Home » Big Publishing, Bookstores » Books aren’t dead yet

Books aren’t dead yet

22 March 2013

From Salon:

Without a doubt, book publishing is an industry in a state of flux, but even the nature of the flux is up for grabs. Take a recent example of the traditional tech-journalism take on the situation, an article by Evan Hughes for Wired magazine, titled “Book Publishers Scramble to Rewrite Their Future.” The facts in the story are indisputable, but the interpretation? Not so much.

The news peg is the success of a self-published series of post-apocalyptic science fiction novels, “Wool,” by Hugh Howie. Available as e-books and print books from Amazon, the series became a hit, and Howie recently sold print-only rights to a New York publisher, Simon & Schuster. Print-only because Howie and his agent determined that they were making plenty of money selling the e-books on their own.

. . . .

There is surely a sizable untapped market for print editions of “Wool” because e-books remain only 25 percent of the book market.

If print could talk, it would surely be telling the world, Mark Twain-style, that reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. The market for e-books grew exponentially after Amazon introduced the Kindle, and it’s still one of the most fascinating and unpredictable sectors of a once hidebound industry. But the early-adapter boom is showing signs of flagging and the growth of the e-book market appears to be leveling out. E-books are definitely here to stay, but it seems that many, many readers — a threefold majority, in fact — still prefer print.

. . . .

New self-publishing enterprises are a godsend for traditional publishers because they can take much of the uncertainty out of signing a new author. By the time a self-published author has made a success of his or her book, all the hard stuff is done, not just writing the manuscript but editing and the all-important marketing. Instead of investing their money in unknown authors, then collaborating to make their books better and find them an audience, publishers can swoop in and pluck the juiciest fruits at the moment of maximum ripeness. As Hughes points out, that’s exactly what happened with erotica blockbuster E.L. James.

Why do self-published authors — including James, Amanda Hocking and now Howie — go along with this? Some, like Hocking, are simply tired of being publishers as well as authors and would prefer to devote themselves to writing. But for many the answer is simple: print.

. . . .

“The real danger to publishers,” Hughes writes, “is that big-ticket authors, who relied on the old system to build their careers, will abandon them now that they have established an audience.” Yet it’s hard to see why any of them would, if self-publishing would mean hiring a staff to replace the services provided by a publisher, from marketing and publicity to distribution and editorial. And you can be sure that — whatever publishers’ failings in providing such services to “little ticket” authors — the people who write bestsellers get plenty of that.

Link to the rest at Salon and thanks to Larry for the tip.

There are certainly some fair points in this article, but, to examine the bigger picture, PG would pose a hypothetical question: If you were given the opportunity to own either Barnes & Noble or Kindle Direct Publishing, which would you choose?

Which is worth more today? Which will be worth more in two years, five years, ten years?

The same questions could be posed for any big New York publisher vs. Kindle Direct Publishing.

Big Publishing, Bookstores

36 Comments to “Books aren’t dead yet”

  1. PG. I see your point, but Amazon’s KDP is not the biggest threat to B&N, it is Amazon’s physical book selling. While all bookstores are losing money to ebooks, they are losing just as much money, if not more, to people buying physical books online. In addition, they are also competing with supermarkets, who are content to make very little on books.

    The same is true on DVD and CD sales. In the UK we have just lost our big music seller HMV, but the demise was not due to people downloading more music, as 80% of music and films in the UK are still bought in physical form, the demise was due to where people were buying these CDs and DVDs – the internet.

    • Good points, Robert.

    • I’d agree Robert F. The retailers in many areas, not just books, find AMZ a threat to their walk in traffic… Your point about CDs etc,. is born out here in the States also. No car-driving, simple and quick purchases. AMZ brilliant, ‘others bought this also’ and their ‘similar items you might be interested in’ makes targeted shopping, perhaps for many, a ‘buy more than I first targeted’ experience. I’d agree with your thought about physical form. I can wait two days to rec a dvd or a book. I may not have the hour or so to drive to the actual store, look around, find whatever, stand in line, drive home. I sense the time ratio has a great deal to do with it. Under a minute vs .5 – 1 hour of one’s time.

  2. The rallying of the indies is a good sign for book publishers, who rely on bookstores and the people who work in them to introduce readers to new authors. As a recent study by the Codex Group revealed, book buyers go to Amazon when they already know what they want; they’re not using the site for “discovery.” That’s why bookstores, although a relatively small locus for actual sales, are so important to the new-book ecosystem. Most people buy books on the basis of personal recommendations from friends, but many of those recommendations can be traced back to a bookseller or librarian. (And maybe the occasional reviewer!)

