Friday, October 07, 2011

So to spite you I'm going to stop selling books!... wait, what?

Two posts in one day from Jim? Unheard of! Well, this is what happens when I read something on twitter and start feeling a rant coming on. I love twitter for the purposes of getting news links, but I hate it for the purposes of conversation - I need more than 140 characters to get my point across. And if I'm doing 14 tweets to get to my point, I may as well blog about it.
So via author Tobias Buckell's twitter feed, I became aware of a story on Shelf Awareness (which in turn came from Bleeding Cool) about how Barnes and Nobel has decided to remove from its stores the 100 graphic novels that DC has given exclusive digital rights to Amazon's Kindle Fire. Let me just reiterate that in case you didn't quite follow - Barnes and Noble is going to stop selling the physical copies of digital comics that are exclusive to the Kindle Fire. I'm going to attempt to only quote one idiom for the rest of this post - isn't this a little like cutting off your nose to spite your face?
I'm going to back up a step and talk about the Kindle Fire. I have no Kindle currently, didn't really have a burning desire to get one (at least not in it's e-ink form). I still like reading physical books, though I do like the idea of not storing them anymore - but I still felt like e-readers weren't doing enough functions for me. On the other hand, I have a laptop computer to do things like typing up rant-y blog posts and spreadsheets and such, so I don't really need a full blown iPad. I've been using my smartphone as my catch-all for awhile, my way of web surfing at night, keeping up with twitter feeds, playing occasional games - and of course as my phone. But I was recently given a phone from my company, making having a second cell phone redundant - just as the Kindle Fire was announced, a nice up-size from my smartphone, giving me all the same functions that I tend to use my phone for but without stuff I don't need. And the Kindle Fire's screen is large enough that I can see myself reading books on it, and comics as well. Some have derided the screen size for comics, as the iPad I guess is truer to the actual size of standard comics - first I'd comment that I enjoy reading digest sized comics, and second all those younger generations that the comics companies are trying to appeal to - yeah, they read Manga which is in guess what size?
So the Kindle Fire is definitely something I'm considering picking up - and the comic news concerning this product is something I'm following closely. As I mentioned in my post earlier today, I'm more of a Marvel guy, so I'm still hoping to hear something from them about their plans to release content - but the DC news was interesting to me. It's a smart move on their part - let's face it, the Kindle Fire is going to have to be a complete disaster for it not to sell like crazy, and DC is smart to position themselves to be selling content to all those new customers. DC has opportunity right now with their line-wide relaunch getting mainstream press, not to mention the popularity of some of it's major characters like Batman and Superman (who are featured prominently in the 100 exclusive books) to add new readers via the Kindle Fire.
And I'm not so naive that I don't understand why Barnes and Noble is annoyed - they wish DC wasn't releasing these titles only on the Kindle Fire, since they have their Nook as well, and it seems obvious to me that the Nook is suffering in comparison to the Kindle Fire. Its the jump in logic that I'm not following - so Barnes and Noble is going to punish who exactly by removing DC's physical books from your shelves? I would imagine that they somehow think this is going to punish DC. The same DC that's currently seeing huge sales because of the relaunch of their line, and will likely see huge sales from their exclusive content on the Kindle Fire. Somehow I don't think they'll even notice.
I've already heard it said that this is more likely to punish the creators, and I can follow that line of thinking, but I doubt that's what Barnes and Noble really wants to do. It will certainly punish the readers, they can't get these books from Barnes and Noble and will then seek them out elsewhere... likely turning to Amazon. But I think the ones they punish the most are themselves. Imagine music stores (I know I'm stretching here, think really hard - they used to exist) getting so annoyed at Sony Music for deciding to sell a particular artist's digital backlog only through iTunes - and so they decide to pull all those same albums out of their stores. You know, stop selling music. Pretty soon people wonder why they're going to the store to buy music, since the store isn't selling it anyway, and they can just get it online from another supplier. Pretty soon you're out of business... which is exactly what happened to the music stores.
I get that the physical book stores are fighting for their lives - but I'm not sure that removing the product you're trying to sell is the answer. I welcome your thoughts.

