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One of the facets of the education system that still frustrates teachers and parents alike is the loss of valuable and hard-won academic skills over the course of the summer break. While the length of the break varies by state, it can be close to three months, or nearly one-third of the year for what are already emergent readers and learners.

Barnes and Noble issued a press release today that announces its kids’ summer reading program, offering a chance for kids to receive a mini-library of free NOOK books with the in-store purchase of a new NOOK tablet device. The popular titles are from well-known juvenile literature authors and include select books like the Judy Moody series, Artemis Fowl, and the Kingdom Keepers series.

“We are excited to bring together our award-winning NOOK Tablet and this fantastic free collection of bestselling titles so children can start building their summer reading library,” said Jim Hilt, Vice President of eBooks for Barnes & Noble, in the press release. “With this offer, we will create lifetime readers by delivering great content into the hands of young readers through an engaging and interactive digital experience.”

In order to target age-appropriate ebooks to the right audience of young readers, the NOOK book giveaway will be active during a pre-determined window of dates. Between June 18th and July 15th, the titles will be most appropriate for readers between the ages of seven and twelve. From July 15th through August 6th, the ebooks will be from the teen summer reading collection. The final program will run through September 2nd and will feature books for young readers.

At the time of in-store purchase of either a NOOK Tablet 8GB or 16GB, customers will receive coupon codes for the free downloads of the titles they wish to add to their digital lockers. Customers can choose to download and enjoy ebooks one at a time, or download the entire collection that is available at that date.

Wired magazine published a two-page review of e-readers and unfortunately it comes a little too late for Christmas shoppers to do anything other than wish they had bought the other guy’s device. Of the four major e-readers for the U.S. market that the tech team reviewed, the Kobo Touch, Nook Simple Touch , Sony Reader PRS-T1, and the Amazon Kindle, even Wired staffers were surprised by their choice: the Kobo machine.

The editor’s pick was based on the device having the fastest touch response time of the four devices and their opinion that the reading on the screen felt the most natural of the test machines. Interestingly, the device tied with the Sony Reader as the most expensive model they reviewed at $130, compared to the $99 Nook and the $79 version of the Kindle.

Each machine had its pluses and minuses; in the case of the Kobo, first unveiled at the IDPF conference in May of this year, the magazine staffers actually were put off by the lack of buttons on the hardware, as well as the fact that there are very limited magazine choices in the Kobo catalog (about forty newspapers and magazines compared to Amazon’s 300), a reading option that both Amazon and Barnes&Noble have been hard at work this year to provide for their customers.

As for the two major U.S. players, the Nook and the Kindle, Wired’s editors loved the Nook’s easy setup and social platform, but weren’t as thrilled that the B&N device has no web browser. On the Kindle side of the fence, they liked the language selections, the overall price, and massive catalog of titles that Amazon can provide, but had a negative comment about the ad placements on the Special Offers version of the Kindle that they tested.

The Sony device, a less popular option for American reading consumers, was visually appealing but very cumbersome according to the testers. It offers great search features from Google books, but was overall just not worth the money when the Amazon and Barnes&Noble competitors are simply a better value.

The full review can be found in this month’s Wired magazine.

When Barnes&Noble began its massive media campaign of commercials for its Nook e-reader, the imagery was very serene and quite deliberately targeted to women. Images of users lounging on window benches while their children played in the yard or of readers under umbrellas at the beach were intended to draw in a demographic who simply wanted to enjoy a good book with the convenience of digital. At a press conference in May of this year, B&N unveiled its back-to-basics device, the Simple Touch Reader, for those who didn’t want or need the added features of the Nook Color.

Now, Barnes&Noble is returning its attention to its Nook Color and NOOK tablet users with a release of a variety of apps and games. NOOK will now have dedicated apps for the popular games Words with Friends and Plants vs. Zombies, as well as an app for social media site Twitter. These apps join the already popular NOOK apps for Angry Birds and Scrabble.