    If they’d asked me two years ago where I found books to buy I’d have said, “Recommendations from friends and the library. I have a book budget, which I’d take to the bookstore and purchase 2-4 titles a month based on authors who’d made my Must-Buy list. Browsing the bookstore often sent me back to the library to try something that was new to me and looked interesting.”

    Ask me today: “Recommendations from friends, twitter, blogs, emails from my favorite authors and Amazon. I have a book budget, but ebooks are so inexpensive I can purchase interesting titles just because they are interesting, so I end up buying 10-15 (or more, depending on price) per month. Instead of twice weekly visits to the library, I now go every two or three months, and usually to find reference material. The bookstore? Why bother? They aren’t selling what I want to buy and besides, print books bust my budget. Browsing? Amazon makes it easy as pie. The more I buy, the better (and more trustworthy) their recommendations.”

    Two years. For a person who’s slower than dead people when it comes to adopting new technology.

    The Codex Study asked one question of book buyers. I wonder what the response would have been if they asked another: How many people return to bookstores after they grow comfortable buying from Amazon?

    • I didn’t buy the study’s conclusion that people don’t go to Amazon for “discovery.” If that were the case, rankings on Amazon’s best seller lists wouldn’t be so important.

      From the ground up, Amazon is built to generate discovery of all sorts of products. I don’t think books are a special snowflake when it comes to online discovery.

      • I don’t believe it either. Even before I had a Kindle, I was discovering books by browsing Amazon. It’s a lot more convenient and there are reviews too–although I usually only use those if I’m on the fence from the blurb/look inside feature.

  3. All in all, a solid case for print health.

    That said, there’s so much more that’s wrong with this piece…

    Funny. The author indicts CNET for twisting information into their “tech-rules all” slant (so thew can hock their services) then she turns around and does the same with some fairly idiotic slants of her own.

    As a recent study by the Codex Group revealed, book buyers go to Amazon when they already know what they want; they’re not using the site for “discovery.” That’s why bookstores, although a relatively small locus for actual sales, are so important to the new-book ecosystem.

    According to the CODEX Group no one discovers books on Amazon? Really? Odd, considering the hundreds of writer’s we hear from on a yearly basis reporting backlist wide sales boosts after KDPS promo’s.

    Many recommendations are traced back to booksellers and librarians. Yes, of course, because there’s nothing viral about indie book popularity. It’s all kids on their Iphones at B&N and an ever decreasing number of librarians from budget cuts and branch closures. I’m trying to be nice to everyone this year, but this is simply too stupid for words.

    Then this…

    While most self-publishing platforms, including Amazon, do offer print options, they aren’t able to effectively distribute print books to the best places to market them: bookstores.

    Abandoned, deserted bookstores, are the best places to market your Createspace edition?

    Crickets.

    And then…

    Amazon’s own forays into book publishing, as Hughes notes, have not been a success…The refusal of bookstores to stock these titles…played a significant role in those failures

    Amazon imprints are failures? Who the %*&# does she think sells the most PRINT books in the world? Hint; it ain’t B&N, BAM or anyone like them!

    And this “fact” is based on what? Journlists all have view rights to all of Amazon’s in house sales reporting and P&L statements? The flippin’ NSA couldn’t get that info if they wanted to!

    But wait, scroll back…there:

    There’s also a strong presence on the Internet of writers who are pissed off at publishers for rejecting their books or, having published them, failed to make a success of them.

    Ahhhh, all her nonsense makes sense now. It’s all those petty, bitter, smited indie writers. Mid-lister’s were nurtered and treated so lovingly by BPH’s for decades but blame publishing for intentionally sabotaging their destined fame and fortune.

    Got it.

    Ugh. Double face-palm fail.

    • “Amazon imprints are failures? Who the %*&# does she think sells the most PRINT books in the world? Hint; it ain’t B&N, BAM or anyone like them!”

      The print books Amazon.com itself published represent at present a small percentage of the print books they sell, most of which are published by other publishers, not Amazon.

      • Peter

        Agreed. The Zon imprints are, thus far, limited to genre work. Comparing their sales (which no one outside of Zon accurately knows) against all other print sales, with titles numbering in the millions, then their imprints are and will probably always be a minority seller.

