Well, B&N’s big announcement today turned out to be as expected (since it was leaked a few days ago): the Nook Color, a tablet computer with a 7″ LCD touchscreen display. As I’ve said many times before (also here and here), backlit LCD screens just aren’t as good for reading as e-Ink screens: LCD screens cause more eyestrain (for most people), use much more battery power, wash out and are unreadable in sunlight, and even make it harder to fall asleep.
So why use them? Well, LCD screens (like your cell phone, computer monitor, or many TV sets) display color and video, two things the current crop of e-Ink screens can’t do yet. That’s great for surfing the Internet and watching videos, but for reading books, I’d rather stare at a screen that is easy on my eyes and mimics paper, instead of my TV set.
The Nook Color, which is $249 and will be available in B&N stores and online at B&N’s website starting November 19, promises more interactive e-books (such as cookbooks with color photos and videos), a whole new specialty section for children’s interactive e-books, a built-in web browser (using the Wi-Fi wireless connection), and various games and apps, including Sudoku, crossword puzzles, chess, and Pandora Internet radio to start. It will also focus more on color newspapers and magazines. It runs Android 2.1 (to be updated to 2.2), and can view Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) files. It can also view photos, and play audio and videos. It will supposedly support Flash-based web content in the 2.2 Android update.
But I think it’s more important to look at what the Nook Color, by virtue of choosing to go with an LCD screen, does not have:
- It costs $249, compared to $149 for the comparable Nook Wi-Fi or $199 for the Nook with Wi-Fi and 3G.
- It does not include 3G wireless connectivity (which connects to the cell phone network), and can only be connected at Wi-Fi hotspots, like you might find in some homes, offices, and coffee shops.
- It weighs 15.8 ounces, or just about 1 pound. Compare that to the 12 oz weight of the original Nook, the 10 oz weight of the Kindle 2, the 8.5 oz weight of the Kindle 3, or the Sony Pocket at just 5.6 oz. At almost double the weight of its main competitor, the Kindle 3, it’s closer to the 24 oz weight of the iPad, which I find too heavy for comfortable reading for any length of time.
- The battery life, already a weak point for the Nook as compared to the Kindle, only lasts 8 hours, even with the wireless off! (So, figure 4-6 hours using Wi-Fi to surf the Internet.) Compare that to the Kindle 3, which lasts for up to a month on a single charge. Do you see why we like e-Ink screens in our e-readers yet?
I’m a bit baffled, to be honest. Compared to the K3, I think it’s a disaster. For $139, you could get a Kindle 3 that’s much less expensive, easier on the eyes, can be read in sunlight, weighs half as much, and has a battery life measured in weeks instead of hours. For $189, you get all that and throw in free-for-life 3G wireless connectivity to browse and download books almost anywhere — still $60 less expensive than the Nook Color.
I think a better comparison is to the iPad. For half the price of the $499 iPad, you get a smaller (7″ screen vs. 9.7″), lighter (15.8 oz vs. 24 oz) tablet computer with less memory (8 GB vs. 16 GB, but the Nook Color does come with a Micro SD card slot, so this is about a wash). I haven’t seen the processor specs of the Nook Color yet, but I’d be surprised if it was as fast as the iPad. It runs the Android operating system instead of Apple’s iOS, and some people might prefer that, although Apple still has a strong lead in the number of apps available for its platform.
I’m still a little baffled by the direction B&N is going — I thought they “got it” and understood what we readers wanted: an inexpensive, light, easy-on-the-eyes non-backlit screen with a battery that lasts forever. Instead, they seem to be chasing the “hype” of color — something non-readers have been clamoring for, claiming the iPad will “kill” the Kindle for some time now — even going so far as to make “Color” a large part of the name. It seems to me like they’ve given up on competing with the K3, and have decided to branch in a different direction instead. Well, time will tell if it’s successful, and I hope they at least keep updating the original Nook line (which is now a generation behind the Kindle 3 and is in desperate need of a refresh), so those of us who have no interest in a Nook Color tablet computer can just ignore it. But I was looking for a Nook 2, a worthy competitor to the K3 that would push the e-reader market forward. Instead, we got the iPad Lite. Color this reader disappointed.
