Barnes & Noble, Dead Nooks, and Brave New Branding

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The big news in publishing this week is Barnes & Noble’s plan to ax the Nook. After losing over a billion dollars trying to make the Nook a contender, it seems B&N’s new CEO is ready to just cut bait. According to Michael Kozlowski over at Good E Reader:

The NOOK segment (including digital content, devices and accessories) had revenues of $52 million for the 4th quarter and $264 million for the full year, decreasing 39.8% for the quarter and 47.8% for the year. Device and accessories sales were $13 million for the quarter and $86 million for the full year, declining 48.2% and 66.7%, respectively, due to lower unit selling volume. Digital content sales were $40 million for the quarter and $177 million for the full year, declining 36.5% and 27.8%, respectively, due primarily to lower device unit sales.

All I have to say is…OUCH.

I’d like to say I find this news shocking, but I don’t. Of course the question will be, what happens next? As an expert, often others ask us to offer up some predictions. Back in 2009 the Nook was new and doing fairly well, so I gave Barnes & Noble ten years before it would be gone.

If B&N did survive, it was going to be through the Nook which I figured would probably just be bought out by Kobo or Sony or some bored Saudi American prince. I adjusted my prediction in 2012 to five years or less and with the recent news, sadly, I might be correct.

So why is B&N still hemorrhaging?

Understand Your Consumer

#PARTY

#PARTY

One reason many major brands have become casualties in the Digital Age is that they failed to understand that customers now expect business (products and services) to come to them, not the other way around. Consumers liked downloading a song instead of traipsing to a music store. Consumers preferred digital photos over dropping off film. Instead of Tower Records and Kodak leading the way to a new model of service, they became casualties.

We are either architects of the future or artifacts in the future.

Now books…

Before e-books, if we wanted to read a book, we made a trip to the bookstore (or library) because that’s where we could buy books.

Complicated stuff, right?

B&N was very predatory in the 90s until about 2007. They made sure to build fancy mega-structures on every corner complete with coffee shops and discounts as deep as their chairs and they didn’t lose sleep over the independents they drove into bankruptcy.

Yet, this was smart. Consumers of the time were fascinated with megastores and this was a good plan that worked for a while. But, business is organic. It grows and contracts and changes and shifts and anyone in business is wise to remember this.

Bigger is better…until it isn’t.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Keith Nerdin...

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Keith Nerdin…

What is REALLY an Advantage?

Malcolm Gladwell has a really cool book called David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants where he explores how elements we perceive as advantages are often serious disadvantages.

The bible story David and Goliath is the ultimate underdog story. Back in the day armies, in order to avoid suffering major casualties, would agree to simply pit their best fighters and winner took all.

Most of you know the story. Goliath the Philistine was highly trained, heavily armored and the size of a TRUCK, who also happened to be armed with a javelin, spear and sword. Yet, he was beaten by a shepherd boy with a slingshot. At first glance, this seems nothing short of miraculous, but if we dive a bit deeper?

Not so much.

If David had taken King Saul’s armor and sword and fought conventionally we likely would never heard this story. David would have been toast…or more like the jelly smeared across the toast. BUT, David refused to fight in a conventional way. A slingshot might not seem like that big of a deal but slingers were the precursors to our modern concept of an “artillery.”

In the Old Testament Book of Judges, slingers are described as being accurate within a “hair’s breadth”. An experienced slinger could kill or seriously injure a target at a distance of up to two hundred yards. ~Malcolm Gladwell, David & Goliath

This is a long way of saying that sure, Goliath was heavy infantry, but David’s sling and stone had the equivalent effect of Goliath being shot in the face with a fair-sized handgun. David refused to play by conventional rules and he won. Goliath’s fatal mistake was in assuming the conventional rules of engagement would apply.

In a marketplace governed by being leaner, meaner, faster and more convenient, propping up Goliath-sized stores was just a bad plan. Sure, Nook had the potential to rescue B&N out of their predicament, but it didn’t. Why?

Because the Nook was still acting like a Goliath.

B&N…HELLOOOOO?

B&N…HELLOOOOO?

The company had an identity crisis and failed to make the full transition away from being BIG. Instead of leading the charge to being small and lithe, they tried to use Nook only to prop up the same old way of doing business.