        My issue was her ridiculous claim that the imprints are outright “failures”, which was based solely (because she offered no other facts or data!) on the fact that they’re not carried in other physical stores.

        A – when you’re selling more print books overall than anyone else, who cares? And B – again, she took a single segment of Amazon performance and compared it against the entire universe of book selling.

        We discuss (fisk) a lot of antie-indie/Zon/e-book drive-by’s here on PG.

        Seriously, this one should be nominated for some kind of award.

  4. If you were given the opportunity to own either Barnes & Noble or Kindle Direct Publishing, which would you choose?

    This made me laugh…yes, out loud!

    I love getting your newsletter!

  5. So much fail in one article. It’s hard to know where to start. Let’s start with this:

    There is surely a sizable untapped market for print editions of “Wool” because e-books remain only 25 percent of the book market.

    While the first part of the statement is undoubtedly true, the “because” is wrong. I have given hope of ever explaining this fallacy to folks in the book industry. Let’s try this one. Of all the humans born in the last 5000 years, more than 50% are alive today. Does that mean that I have a better than 50% chance of being alive 5000 years from now? Well, it would be nice to think so, but the truth is my chance of being alive in 5000 years isn’t affected by the past experience of all humanity. Likewise, the potential market for the print version of Wool has no relationship to the percentage of books sold as ebooks vs. physical books.

    E-books are definitely here to stay, but it seems that many, many readers — a threefold majority, in fact — still prefer print.

    This is not actually true, you have to twist the data to get that conclusion. But guess what, even if you believe it, it doesn’t mean what you think it means. Almost everyone prefers print for some types of books and very few people prefer print for other types. How are those printed white pages working out for you?

    I’ve already spent waaaay too much time debunking that Codex Group survey, so I will just say this. Look at how much business was driven by the Amazon alsobot according to that survey. I worked up a spreadsheet that estimated the sales impact of the alsobot in the low tens of millions of dollars a month. You would think that the industry would celebrate that, but because it’s outside the control of Big Pub, they hate it.

    Finally, to claim that Amazon’s forays into book publishing have been failures is to completely lose the plot of what’s happening. “Tis but a scratch” said the Black Knight.

  6. This would be a great article if the premise had any reality. However, it’s made of straw. I know a lot of indie authors. I haven’t heard any of us stand up on our haunches and declare that print is dead. This is simplistic, either/or thinking and doesn’t describe the thoughts of anyone I know. It’s not like Wired represents self-publishers everywhere. More depth and journalistic curiosity as to the why of the ebook revolution is in order.

    It’s also presumptuous to assume that publishers can spot the most successful indies and “swoop in”. How condescending. Salon references the Wool deal, but seems to have missed its point.

    Salon defends traditional publishing, but no one’s really attacking. Either/or is a choice for children when you offer them strawberry or chocolate ice cream. Publishing is much more complex than that, and we are not children prone to tantrums. We’re just doing our thing and many readers appreciate it.

  7. It bothered me so much that Salon called Hugh Howey “Hugh Howie.” This is the level of research they’re doing?

    • Exactly. I think this article was written in a single sitting. Having seen the research the WSJ, Wired, and Slate did for their write-ups, I’m not giving this gibberish much credence.

    • And how they switched to quoting him as “Hughes.” Huh?? I had to go back and reread to see if I’d missed someone else being quoted.

      I also must have missed the interview where Hugh said Amazon imprints were a failure? Surely he didn’t say that and they’re just practicing sloppy journalism?

  8. ” By the time a self-published author has made a success of his or her book, all the hard stuff is done”

    So what purpose does the publisher serve then? Oh, right: none.

    “Yet it’s hard to see why any of them would, if self-publishing would mean hiring a staff ”

    Contractors, not employees. You don’t have to “hire” them any more than you need to “hire” a doctor or any other professional. It’s not like an author needs a full-time dedicated cover artist on staff.

    As to why they would, not wanting to fork over their copyrights in (effective) perpetuity might have have something to do with it.

  9. Seems to me that the current favorite “why we’re still relevant” balloon being floated by BPHs is the “because you can’t find the books without paper in bookstores” claim. I guess this means they got tired of hearing “Snooki” in response to the “curating of culture and art” claim and have changed tactics.

  10. ebooks only make 25% of the total book market?
    Sure.

