Saturday, August 7, 2010

News and Updates: Barnes and Noble for Sale, Mini Ipads, and Andrew Wylie

Interesting Book News: Barnes and Noble put itself up for sale last Tuesday according to the Wall Street Journal. The article states that in response to decreased sales the company's founder, Leonard Riggio, is attempting to purchase the company. What this news might mean for the company's future is still unclear, but it seems that Riggio is fighting to keep the company going in face of growing competition and market changes. Publisher's Weekly speculates on what the upcoming annual meeting for the company might be like.
      If the sale goes through this might be the time that B&N implements the major changes that have been discussed. As noted in previous posts, the superstore chain is opening large nook station boutiques in all their stores, and the Nook is becoming central to their business model. Some are speculating that should the company survive in the future, it will be smaller and less reliant on a large back stock of titles. I wonder if the company has been investigating the print-on-demand technology as an option.

PW's Blog, PWxyz, has a story about a possible mini-Ipad designed specifically for the e-reader market. If this comes out and is competitively priced, it might be a significant contender against the Nook and Kindle. While I am hesitant to use the terms "killer," I do think it changes the nature of the market significantly if it is true. The way Amazon and Barnes and Noble's devices compete with the ipad is by highlighting their roles as dedicated e-readers that are cheaper and use the e-ink display. If a cheaper ipad, with color and a back-lit screen, were to come out, the only remaining strong argument in favor of the Kindle or the Nook would be the display. The electronic ink is designed to emulate a piece of paper, and, unlike, LCD screens, doesn't cause the same eye fatigue - so the argument foes. However, as an Ipad owner, I haven't experienced this as a problem. If the Ipad does indeed come to dominate the e-reader market, Amazon and B&N might be relegated to the same position as SEGA was in the gaming world. They lost their platform and became game designers exclusively. It's possible that Amazon and B&N's digital bookstores might one day be relegated to simply being apps on another company's devices.

It's been hard to read about anything  in publishing - particularly e-publishing - recently without stumbling across the name Andrew Wylie. Wylie, a book agent and head of The Wylie Agency, made news when he announced that he had signed exclusive digital distribution rights with Amazon for 20 books from his high profile clients. Taking advantage of ambiguities in contracts - which decades ago didn't include digital rights - Wylie, whose lists of clients includes Phillip Roth, and the estates of John Updike and Norman Mailer, has caused an upheaval in the publishing world and a backlash from many publishers. I'm going to be following this story closely and posting an more in-depth analysis but for now here are some interesting links about Wylie and his plans:
- The Day of the Jackal, from The Economist
- Andrew Wylie, Agent Provocateur from Peter Osnos at The Atlantic
and podcast for the New York Times Book Review has an interesting discussion of Wylie that can be listened to here.

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