In my opinion, this is like a partial heart transplant. Either be fully committed or forget about it.

They remained married to Big Publishing and bloated price models, were less than supportive of indies (even though those were SALES), and they were still scope-locked on brick-and-mortar.

And before anyone laughs, I think it is pretty safe to bet that Blockbuster Video would still be among the land of the living had they introduced the Redbox technology first. But, instead they kept doing the same old same old and tried to use on-line video only to buttress the lackluster stores that were growing weaker by the day.

And now?

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Brave in a Brave New World

We live in amazing times where branding happens at the speed of light. We cannot afford to be idle. A lot of the big brands are feeling this in a major way. This is not limited to publishing. I know this because I work with a branding firm and most of our major accounts have been reinventing what one would think of as firmly established brands.

Sure, in a consumer market where there are only a handful of beer companies, it is safe to use the same kind of marketing. But what happens when the marketplace is deluged with microbreweries and boutique brands? When the young people prefer to enjoy an Ugly Pug Lager or a Buffalo Butt Amber instead of a Miller Lite? How do you not only remain relevant, but convert the youth into being the next generation of loyal consumers?

We have to be brave. We have to fight like a David.

Writers are the ultimate Davids. The indies are responsible for altering the publishing landscape. Writers have unimaginable creativity and resilience. Writers understood the business was about stories, not paper. We didn’t care how readers partook of our books (paper, digital, smoke signals, carrier pigeons), we only cared that they DID. Writers embraced the power of social media and a lot of folks in publishing are now eating the words, “You don’t need social media. All you need is a good book.”

When all the smoke has cleared and B&N either reignites or fizzles out, it won’t matter. Writers will still remain. It just seems funny to me that the very people the Book Goliaths so recently wrote off (writers) probably could have taught them a thing or two😉 .

And what we can take away from all of this is that we writers have to stay frosty. Books are not about us, they are about the reader (code for consumer). We can look at what might appear to be a disadvantage and look at it in a new way. In the end, it takes grit to do what we do. So stay BRAVE.

What are your thoughts? You think B&N is just buying time until the end? Do you think they could rally back? How could B&N reinvent in a way to gain your loyalty?

Quick Announcement: Due to popular demand, I am rerunning my Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages at the end of the month and I am doing something different. Gold Level includes me looking (and shredding your first five) but I have added in some higher levels and will look at up to 20 pages. This can be really useful if you’re stuck. I can help you diagnose the problems. It’s also a great deal if you have to submit to an agent and want to make your work the best it can be.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JULY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less). 

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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  1. #1 by Marcia on July 10, 2015 - 11:10 am

    Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:
    Very interesting, timely, and thought-provoking post from #KristenLamb. Check it out!🙂

  2. #2 by ugiridharaprasad on July 10, 2015 - 11:15 am

    Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

  3. #3 by lauriegienapp on July 10, 2015 - 11:15 am

    Ironic about B&N… I spent the weekend on the phone and online with Nook tech support, who ultimately concluded I need to go to the store. I went to the store, and while the store manager was very friendly and accommodating, she ended up calling tech support.. and the bottom line was that my problem couldn’t be resolved. And as I walked out of the store, I thought.. hmmm, can’t imagine that this business model works.

  4. #4 by Walker McKnight on July 10, 2015 - 11:16 am

    I think I’ll give the local branch of that big corporation a hug while I still can. Should have bought Rise of the Machines from B&N instead of Amazon.

  5. #5 by Russell J. Fellows on July 10, 2015 - 11:17 am

    Wouldn’t it be nice if some of the big book places…or maybe some new startups…went back to the old mom-n-pop book store styles? Maybe I’m being too nostalgic, but I still love going to actual stores and browsing. Still love the library for this, too. Wonder, are we too far beyond this now?

    • #6 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 10, 2015 - 11:50 am

      Actually, I think small is the new big as Seth Godin would say. I think the future is in niche and boutique.

      • #7 by s.a.klopfenstein on July 10, 2015 - 1:04 pm

        As big time bookstores like Borders and B&N have been dwindling, I feel like I have seen a lot more small independent bookstores emerging. I wonder if it might be something like the surge of micro brewing or local coffee roasting?