    But that ratio comes from a book market definition that includes textbooks, user manuals, cookbooks, art books, music books, and all sorts of books besides narrative text. The article pretends that a book is a book is a book and that the quoted 25% ebook penetration is universal for every type of book and every single title.

    By that logic, S&S could expect to sell 3 times as many print copies of WOOL as Mr Howey will ever sell in ebook form for the duration of the book’s copyright. One hopes that S&S has no such expectations and they aren’t disappointed with the outcome of their bold experiment. :)

    What the article neglects is that for many narrative text categories, ebooks are already well over 50% of unit sales. (We’ve all seen estimates of 70% and higher, right?) And that because of the long tail, the odds of pbooks generating even 30% of the life-cycle sales of a given title in many categories are extremely low.

    It is early in the game and the numbers being bandied about are all short term numbers. And, as we all know, trad-pub’ed, pbook titles deliver the bulk of their revenue early on, so they are bound to look more competitive now than they are going to be in just a few years once they are gone from bookstores and relying solely on online pbook sales.

    Let’s see how things look once we have 10-year sales data for specific titles before believing the parrot is still alive. :)

    • I agree. E-books are also the sweet spot in the market. They have the highest margin and profit. Yes, there is money on the table with print books still, but that money has a higher risk due to lower margins.

    • Let’s see how things look once we have 10-year sales data for specific titles before believing the parrot is still alive.

      Now hang on, that’s not a fair cop. You won’t be able to conclude anything from 10-year sales data. Everyone knows the Norwegian Blue spends a minimum of 11 years pining for the fjords.

  11. In this day and age of publishing there are two critical components: the writer and the reader. Everything else inbetween is a merely a medium meant to connect these two components.

    • This has always been true. Until recently, there were strategic chokepoints in between the writer and reader, and it was possible to extort money from writers and readers by restricting passage through those points.

      I just realized that this is the Age of Discovery all over again. Until the 15th century, trade between Europe and the East was conducted chiefly by caravan. Whoever controlled the principal caravan routes could grow rich on the trade — and could cut it off, if they wanted to punish the countries at either end. Eventually the Ottoman Turks pushed things too far: they restricted trade so drastically that it was worth the risk and expense for European merchants to find a sea route around Africa instead. Once that route became practicable, control of the old Silk Road became worthless. As a side-effect of the new maritime trade, some fool of a sailor went the wrong way and stumbled upon the Americas.

      The parallel between the Silk Road and the conventional publishing industry will, I trust, be sufficiently clear. However, I do concede that it is entirely unfair to compare the Big Countdown publishers to the Ottoman Turks; and for that I apologize to the Turks.

      • If one is only reading the history of the conquerers. If one reads the history in images and song and other valid ways of keeping history amongst the literally thousands of tribal groups across the world, there were many ways of trade, via sea, land… and the trade routes written into our gradeschool books nowadays tend to be often slaughter routes rather than trade routes solely. The reliance only on the little and replicative body of ‘written’ history by one group’s point of view, leaves much out. Much. Most of the Arabic tribal writings for instance, have never been translated into English. Those that have are amazingly rich in content, and often mention nothing about the highlights to be found in eu. versions of ‘history.’

        • If you were a European in the 14th century and wanted to trade with India and China, or were Indian and Chinese and wanted to trade with Europe, the ONLY way was to go over the Silk Road. That’s a fact, and not all the oral ‘history’ in the world will change it. If you wanted to do that trade in the latter part of the 15th century, YOU COULD NOT DO IT, because the Ottoman Empire controlled the western terminus of the Silk Road and forbade it to be used for trade with infidels. That’s also a fact.

          Now get off your high horse. This is not about you and your hatred of Europeans.

          • you are misunderstanding my tone and intent I think Tom. There are many tribal groups who traded with others since time immemorial, and were not at all a part of ‘the silk’ anything. What was true then is also true now about trade, about war, about all manner of things– there are many and there is much that/who are not recorded in the annals of those whose recordings and dominance was so then, and perhaps now also.

            On another note about your ‘high horse’… We do have horses. You should come ride with us through the mountains sometime. It’s relaxing tho rigorous, and the horses are kind even to strangers. They are “high,” quite a few hands high, but if anyone has need, we can provide a footstool till the human beings develop stronger piriformis, and hip adductors.

