Technology Left Behind -- Barnes and Noble Carves a nook in the eReader Market

Against the Grain, Dec 2014

Cris Ferguson

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Technology Left Behind -- Barnes and Noble Carves a nook in the eReader Market

Technolog y Left B ehind -- Barnes and Noble Car ves a nook in the eReader Market Cris Ferguson 0 1 0 Furman University 1 Column Editor: Cris Ferguson, Electronic Resources/Serials Librarian, James B. Duke Library, Furman University , 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville, SC 29613; Phone: 864-294-2713 - Technology Left Behind — Barnes and Noble Carves a nook in the eReader Market Ounveiled nook, its response to the n October 20, 2009, Barnes & Noble Kindle and other eBook reading devices. B&N’s foray into the eBook market, which includes the purchase of the eBookstore Fictionwise in March 2009, is part of the company’s overall strategy to keep it competitive in the book selling industry, both print and electronic. While the device is often referred to as “the Nook,” Barnes & Noble specifically uses a lowercase “n” when marketing the device and does not use the article “the” to refer to nook. In terms of their basic functionalities, nook and the Kindle are quite similar. Both have a six-inch E-Ink display and weigh less than a pound. (nook weighs about an ounce more than the Kindle.) They each have 2GB of built-in memory, carrying up to 1500 eBooks. Both have built-in dictionaries and permit users to bookmark pages and make notes. Overall, nook is quite comparable in dimension and capabilites to the Kindle. However, there are notable differences that make nook stand out from the crowd to some degree. Instead of a keyboard, nook features a small, full-color, back-lit touchscreen. Located just below the E-Ink display, the touchscreen, which was designed with navigation in mind, allows users to scroll through books and magazines by title or by cover art. Essentially occupying the same piece of real estate that the Kindle’s keyboard does, nook’s touchscreen can also be used as a virtual keyboard for searching purposes. One notable disadvantage to the touchscreen is its drain on nook’s battery. Perhaps to help compensate for this, nook has a replaceable battery, which the Kindle does not. According to the Barnes & Noble Website, in addition to the 2GB of internal memory, nook offers expandable storage, accommodating a 16-GB microSD card. The device can also be used as an MP3 player for music or audio books, holding up to 26 hours of audio. There are certainly features that the Kindle offers that nook does not. For example, the Kindle accepts Word files and includes a rudimentary Web browser, neither of which is available on nook. Like the Kindle, nook uses AT&T 3G wireless. Barnes & Noble also makes free Wi-Fi available within its stores. The Wi-Fi connection within B&N stores enables nook customers to “completely browse any eBook B&N is carrying while also offering exclusive content to nook users.” (Milliot) Rik Fairlie recently conducted a head-tohead comparison of the three major eBook readers on the market: nook, Kindle and Sony Reader. Fairlie’s review, which can be found in the January / February 2010 issue of Money, names nook as its top pick. Reasons for this decision include the number of titles available, both paid and freely available, and the navigation that is facilitated by the LCD touchscreen. As the review points out, Barnes & Noble has a much larger library of eBooks available for purchase and access, over one million titles compared to Amazon’s almost 400,000. In addition, nook can display the EPUB format, enabling users to download titles from Google and from their public library. Kindle does not support the EPUB format at this time, meaning that far fewer free eBooks are accessible to Kindle users. Another notable difference between the Kindle and nook is the capability to lend out eBook content. Through its LendMe program, Barnes & Noble allows nook owners to lend eBook content to anyone with a nook, PC, Mac, iPhone, or other smartphone. The recipient need only have the B&N reader installed on his or her device. The Barnes & Noble eReader, which is freely available via the B&N Website, is a proprietary application that permits users to read Barnes & Noble eBooks on devices such as the ones mentioned above. It must be noted that the LendMe feature has some pretty significant limitations. First, not all titles are available through the program. Publishers may choose to opt out of LendMe, making their content unavailable for lending. In addition, each eBook may only be lent out for 14 days, during which time it is not available to the lender. Lastly, an eBook may only be lent out only once. If the recipient isn’t able to read the book completely during the 14 day loan period, the eBook cannot be lent to them, or anyone else, again. nook and all its features can be yours for the price of $259, which is, not coincidentally, the exact price of the Kindle2. Pricing for the eBooks themselves are also quite similar. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble charge $9.99 for most bestsellers. nook officially began shipping at the beginning of December, and there were reports of some shipping delays before the holidays. Those problems appear to have been rectified at this point. A nook ordered on February 3, 2010 was estimated to arrive on February 12, 2010 with free shipping. Barnes & Noble is taking great advantage of its retail locations to market nook, offering live in-store demonstrations of the device. B&N superstores are all supposed to have large nook displays, as well as 17 of B&N’s college bookstores. Having a dedicated retail presence gives Barnes & Noble a distinct advantage over its competitors in the e-reader device market. Customers can explore the device and put it through its paces before purchasing, something that is difficult to do with the Kindle unless you know someone who owns one. Unfortunately, nook is not actually available for sale in B&N stores. A B&N bookseller will, if you ask, order the device for you through the B&N Website and have it shipped to your house, but you cannot leave the store with device in hand. I visited my local B&N to check out nook for myself. At my B&N, the nook display featured prominently at the store’s customer service desk. Two nooks, firmly anchored to the counter via secure cables, were available for testing, and big light-up signs proudly proclaimed nook’s arrival. Overall, I found the device to be remarkably similar to the Kindles my library has