“For those who love to read and enjoy playing word and classic games, finding kid-friendly treasures, travel apps and more, NOOK Tablet and NOOK Color continue top holiday wish lists,” said Jamie Iannone, President of Digital Products, Barnes & Noble. “Customers can find thousands of popular NOOK Apps optimized for our brilliant 7-inch VividView™ touchscreen to keep them entertained, learning and exploring on our highly portable devices. We encourage holiday shoppers to visit one of our stores to experience some of our incredible apps on our award-winning devices. We’ll even gift-wrap your new NOOK device for free.”

Barnes&Noble sweetened the deal in a press release today by offering some incentives for people who are still planning on purchasing an e-reader device or tablet this holiday season. They’ll bump up to free expedited shipping on any NOOK device purchased today.

Barnes&Noble, developers of the NOOK line of e-readers and full-color Android powered tablets, announced its partnership with VIZ Media to bring over 100 anime and manga titles to the NOOK digital catalog.

“NOOK Tablet and NOOK Color are ideal devices for our customers to enjoy manga in stunning high resolution color that virtually makes the action leap off the page,” said Theresa Horner, Vice President of Digital Content for Barnes & Noble in a press release today. “We’re excited to work with VIZ Media to offer NOOK customers access to some of the most popular manga titles available in North America.”

One of the key demographics that have felt the sting of not having simple access to indie digital publishing are the writers and fans of graphic novels, so any strides that are made in bringing high-quality, big name titles to the digital devices is a welcome move.

“The Barnes & Noble team and VIZ Media have put together a fantastic manga reading experience by giving NOOK customers full control of their reading experience with the ability to pinch and zoom to dive into the tiniest details,” says Alvin Lu, Senior Vice President and General Manager of VIZ Media. “Barnes & Noble has been a major partner with VIZ Media for many years in growing the North American print manga market, and we’re very excited to expand our relationship to make our vast digital library of manga titles available to NOOK Tablet and NOOK Color customers. Over 100 volumes will be available at launch and we look forward to quickly expanding these selections to more than 500 in the coming months.”

Some of the titles that will be available at the launch are in the Beast Master line, Hyde & Closer volumes one through six, Fushigi Yugi, and many more.

It seems that Amazon is the book retailer that everyone loves to hate, from rival major book chains and mom-and-pop booksellers to the major players in the publishing industry, but the harshest words yet for the online retailer may have finally arrived. According to James Daunt, CEO of Waterstone’s, Amazon is the devil.

The UK-based Waterstone’s chain was bought by a Russian backer, but Daunt was brought on board this year to turn things around for the retailer, something Daunt has done by making the physical bookstore more of an engaging shopping experience rather than just a location for making book transactions. Daunt himself owns a small chain of six independent bookshops, so he is personally familiar with the common perception of consumers who browse in a bookstore then make their purchases online.

One of the steps that Waterstone’s has hinted at for its revitalization is the unveiling of its own e-reader device. Those who remember the aftermath of the Borders collapse may recall that not having its own specific digital reader was one of the things that many critics pointed to as its failure to embrace ebooks in the way that Amazon and Barnes & Noble did. The chain opted instead to invest in Kobo e-readers, and a similar comparison has been made in the case of Waterstone’s. Various rumors include the possibility that Waterstone’s would not launch its own device but that it would instead offer customers a UK-compatible repackaged version of the B&N Nook, although Kobo has also been mentioned.

In an interview in September, Daunt even speculated that the device Waterstone’s chooses to project will be available as early as this spring, a pretty ambitious time frame given that the retailer only began discussing the possibility of an e-reader after the buyout this summer and that the value of the company right now is only $50 million. That’s just under the low end of what Barnes & Noble spent to develop its own answer to the Kindle.

The largest physical retail bookseller in Canada, Indigo Books & Music, has made some massive changes to its store locations and its current business models, changes that have more than a few publishers anxious to see how it will impact their business.

At face value, the changes that Indigo is incorporating in its brick-and-mortar locations seem like nothing more than sound business practice. In an economy in which bookstores, from the major chains down to the small-town independent stores, are closing at an alarming rate, Indigo has found a way to meet the demands of its customers by being more than just a bookstore. The revamped presence of the stores has expanded to incorporate “lifestyle products” like home goods and apparel, in an attempt to become the “world’s first lifestyle store for book lovers,” according to chief executive Heather Reisman.