            Also, I’d mention, my European colleagues and publishers would be laughing to imagine in the decades of work I do, raised as I was in eu refugee domeciles, that I ‘hate’ anyone. The miracle of those I work with over the decades is they have suffered greatly, and still have clear eyes about what occurred egregiously and by whose hands, and by what slurs, and they are still filled with love for what and who is loving and lovable.

            I had been and still do hope that the indie publishing doorway will reach peoples on many continents and in many backwaters who are hugely under-represented in book publishing print on paper. RandomHouse with their tiny ‘one world’ imprint they began for mainly african americans twenty years ago, wont hack it. Putting indie publishing abilities into the hands of those who have stories to tell but near to no means to offer them widely… That, to my mind, is a huge potential revolution, equal to cell phones and twitter during the last Burmese/Myanmar uprising, allowing the just people to bypass Than Shwe dictator, and organize in the streets and forests to try to protect themselves and their tribal groups.

            Just my .02 Tom. Pax.

            • There are many tribal groups who traded with others since time immemorial, and were not at all a part of ‘the silk’ anything. What was true then is also true now about trade, about war, about all manner of things– there are many and there is much that/who are not recorded in the annals of those whose recordings and dominance was so then, and perhaps now also.

              All right, but that really isn’t germane to my point — which was to make an analogy between the new ways of publishing today and the new routes of oceanic trade in the 15th century. I don’t pretend that all the effects of either were good — but in both cases there was at least one good effect, which was that middlemen lost the power to prevent other people from trading.

              Also, I’d mention, my European colleagues and publishers would be laughing to imagine in the decades of work I do, raised as I was in eu refugee domeciles, that I ‘hate’ anyone.

              I’m sorry, but it doesn’t show in your earlier comment. That appeared to me to be an entirely unmotivated rant against the ‘conquerors’ (and also against the value of written history). You have gone off on such tangents before, and they tend to read as if you had a large personal grievance against people of European descent. I can understand having such grievances — my mother is a Costa Rican mestiza — but there are times to talk about them and times when they are off topic.

              I had been and still do hope that the indie publishing doorway will reach peoples on many continents and in many backwaters who are hugely under-represented in book publishing print on paper.

              If you will forgive my returning to my analogy, that was also a great benefit of ocean-going merchant ships: they reached peoples on many continents and in many (literal) backwaters. It is sad and unjust that those ships were also used to carry armies of conquest; but that does not make the ships themselves a bad thing. Whenever you open up new channels of communication between nations, you always get new quarrels and run the risk of new wars — human nature being what it is. Nevertheless, the communication is good to have.

              It may happen that the new electronic publishing will be used to propagate a book as vile and harmful as Mein Kampf — just as the printing press was used to print hate propaganda, and the sailing ship was used to transport armies — just as every technology has been abused. I still would not be without it, for I believe that in the end, the good outweighs the evil.

              Just my .02 Tom. Pax.

              Pax to you too. I’m sorry I snapped at you. I thought I was snapping back — which is an explanation, but by no means an excuse.

              By the way, I rather envy you for having horses (high or otherwise). We have plenty of them here in Alberta, but unless you are rich enough to own land, you really can’t afford to keep one. And I am not that rich. I used to go riding on my grandmother’s farm sometimes; I haven’t been on horseback since she died.

              • It is no problem at all Tom, I am glad to make a new friend!

                This, by the way Tom, is a beautiful story: I hope you will fill it out more in writing, and tell it: So many would love to hear this story, and could identify with it. It may also be in the minds of many, a poignant and clear metaphor, as used by the late great writers for what is not yet right with the greater world.

                As you choose, or not, of course. Siempre.

                “By the way, I rather envy you for having horses (high or otherwise). We have plenty of them here in Alberta, but unless you are rich enough to own land, you really can’t afford to keep one. And I am not that rich. I used to go riding on my grandmother’s farm sometimes; I haven’t been on horseback since she died.”

                just one final thought: Also, sometimes people share horses, and land, often nowadays in fact for here the cost of hay is sky high, so the horses can run free and not be ‘barned’ like chickens in prison, and so the people who love horses can remember a certain kind of freedom also.

                • Here in Alberta we still have wild horses; so if you let your horse run free, you’re likely to lose it permanently. It does the soul good to see the wild horses running (though you have to go to some pretty remote places to see it); but I am afraid it doesn’t much help people like me who would like to ride a horse.