More and more brands of e-book readers are showing up in more and more retail stores (such as Wal-Mart and Target) nationwide. This gives people who may be unfamiliar with e-book readers or the benefits of e-ink a chance to see one hands-on and understand what e-readers are all about. I’ve posted before about various e-readers becoming available in retail stores, but with the recent news that the Nook and Kobo E-Readers will soon be available at Wal-Mart, I’ve decided to make a summary post detailing when and where each of the popular e-readers are available. I’ll try to update this post with new info as it becomes available. I hope it’s useful.
(Links go to posts giving more info on that brand of e-reader. E-readers should be currently available at listed stores unless noted otherwise — but calling your particular store to double-check might be a good idea.)
- Kindle (latest versions are Kindle 3 for $189, Kindle 3 Wi-Fi for $139, and Kindle DX 2 for $379)
- Direct from Amazon.com
- Best Buy
- UPDATE: Wal-Mart, as of May 5, 2011
- Nook (latest versions are Nook for $199, Nook Wi-Fi for $149, and Nook Color for $249)
- B&N bookstores or direct from Barnes & Noble.com
- Best Buy
- iPad (latest versions range from $499 for 16 GB Wi-Fi to $829 for 64 GB 3G)
- Apple stores or direct from Apple.com
- Best Buy
- Sony Reader (latest versions are Pocket for $179, Touch for $229, and Daily for $299)
- Sony Style Stores or direct from Sony.com
- Best Buy
- Office Depot
- Kobo E-Reader (latest version is Kobo Wireless for $139)
- Direct from Kobo.com
- Borders bookstores
Of note, you can view and compare Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and Sony Readers at Best Buy, making it a good choice for a one-stop shop if you’re unsure which one you’d prefer. Most e-book readers are now available in most large retail stores: the notable exceptions being no Kindles at Wal-Mart and no Nooks at Target yet. [UPDATE: Kindles are now at Wal-Mart, which makes it an option for comparison shopping.] Please let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any large retail stores where these e-readers are available.
Barnes & Noble’s PubIt self-publishing platform just went live over the weekend (I don’t know if October 1 still counts as “summer” — maybe here in South Florida it does?) and my e-books are now live on B&N.com. It’s a very exciting development, as B&N now matches Amazon and allows authors to bypass gatekeepers, publishers, and even intermediaries like Smashwords: authors can upload their own e-book files for sale on B&N.com. Since Amazon is the clear #1 e-book seller and B&N is solidly in the #2 position, this allows indie authors to reach the vast majority of the market directly.
How It Works: Authors or copyright holders can upload e-books in various formats, although it’s best to upload in the Nook’s native ePub format, so B&N doesn’t need to do the conversion for you. I believe you can also upload in HTML or text, but your results may vary. You upload your file and a cover image (in JPG format), enter your info (title, author name, book categories, etc.), and enter your book’s description, editorial reviews, and an “about the author” blurb. Once you submit, your title will go live on B&N.com (it took about 12 hours for my title to show up, but 2 days for the cover art to appear).
There are several advantages to uploading directly with B&N (over having your e-books distributed there by Smashwords):
- More control over the final format: I can improve the quality of the reader’s experience since I can upload the finished ePub file and know it looks perfect, with a working table of contents, etc.
- More control over the categories the books appear in, their descriptions, etc.
- Quicker speed of updating: Smashwords would take anywhere from a couple weeks to several months to update prices or an e-book file on B&N; now, if I need to fix a typo or change a price, I can upload it and the new version should be live in a day or two.
- Higher royalties! 🙂 B&N pays a very respectable 65%.*
- Instant sales reporting: I can’t tell you how useful this is (to see the results of marketing efforts, etc.) compared to waiting for several months to find out sales data. It’s also great for us obsessive author-types who check sales 10 times a day! 😉
- B&N’s “LendMe” feature is enabled, so users can loan the book to friends (once per book, for 14 days).
- No DRM! I was able to opt-out of DRM (copy protection), which can cause problems for consumers; now users can backup their e-book files on their computer or convert them to a new format if they get a Kindle or whatever.
* Note that Amazon pays 70%; however, Amazon takes off a small fee based on the e-book’s file size and only pays 35% on foreign sales, so the true average rate is closer to 60%.
