Barnes and Noble tends to go through phases where they are total in stealth mode about whats happening in the Nook division. The last time they had anything to say was in November when they launched Nook Audiobooks and before that, they really hyped up the two Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook tablets. How are hardware sales doing and how many people are listening to audiobooks? Nobody seems to know, and this is the type of information that appeases shareholders and makes for a good headline. So whats next for Nook? Today, we take a look back at their most notable achievements of 2014 and project what the company will be doing in 2015.
Barnes and Noble did not release any new e-ink based readers in 2014, but did issue the Nook Glowlight in late November 2013. This was their second iteration of a reader that included a front-lit display. It was polished and refined, but did not sell in the type of numbers that the Nook Simple Touch experienced.
Instead of e-readers, the largest bookseller in the US decided to go the tablet route. In the past, they did everything in-house through their California research and development center. This time around, they decided to just outsource the entire hardware design to Samsung, which merely gave them the 7 and 10 inch Galaxy Tab 4th generation tablets. Barnes and Noble simply used a stock version of Android and ported over a few of their customized Android apps. This included an online bookstore, e-reader app, app store and various customization options.
Many customers expressed disappointment in their latest line of Nook tablets, citing the resolution was worse than the previous generation and it lost most of the Nook charm.
Barnes and Noble really shook up their executive group in 2014. The company got a new CEO, former president, Michael Huseby, who replaced William Lynch. Jim Hilt, head of global e-book sales, digital products director Jamie Iannone and VP of digital products Bill Saperstein all departed in early 2014. Towards the end of the year Theresa Horner the VP, Digital Content at Barnes & Noble has left the company and was replaced by Doug Carlson, CMO and EVP of Digital Content.
Barnes and Noble have been bringing in a number of people from outside the traditional book-selling industry, such as former Zinio executives Doug Carlson and Jeanniey Mullen. The main intention behind these and many other great new hires is to bring in fresh ideas. The previous Nook regime had all been there forever, before Nook even launched. Most of them were not very tech savvy and were basically thrust into new roles. The brand was really solid at first, but somehow lost their way in 2013, as apathy and boardroom politics affected the brand.
Towards the end of 2014, Barnes and Noble wanted to solidify more control over the future of the Nook brand. The bookseller plans on spinning off the Nook business from book-selling in late 2015. In order to lay down the framework they had to buy out Microsoft and academic publisher Pearson’s stake in Nook Media.
What does Barnes and Noble have planned for 2015? The company intends on releasing a new e-reader. I have heard reports that intend on making it very modern, and use a capacitive touchscreen display with a new version of e-paper from e Ink. Likely, they will not release any new tablets, as they tend to do it in two year cycles.
Barnes and Noble is at a crossroads with their digital distribution system and has hard choices to make in 2015. They spent a fortune developing their own app ecosystem and luring developers to use their own custom SDK to include their apps on the Nook App Store. A few years ago, they decided that they had to form a relationship with Google, in order to have Google Play available on their complete line of tablets. This effectively relegated the Nook store to play second fiddle to Google. The same thing is occurring with Nook Video, they simply don’t have the necessary team in place to really make it a viable alternative to Hulu, Netflix or Amazon Instant Video.
Nook also has to figure out about what they want with Nook Press, their self-publishing platform. This service is not promoted very well at all, and has literary zero presence at most of the big events that center around publishing, like Book Expo America and Romance Writers of America. The platform has a whole does not even appear on the top 89 sites commonly used by indie authors.
Nook Press has a lot of potential. The synergy that can be blended between the physical bookstore and the digital is something Amazon, Kobo or Smashwords can’t match. Not only does Nook Press need an evangelist to promote the platform globally, but also needs to lay down framework that gets the bestselling indie novels inside their bookstores and promote it. As soon as they manage to do that, they will generate and cultivate a new breed of writer that wants to sell both traditionally and digitally.
I think spinning off the Nook division from the traditional book selling business would be a good move. It would create separation on the executive level, you would have the digital people and the bookstores in totally different camps. This would allow Nook to create their own company culture and have more freedom to take calculated risks. I also think that more executives and brilliant minds from the tech industry would be more likely to consider working at Nook, if it were purely digital and whose sole intention is to be a priority, not a diversion.