  12. One thing that articles like this never seem to address is the who of who is buying ebooks. If you look at sheer numbers, yes, there may be more paperback readers than ereaders out there. But those paperback readers may only read a half dozen or fewer books a year. Those with ereaders have access to cheaper books and seem to be avid readers who consume a bigger share of the market. Just like the ease of buying one song on iTunes while on my smartphone means I buy more music now than when music only came on cassettes and DVDs, so ereaders and eReader apps make it easy to buy and start reading a new book with a few clicks. It’s just a matter of time.

  13. I see in this only good things. If I become popular with my e-books and the Trad Pubs want to issue my book in paper, through their closely controlled channels, so much the better. However, I’ll dictate the terms of the contract not the Publishers.

  14. DISCLAIMER: I write erotica under this name and my discussion of print distribution should be viewed in that context. Erotica buyers are less likely to prefer printed material, IMO, for several reasons, than mainstream fiction or non-fiction readers. Caveat lector.

    Interestingly, I took 120 copies of my books in print form to a conference last week. Up until now I have had very little success with print books although in ebooks I am basically the equivalent of a midlist author. (I sell steadily, my new books sell at a good surge, but I’m not a bestseller.) The conference was dedicated to topics explored in my books: it was just about the best imaginable marketplace for my work. There were somewhere between 100 and 150 attendees: in addition, the conference was held in a space where other people also could have seen the books for sale.

    These were Createspace printed books which I bought at the author’s price and shipped to myself at the conference, stealing a page from Dean Wesley Smith’s excellent and simple advice on how to sell direct to bookstores, etc. Here’s what I brought:

    60 copies of a ~40pg “sample” book which contained two short stories. I was giving this away for free.

    20 copies each of two collections each containing three novellas. I was selling these for $6.00 each. (Which is above author’s cost and shipping, but not by much. I just didn’t want to eat the whole thing.)

    20 copies of my only novel to date. ($6.00 each and ditto.)

    Results:

    1) I am sure you will not be surprised to learn that all sixty copies of the free book were picked up by interested persons. I saw very few people take multiple copies: the ones who did, when I was looking, asked if they could have one for a friend who couldn’t attend.

    2) I gave away four sets of the paid books – two to influential bloggers, one to the fellow who was manning the sales table when I wasn’t, and one as a donation to the conference venue’s library :)

    3) Saleswise, I sold just over half the books I was trying to sell. Only two people bought “complete sets.” The rest bought either one or two books, mostly, for whatever reason, two. (Weird.) People were surprised to see print books for sale but the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. I got two or three comments along the lines of “I don’t buy paper books any more, I don’t have space.” Otherwise people were happy to have them. Several people were literally chasing me through the venue to give me money.

    What I wanted to do was get my books in the hands of people who might like them and who might a) recommend them to others, b) buy more, and/or c) post positive reviews on Amazon et al. And if I broke even selling them that would be a pleasant bonus.

    So far, my sales have not experienced any surges, and at one week after the conference nobody has posted ANY reviews. (Every time I sold one and/or gave away a free one, I asked people politely to post a review on Amazon if they liked it… or even if they didn’t!) I still hope a few might dribble in but knowing how people work it seems unlikely that a lot will happen after a week or two passes.

    I will probably continue to put together collections and put novels in paper format, but I doubt I’ll repeat this experiment. If this was the best I could do in more or less the ideal marketplace, I am not enthusiastic about print book distribution.

  15. If I were to own one of them, I’d like to RULE B&N WITH AN IRON FIST, AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! *cough* A little autocracy and vision might yet save it. Or at least let it go out with an impressive bang.

    Things I’d do with B&N, in no particular order after the first few:

    • Hire programmers with skill and humility, who want to Solve Problems YAY.

    • Instruct customer support to NEVER EVER imply that the customer is at fault for having antique hardware/software, unless they’re like on a 300 baud modem and trying to side-load onto a Newton. In which case, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think we have anyone who knows how to program for the Newton!” is okay. In all other cases, take down the details of the bug, ask for a contact address for reproducing it if need be, and forward the details to the programmers.

    • Make sure that customer support knows that they are there to make the customer as happy as possible. This doesn’t mean they always get to give the customer what the customer wants, but they should do their best to make the customer happy with what they get — if nothing else, sympathize and promise to pass on the customer’s concerns.

