The Barnes & Noble conundrum

Bare with me o’ lovelies of the Jackverse — I have a wee bit of a bone ta pick. No, not with you… you’re all slathered in awesomebutter. The bone I must to be picking is with Barnes & Noble. But why? They are a book seller and I write, well, books. How can I have such a beef?

Let me ask you a question — or, rather, set up a scenario for you. You create a business and start selling a product. You don’t actually create the product, you just distribute the product created by a small faction of creators. Well, along come another group of creators that sell a similar product with just enough variation that consumers want to buy it; so you decide to allow those creators to sell through your company. After a while, the new creators outnumber the original creators and are selling their products cheaper. The consumers want their products, so you sell them. But…

For some strange reason, you decide you’re going to keep selling those cheaper products, but make it rather challenging for the new creators to sell through you. Not only do you NOT let your consumers know about these products (even though their quality is just as good — and in many cases… better), you also don’t bother to communicate with those creators when your services go down and they can’t seem to interact with your systems that enable them to sell.

That is what Barnes & Noble has done and are doing to indie authors. Not only do they refuse to promote us, they don’t communicate with us when their systems go down — nor do they care to rush to fix the problems. Such was the case this past weekend. It came time for me to publish Screampark and the Barnes & Noble Pubit service claimed to be having “Technical Difficulties”. These “difficulties” began Friday around 6PM and were not resolved until approximately 3PM Monday. That means authors were not able to publish their books. That means consumers couldn’t buy those books. That means Barnes & Noble was not making money off the authors that wanted to sell their books.

How can Barnes & Noble not see a win-win? Amazon sure sees it. Hell, Amazon goes out of their way to help the indie author. In fact, Amazon scours through the indie authors to find new talent — and publish them via one of their many imprints. Barnes & Noble? They could care less. What is really sad about this is that B&N seem to not really even care much about selling books. At one time Barnes & Noble had the single best ereader on the market — the NOOK. Then they just seemed to toss their hands up in the air and let Amazon and Apple pass them buy. Their product stagnated and now they have antiquated technology, a laissez faire attitude about being a book distributor and publisher, and really don’t have a single shit or two to give to anyone.

I can’t predict what Barnes & Noble is going to do. I can tell you they certainly had the opportunity to make a lot of noise and a lot of scratch by cashing in on the indie boom (we’re not going away… only growing stronger every day). Instead they frittered away that opportunity and now are faced with either a serious game of catch up or throwing in the towel.

If I did have to make a prediction about B&N, I’d say they will be bought by another company and that company will use what B&N had as a springboard for something much bigger and much better. I could be wrong. B&N could wind up just going away silently into that good night — leaving behind a slew of upset readers and writers. Truth be told, we’re all just sort of guessing here as to what will happen with what was once a powerhouse in the industry. Personally? I hope they open their eyes and realize they have a gold mine under their nose and fix their attitude and their problems.

Who knows? Could be. There’s something due any day…

Oh wait… song lyrics. Sorry, I got caught up in a West Side Story there for a moment.

Anyway… what do you think? What should B&N do about this little conundrum?

Now, if you’re curious about the whole “ebook vs book” issue, take a look at these statistics. If you’re not convinced that ebooks are the future of reading after that, I’d like to take your abacus and your sundial from you and tell you go head back to the vomitorium for another round!