Monthly Archives: June 2012

Kindle vs. Nook Perspectives in the US: Is there a clear winner in the US eReader market?

In my previous two blog posts I have focused mostly on the US market for eReading devices. As Canadian, I find that it is essential to examine the trends caused by our neighbours to the south. While Canada may never be substantially interested in the Nook reader, Barnes & Noble is giving the eReading public ideas to ponder. This article at PublishingTrends.com pulls quotes from various online articles that mostly say the same thing: B&N and the Nook are the better choice. Needless to say, the article seems biased.

But, PublishingTrends.com highlights some good points about the benefit of Nook over Kindle. For instance, Nook now offers GlowLight on their SimpleTouch eReaders, an attempt to bridge the gap between a tablet and an eReader, though Joe Wikert notes that this technology is not enough to make the Nook stand out indefinitely. PT.com cites some ways that Kindle is failing; for instance, losing their retail space in Target and Kindle Fire purchased as a Christmas gift, but declining sales in the post-holiday period point to Amazon losing to the iPad for personal purchase and use.

The role of Apple in the eReading discussion cannot be overlooked – why buy an eReader when you can buy a tablet that can do books and so much more? I personally have avoided purchasing an eReading device because of my temptation to get an iPad.I am not convinced that the devices that have attempted to combine eReading and computer tablet functionality (re: Kindle Fire, Kobo Vox, Nook Tablet) are worth spending money on – the technology is just not quite there yet. However, as the eBook market grows, the devices on which to read them should improve (and so will the iPad). The innovative Nook features provide good competition for the Kindle and it will be interesting to see how B&N’s alliance with Microsoft changes the eBook market.

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The Battle of the eReaders – Why I Want B&N to Win

I am secretly cheering for Barnes and Noble.

The Nook is in competition with Amazon’s Kindle in the U.S. eReading market and is currently losing the uphill battle for dominance. This article from The Shatzkin Files, the main focus of my response here, reports that a major bookseller in the U.K., Waterstones, will now be selling Kindle instead of pursuing their rumoured allegiance to B&N. Shatzkin also mentions Kobo’s alliance with W.H. Smith. Selling the Kindle instead of widening the market in the UK to the Nook ensures that Amazon’s hold on 90% of the eReading market-share (though both Shatzkin and I find that hard to believe) is more difficult to break.

And I do believe Amazon’s hold should be broken. I am rooting for the underdog, despite B&N having no foothold in the Canadian market at all. I have used the Kobo eReaders, and as an employee of a certain well-known Canadian bookseller, I have firsthand experience returning many, many broken Kobo readers. The Kobo customer service line often blows off their customers, despite their one year warranty.  However, the best feature of the Kobo is that the owner of the device can access external ePub books, including library books. Kobo users are not locked in to one online bookstore. Nook has a similar attitude towards allowing owners to use their eReaders to download books outside of B&N.com, but emphasizes that the Nook owner has access to 2.5 million eBooks through their website and should be the user’s first stop.

Amazon has not allowed Kindle users to borrow eBooks from the library – something that seems to be changing in the United States, but has not yet made its way into Canada. Now that Kobo has been sold to a Japanese company, I believe that any competition would be a  welcome addition to the Canadian market. Although I cannot see B&N making any in-roads into the Canadian market soon, if ever, I would love to see them try.

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“Near-Field Technology” and eBooks: B&N’s Attempt to Combine Virtual and Physical

Barnes & Noble has released an idea that could change how we buy – and I’m surprised it has not happened sooner. In a blog post on ReadWriteWeb, B&N is said to be contemplating implementing “near-field technology” that will effectively give Nook eReaders the ability to scan barcodes. The scanning technology will allow shoppers in B&N stores to touch their Nook to a physical book in order to read the information chip embedded in the book, giving them access to external content as well as eBook purchasing information.

This crossover of physical and digital is happening anyways – by taking the existing practice of the consumer using the physical bookstore as a “showroom,” as the RWW blogger calls it, B&N might just have an interesting way to get those that read eBooks back into their stores. Getting the customer back into the store is key, since once they are there, they are more likely to buy something, which should increase the profitability of both the online and physical bookstores.

Increasing the profitability of the Nook system is essential to preventing Amazon from becoming the uncontested, monopolistic giant it strives to be. Amazon will be unable to implement the near field technology unless it decides to partner with another retailer (Costco? Walmart? Oh the horror.) or to open up Amazon stores (which may already be in the works). I am concerned that the near-field technology is a just a good idea that will not have any effect on sales for B&N, and I have no illusions that this technology will put B&N ahead of Amazon any time soon. RWW addresses the fact that B&N’s Nook is mostly sold out of their 391 stores in the US and that their recent partnership with Microsoft hopes to broaden their sales worldwide. Competition between companies that produce eReaders is going to improve the slow, sometimes temperamental devices that are out there – at which time I might actually purchase one.

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