      • #8 by Stephanie Scott on July 10, 2015 - 3:19 pm

        So interesting! I agree, seeing smaller boutique shops would be great. Get into malls like BAM!

    • #9 by ontyrepassages on July 10, 2015 - 12:13 pm

      Excellent question. When convenience outweighs the experience then one good way is to reinvent the experience. If big and impersonal has failed then you should turn to small and personal as you say, except that a new twist is always a good idea.

  6. #10 by Karen Lynne Klink on July 10, 2015 - 11:21 am

    I’ve always loved dropping in on B&N when it happened to be nearby when I was doing something else. Couldn’t resist having a coffee and browsing. I never went out of my way to go there and have bought many more books from Amazon and borrowed from my library. Plus, local, smaller bookstores are much cozier and more helpful. I hope these local bookstores don’t all go the same way.

  7. #11 by Sara on July 10, 2015 - 11:21 am

    I think this last year’s problem with the Nook is not because it’s not immediate. I think it’s because they took them out of the store. I went with the Nook over the Kindle for a dozen reasons when I did the initial purchasing. What kept me going back was the personal service I received. The one thing B&N did in the beginning is each person who purchased a Nook in the store got a personal Nook assistant. I loved my assistant. I still go to her when I have technical problems. I purchased the table version for my son and my husband a couple of months before they did away with the Nooks in the store. I liked that I could hold it in my hand. I liked that I had a person I could go to when I had problems. (Our university bookstore is a B&N.) Now I have to call a hotline to get help. While the customer service is still decent (so far), I don’t get that immediate help. For me, that is the decline of the modern business. Customer service sucks.

  8. #12 by Madilyn Quinn on July 10, 2015 - 11:25 am

    They’re going down I haven’t bought anything from B&N in years (except an occasional coffee). I opt in for more local bookstores, used books, the library, or my Kindle. I’ve never been one for the Nook and always felt like it was a last ditch effort of B&N to remain relevant, but nobody was buying it. I didn’t realize how bad off they were though!

  9. #13 by realthog on July 10, 2015 - 11:25 am

    Thanks for this excellent and very perceptive piece. I hadn’t heard that the Nook was going down the tubes, so that piece of info was interesting too.

    There are still plenty of people (like me) who do enjoy the physical act of browsing in bookshops. I guess we’ll just have to get our cheap thrills in libraries instead.

  10. #14 by foguth on July 10, 2015 - 11:27 am

    Kristen, I agree with your assessment about B&N, and while that is sad, something else will take its place. Eventually.

  11. #15 by maryblackhill on July 10, 2015 - 11:29 am

    I am an Amazon girl and still have my third generation clunky Kindle (now on its third screen), because I love to buy books at 2am when I have just finished a book and want to read the next in the series RIGHT NOW! But…… I also love second hand book shops. E-books don’t do that second hand mustiness with higgelty piggelty shelves and a feeling that time and its associated dimensions have somehow loosened their grip on reality. Sir Terry Pratchett put it brilliantly when he said “The truth is that even big collections of ordinary books distort space, as can readily be proved by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned secondhand bookshop, one of those that look as though they were designed by M. Escher on a bad day and has more staircases than storeys and those rows of shelves which end in little doors that are surely too small for a full- sized human to enter. The relevant equation is: Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass; a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.” It would be a shame if all bookshops (one has to have first hand bookshops in order to have second hand ones) were to slide gently into the past like the tobacconists.

    • #16 by marymtf on July 10, 2015 - 7:27 pm

      Most second hand bookshops are owned by knowledgeable people. The kind who know where you can get that out of print book you’ve been yearning to get your hands on. I he never to have to give them up.

      • #17 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 10, 2015 - 8:44 pm

        The reason I don’t like second hand buying is the author doesn’t get royalties. If I DO buy a book second hand and like it? I try to buy a print or e-book so the author gets paid.

        • #18 by marymtf on July 10, 2015 - 8:49 pm

          Forgot about the royalties. But When I have liked a second hand book I generally hunt out the rest of that author’s works wherever I can find them. That includes new hard copies and electronic books. I think they all feed off each other.

