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Despite the reports and rumors that swirl around bookseller Barnes and Noble, the company has managed to keep its head above water in the retail bookselling space, both physically and online. Reports that the chain will close three hundred brick-and-mortar stores over the next several years was one of the first real nails in its coffin as far as critics were concerned, and coupled with lagging sales of devices and ebooks, many were certain that it was an indication of the company’s doom. But with product launches over the last few years that continue to demonstrate B&N’s commitment to its Nook line of devices, there is evidence that the company still stands behind its plan to innovate with the device and to keep moving forward.
One area that B&N continues to hold its own is in the college textbook market. While the company’s off campus stores have suffered, demonstrated by the recent closing of its flagship New York store that had become a college bookstore over the recent years, its growth on college campuses is surpassed only by Follett.
Now, B&N is combining its retail academic strength with its dedication to digital by announcing the pending development of Yuzu for college textbooks. According to an announcement on the Barnes and Noble College site, “Yuzu is a digital education platform by Barnes & Noble that makes the everyday learning experience remarkably gratifying. It’s an online ecosystem that enables the collaborative, free flow of information between learners and educators, making it easier than ever to teach, learn, discover and digest. Yuzu combines the passion of the mentor and the curiosity of the student to create something never before seen in our industry.”
By building a single-app interface that works through tablets or web-browsers (meaning students no longer have to choose what type of device they bring to college), B&N hopes to build a platform where students, educators, and virtually any stakeholder in the academic process can seamlessly interact with the text or material, regardless of the content’s publisher. It will integrate access to the online bookstore in order to keep all of the user’s content in one location for accessing, studying, and collaborating.
While this concept isn’t exactly new, what may make the difference is the iconic logo behind the platform. Many other startups have tried to build this wholly integrated learning world, but they didn’t come with the backing of a relatively successful and known academic brand. While this launch could finally be what it takes to bring this type of digital learning nirvana to a broader audience of users, it could also be the platform that puts to rest some of the rumors and speculations about B&N’s ability to stay afloat.
One of Amazon’s more hotly contested and expensive legal battles has been what some states so blatantly dubbed “The Amazon Tax.” According to a decades-old Supreme Court decision, catalog retailers and online retailers do not have to charge sales tax in states where they have no physical presence, but state governments realized that Amazon’s distribution centers amounted to a physical presence. In a firestorm of legislation across the country, states began to draft legislation and file lawsuits against the retailer for sales tax.
In some cases, Amazon worked out deals with those states, promising new construction and new jobs in exchange for a delay in the new legislation or a pass on the back taxes; in other states, Amazon simply closed the centers and laid off its employees, thereby erasing its “presence” in the state. A handful of states where Amazon essentially needed to keep the centers open worked out their legislation and concerns with the retailer, and many of them agreed to a delay in Amazon’s collection of the tax.
But now that most of the states are now requiring full compliance with their own tax laws, a recent report has shown a drop in sales in states where the tax was enacted. As much as a ten percent drop in consumer spending to the site has been reported, leading some to question whether there is any truth to the long held criticism that physical retailers, especially independent bookstores, really are losing business to the big-box shopping mentality.
While Amazon maintains that it will continue to thrive for its superior prices, convenient shipping, and above standard customer service, there’s another factor that supports Amazon’s position as it pertains to sales tax. With so many county and city governments within each state charging their own sales taxes on purchases, consumers will still be better off making online purchases, regardless of whether the state collects sales tax. The dubious honor of highest combined sales tax in the country currently goes to the town of Arab, Alabama, where its citizens pay 13.5% sales tax; the state sales tax is only 4%, so online purchases make sense in that area. While some states do not charge a state sales tax on certain items, like Kentucky’s decision not to collect on books, only two states in the country charge sales tax on groceries, Mississippi and Alabama. Consumers in those states are still going to come out far ahead by buying grocery items from Amazon as the retailer is not required to collect sales tax in either of those states yet.
Amazon currently collects sales tax in twenty states, with new states still waiting to enact their taxes. The online retailer has rightfully stated that it supports and will comply with a federal sales tax decision that allows one streamlined system for online retailers, but that the need to establish fifty different modes of taxation on web-based purchases simply wasn’t feasible.
The World Book Night organization is best known for its mission to share one million books each year on April 23, attempting to foster a love of reading in people around the world. This year, a special bonus title is available as well, starting stateside on April 22nd. This free ebook, which can be found HERE, is a compilation of essays from a wide variety of book givers, outlining their experiences in being book givers in 2013. The ebook was powered by Livrada and made available in conjunction with this year’s event.
“As a company, we are thrilled to bring our technology and resources to support World Book Night,” said Livrada’s CEO and co-founder Leonard Chen. “We strive to meld our passion for technology and books, and hope this ebook brings joy to many people this WBN 2014.”
WBN’s executive director Carl Lennertz added, “We’ve discussed a digital component for WBN since year one, but it didn’t come together until the great people at Livrada stepped forward, and until two authors who were givers agreed to contribute pieces. Then we sought and received the fun bookseller and library contributions to the ebook. This is a supplement to our primary mission of printed books, not a change in direction. It’s short and fun original material, and we wanted the givers to have this to offer anyone they meet who might not read often on their smart phones or tablets. Our main mission is still to find a half million people without means or access to printed books, but this digital extra is a nice plus. We also feel it’s a great thank you to the 25,000 volunteer givers to enjoy as well. And now, we have the giver contest to be in next year’s ebook!”