In light of the loss of the entire Border’s chain, a loss that many felt could be blamed in no small part on the retailer’s failure to keep up with a changing bookselling market concept, the newly restyled Indigo stores might seem like a smart move. So where do the publishers fit in?

More lamps for sale in the store mean less room for books. Additionally, Indigo has incorporated some new business protocols that mean the publisher must now accept the return of unsold books after only 45 days instead of the customary 90 days in order to keep fresh content constantly moving through the store. As the publisher has to accept these at a 100% refund, obviously there has been some outcry from the publishers themselves. Also, whereas publishers originally used to purchase display space within the stores, it is now Indigo’s decision as to what titles get featured in prominent locations.

Obviously, the publishers are not happy with the sweeping changes in what has proven to be the largest retail book outlet for consumers in Canada, but supporters of the stores and its new model are quick to point out that the bookseller is simply trying to survive in the digital era; of course, the publishers themselves are also trying to survive the ebook revolution, and losing some of their allies won’t help.

OverDrive is the leading source of ebook titles for over 15,000 public and school libraries who have adopted ebook-lending strategies for their patrons. This week, OverDrive is meeting with major international and domestic publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair—arguably the largest publishing industry event of its kind—to unveil its “Want It Now” (WIN) catalog for ebook-lending.

“Public libraries offer for lending a small fraction of publishers’ eBook or audiobook catalogs,” said Erica Lazzaro, OverDrive Director of Publisher Relations. “The WIN Catalog will take hundreds of thousands of early, midlist, and backlist eBook titles that are virtually invisible to library customers and present them for discovery. WIN will also enable for patrons who do not want to wait for popular titles to become available the option to immediately shop for it from a list of booksellers that support their local library.”

Libraries have always been some of the hardest hit in poor economic times, and even purchasing newly released and best-seller list titles can be a hardship. A feature like WIN will allow library patrons to discover what other titles are available, even if their own local libraries cannot afford to purchase and stock the titles. The WIN catalog will let patrons actually reference and sample other titles on publishers’ lists, even if they are not held by the library. Additionally, by working with online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes&Noble, BooksAMillion, and more through OverDrive’s affiliates network, libraries can actually profit by earning credits when their patrons opt to purchase a title that they found by browsing the WIN catalog.

Barnes&Noble released news today that it is bringing more magazine content to the Nook Color, this time the magazine Real Simple. In this first-ever digital edition, users can now navigate through the magazine by articles via the touch screen. This single edition of the November issue, just in time for Thanksgiving preparations in the U.S., is the first of its kind for the magazine. Additionally, print subscribers of the magazine can also access the digital edition on the Nook Color at no further cost.

This title adds to the over 200 magazine titles available on the Nook Newsstand, the largest collection of digital magazines available.

“We are excited to offer NOOK Color customers exclusive access to the first digital version of Real Simple – the perfect choice for smart, busy consumers who want creative solutions to everyday challenges,” said Jonathan Shar, Vice President and General Manager of digital newsstand at Barnes & Noble, in a press release issued today. “The print edition of Real Simple is already one of the most popular titles enjoyed by Barnes & Noble customers, and we are happy to now add the digital version to the NOOK Newsstand collection.”

Earlier this year, Barnes&Noble announced that the major consumer base of the Nook Color e-reader tablet was overwhelmingly female readers, so it comes as no surprise that more and more magazine content is aimed at women consumers.

Barnes&Noble announced an eye-opening statistic this year that the largest customer demographic to purchase (or receive as a gift) the Nook Color was middle-aged women, and after further scrutiny, that news made perfect sense. The Nook Color is a light-weight Android-based tablet which was promoted through media campaigns for simple e-reading of books and full-color magazines, yet offered app capability for more tech-savvy consumers. It was the housewife’s answer to the iPad, sleek and up with the times, but without the cost and superfluous features of a larger scale tablet PC.

Amazon’s introduction into the tablet world, the soon-to-be-released entertainment and internet-heavy Kindle Fire, has been touted as an “iPad for the rest of us,” a fully functional complement to Apple’s expensive tablet at a much less restrictive price point. With many of the same capabilities, such as downloadable apps, email and internet browsing, and live-streaming of movies and music videos, the Kindle Fire looks to be an all-in-one device without the iPad price tag.

