I think Indie Publishing is a really cool industry. I’ve seen great things happen in that space and it’s one of the reasons I decided to dive in that pool myself. I’m not taking “sides” on whether traditional or indie publishing is better. I think each has their place just as there can be Indie and Signed Musicians. Being a traditionally published author doesn’t make you a better writer just as being a signed artist doesn’t make you a better musician.
But as I study the available markets, I’ve noticed that there are two players in the distribution chain that seem to be trailing far behind the other big players. These are Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Google Play Books.
I’m no business Guru and I have no idea what the long term or short term goals of these business are, but I can’t help but wonder if they’ve given up on these platforms.
So here is my completely unqualified two cents on why Google Play and Nook should join forces:
Why it’s good for Consumers
Consumers like options. If you’ve ever gone to a grocery store and noticed that they don’t sell your favorite brand of ketchup at a price you think is fair, you simply go to the store that does. That’s obvious. But what if both stores have the exact same groceries you want? You’re going to go to the one that:
1. is most convenient
2. you give personal preference
Amazon is a beast of a marketplace for books. I’ve been ordering books from them for over 10 years, but I like the look of the Kobo store better. Regardless of the look, I tend to buy from Amazon, but that might change if Kobo attracts more authors.
B&N has a sizeable chunk of the book market share. They have an audiobook store, a trusted name and deep ties to readers through their physical book stores. This union can put more books into the hands of people who have a Google account.
Google has roughly 50% of the smartphone/tablet market share. Their android OS already functions as the platform that Nook tablets are built on. Apple realized the commerce potential of iBooks and decided to preload every iOS device with the iBooks app. Google has a huge user base on mobile and new readers might use the app provided to them by default over seeking out one.
They both have the algorithms and the data to really beat out Amazon as a book discoverability engine. This is a REALLY big thing because readers are still waiting for the next step in book discoverability. I think this problem can and will be solved. I also think that Google has a good chance of breaking down this wall.
Why it’s good for Authors
Back when MySpace was social networking king, I built a pretty epic empire with a huge outreach because I understood the ecosystem and how to use it to give people what they wanted. I didn’t need a record label for pretty much anything (except funding studio time, but that was also solved as I built my own studio).
I had a big flaw, though. I had all of my connections invested in MySpace. When the almighty MySpace took a nose dive, I had little to no infrastructure set up elsewhere to catch me. What’s more is that it happened during the time when I didn’t have the resources to push those connections into the facebook engine like so many other artists did. Consequently, I was left with a very small fraction who followed me from one platform to the next.
This gets into a whole other topic about marketing, but the reason it’s important is because if Amazon falls, many of us might fall with it. It would be nice if there were a few other platforms that we could turn to incase that happens. Both B&N and Google Play’s book stores seem (for many authors) comparatively insignificant on their own, but I believe that a union would push them up and give Amazon a little more competition. I’m not saying they will destroy Amazon, but I do think they can at least keep them on their toes like no other company has yet.
Google has a really cool subscription based music service that could work as great point of competition for Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. That same service might also compete with Amazon’s Audible if Google had access to B&N’s audiobook library (that apparently no one knows about). Authors need a player who can sweeten the deal and give us a reason to not go exclusive with Amazon & Audible.
Google also has a host of apps that could directly facilitate authors. Google Search, Google Adsense, Google Analytics and several other amazing google services could really give authors a leg up on sales. Amazon currently gives little data to their authors through KDP about their traffic and consumer base. A Google Analytics module built into the author dashboard, offering comprehensive information about traffic would give the author a lot to work with.
And wouldn’t it be nice if your physical book could be ordered from a B&N? Perhaps giving the consumer the option to have the book mailed to them or they can pick it up at their local B&N when they have time will open up brand new doors for getting your books into readers hands the way that they like to buy them.
Why it’s good for Google
Barnes & Noble and Nook are known and trusted brands. Yes, Nook is running far behind and yes, B&N’s physical bookstores are dying out, but the loyal customer base wants them to stay afloat. When you say book, you probably think of B&N or Nook before Google Play Books. Google can use that brand recognition as fuel to pull more people into their camp.
Pulling B&N’s Nook readership (and potentially their Audiobook listeners) into Google’s stable will result in a substantial increase in Google Play subscriptions. Especially if Google can effectively pull off a Kindle Unlimited and Audible service. This would be a big win for Google and will help their Play brand visibility.
I think this would also result in an overall increase in Android tablet and phone sales. Knowing that for perhaps $12-18 per month, I could listen to as much music and read as many books/audiobooks as I want is a significant selling point. Start by giving away a 30-day free trial with a tablet purchase. Amazon is using this very strategy to sell Kindle tablets.
Google Wallet is Paypal’s annoying little brother, but could give Google a small leg up when trying to get people into that space. Google might even use it as a selling point when people buy physical copies at the Barnes & Noble physical stores by offering a free or discounted copy of the ebook version when you pay using Google Wallet.
Why it’s good for Barnes & Noble
It’s no secret that B&N is losing money with Nook. And there has been talk about them looking for a buyer. Google might be a good home for Nook and can lead to more business for B&N’s physical stores if they can work out interesting distribution deals. This union (or buy-out) can result in more indie authors gravitating to the Nook platform.
Provided that B&N allows for distribution of physical copies to be worked out with Nook Indie writers, B&N can effectively increase their shelf space by millions of books and thousands of writers. Big publishing need not fear. There will still be space up front that can be purchased as always. Only now it’ll be given to anyone who puts in their bid, not just those with the distribution deals. More authors bidding for that space will pull in more cash for B&N.
Because of Google’s sales data, B&N can then stock a curated lineup of books on their shelves that are proven to sell from both traditionally published authors and indie authors. Physical book stores can be a line-up of more than just the selected few who happen to sell books, but of those who can actually sell because they write great books.
No one is buying books anymore? Let’s start fixing it by giving shoppers books that will get them hooked on reading.
What do you think?
Do you think Google would make a good buyer for Nook?
Would you like to see Nook Unlimited?
Would you shop at a physical bookstore curated by buyers instead of publishers?
Let me know what you think in the comments below!