Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Booksellers or content providers?

Linda came in to my office waving a flier from Barnes and Noble. "I think they're getting desperate," she said.

Offering $25 off Nook; 40% off hardcover bestsellers.

"How do they make any money?" she asked.

I wonder if the divide I see with digital versus book/book is one of perception.

I simply don't believe that digital books are the same experience as reading a book/book. Based on my trying the two methods, I much prefer the book/book.

Others see no difference, apparently, and I'll take them at their word.

But fundamentally, I don't think books are the same as music. I don't think pirating is as big a problem, either.

I remember about 5 or 8 years ago when Topps was offering "digital" cards. If ever there was a more acquisitive group of customers than sports card collectors, I don't want to know it. I mean, that was just about the stupidest thing I'd ever heard. And yet, someone came up with the idea, and someone at Topps greenlighted it.

WTF? Really? Did they really think that would work?

Not everything digital is an improvement, just because it's digital.

I think books will be just fine.

I'm not so sure about Barnes and Noble. There was an article in the Bulletin today that fake iPads were "flooding the market;" which just points out that pirating and stealing is going to be a problem no matter what approach the manufacturers and producers take.

So, you don't stop selling something just because it might be stolen, do you?

The whole scenario about digital music and dvd's -- that if you can't beat them, join them, just seems the wrong approach. Make the physical more attractive -- but don't just give up! Lot of good it did the music publishers!

I guess I'm saying, I believe the physical book and comic still has inherent virtues, and the solution isn't to subvert the platform, but to support it.

There is a hypocrisy at the root of Barnes and Noble and Amazon; they are book sellers who don't care enough about books to support them. Now, they are content providers. But who needs them? I can put my own damn book online, if it's going to be digital. (Yes, I'm conscious of the irony but I'm not going to try to explain it...)



Andy Z said...

I think the growing number of people interested in reading books on devices demonstrates that lots of people are still interested in READING more than in products. I was convinced until recently that reading devices were a fad, but now I'm not so sure.

I think ignoring ebooks because printed books are "better" is being a bit of a fetishist. Which is OK. I work in publishing, so I understand the preference for ink on paper.

Your decision to "ignore" ebooks is fine. Honestly I don't think there will ever be a percentage in it for mom and pop stores. But I do think scaled operations like Amazon and Barnes & Noble will make zillions selling books that have very little manufacturing or distribution overhead. I think that's why they're pushing it so much. I don't think they're doing it to be "cool" or "hip." I think they're chasing dollar signs.

Much like record stores, independent bookstores will stick around as places where we fetishists can still get our fix.

RDC said...

Not quite Amazon is following the Apple model. You sell a device that locks the customer into buying from you. The Kindle is really a front end for content that will be delivered by Amazon.

There are still some loopholes. But in most cases if you want to seel a book that will be read on the Kindle or in the kindle app on smart phones or tablets you will have it sold through Amazon.

Barnes and Noble is somewhat the same, in that they will offer content for the Nook. The difference is that the nook support the ePub format which is pretty wide open. So you can get ePub books from a lot more places than just B&N. So B&N is a very different business model.

The B&N discount I suspect is to narrow the price point a bit with Amazon, without a price drop, as well as a normal sales practice going into the christmas sales season. Even with the discount I suspect that B&N still makes a profit on the color nook. Even if smaller. They do need to get as many out there as possible, not so much because of the device sales themselves, but to keep Amazon's market share as low as possible. Amazon's target is to be to books what Apple is to music with itunes.

Duncan McGeary said...

"I think ignoring ebooks because printed books are "better" is being a bit of a fetishist."

See, there's the disconnect. I truly think the reading experience is better with a paper book.

Nor am I "ignoring" e-books.

I'm saying that if I truly don't enjoy e-books, and I'm a heavy reader, that I'll bet there are bunches of people who feel the same way.

yokem55 said...

I simply don't believe that digital books are the same experience as reading a book/book. Based on my trying the two methods, I much prefer the book/book.

Others see no difference, apparently, and I'll take them at their word.

It isn't that they don't see any difference, it's that the loss of the tactile feel of a book is more than made up for with the convenience of a having a whole library in a small 7x5x.5" package. Imagine someone who checks out 5-6 books from the library each month - this person isn't interested in owning the physical thing - they want the content, and digital formats make accessing that content easier and more convenient. I think there will always be a market for the physical things, but it will be limited to things where digital just doesn't work. I cringe at the thought of trying to use Karen Wyn Fonstad's Atlas of Middle Earth (or Pern) on a digital reader. But if I'm going on a trip and want to take some reading with me - I'll take the e-reader.

Duncan McGeary said...

" more than made up for with the convenience..."

Well, each person is going to have to make their own cost/benefit equations.

I've never found it onerous to carry a book or two around.

There are a couple of things going on here.

1.) Are there still enough people who will want to play in my playpen to keep investing in books.

2.) Is there the slightest chance that I can play in the big boys playpen?

Anonymous said...

For 5 thousand years the model has been give away the camera and sell the film, but now the KODAK model of biz is busted,

Now the model is steal the content, and give away the tape/film, and lock them to your gadget, and tell them they have to upgrade the fucking gadget twice a year, or better yet through poor quality an inability to replace the battery kill the gadget a few times a year.

My how technology changes, I can remember the kodak model well as only yesterday, but here we are again, where content is stolen, and the film is free, and camera locks you to a vendor.

Probably the greatest days were reel-to-reel tape, true professional freedom.

I can happily say I don't own any iSHIT, I do own an iMac but havent' used it for a few years. But don't want no fucking iGadget because ALL apple shit is designed to track you and sell your soul to the devil ( quislings ).