    • Pass on the customer’s concerns, unless it’s about Aliens Infiltrating Their Nook. (Though if the customer has an ingenious solution to this… >_> )

    • Set up a very prominent “here’s your local B&N and its stock; order online and have it bundled and waiting for you at the desk (pay here or there)” links. Do add a field of “Allow [X time] for bundling” during holidays; for holidays, add “we will call you when your order is ready for pickup.”

    • Set up so that you can order from the main site and have it shipped to a local B&N, for no-shipping. Make this very obvious, and promote it as a way to keep the delivery people (USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.) from shoving your order in the letterbox, leaving it in a puddle, keeping it for themselves, hiding it in the bushes, etc. (This sort of thing gets people in the stores, after all, where they may make impulse purchases, DUH.)

    • Set up the B&N discount card to be family-wide online as well as if I can go into the store and reel off my home phone number and my spouse’s name. There should be an ability to add in separate accounts as “part of the discount-card family.” Set a limit of 5 if necessary, but increase the yearly fee incrementally so you can add more.

    • Figure out what’s needed to allow B&N stores to become “affiliate” franchises, in areas which are not well-served by indie bookstores.

    • Make the B&N cafes stock decent chai and not that watered down Starbucks stuff. Bleah.

    • Give even non-franchise managers more leeway in ordering, based on how well they’re doing, profit-wise.

    • Disconnect DRM from people’s credit cards. It’s a PITA. Promote watermarking instead; it’s less of a PITA, and probably just as good for discouraging petty pirates.

    • Start a “resell your ebook” program with those good and humble problem-solving programmers. Give a cut to author/publisher, a cut to B&N, and the seller keeps the rest; the book is removed from the seller’s “I bought this” list, the watermarks are changed, and new watermarks are applied. If the prior watermarked files get uncovered in the future, you can smack the seller. (Yeah, real pirates will peel the watermarkings off. They’d also peel the DRM off.)

    • Add a “resell your physbook through us” section. There should be some way to manage that without treading on an Amazon patent.

    • Take PayPal. For that matter, see how many other similar services one can take.

    • Cut a deal with Apple; bite the bullet and make in-app purchasing available through the Nook.

    • Jack up the Nook app and shove Stanza under it, with upgrades. Boast about how you’re a better app for heavy readers than the Kindle (or iBookstore), ’cause you’ve got real “sort by Author” implemented, along with being able to “sort by shelf,” etc.

    • Sell .mobi files as well as epub. If Smashwords can do it, so can B&N. Now the Kindle-owners have no reason not to shop at your store as well. Provide excellent “here’s how to side-load to your Kindle!” instructions.

    • Bundle Nooks with discount-cards, not each other.

    • Clone the manager of the local B&N, who is apparently doing something right.

    • Clean up the Reviews sections of everything. If you can’t hack policing the reviews yourself, cut a deal with Goodreads like Kobo does. Move all the Warrior Cats roleplay to a separate page and pat them on the head.

    • Stop requiring login to report a Warrior Cats Roleplay “review,” when writing a review doesn’t require anything.

    • Implement a “buy the physbook, get the ebook at a slight discount” (or vice versa). Yeah, you’ll get people buying the physbook for their mom and the ebook for themselves, but is this a problem?

    • Periodically run promotions where people can get a bargain on the ebook of any physbook they’ve bought from you in the past. Or maybe vice versa — free shipping or something.

    • Agency pricing for publishers is not okay for ebooks right now. Get out the thumbscrews and get a major discount on the ebooks, so B&N can offer those “buy one of each kind” discounts. You’re saving them from Evil Amazon, remember? Look, you’re inspiring people to buy the same book twice. You’re awesome. They should love you.

    • Make the Programmers work on the website recommendation algorithms. Expand the Also Boughts for all books; yeah, not everyone will click more than 2-4 screens. But does it really hurt you if you have 6-10 total? No, and someone might buy from those further screens.

    • Make it easy for people to reveal their wish-list to others. Around Xmas, run “spread the joy” promotions so RANDOM PEOPLE can buy wish-listed books for RANDOM PEOPLE! Secret Santa to the max! Then make it easy for the recipients to reciprocate with a Thank You card and/or a return-purchase of something on the sender’s wish-list. (One can even totally randomize the stuff: “Your Random Recipient has wish-listed books currently worth $X, $Y, and $Z.99; what would you wish to purchase?” // “Your Secret Santa has wish-list items costing $X, $Y, and $Z; would you like to purchase something for them?”

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Page optimized by WP Minify WordPress Plugin