Thursday, January 1, 2015
It has taken legacy newspaper publishers a number of years to find their groove in the digital age. Advertising in the traditional paper has declined 40% in recent years and this has prompted everyone to look for alternative means to profits. Some have rolled out successful paywal strategies, while others embrace the metered approach.
The Times and The Sunday Times recently announced a profit for the first time in 13 years. In 2014 the two newspapers made $2.7 million profit, up from last year’s $9.2 million loss. One of the reasons why the Times are doing well, is because Rupert Murdoch spun the newspaper division into its own autonomous entity in 2011 called News U.K. Costs have been reduced, and advertising now brings in only 44% of revenues, while 51% comes from sales.
The Times is not alone in seeing its fortunes improve in recent years. In 2013, the Financial Times, which operates a metered model, saw circulation grow 8% to 652,000 — the highest paid readership in its 126-year history — although print readership continued to fall.
Digital has also boosted profits by 13% to $111 million at The Daily Mail and General Trust, whose free MailOnline is one of the most heavily read sites in the world. On a daily basis they are getting 25,271,874 global reads on average.
The Guardian, which is also free to view and aggressively expanding globally, revenues were up 6.8% and digital revenues up 24%. Meanwhile, the Telegraph, which operates a metered paywall, made profits of $96 million in 2013, up from $92 million the previous year. This was against a background of aggressive cost-cutting and despite a 0.7% fall in revenues, and helped by continued growth in advertising and subscription income.
One of the more interesting things the Guardian has been doing in 2014 is the addition of audio content. The newspaper and Audible came to an agreement where every week the Guardian Audio Edition will hit Audible, and give you a feel for the UK's book scene. Audible is also sponsoring the Guardian Books homepage, its weekly books podcast, and its books review pages, with co-branded advertising across the newspaper's website and print edition. The success of this endeavor has prompted the Guardian to expand on their audio ambitions to make mini-podcasts out of each of their featured stories.
Most of these papers have managed to add thousands of new digital readers due to relationships they have established with a number of international distributors. The largest of these, Pressreader currently offers over 600 UK newspapers, which not only appeals to people who read the digital format exclusively, but also business travelers and expats.
Overall, the future of digital newspapers is looking bright. The vast majority of the publishers are now making a profit and the usage of mobile and tablet apps is on the upswing.
Amazon had a very productive year and managed to keep themselves in the news with ton of product releases and business maneuverings. Today, we take a look back at the 10 most notable things Amazon did in 2014.
Amazon Buys Twitch
Amazon acquired the video-game streaming site Twitch Interactive Inc. in August for $970 million. The company doesn’t make a lot of acquisitions, so one of this size was notable. The video streaming service will complement Amazon's Prime Music streaming service, which is part of its Amazon TV system. Already Twitch culture has changed since Amazon bought it, when partial nudity is no longer allowed.
Send in the Drones – Meet Amazon Air Prime
Amazon took over the blogosphere by storm when it announced their futuristic Prime Air program. It promises a quad helicopter will drop off your package 30 minutes after ordering it. Amazon wants to get it running in the next few years but FAA restrictions are not making it easy.
In April Amazon announced Fire TV which allows you to install apps and watch Amazon-produced content on their TVs. It is similar to Apple TV and Roku, except it has more of an emphasis on playing games.
The main Fire TV unit came with a remote and optional game controller. At the tail end of 2014 the company unveiled the Fire Stick, which is an alternative to the Google Chromecast.
The Golden Globes
Amazon produced "Transparent" receives two Golden Globe nominations. The success of the show marks Amazon's real entrance into the competitive online television network. The show is available via Amazon Prime, which Amazon mentioned got 10 million new members during the holiday season.
The Kindle Voyage is widely considered the best e-reader ever made. It has the highest resolution e-paper screen in the world and the PPI is unparalleled. It has buttons built into the bezel, an ambient light sensor and employs a new hybrid magnesium alloy. This not only makes the e-reader lighter than previous iterations, but prevents scuffs and fingerprints. Family Sharing allows you to share purchases with your friends and family.