9 comments:

Jamie Sedgwick said...

I have a Kindle that I bought primarily for proofing my own books. I really like it, but I've always had this urge to flip the pages by touching the screen, a feature that has only just become available (and mine lacks). The Kindle Fire has this and about 50 other features that I'm really excited about, so it's probably going on my Xmas list. Of course there are some other 3rd party alternatives out there. Some of these other Android tablets are getting pretty cheap...

As far as B&N, I can't help but think they're acting out emotionally, almost viscerally. That's not the sort of behavior you expect from a giant corporation. Amazon must have paid dearly for that exclusive deal. I see DC's decision purely as business. Smart business. I love B&N but they haven't really gotten on top of this digital thing. They were a little late to the party and ever since they seem to have been sulking in the corner. They do very little to promote e-books or the Nook, and that's coming from someone who gets their newsletter and ads several times a week. And now that they're late to the party and sulking in the corner, somebody else has already asked the pretty girl to dance.

In my own experience as an author, I've found my sales at B&N to be a tiny fraction of those at Amazon. Tiny. Maybe part of that is the fact that Amazon treats Indies and legacy publishers more or less as equals whereas B&N tends to push us to the back of the bus. Or at least that was how I felt, until they lashed out at DC. Now I'm starting to think they just don't know how to run a business.

Budd said...

So, Barnes and Noble want to follow borders. The want to get back at DC, here is a much better Idea:

Go to Marvel, explain that you have a color reader already on the market and just need content and sign an exclusive deal with them to seel marvel content only over the B&N store, but you sell it in both nook and kindle format. You aren't punishing kindle owners as they can still get the content, you are just making them buy it from you. You can continue to sell paper versions of the DC comics and everyone, especially the consumer, wins

Maurice Mitchell said...

That makes no sense. Sure they'll sell more Kindle books, but for people like me who don't have or want one they'll sell zero. Guess they showed me.

SQT said...

As someone who has-- and been very happy with-- a Nook, I have to say that's idiotic. I love my eReader but I'm not married to one or the other. I'm unusually lucky in that I get digital galleys and the publishers have been broadening the formats so much so that I can be flexible in what reader I use. So why would I want to stick with the company that gives me fewer choices in what I can get? How hard can it be for B&N to keep the physical books and cultivate their own line on digital content?

xenophon38 said...

This is nothing new... When amazon opened its e-publishing house the authors that went to it were essentially blacklisted by the big six. This was done by the publishers refusing to reprint previous offerings and not accepting new manuscripts. Joe Konrath tells it better than I ever could in his blog.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/

Now that this plague has moved to the comic world too it is just sad; and like stated before, just seems like brick and mortar book sellers and publishers are blatantly shooting themselves in the foot.

I am an novice writer with a few short stories published. And I had to work very hard just to achieve that. For the last couple of years I have been working on a manuscript.

http://xenophon.page.tl/Novel-Sample.htm

I would like to get published through traditional means. Nothing can replace the feeling of opening that first box of freshly printed books with your name on the cover and breathing in the fumes of your hard work and a dream achieved.

But...the more I follow the turmoil in the publishing world the more I realize that my first novel will most likely be self or e-pub over traditional methods.

This saddens me greatly, for I have been a life-long fan of the printed word. I have no real answer to this, like many others I have to move with the tide or be swept away by it. Hopefully the greed and pettiness within the industry will subside and authors can just get back to the business of getting their content to their readers without having to jump through so many hoops whilst avoiding the pitfalls...

Jessica ( frellathon ) said...

And now there is no doubt in my mind that B&N will fail. With logic like this what else could happen? I don't read ebooks so if I wanted to get a copy I could now not go into B&N for one. Wow way to cater to your customers.

S.L. Æris said...

B&N is over.

Charles Gramlich said...

Seems likely to me they are trying to send a strong message to the publishers/creators of those graphic novels. They are probably willing to take a hit temporarily if they can make sure it doesn't happen with other titles.

Pabkins said...

This is just insanity. I agree with you...i can't understand their logic.