I’m very excited by this development: it provides a better experience to readers (a better-formatted e-book file, quicker updates and fixes, LendMe, and no DRM), and is better for me as well (instant sales reporting, more control and quicker updates, and higher royalties). I love win-win scenarios like that.
Also in the plus column: my ratings and the great reviews that I was fortunate enough to receive on B&N transferred over to the new versions as well. A HUGE thank you to all my readers who have rated or reviewed the books on either B&N or Amazon: it really does help me out more than you’d probably expect, and I do appreciate it greatly.
The only negative so far is that my sales ranking hasn’t transferred over, and that I now have two versions of my e-books up on B&N. I’ve requested they be removed by Smashwords, but I don’t know how long it will take for them to actually come down from B&N.com (see what I mean about being frustrated by how long it takes to update things?). But the new versions are up and ready to go — you can find them at the B&N links below. Each are in ePub format, costs just $2.99, and can be instantly downloaded to your Nook or B&N Reader app for your computer or iPhone/iPad:
WOW! Before I even finished typing this post, I just checked my B&N sales and see a couple of sales showing up already! To my mystery shopper: THANK YOU, and I hope you enjoy the novels! Please come by and let me know what you think when you’re done!
Just to follow up on a couple of posts from earlier this month:
Barnes & Noble has around 20% of e-book market share.
As I estimated in my post on market share on August 2, Amazon probably has about 75% of the e-book market, and B&N has most of the rest: I pegged the figure around 18-20%. Today, B&N confirmed (without giving exact specifics, of course!) that their e-book market share is now “higher” than their print market share, which is 17%. Sounds like 18-20% to me!
Explaining the slight dip in Q2 e-book sales.
Last week, I took a look at June’s e-book sales figures and the Q2 2010 numbers, which were slightly below Q1 2010. (While they were still double last year’s numbers, any dip is unusual, as e-book sales have been consistently increasing at a rapid pace.) I looked at a few possible explanations for the dip, including:
- Lots of people receiving e-readers for Xmas 2009 and buying lots of e-books for their new toys in January 2010.
- Publishers insisted on agency model (read: higher) pricing starting in Q2, and raising new release e-book prices from $9.99 to $12.99 and $14.99 shockingly decreased revenue (who could have ever seen that coming?).
- The industry e-book sales figures don’t include sales from independent authors (like yours truly), who are probably earning a larger slice of the pie.
Well, today I see a pair of articles analyzing the dip in Q2 e-book sales and attributing it to: post-Xmas buying and agency model pricing, and that indie author retailers like Smashwords weren’t being included in the data.
Sorry for the “I told you so” post, but it was nice to see affirmation from several different sources of e-book trends I’ve been predicting on this blog for months. 🙂
Apple claims they could have up to 22% of the e-book market. Barnes & Noble claims a similar share. And what about Sony, or Kobo? And what does that leave Amazon, presumably still the largest e-book seller?
Despite all the numbers being tossed around, I’ve known for a while that Amazon had the lion’s share of e-book sales. Well, today I saw official confirmation from Amazon, which announced that it owns 70% to 80% of the e-book market. When asked about Apple’s 22% claim and B&N’s 20% claim, Ian Freed (Amazon VP in charge of the Kindle) essentially said that he wasn’t calling anyone a liar, but he’s sure of Amazon’s numbers. Well, how can Amazon have 75%, and Apple and B&N both claim about 20%? Freed says that “something doesn’t add up,” but that Amazon is pretty sure the 75% is right. Now, he’s not gonna say who’s wrong, just that (a) Amazon’s numbers are accurate and (b) therefore someone else’s aren’t.
It’s pretty clear to me the exaggerating culprit is Apple. I won’t go so far as to call their figures lies (what’s the saying about “figures don’t lie, but liars figure”?), but their “5 million e-book downloads” number and their “22% of e-books sold” number deserve a second look. First of all, they didn’t specify whether that 5 million figure included free e-book downloads, so it probably did. Maybe they only sold 1/10th that amount. (Which would amount to 500,000 sales across 2 million iPads over two months … or only 1.5 e-books per iPad per year.) As for the 22%? The consensus is that Apple was referring only to sales from Penguin for the month of April … which is coincidentally when Penguin was negotiating new terms with Amazon and their titles were not available on Amazon. Hardly a representative figure for the overall e-book market.