Now, Kindle Fire is breaking into that B&N demographic by targeting parents with full-color children’s book titles that were simply not possible on the e-ink Kindle readers. According to an article by, Amazon is already listing more than 1,000 children’s book titles on pre-order for its new device. Unfortunately, in the world of children’s publishing, both Amazon and Barnes&Noble are still selling those titles for as much as $15.00, higher than many bestseller-list adult titles.

Hopefully, as more companies like Oceanhouse Media and iStoryTime continue to develop interactive children’s content for tablets through downloadable apps, the prices of some of the more popular children’s book titles will come down. A typical interactive title—and by interactive meaning it offers astounding features like the option of a human voice read-aloud, which neither Amazon nor Barnes&Noble have enabled on many of their children’s titles, as well as a tap-and-read feature which calls out words and displays them on the screen as young readers utilize the touch-screen—in the iTunes store runs between $1.99 and $3.99, a much more attractive price for parents who are simply looking to fill their tablets with great engaging yet educational children’s content.

After the announcement last week that the upcoming Kindle Fire tablet will come with one hundred DC Comics’ backlist titles of comic books and graphic novels pre-installed, Barnes & Noble pulled all of the print editions of every title off its store shelves. There has been some speculation about the length of time this near-boycott will take place, as well as rumors about some of the motivation behind the move.

Amidst internet discussions about a coming war among tablet producers to see which brand can carry the most sought after content as well as boast exclusive delivery of that content, Barnes&Noble seems to have actually taken the high ground on this issue.

“We will not stock physical books in our stores if we are not offered the available digital format,” chief merchant for B&N Jaime Carey said in a statement. “To sell and promote the physical book in our store showrooms and not have the ebook available for sale would undermine our promise to Barnes & Noble customers to make available any book, anywhere, anytime.”

While there has been talk that the digital deal with Amazon is set only for a four-month time period beginning with the Kindle Fire’s launch, and while Barnes&Noble has only pulled the book from physical locations as opposed to removing it from its website and special orders catalogs, the end result is that digital DC Comics‘ fans will have to get these titles through Amazon, remembering that an iOS device with the free Kindle app will also pick up those titles from the Kindle Store.

This move does not impact DC Comics’ recent relaunch of a large number of titles in several series and the New 52, nor does it affect customers’ ability to purchase new digital comics utilizing the digital day-and-date technology which makes a digital comic available on the same day as a print edition.

Clearly Barnes & Noble wishes to make the most of the coming holiday season with its new Nook Color and is making an all out effort towards that. Like coaxing manufacturers based in China to produce as many as 18,000 Nook Colors everyday which Barnes & Noble believes will be needed to cope up with a likely rise in demand.

Barnes & Noble Chairman Len Riggio said, “B&N is manufacturing Nook Colors at a rate of 18,000 per day and is loading up a 747 every four to five days to bring devices to the U.S. from China.” He further added: “We’ll be up against it to produce enough for the [holiday] season.” Some simple maths based on the figures that Riggio came up with and what you have is some startling figures to work with, an incredible half a million Nook Colors lapped up in the holiday season this year itself.

Riggio however is of the opinion that demand for e-book reader will come down sharply by the time its 2012 before reaching a peak in 2011. He also stated prices of future e-reader will continue their downward trend even as more and more features find their way into the device while the device too becomes more technologically advanced. “It’s the history of technology. Function improves and prices decrease. It’s inevitable,” said Riggio.

Nook Color is the latest device to enter the Barnes & Noble products list and is the first from the company to feature a full color display. Its runs Android 2.1 and features a 7 inch LCD capacitive touch screen. The device can even be classified as a tablet PC although its makers are content with it being just an e-reader. But then, that hasn’t stopped many an innovative thinker from hacking into the device to discover its tablet qualities.

In the end, whether be it a tablet or an e-reader, the fact is, the Nook Color is very special to the company which can be summed up in what Riggio had to say about the device: “is the first time in the history of the company we made a technology leap over our competitors. From that perspective, it’s very gratifying.” Perhaps, the Nook Color is the harbinger of a proper full blown tablet PC from Barnes & Noble.

via cnet via publishersweekly

Categories : e-reader, e-Reader News
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