Fire Phone Flops
Amazon admitted that their first ever smartphone was a flop, but that is not going to dissuade them from releasing more in the future. The phone suffered from a very high price and exclusivity with AT&T when it first launched. Its fairy cheap now and the unlocked version has fallen from its $699 launch price.
AWS Lowers its Price
Amazons cloud computing network powers Netflix and other major companies all over the world. They cut their data transfer rates by 43% starting in December 2014, which is halving many startups bills that can’t afford their own server farms. The reduction in price was made to help combat competition from Microsoft, Google and the giant VMware, not to mention the hundreds of cloud companies sprouting up around the world.
Hachette Dispute Dominated the headlines
Amazon and major publisher Hachette were locked in a six month long contract dispute which polarized the entire publishing industry. Never before have we seen pop culture and various author groups lambaste Amazon as being a money grabbing empire, who is bad for authors.
Kindle Unlimited Launches
Amazon's Kindle Unlimited, the ebook and audiobook subscription service that lets members pay a flat monthly fee for unlimited access to its catalog, went live during the summer. It offers users a thirty day free trial and the option to pay $9.99 a month for the service. There are over 700,000 e-Book and audiobook titles available. Major publishers have yet to embrace the platform and the vast majority of titles are from indie authors who publish on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing. This service has been in the news in the last few months as many authors are seeing a huge decline in sales.
Amazon added nearly 4 million square feet of office space in Seattle in 2014. The company is constructing two 38-story high-rise buildings and a five-story "bubble" building in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood. It is on track to have enough space for more than 71,000 employees in the city in the next five years.
|Energy Sistem, a Spanish brand for ebook readers, has recently launched some new ereaders. Energy Sistem is small electronics company that has been selling ebook readers since at least 2010 with the Energy Book 3050 and 4050 Touch. I haven’t posted about them since last year when the Energy eReader E4 Mini turned up on […]|
|Barnes and Noble is currently running some different promotions to give customers a reason to continue supporting the Nook brand. B&N often drops the prices of their Nook devices to increase sales, but this time around we’ve got some various content deals instead. First up, Barnes and Noble is offering a magazine deal where they […]|
When Comixology was acquired by Amazon it put comic book publishers on notice. They realized that they had to look for alternative distribution methods, because it was only a matter of time before they had to renegotiate their contracts. This has promoted DC to sign a new agreement with iVerse, making their entire line of comics available via the ComicsPlus app.
DC and Marvel account for 70% of the print and digital market for comics. They both offer standalone apps that were designed and run by Comixology, something many comic buyers are unaware of. When Comixology decided to abandon in-app purchases from their main app for iOS, users lost the ability to make impulse purchases. This is something that iVerse is hoping to leverage.
"DC coming on board has been huge for iVerse as a company — obviously — but it's also been important for me personally," said iVerse CEO Michael Murphey. "I have been a DC fan for as long as I can remember. I was a Superman fan before I could talk, and those characters and that universe are still very, very important to me. I could not be happier to have them on board."
iVerse knows that in order to take on ComiXology in a serious way, they have to innovate. One of the ways they intend on making this happen is to make significant upgrades to the app. One feature, that is entirely unique is being able to rent graphic novels. Graphic novels from participating publishers can be rented via ComicsPlus for, typically, $1.99 for 24 hours, $2.99 for 48 hours, and $3.99 for 120 hours. Titles from Archie, IDW, and Valiant show up in the initial offering.
Renting comics makes sense, because when you purchase a comic in full, you don’t actually retain ownership. Instead, you merely license it, which makes renting something that normally retails for $19.99 or more, is a solid value proposition.
The other big upgrade to the app is an alternative to the Comixology guided view system, named "uView." This is a system that allows readers to crop panels into a slideshow-like sequence and then view their creation in a similar manner. Some titles will ship with a "featured" uView as an automatic download.
Finally, iVerse is planning on rolling out a DRM-Free system sometime in 2015, that will allow readers to have a true sense of ownership of the comics they buy. No publishers have been announced yet, but likely the company wants to launch with hundreds of comics from several publishers at once.
I think publishers really want to get away from Comixology and iVerse is one of the last men standing from the original rush of companies entering the mobile and tablet space several years ago. The fact they are continuing to stay relevant and innovate is a boon to comic book lovers.