So what are the real numbers? Let’s work from what we know.
Amazon announced last month that it sold 867,881 out of James Patterson’s 1.4 million e-book sales (Patterson is the #1 e-book bestseller). That equates to 76%. Combine that with Amazon’s recent “70 to 80 percent” statement, and I think it’s safe to say that Amazon owns about 75% of the overall e-book market.
As a second data point, I can tell you about my own e-book sales. Now, I’m not James Patterson, but I have sold several thousand copies of my e-books this year, and they are available at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Apple (also Sony, but too recently for me to have reliable sales data). And my figures back up Amazon’s; in fact, I sell more than 75% of my e-books through Amazon. Here are my percentages, for the most recent month (June 2010) and quarter (Q2, including April, May, and June):
- Amazon: June (84.7%), Q2 (87.3%)
- B&N: June (13.4%), Q2 (11.2%)
- Kobo: June (1.4%), Q2 (0.9%)
- Apple: June (0.5%), Q2 (0.7%)
I think it’s safe to say that Amazon is still comfortably on top, and that Apple might be exaggerating just a tad, since they don’t even account for 1% of my e-book sales, and my books were on the iBook Store from day one (April 3).
Of course, my numbers won’t match up to industry totals exactly: some places (Amazon) are more friendly to indie e-books and their stores make it easier to find our works than others (*cough* Apple *cough*). And the percentages for Kobo and B&N are generally increasing. B&N in particular surprised me with very strong numbers: in June, I sold almost 1/6th as many books through B&N as I did through Amazon, and my books have been up on Amazon longer (and thus have more reviews, etc.).
Taken together, it’s clear to me that Amazon has the dominant share of e-book sales: about 75%. I believe B&N when they say they’re close to 20% of the market — probably somewhere around 18%. That leaves Kobo, Sony, and Apple fighting over the last 7% or so. And my guess is that Apple is in no better than 5th place right now.
Another interesting tidbit from Ian Freed: 80% of Amazon’s e-book sales are to customers who own Kindles. So much for those “Sure, Amazon is selling e-books, but mostly to people who read on their iPads” articles. Maybe finally people can stop pretending the iPad is an e-reader and start considering it as a tablet computer that’s cool to play games on?
Finally, Freed commented on the agency model and how several large publishers forced Amazon to raise e-book prices from $9.99 to $12.99. According to Freed: “Since some of the publishers have decided to price their e-book above $9.99, we’ve definitely seen a shift of customers going to e-books that are $9.99 or less.” And, I might add, e-books that are just $2.99 as well. =)
UPDATE: B&N released confirmation that their e-book share just surpassed its print share, which is 17%. Sounds like 18-20% to me!
I’ve spent a great deal of time discussing the emerging digital future of books on this blog, as it’s a topic I’m passionate about as both a reader and an author. But I’ve also spoken before about how bookstores don’t need to die alongside the decline of printed books, they can evolve and remain relevant, useful, and even profitable. And I also mentioned how Barnes & Noble seems to “get it,” and is doing a good job focusing on e-books and e-book readers (like their Nook), and is even offering a number of generous promotions for free e-books, coffee, and cookies — and they just lowered the price of the Nook to $199 and the Nook Wi-Fi to just $149.
There’s also evidence that Borders, America’s #2 bookstore behind B&N, “gets” e-books and is serious about embracing the digital future. Borders partnered with Kobo, which makes a nice entry-level e-book reader for $149, and which offers a nice selection of e-book titles in its online store. Borders is also coming out with its own e-book reader and e-book store. Today, I read this article in Fortune magazine by Michael Edwards, CEO of Borders. He talks about how he sees the direction the market is heading and the growth of e-books — it’s good to see someone who doesn’t just stick their head in the sand — but argues that bookstores can remain relevant in the digital age. He claims that “There will always be plenty of people who welcome the opportunity to read words on paper rather than staring into yet another glowing screen.” (Of course, that’s what I like about my Kindle compared to an iPad — the e-Ink screen mimics paper and doesn’t glow.) He talks about how bookstores are still a place for social interaction, discussing books, sipping coffee, browsing magazines, going to author signings, and more. He ends with a surprisingly forward-thinking paragraph:
“Ultimately, there’s no reason traditional bookstores and digital booksellers can’t co-exist; for all their common ground, each offers a substantially different value proposition. Of course, the onus is on booksellers to prove their continued relevance in the digital age. If they continue to innovate in the services and experiences they offer and the ways they engage the community, consumers will continue to make bookstores a vital part of their lives. If they fail to adapt to changing market conditions and consumer needs, they’ll deserve the empty aisles — and cash registers — that result. The next chapter is up to them.”
