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If I was in Charge of Nook Media

14 February 2014

From Good Ereader:

The Barnes and Noble Nook division is one of the most longstanding and successful brands in the e-reader and tablet sector. The bookseller jumped into the eBook revolution in 2009 with an online store and their own flagship device. Their first few devices sold like wildfire, but sales have tapered off with each subsequent release. Nook Media has been losing money each quarter for over a year and most of their executives in charge of books, hardware and accessories have all left the company. What if they hired me to run the show? Here is my game plan to turn Nook around.

. . . .

The average Barnes and Noble bookstore is around 26,000 square-feet in size. The Nook retail area, where devices are showcased are normally 1,000 sq ft, and larger stores have 2,000 sq ft.

This is a solid amount of space to showcase the Nook Glowlight, Nook HD and Nook HD+, which is the current generation lineup. Not to mention accessories, such as cases, and screen protectors.

The Nook display section has no consistency in overall design and customer experience. The flagship Union Square location looks way better than the store in Las Vegas. Once you start going to more rural bookstores, in smaller markets the Nook display section lacks. I have walked into bookstores and saw nothing more than a wooden table, with a blue sheet and stuff piled all over it.

If I was in charge of Nook Retail I would create a blueprint and template that all stores would have to abide by. I would mandate that all Nook areas would be close to the front entrance and by the window. It would feature a clean white overall design, with vibrant color coded areas where you would find devices, accessories and a Nook Kiosk. Having street traffic seeing a cool, hi-tech area would prompt them to come in the store. It is important to build a consistent experience, walking into a big store in New York, would be the same as walking into one in Seattle.

. . . .

The average Barnes and Noble bookstore does not have an army of employes. I have witnessed that many in the store wear different hats, whether its inventory, cash, restocking or helping customers. The people in the Nook area, often are not dedicated and feature a revolving cadre of characters. I would mandate that every store location needs 3 trained people for the Nook area, two of which are full time and another that works when one the core people are sick, or on vacation. There would be regional trainers who would be responsible for each State, and would bring people into that State’s flagship store for a week of training. They need to be Nook Certified.

. . . .

Barnes and Noble has a line of accessories for their line of tablets and e-readers, none of which are really compelling. Sure you have the ubiquitous cases, screen protectors, charging cables and even a pair of Nook headphones. They need to solve this situation to make the Barnes and Noble accessories line, more modern and current.

. . . .

If there was one oportonity that Barnes and Noble is missing, more than anything else, is the synergy between Nook Press and their bookstores. Nook Press is the companies self-publishing program and is a direct follow-up to PUBIT! The platform itself pales in comparison to competitors programs like Amazon and Kobo. Heck, UK authors cannot even use Nook Press to publish in the US and UK.

If i was in charge of Nook Press and displaced Teresa Horner the first thing I would do is partner up with a service like Ingram Lightning Source. US authors would be able to self-publish books digitally and make them available for the retail stores to purchase. Ingram basically runs a giant print on demand system, where authors can have copies of their books printed, if someone places an order. This method proves to be quite popular with competitors.

. . . .

I have been following the entire eBook and e-reader industry since one year after the original Kindle came out. I have seen many major booksellers go bankrupt, some taking chances, some taking none at all. The most squandered opportunity that Barnes and Noble has missed in the last five years is getting self-published titles in their store, from their own authors. Barnes and Noble sorely needs a self-publishing super-star to carry the torch and be a walking banner for their services. They cant do that without Nook Press POD.

Link to the rest at Good Ereader

PG says one of the consequences of a monopoly or near-monopoly position in an industry is that the monopolist becomes fat and slow. Defending its traditional turf against interlopers always seems to be Job One.

Barnes & Noble is an excellent example. It should have been in an ideal position to take advantage of the ebook/ereader technology surge, but it blew that chance.

Another takeaway from the Barnes & Noble Nook story for PG is what it says about the value of retail spaces vs. ecommerce spaces.

At least in the Barnes & Noble stores PG visited during the early days of Nook, the Nook kiosks had prime spots – the first thing you saw when you walked in the front door – and were staffed by at least one person. This was retail space that was formerly occupied by tables covered with books or big stacks of books – displays for which big publishers pay a lot of money.

One would think that space would provide a powerful advantage for Barnes & Noble to grab a huge share of people who regularly purchased books as Nook customers, but it didn’t work. Space on Amazon’s front page devoted to promoting Kindles worked much better.

We’ll never know how Nook would have fared if Barnes & Noble had pursued a more intelligent strategy and executed better on components like The Nook Book Store and international distribution, but the bookstore’s prime real estate didn’t seem to provide a meaningful competitive advantage. If Kindle vs. Nook is not already a business school case study, PG suggests it will become one in the future.

Bookstores, Ebooks, Tablets/Ereaders

16 Comments to “If I was in Charge of Nook Media”

  1. PG – I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t know why, but many businesses don’t pay attention to tech.

    Roll back the clock a bit. I worked for Sears for a brief time and it’s base customer service were retired senior citizens. A gentleman was looking for a recliner but we didn’t have it on the display floor. He wanted to sit in it and try it out. He said he was disappointed then laughed at himself because he remembered when all they had was the Sears catalog. Everything was ordered from a picture and was shipped. People were comfortable with it and you might say trained.

    Sears should have been all over the first hints of online retail. They had everything in place and were big enough they could have started their own research into tech to speed their delivery system along. But they got caught flatfooted just like B&N just like legacy publishing. Now Sears is closing their flagship Chicago store.

  2. Let’s see. I’m a newbie reader of ebooks, or want to be, and I’m thinking of buying an ereader. The moment you sell me that ereader, don’t you think you shoot yourself in the foot by not getting a toehold (ha!) in the digital world? Your own CUSTOMERS are telling you they’re going digital, and you are leading them by the hand, or fingers (lots of digits here) to a place your bricks & mortar store can’t go!

    • The problem Patrice was customers were telling B&N, trad pub, so many, but they were patting them on the head saying now, now, we know better than you. You don’t even know what a good story is unless you tell you.

      All of a sudden the customer is in charge and making their own choices and it’s like gravity turned off for them or something (sorry, my sarcasm is going into overdrive.)

  3. What is the incentive for the store employees to promote and sell a device that may contribute to the closing of the store and job losses? And this is applicable to all major brick and mortar stores trying to sell over the Internet as well. Amazon didn’t have that dilemma, and look at their success now.

    • So true. I would think most employees would see a trend between work hours getting cut and technology and would be ambivalent towards the new technology (if they like their job, that is).

      • Yep, I saw this all the time when I worked for Chapters/Indigo a few years back. Here we were pushing the Kobo since at that time Chapters had a stake in it but meanwhile we were just pushing them into digital.

        Then, they would love it and the Kobo would break. Constantly.

        Also, they would get upset with us because their iRewards or Plum card wouldn’t work with ebook purchases.

        So we’d get it from all fronts when really, we were just sealing our own fates slowly but surely.

        • I agree with you about Chapters and Kobo. It was always going to be tough to try to succeed in two worlds that were contradictory at their core. Perhaps selling Kobo while it could still fetch a good price was a smart move. Looking at Chapters’ recent earnings data trends, it doesn’t look like the paper book business isn’t very healthy, at least in the long run.

    • I’ve said elsewhere that there needs to be some incentive for people to buy their books/e-books from/in the B&N store. Maybe offer a 5% discount on stuff bought from BN.com from one of their stores’ free-public-wifi networks, or something like that. And maybe see about some kind of pricematching. If Best Buy can pricematch Amazon, B&N should see about it too.

    • Selling devices is a way better model than selling books. New devices come out every year, so people have to upgrade the device in addition to buying all the books they were already going to buy anyway. In addition, there’s more work for employees, who were formerly stocking books (which require no real tech support) and would then be required to both stock books and provide tech support for new devices.

  4. Its inexplicable that Nook does not print its more popular ebook titles and put them on the B&N shelf IMO. But I’d also tour the Nook kiosk with a small team of tutors on how to prepare one’s own work for ebook publishing.

  5. NOOK has reported that 25% of their ebook sales are indie. Which means 75% is tradpub.
    Of their pbook sales, it is safe to say 99% is tradpub.

    It would take a lot of courage for B&N to set up an Indie ghetto, say a shelf buried deep in the store, and even more to scatter them and give them equal visibility to the tradpub titles.
    After all, the tradpubs control the returns.
    They can change the policy at will.

    B&N can get away with featuring Indie pbooks on a limited, store-by-store, book-by-book basis but a concerted effort? Nope.

  6. All this conjecture about how B&N coulda/shoulda done things differently. Well, it’s an interesting intellectual exercise, but essentially meaningless.

    IMHO, it’s now far too late for B&N (and perhaps Big Pub, too) to regroup, recover, and reinvent itself–and the Nook.

    To quote Keanu Reeves to Patrick Swayze in Point Break “You’re going down, man.”

  7. If I was in charge of Nook Media, I would be looking for a new gig.

  8. I have to say my local B&N did everything right as far as the nook display. It was at the entrance to the store, modern display tables, and a dedicated nook guy who not only was cheerful and enthusiastic, but seemed to know everything about the device. I bought my original nook there.

    What Nook did wrong–and still does wrong–is the online experience. What do you look for most when you first get an ereader? (After you’ve spent the gift card from you Aunt Sally, that is.) Free books. How do you find free books on BN.com? You have to master some obscure search parameters. There’s nothing on their web pages to point you to free books.

    What if you want to find a book, but you don’t know the exact title? Sorry. The search results won’t help you much there. I wound up going to Amazon to find the book, then going back to BN.com and typing in the title.

    What advantage does being a “Member” give you when it comes to ebooks? Nada. There’s no lending library, no member discount, nothing.

    B&N doesn’t seem to realize that a hardware purchase is once every couple of years. If you want to sell that hardware, you’d better focus on content, which can be purchased on a daily basis.

    PS: I love my Kindle Paperwhite!

  9. It may already be too late to expand into Germany with the Nook. Several major booksellers have teamed up to create their own e-reader that works with the epub format (Tolino). So B&N might have to open their ebook stores to them.

    Sadly, the German booksellers are not offering any self-publishing option for their Tolino reader, as far as I could discover. Thus they are repeating B&N’s mistake and won’t ever be able to really compete against Amazon in the sheer amount of ebooks they offer.

    Of course, B&N are shooting themselves into the foot by not allowing self-publishing for anyone outside the US. But then, many businesses suffer from US-centric myopia.

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