My unsolicited advice on what Barnes Noble has to do with its Nook tablet lineup to succeed: make it a self-publishing tool.
Barnes Noble, which today introduced the Nook HD and Nook HD+, has done an impressive job of turning out ereaders and tablets that can match, if not exceed, the technological capability of Amazon’s Kindles. But Amazon is an insidery Silicon Valley company cloaking itself in the virtues of bookselling and publishing while Barnes Noble is a bookseller and publisher desperately trying to hold on to a market that is disappearing bit by bit.
Amazon has the financial and technological resources?not to mention the market advantage to create an all-important universe of content? to win this fight. Barnes Noble’s smart partnership with Microsoft, though, has resulted in the Nook video store, also announced this week, that takes its content from the Xbox Live service. That’s a desperate reliance on Microsoft, not drawing on its strengths; after all, the software giant has proven it’s not a master of the ecosystem (e.g. the Zune).
But what Microsoft can do for Barnes Noble is build it a Nook-based self-publishing solution. For as easy as self-publishing sounds, it’s a laborious and frustrating process that requires formatting and cross-platform testing that are beyond the skills of many would-be authors. By devising a Nook app that simplifies content creation and review and that also feeds directly into its PubIt! self-published bookstore and pairs the tablets with Wi-Fi keyboards, Barnes Noble would save writers an unnecessary block to their careers. For itself, it would also score a surprise win in what’s largely considered a two-horse tablet race between Apple’s iPad and the Kindle Fire. The Nook would then also become the tablet of choice among those looking to self-publish, which is a significant number; self-published titles in the United States grew from 133,036 in 2010 to 211,269 in 2011, according to Publishers Weekly.
The future of publishing is being driven by the separate industry of technology. And while there’s no reason to doubt those intentions, the tech industry’s concerns are necessarily distinct?and sometimes at odds with?publishing’s. But there would be no company more appropriately suited to directing the new course than Barnes Noble, which started out as a book-printing business. Here’s to hoping that the Nook finds its niche.