While I’ve heard that Borders is in financial trouble, I’d like to see a company with such a forward-thinking attitude pull through the tough times and stick around. Contrast the realistic, modern, and customer-friendly words and actions of B&N and Borders with the “Big 6” book publishers — who seek to “protect physical books as long as we can” by raising e-book prices, blocking lending and text-to-speech, delaying releases, and other anti-customer tactics.
Although I’ve gone over almost exclusively to reading e-books, I still enjoy bookstores and would like for them to continue to exist as places devoted to readers. It’s through forward-thinking and innovative ideas like developing their own e-book readers and e-book stores, and offering free e-books and other incentives to get people into bookstores, that bookstores can remain relevant long into the digital age.
In addition to Barnes & Noble’s recent promotion offering a free $50 gift card with the purchase of a Nook e-book reader, they’re now offering a pair of new promotions: a different free e-book every week, and a free “tall” (which is Starbucks lingo for “small”) hot or iced coffee — just for showing them that you’re reading an e-book on your Nook or Barnes & Noble app for the PC, Mac, Blackberry, iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.
For the past few weeks, B&N has been offering a different free e-book each week. To qualify, just bring in your Nook or laptop / phone running the free B&N e-reader app. Show it to any B&N employee and they’ll give you a voucher to download a free e-book (which you can do right there in the store with their free Wi-Fi connection). This week’s book is Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg, and next week’s book (starting June 14) is The Long Tail by Chris Anderson.
While you’re there, head over to the B&N Cafe (that looks like a Starbucks, but is technically not) and show them that same Nook or device running the B&N app, and they’ll hook you up with a free tall coffee. The fine print says you get a non-customized hot or iced coffee, and can only redeem it once. They also point out that this only works at B&N Cafes, not at Starbucks, or at any Starbucks Cafe inside a B&N store. Confusing? Yeah, I didn’t even know most cafes inside B&N stores were “B&N Cafes,” I just thought they were all Starbucks. So you may want to call and check your local B&N before you head over.
Anyway, that’s three pretty incredible deals from Barnes & Noble. A free $50 gift card is nothing to sneeze at, and the other two deals are even better since you don’t have to buy anything to qualify. You can just download the free B&N app to your laptop or phone, bring it in, and get a completely free e-book and free coffee. It’s a bold move by B&N to (a) get people into e-books and (b) drive foot traffic to their stores where they hope you browse and buy other stuff. It’s interesting that B&N is trying to increase business at its existing retail locations (that sell mostly paper books but increasingly sell gifts, cards, and accessories as well), but is also firmly committed to the future with the Nook and focus on e-books. I hope these moves pay off for them, because they seem well thought out, forward-thinking, and very customer-friendly.
So, download the free B&N e-reader app for your favorite portable device, maybe pick up an inexpensive e-book or two (this one is just $2.99, and get another free e-book and some free coffee on your next visit to a Barnes & Noble store.
“While supplies last,” receive a free $50 gift card with the purchase of a $259 Nook e-book reader. (Supplies of Nooks or gift cards? Can they run out of gift cards?)
The Nook is one of the most popular competitors to Amazon’s Kindle. Both sell for $259, and both include a 6″ e-Ink screen, free 3G wireless downloads, and the ability to store and read thousands of e-books.
The Nook comes with a small color LCD touchscreen below the main B&W e-Ink display. The color screen can show book covers, various menus, and an on-screen keyboard. On the plus side, it is helpful to see covers in color or browse the Internet. On the minus side, it can sometimes slow down the device and it drains the battery much more quickly than the e-Ink screen.
The Nook also comes with an SD memory card slot, and includes WiFi connectivity. Barnes & Noble gives you some freebies (cookies & e-books and such) when you bring your Nook into a B&N bookstore. The Nook reads the more-standard ePub format (along with PDFs and text files), and can borrow e-books from some libraries using the Overdrive system.
