January 30, 2012

Barnes & Noble, Taking On Amazon in the Fight of Its Life - NYTimes.com

I believe print books will become a niche market in just a few years. Why do I say that? Look at the music industry and realize that the CD is a dying breed. As young people have grown up with electronic devices, it's only natural for them to read on the devices as well as listen and view. Whether 'books' in the traditional long form survive as a popular format remains to be seen because attention spans are also notoriously shortened in this digital world.

The big music stores have long ago disappeared from my area.  Music is still sold at Best Buy and Walmart, but I see relatively few shoppers in that department. Instead, people buy and pirate music online. We have one large Barnes & Noble store, and it seems busy enough in a university town, but can it last?

I think I am a realistic example of why printed books will die rapidly. I'm an elderly voracious reader, but infrequently  long-form books, perhaps only a half dozen annually. I read news stories, columns and opinions mostly from my desktop PC, which means, the NY Times, WSJ, various technology and other news sites are my sources.

I am also a Google junkie and use about 20 of their cloud services. It's very difficult to beat 'free' with good apps that are always improving. So reading time on my PC means fewer traditional print books in the easy chair. That's reserved mostly for TV. At first I bought a few Google Books which I read mostly on my Android phone, but occasionally on my desktop PC, too. I like the great convenience of books I own available everywhere without having to lug them around and take up space storing them.

As a dedicated Amazon fan, I buy hundreds of dollars of stuff from them every year for reasons of selection, price and convenience using the Amazon Prime service providing the $79 unlimited 'free' shipping. I also bought myself a Kindle Fire for Christmas and really do like it for convenience and ease of use to read content, browse and buy. Amazon has a real winner here, because it is a gateway to all that Amazon offers, content as well as hard goods. I usually keep it on a table by my easy chair, using it during commercials or when dull TV content prevails. Barnes & Noble lacks this competitive advantage.

The Times story makes no mention of this massive Amazon competitive advantage. For me the choice is simple. Buy a device that provides me the the ability to buy nearly anything, rather than just reading material. It's the reason that I also bought a few shares of Amazon stock at the time I purchased my Kindle Fire. 

bought a couple of Amazon books for the Fire and I really like the ability to send PDF files to it via email for reading or to take documents such as agendas and minutes to a meeting. However, I find that Google does not make it easy to convert documents in their Docs cloud to PDFs for sending via email. (Instead, you download it as a PDF, then attach it to an email to send it from a PC to the Kindle. It would be so much more convenient to to convert to PDF right in Google Docs and send immediately.) I suspect Google makes it a multi-step process for competitive reasons.

In summary, Amazon will win this battle and the traditional print publishers need a different business model. Smart authors will not restrict themselves to books in print, at least not if they want my business.
"...Without Barnes & Noble, the publishers’ marketing proposition crumbles. The idea that publishers can spot, mold and publicize new talent, then get someone to buy books at prices that actually makes economic sense, suddenly seems a reach. Marketing books via Twitter, and relying on reviews, advertising and perhaps an appearance on the “Today” show doesn’t sound like a winning plan.
What publishers count on from bookstores is the browsing effect. Surveys indicate that only a third of the people who step into a bookstore and walk out with a book actually arrived with the specific desire to buy one..."

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