Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kindle News: Barnes and Noble, and Amazon - expectations and results + reasons

News today on the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire and e-Ink eReaders

"Nook's death spiral and Kindle's triumph"
News headlines are done to catch the eye and get clicks and traffic, and this one is a mixture of hard facts with worst-scenario headline.

  For a few months though, the stories on B&N's Nook and the stores have not been positive ones and, as a B&N Club member, I do worry about store closings, especially of the one only 10 blocks from me which I really enjoy.  See "Could Bookstores Start Charging People to read?" which I retweeted from Paul Biba's twitter alert.

  The Nook has been positioned to be a bit of a lifesaver in a digital age, and they have had the smarts to make good hardware while not putting enough time and thought into the software functioning and its features the way Amazon has done for its Kindle (in ways few people know because there are so many features).

  Two or three things have stood out as I read about B&N through the last two years.
  1. Lack of attention to customer service -- in a severe way
      The hardline on no-return of e-books, sometimes even w/ missing pages, is hard to justify.
      Amazon has a 7-day return policy for ebooks with problems for the customer as long as the policy isn't abused, and it's automated at the ManageYourKindle page.
      The difficulty in getting quick effective help for Nook problems is well known.

  2. A completely closed off Nook tablet, unless people 'root' the device, which is not recommended for the latest models unless you know what you're doing.
      Again, Amazon's customer-wise here.  They allow, for Kindle Fires, installation of apps from "unknown sources" (a normal Android feature) and Barnes and Noble does not offer that feature, restricting people to the company store.

  3. A lack of attention to normal opposition-research.  At the launch of B&N tablets, they actually bragged that they were 'open' and Amazon was 'not open' and an example given was that B&N would allow access to Netflix and Pandora and Amazon wouldn't.  They missed that Amazon had announced IN their tablet launch earlier that Netflix and Pandora had their devices and something would be coming on that.

  B&N is too closed to the rest of the world.  Add that their comparison charts on their websites had basic errors that favored their device (with negative info in light gray against white as footnotes), and although I'm a member I didn't trust their website statements.  I did buy their NookColor and enjoyed it for a year.  They could have maintained a lead had they paid enough attention to customer wants and what the opposition is doing.

  The linked article, reprinted from BGR News's Tero Kuittinen, mentions that the unexpected *expanded* revenue decline is in both hardware and eBooks and describes the problems B&N faces.

Amazon shares climb
"Amazon shares climb on Kindle e-book optimism" - by Reuters' Alistair Barr reprinted in Chicago Tribune Business. Inc shares up more than 4% after Morgan Stanley's Scott Devitt issued a research note with findings that "e-book market is a lot bigger than previously thought, and owners of Kindle e-readers and tablets are reading more e-books."
' Devitt estimated worldwide e-book unit sales of 859 million in 2012, up considerably from a previous estimate of 567 million. With almost 45 percent of the e-book market, Amazon likely sold 383 million e-books last year, compared with an earlier estimate of 252 million, the analyst added.

Amazon's broader strategy is to sell mobile devices at or near cost and make money when consumers use the gadgets to buy digital content, including e-books, music, videos, apps and games.

... data from a recent Amazon presentation show that consumers who bought a Kindle in 2011 read 4.6 times more e-books, on average, in the 12 months following their gadget purchase, compared with the 12 months before getting the device, the analyst noted.

Similar data from 2008 show consumers reading e-books 2.6 times as much after their Kindle device purchase, on average, according to Devitt.

The Kindle business, which includes the gadgets and related digital content sales, generated about 11 percent of Amazon's sales last year and 34 percent of the company's consolidated segment operating income, or CSOI, Devitt estimated...'

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  1. Technically you do not need to root Nook Tablet to side load applications. You can use a subset of the Android SDK tools to do this.

    But you'd still need to root if you wanted to (for example) install Amazon Appstore or GetJar on there.

    I think they should do what Kobo has done and just ship with Google Play, make it a more 'open' Android tablet. Stop trying to be another iTunes or Amazon.

    Then focus attention on improving the Nook reading app and ecosystem, make it the 'digital reader's choice'. B&N is known for books, and has a decent ebook platform and great hardware, but it should do what it takes to be 'best of breed' there. Provide customization, accessibility, etc.

    Also, digital reading is still not nearly where it needs to be when it comes to textbooks and technical books, organizing study materials or reading lists, etc. Someone needs to work out better navigation between different parts of a book or between books, easily creating study notes with links to specific locations in books, ability to link between books, and that sort of thing, things that are clearly possible technically but that haven't gotten much attention so far with the focus on 'bestsellers' and recreational reading. B&N is perhaps uniquely positioned to focus on that market and establish leadership there.

    1. Tom, true that they should just go with the google store, I sure agree -- B&N doesn't have much in the way of apps relative to other places so there can't be that much money made there, and with the google play store as an option, they'd run away with device sales (which would encourage Amazon to do the same while those using the Amazon store would get some kind of Amazon bonus). Compatability worries probably and also Google Play does have a rep for malware while some other app places actually do virus checks on the apps.

      For mainstream non-techie customers, the subset of the android SDK tools is not too practical. And I wouldn't bother if I couldn't get things like the Amazon store or mobile1 or m.getjar (which is the most stubborn of the ones I've tried).


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