purchased. However, I must express my preference for nook. I was completely won over by the touchscreen and the navigational capabilities it offered. It should be noted that the battle for a share of the eBook reader market is far from over. While this column was in progress, a new player entered the arena with the release of iPad. Unveiled on January 27, 2010, Apple’s much anticipated tablet device is set to start shipping in April 2010. The iBook application will enable users to browse the iBook store, which boasts content from five major publishers. Pricing will start at $499 for a 16 GB model. More than just an eBook reader and MP3 player, the iPad could certainly give both the Kindle and nook a run for their money. Resources A consortial-level project team (or teams) could ameliorate this. With a number of libraries in need of project work, a team of this nature could be kept busy full-time, rotating its services among members. No individual library would bear the cost of retaining such a staff full-time, but all would be able to draw upon its capacity as needed. A similar approach could be used to amortize curation, preservation, and digitization expertise and capacity across the entire shared collection. Many libraries and consortia, of course, have already recognized and seized these opportunities: • The University of California’s Shared Cataloging Program and California Digital Library have distributed highlevel skills across the entire UC system. Its Next Generation Technical Services initiative seeks to bring those operations to the UC network level. • Shared offsite storage facilities like Harvard/MIT’s, Colorado PASCAL and a host of others have reduced costs and collection redundancies. • In Florida, both FCLA and CCLA provide centralized automation support for most of the academic libraries in the state. • Programs such as Orbis Cascade’s Distributed Print Repository have enabled libraries to extend their space while providing a secure archiving solution for valuable content. • The CIC’s Hathi Trust has pioneered secure digital archiving for millions of book titles. • The CONSORT libraries in Ohio have drastically reduced the overlap in tangible Government Documents in their respective collections. • The Colorado Alliance has implemented a large-scale digitization program for microforms. • Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin Colleges have initiated a fully shared approval plan, in which weekly shipments alternate among all three campuses. • Columbia and Cornell have begun to formally explore closer collaboration between their technical services operations, in a pilot program known as 2CUL. This list merely scratches the surface. There are hundreds of similar endeavors that demonstrate the actual and potential benefits of groundbased collaboration within a region. (We’ll reserve the drawbacks for another, much more entertaining article.) But there is much more to be done, and well-managed consortia are the organizations best positioned to do it. No matter how fully the library in the cloud is realized, efficient exchange of material, equipment and staff will continue to require these libraries on the ground. And yea, verily, sharing shall sweep the regions…except for the region of my stuff. Back Talk from page 86 didn’t spend more than one night in any single building for fear of assassination. We talked about the events of China during the preceding 30 plus years. I asked him if he thought China might return to the chaos of the past. He said thoughtfully, “I don’t think so, I hope not.” It is this context that I think the whole episode of Google and its experience with China’s government has to be viewed. China has experienced such sorrow and pain due to ideology, and so the current government, which lacks any ideology except a belief in the linkage between “peace” and “prosperity,” refuses to allow any opposition to its own power — which situation they define as “chaos.” So, in library land, as long as you don’t want to buy and circulate books which challenge the Government, you are free to do what you want. This is much better than during the Cultural Revolution when all books except those applauding Mao were forbidden, when all music and drama except for a relatively small selection of Communist hymns and plays Technology Left Behind from page 81 could be sung, listened to, or performed, when lady librarians couldn’t wear nice clothes or use make-up, when opinions could not be expressed for fear of being exposed by your friends or family members when under pressure to give up some tidbit of counter revolutionary behavior. Yet, I hope that China will soon feel sufficiently confident of itself that the people will voluntarily choose to follow the policies of the Government and that opposing views can be tolerated without fear that they will be adopted by many other people. China is such a beautiful country, its people are so wonderfully resourceful, its culture is so remarkable, and the amount of prosperity that has been achieved in such a short period of time is so amazing that it deserves to be respected — but voluntarily. Baig , Edward C. “ Wrinkles mar arrival of Barnes & Noble's Nook .” USA Today. ( 12 /10/2009): Money section , 05b . Carnoy , David. “Is Barnes & Noble's Nook a Kindle Killer?” in Crave . CNET News. (October 20 , 2009 ). 17938_ 105 - 10379125 -1.html Carr , David. “To Deliver, iPad Needs Media Deal.” New York Times. (January 31 , 2010 ). 2010 /02/01/ business/media/01carr.html Fairlie, Rik. “ How the E-Readers Stack continued on page 85 Up.” Money 39 , issue 1 (January / February 2010 ): 68 . Jaroslovsky , Rich. “Double Vision.” BusinessWeek is. 4160 ( December 21, 2009 ): 87 - 88 . Milliot , Jim. “Barnes & Noble Touts Three-Prong Approach .” Publisher's Weekly 256 , no. 44 ( November 2 , 2009 ): 4 - 5 . Milliot , Jim. “B& N Steps Up : the Nook Arrives.” Publisher's Weekly 256 , no. 43 (October 26 , 2009 ): 6 . Endnotes 1 . Perez , Juan Carlos (5 February , 2010 ). After China pull-out bluster, will Google backtrack? Computerworld. Downloaded 6 February 2010 . http://www.computerworld. com/s/article/9152978/After_China_pull_ out_bluster_. Newman , Jared. “Barnes & Noble's Nook: More Than the Basics .” PCWorld (January 2010 ): 20 . Reid , Calvin and Josh Hadro . “ Nook from B&N Pushes E-reader Market Forward” in Infotech. Library Journal (November 15 , 2009 ): 15 . Shah , Agam. “ It's Official: Jobs Announces Apple's iPad.” . (January 27 , 2010 ). article/187901/its_official_jobs_announces_ apples_ipad.html

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