.  The other non-fiction book is one surrounding my present efforts at training for a 10K race at the end of June.  I have never, NEVER run for fun or for a race, so this is a dramatic change.  Even more so because in my past I have vowed that I would NEVER run for any reason, especially just for fun/exercise.  And yet, here I am.  It will be part memoir of my current efforts at training, plus some motivational things because, as I put it recently on a Facebook posting, if this couch potato can do it, anyone can.

Wow, that's a lot!  I'm tired already.  But, I received a very welcome email at the end of last week.  Essentially, there was interest in featuring me in a regional publication, which made me very happy!  Some other details need to be worked out, but it's possible that this might work out to be a long-term arrangement with me getting a) credit for writing articles, and b) getting free advertising in each quarterly publication, which has a print run of about 16,000 units!  Yeah, don't tell me that's not cool!

If you want to know when any of these new works come out, drop me a line at dlk (dot) writer (at) gmail (dot) com.  Oh, and I can also let you know when the audio version of "Coordinates For Murder" comes out too.  Cheers!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

More Thoughts On KDP Select (Follwing The Herd, part 2)

I had an epiphany the other day.  I was chatting via email with a writer friend of mine, and something that this friend wrote caused me to completely stop what I was doing.  This friend was lamenting the fact that a favorite author had chosen to offer a story exclusively on Barnes & Noble's Nook.  I was suddenly shocked by seeing "the other side" of the KDP Select equation.

Let me explain more what I was thinking.  Say there were 6 places that you could sell your ebook (there are more, but 6 comprises the vast majority of ebook retailers in the U.S.).  Wouldn't you want to offer your ebook at all 6 of those ebook retailers?  Of course you would, because you would miss sales to some of your audience.  Yet, with KDP Select (or just making the decision to only pursue 1 of the retailers), you are saying 'those other places don't matter, and I don't care about reaching those readers'.  Yes, you really are saying that by your actions.  Does this make good sense?

From the perspective of the retailer, it makes great sense.  It's an exclusive, something that no other retailer can lay claim to.  It's the same idea with a reporter getting an exclusive with a celebrity; no other reporter, television show, newspaper, magazine, etc. has what this one reporter has.  It's what they use to help sell more copies, more subscriptions, and the same principle applies to the ebook retailers - they are using it to bring in more people who not only want the ebook from the exclusive author, but they might also want some of the other ebooks that the retailer has for sale.

From the perspective of the author, absent a really good incentive, it makes no sense for s/he to only offer their ebook for sale with 1 retailer.  What do they gain?  Nothing.  That 1 retailer isn't the only game in town, and not every reader frequents all of the ebook retailers.  Oh, and the incentive?  That really needs to be as big, if not bigger, than the potential sales the author is giving up from all of the other retailers that s/he is not selling at for the length of time of exclusivity with the one retailer.  For some, that could be a very substantial amount!

But wait, I hear you say, I can offer my ebook for FREE for a few days!  That will certainly mean that I make more sales, more than enough to offset what I would lose by not being on the other retailer's sites.  Answer:  it MIGHT offset the sales you are giving up from the other retailers.  There is no guarantee of this, and there are loads of factors that go into the success or failure of a particular book in KDP Select.  And remember, a free ebook is not the same as a paid-for ebook, and it has less intrinsic value than one that you shelled out money for.

But what about the Lending Library?  I make money off of that!  Yes, you do.  But will you have a lot of people scrambling to borrow your book?  Unless you wrote the Hunger Games or one of a handful of other books getting a lot of press, it's doubtful.  Why?  Because the audience that can take advantage of this is limited.  Only those people who a) have a Kindle and b) also pay for Amazon Prime ($79 a year) can borrow books.  AND they can only borrow 1 book per month.  So they have to be very judicious in which books they want to borrow.  Hence, your book is probably not going to be among those borrowed, or if it is it will be borrowed so infrequently as to not add up to much.  Again, does this offset what you lost out on from not being with the other retailers?

Finally, consider this: if you, like my friend, can't get the new story because it isn't available for your ereader, what is the likelihood that you will go looking for it once it is available, if it ever is?  The odds are against you going to find it at a later date.  And it is possible that because you weren't able to get it when you learned about it, you will NEVER get that story for a variety of reasons.  Also consider that it is possible that the opportunity to ever reach that potential customer may never come around again.  You have effectively lost out on ever counting that person as a fan of your work, and now have limited the pool of fans for your future works.

Do you agree?  Do you disagree?  I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts.