Wow, it’s been quite a week for Barnes & Noble and the industry at large.
B&N got hammered—not only on the numbers, but on the optics as well. They are out of the tablet business (smart), but the drain on their bottom line was significant, and they’re facing a triple whammy with high overhead, no big blockbusters to make up for last year’s 50 Shades of Hunger, and little consensus on the most viable way forward.
Most people in one way or another are asking if the nation’s only remaining bricks & mortar chain bookseller is going to be around in five years.
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[I]s B&N really the counterbalance to Amazon as was suggested when Microsoft took a stake in Nook? What is the technology lifespan of stand-alone readers as a category generally? Is this a transitional technology? (I think it is.) Finally, when we expand our perspective to the global marketplace, what does the explosive growth of mobile mean for the future of publishing? Are we prepared?
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Mobile penetration in developed nations is around 128 percent of the population. (The Americas-109%; Europe-126%; the states of the former Soviet Union-170%.) This means market growth is being driven by demand in developing world, particularly in India, China, and Africa.
Here in the US we have a mobile device in our hands pretty much all of the time, which is starting to impact how we discover and relate to all kinds of content.
In the study I edit with Bowker Market Research, Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer in the Digital Age, our most recent findings show that while in-store and traditional browser-based book purchasing remained relatively stable between January 2012 and February 2013, stand-alone e-reader book purchases fell from 6% to <1%, while in-app purchases grew from 1% to 7% in the same period.
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This means all of our traditional ideas about how our customers interact with our online content—visiting an author’s website, doing online research, following bloggers, or browsing online sites—is going to change.
If we’re heading into a mobile app-driven world, and away from discovery via publishing establishments like B&N, what is the game-plan?
Is it creating stand-alone apps for single books or properties that we set adrift in the wide Sargasso Sea that is the app store?
What about pinning our hopes to customers buying and reading on their Kindle mobile app, or via the iBookstore especially when we have no ownership over those customers or their behavioral data?