The contest, which lets this year’s givers submit essays on their giving experience this year, will run through May 31st for feature in next year’s ebook. The winner of the essay contest will receive two roundtrip airfares in the US. The library winner will receive two air tickets to the ALA conference, while the bookseller winner will receive two airline tickets to BookExpo 2015. Full contest details can be found HERE.
Verdict: 3 Stars
I expected a lot from Haunted Empire, and I did get a lot of information. It just wasn’t the stuff I thought I would read about. Where was the controversy? Where was the speculation about Apple’s downfall? Basically, where was the information that CEO Tim Cook took issue with?
There was a lot of background information, and I will say that the beginning of the book contained an even closer look at Steve Jobs. It’s funny to read a book that contains information on how Jobs fought with the guy writing his book! There was a lot of really in-depth and thrilling–both heartwarming and negative–information on who Jobs was, told only through the most hidden conversations that made me ask several times, “How did the author find this out?” That’s not to question Kane’s veracity, but to really highlight that she included conversations no one else would have known about.
But while the content within the book gave detailed information about Apple’s woes since the untimely passing of Jobs–I’m not above admitting that I cried several times during Kane’s depiction of the CEO’s last few months and final death–there was nothing of note about where the company is headed with Cook at the helm, at least not in terms of the uproar that followed the book’s publication. Yes, there is certainly mention that Apple hasn’t released anything profound since losing its original dreamer, but it’s also understandable. Kane even paints a picture of a company that is still reinventing itself as a new company, having gone through downturns in the past with various underwhelming CEOs.
At the same time, Kane herself gives so much insight into not only the legal woes that have plagued Apple lately (and kept the company fairly busy with its leadership and its finances tied up in courtroom drama), but also unintentionally details the cyclical nature of Apple’s innovations. It’s hardly newsworthy that the company that brought us the iPhone, iPod, iPad, and resulting app and music stores in the space of such a short time frame would rest on its laurels for a moment before attempting to launch anything quite as world changing again.
Haunted Empire was insightful and interesting, but hardly earned its reputation as the tell-all, “bearer of bad tidings” book that the hype told us to expect.
With its focus on helping authors meet the financial needs of publishing books, Pubslush does more than just create a platform for book preorders. Yesterday, vice president and co-founder Amanda Barbara spoke to Good e-Reader about a contest the site is hosting through their company, the Little Reader Snapshot Contest.
In conjunction with the Children’s Book Council and timed to coincide with the annual Children’s Book Week (May 12-18, 2014), Pubslush’s contest encourages parents to upload snapshots of their children reading their favorite books. The contest, aimed at readers ages twelve and under, includes a prize package worth $500 in books, with varies titles made available for different ages.
Now in its 95th year, Children’s Book Week is the longest running literacy initiative in the US. The work of promoting the event every year falls under the non-profit organization Every Child A Reader. Organizations like schools, libraries, and citizen groups will host various events at the local level in conjunction with Book Week.
For Pubslush’s contest, participants upload a photo of their children to one of four different age categories; a category for classroom readers is also open. The photos will be voted on through Pubslush’s Facebook page, and the winner in each category with the most votes will be awarded a book bundle to continue the reading fun. Entrants may promote their readers’ photos on Twitter under the hashtags #littlereader and #CBW14. The contest is open now through May 18th, and a winner will be announced on May 20th.
The world of Harry Potter is very real to some people, so real in fact that there are live Quidditch matches and yes, college teams. Even better, these college and fan teams actually have a Quidditch World Cup competition, taking place in Florida. the fact that none of the players has a flying broom is not a deterrent.
This year, for the seventh World Cup, author and inventor of flying Quidditch JK Rowling reported on the match, commentating as Ginny Weasley, long time fan of the sport. Her reports can be found posted on the Pottermore website. Of course, these would be news reports, under the sports section, so fans must go to the Daily Prophet office on Diagon Alley in order to find the updates.
According to a press release from the team at Pottermore, “To deliver the reports, Pottermore has opened a brand new location on Pottermore.com – the offices in Diagon Alley of the fictional wizarding newspaper the Daily Prophet, which fans can visit for the first time and discover this exclusive new writing from J.K. Rowling.
“The posts begin with a report on the opening ceremony of the 2014 Quidditch World Cup. With characteristic humour, Rowling describes how the international teams’ mascots, magical creatures from the world of Harry Potter, took part in the ceremony and caused havoc for their handlers.
We find out why more than 300 crowd members are suffering from shock, broken bones and bites following the ceremony, and why failure to bring their usual mascots, a troupe of performing trolls, caused a great deal of trouble for the Norwegian delegation. A ‘live’ match report details the thrilling action between Norway and Ivory Coast in the first match of the tournament.”
This is not the first time Rowling has written more information about the wizard game, as two pieces of writing on the game were posted earlier this year. The live version may be more exciting to fans than the wizard rendition, as it has been featured in popular films like The Internship and the Disney Channel show “Jessie.”
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