Friday, May 28, 2010

The Future of Book Stores

A very interesting article from last week's Wallstreet Journal examining planned alterations to Barnes and Noble's business model in response to changes in the market. According to the piece they are predicting that 20 -25 % of sales will come from e-books by the year 2012. The company now has to re-evaluate the roll of their brick-and-mortar superstores in the face these changes. While the owners maintain optimism, it is going to be interesting to see if they can sustain so many stores with so many employees, with future market trends heading in the direction they are.

Barnes and Noble, unlike Borders which many are predicting will not survive the coming years, has adapted fairly quickly to Amazon's game-changing Kindle. Their e-reader, nook (not the nook mind you, just nook), was released last November and quickly became a competitive alternative to the Kindle (I'll have a more thorough reviews of both items in future posts). Unlike the Sony e-reader, which predated the Kindle, or some of the smaller alternatives like the EnTourage eDGe, nook has been able to garner a stable portion of the market for a couple of reasons: First, unlike the other devices, it has hundreds of the stores with nook stations which allow B&N to grab customers that online sites may not have access to, and it was able to improve it's device based on consumer response to the first generation Kindle.

With a respectable foothold in the digital future of publishing some are predicting that Barnes and Noble stores will shift their focus from book sales to a more meeting place/browsing paradigm. With their cafes and music/movie sections, some envision nook-armed customers coming to the stores to read, browse selections that they will invariably buy on their e-readers, and to hang out. This transition will require a diversification of the products and services offered by the company and still might necessitate a reduction in staff and size, but hopefully it will provide a stable enough platform to ensure the survival of bookstores in at least some form. I think even to most ardent tech-lover will agree that it is still nice to have a non-digital place to browse for new books.

Furthermore Barnes and Noble is trying to use it's e-reader as a platform to get customers coming into their stores. One of the features of nook is that when you enter B&N store, the device automatically syncs up to the WiFi and you can get special in-store only coupons. You're also given an allowance of 1 hour a day to read books for free while connected to the store's internet. Even with these incetives to continue to come in, I'm just not sure that they'll be able to maintain their superstores. What do you think?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Articles and Links

Some interesting new articles and links courtesy of Huffington Post's Book Section. One on Sony's new e-reader coming out in Japan. Another on the deal reached by Penguin and Amazon over prices for e-books. There is also a good piece from an independent publisher on the growing benefits that e-books will have for the publishing industry.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Goals and Objectives

Let me preface this post with an important declaration: I am not an expert on business, nor am I an insider on the in's and out's of publishing. The closest I come to professional experience with this subject matter is that I managed a comic book store and I worked as lead at Barnes and Noble - I am a writer and a teacher, not an editor or businessperson. However, I find the current transition taking place in the world of publishing fascinating. Ever since I first began reading about's Kindle I have been interested in the future of paper as the medium for books, newspapers, and magazines in an increasingly digital world. Furthermore, I am armed with two things that justify this blogs existence: I love to read and I have a point of view. Those two things I hope will make up for my lack of experience in the business side of publishing.
The goals for this blog are as follows:
- To act as a news aggregate and have links to other websites that have interesting articles, essays, etc. on the subject.
- To review books that that discuss the future roll of the printed word.
- To provide a forum for substantive discussion.
- To offer commentary and historical perspective (My graduate work was in History so this goal plays to more of my strengths).
- To have interviews with relevant authors, critics, and, hopefully, publishing insiders.
- To analyze and review the various devices that are reshaping the future of publishing such as the Kindle, the Nook, and the Ipad.
- To explore the news avenues of artistic expression and information exchange provided by e-publishing and other digital based writing.
- To examine how the changes in print-based publishing will effect similar industries such as newspapers, comic books, and book stores.
My perspective on the subject:
I personally love paper. I have owned a kindle and currently own an Ipad and a smart phone and do a lot of my reading, particularly of news, on these devices. But when it comes to books I prefer the paper. I even subscribe to the LA Times because I love reading an actual paper in the morning (and I like to do the crossword puzzle). However, my love of paper does not mean that I am opposed to the digital transition that is currently taking place - and that has really been taking place since the invention of the computer. I see the potential value of the new e-readers even as I silently lament the loss of a beloved medium. I think that it is this perspective that will help in the future of this blog. Too many of the discussions I have seen on the subject offer angry hyperbole and mocking derision from both sides of the issue. I have read tech-loving bloggers dismiss books as antiquated relics while equally hostile book loves argue that the nothing short of civilization is being lost by the changes in publishing and demand a moratorium on technologies invasion of world of the letters. My hope is that this blog will be accessible to both sides and hopefully offer a middle ground to examine and debate the future of the printed word without muddying the waters with a lot of angry rhetoric. I invite all perspectives as long as they abide by that simple doctrine.