A large part in any Nook vs. Kindle decision might be whether you prefer shopping at Barnes & Noble or Amazon. Amazon is known for having the largest selection and lowest prices for e-books, but B&N is probably a close second.
The $50 gift card gives the Nook a significant advantage, so it’s like getting the Nook for just $209. That’s a heck of a deal for a dual-screen e-reader with free lifetime 3G wireless coverage included.
UPDATE: The Nook is now priced at $149 for the Wi-Fi model and $199 for the 3G model.
Barnes & Noble announced today that they will be opening their doors to independent publishers and self-published authors through their “PubIt” program, expected to launch in “Summer 2010.” While this move isn’t exactly groundbreaking (my novels are already available at Barnes & Noble), it’s still a welcome step forward. Currently, self-published e-books are made available on B&N.com through an intermediary: Smashwords, which is a fine company that offers a great service to independent authors. Soon, however, we will have the ability to upload our work directly to B&N, which will presumably offer us more control, a faster turnaround (it can take months to get your books or any changes to show up on B&N), and possibly higher royalties. B&N says royalties will be announced within a few weeks, and promises they will be “competitive.” It is hard to imagine how they could offer less than the 70% that Apple offers and that Amazon will offer starting July 1.
Amazon led the way for the self-publishing revolution with its Digital Text Platform, which allows any author to upload their work in e-book form to be sold on Amazon.com. So while one could argue that B&N has been following rather than innovating (releasing the Nook 2 years after the Kindle and arriving over a year late to the self-publishing scene), I’m glad to see B&N moving toward and embracing the future, unlike some businesses I could mention. I would expect a direct upload channel to B&N will enable me to create a higher-quality, better formatted source file (with Smashwords, it’s best to upload a simple, generically-formatted file that gets converted to multiple formats), quicker upload and revision times, better control over the description and category, and — hopefully — a higher royalty rate.
Another big benefit might be quicker sales reporting: currently, Amazon Kindle sales are reported instantly … which leads to incessant checking several times a day. 😉 B&N sales, on the other hand, get reported through Smashwords, and are currently on a 3-5 month delay. I started selling on B&N at the very end of January, and I haven’t even received my first sales report yet — all I can do is watch my sales ranking and guess. So I don’t know if B&N is turning into a worthy second sales channel, or if B&N sales are still just a tiny fraction of Amazon’s. It would behoove B&N to get this info to me more quickly, so I would know whether or not it’s worthwhile to devote more promotional efforts their way.
My only concern is whether the new file I upload will replace or sit alongside the Smashwords version that’s already active on B&N. I’d certainly like to keep my description, reviews, and sales ranking (Right Ascension has made it into the Top 7,500 there!).
Anyway, it’s an exciting development, and having both the #1 and #2 booksellers in the world throwing their weight behind self-publishing is certainly an encouraging sign. I still have more questions than answers (How many am I selling on B&N? What will the royalties be? When will it launch? What format do they want me to upload? Can I migrate over my existing product details?), but I remain hopeful.
P.S.: I seem to get most of my feedback from Kindle users, so I’d love to hear from a few B&N / Nook users: Have you purchased my books from B&N? Have you enjoyed them? How did the formatting look on the Nook? How many of you are out there??
I’m pleased to announce that Right Ascension is now available at Barnes & Noble in paperback format (for those of you who haven’t hopped aboard the e-book train yet). It is currently on sale there for 10% off the cover price, and is just $8.79. Barnes & Noble also offers free shipping for its members, or if you spend over $25.
(Of course, you can also buy it direct from me from the links in the column to the right, but I can’t beat free shipping!)
The print version is a “trade paperback,” which is larger in size (mine is 6×9 inches), and higher in quality than the “mass market paperbacks” you usually find in the under-$10 price range. It also has higher quality, whiter paper than the gray pages you’d find in a mass market paperback.
Now that Right Ascension is in the various databases it needs to be in, this also means that you can walk into your local Barnes & Noble or Borders or library (or wherever) and request that they order a copy for you. Hey, if enough people request it, they may even decide to stock a few extra copies in the store ….