  12. #19 by newfsull on July 10, 2015 - 11:30 am

    I loved B&N. My wife could drop me off there on a Saturday morning, and collect me anytime late in the afternoon. That was years ago before my Kindle.

    I have a book show (a few hundred people) to attend at the end of July. I will probably sell between 20 and 50 books; most likely the former. I enjoy the feel of the book, chatting with potential readers, and I enjoy meeting all the other authors, et al.

    The author platform back in the real word of getting read is a lonely place. I struggle with not being a spam artist, and getting the OTTER in me out to the public (Ya, I know – but by wife calls me an OTTER). The book, the story, the writing, the daunting effort to capture someone’s attention for a few short hours of reading, seems to pale in comparison to the marketing side of things.

  13. #20 by charlaynedenney on July 10, 2015 - 11:31 am

    I bought my first Nook while my husband was laid up with a heart valve transplant. I bought 2 Nook Colors. We fell in love with them, especially me because I have muscle issues that make holding a book, especially in bed, problematic. One selling point was that I could go to the store and get tech help instead of living on the phone or having to send it in.

    I’ve kept buying books for mine, I read all the time. I do reviews for Paranormal Romance Guild and the books I’m sent need to be either PDF (which can be converted) or epub so I can read them.

    One of the biggest problems with Barnes & Noble is that they are a pain for a self-published author to get their books into. My books have to go through Smashwords to get put on the B&N site. I can upload to Amazon directly without a third person. They don’t like self-published books and I don’t get the joys of going to my local B&N and seeing my books on the shelf.

    All-in-all, I feel like I picked Betamax over VHS back when, I have all these wonderful books and they’re not going to be able to be read and the newer books by that author are going to be in a different format.

    And that’s sad.

    • #21 by Heather Heyford on July 10, 2015 - 6:33 pm

      They also don’t like POD books printed by traditional publishers because they’re not returnable. (Again, refusing to move along with the times.) But my bigger gripe is they allow reviewers to hide behind the name, ‘anonymous.’ They should at least require a pseudonym, as Amazon does. And yes, I did let them know what I thought about that policy.

  14. #22 by Ellen Hawley on July 10, 2015 - 11:35 am

    Having driven some wonderful independent bookstores out of business, B & N was one of our local bad guys in the Twin Cities. Then cam the even more predatory Amazon and B & N began to look like the good guys. I know, thinking in those terms isn’t popular–it’s all about who’s going to win, not who should win. But I’d cheer on anyone going up against Amazon.

    If there’s going to be a hero in this tale, though, I doubt it’ll be B & N. It might be some serious anti-trust legislation

  15. #23 by L.A. Smith on July 10, 2015 - 11:42 am

    Well, I live in Canada, and we don’t have Barnes and Noble, but we do have the equivalent in other big box book stores. I think they are struggling, but so far none have gone under. Yet. I enjoy my Kindle but I truly love the real pages of a book. Somehow it feels more like reading if it’s from a book, not a screen.

    • #24 by Ellen Hawley on July 11, 2015 - 3:04 am

      I still read on paper. I’ve used a tablet and they’re okay but just not the same as a book.

  16. #25 by writeknit on July 10, 2015 - 11:48 am

    Sad but true. I have a Nook but just bought a Kindle. It was hard to find things compatible such as my magazine subscriptions. If Nook would have played ball with other companies I wouldn’t have needed to get the Kindle (but I might have anyway – a library in each hand!).

  17. #26 by sparksofember on July 10, 2015 - 11:49 am

    They could unlock the Nooks instead of dropping the earlier models completely. When they released an update unlocking the HD+ but not the earlier models, they made me regret ever giving them a dime. I rooted my nook that night and have been purchasing from Amazon and BAM ever since.

  18. #27 by Michelle R. Eastman on July 10, 2015 - 11:59 am

    Reblogged this on Michelle Eastman Books.

  19. #28 by Eileen on July 10, 2015 - 12:01 pm

    I like my Nook and the bulk of my library is on it, so this is concerning. Are we going to be left with just Amazon? That’s not good either.

  20. #30 by Michelle R. Eastman on July 10, 2015 - 12:04 pm

    Our local B &N tries to support local authors (even indies like me). The children’s department operates much like an indie bookstore. It’s sad to know their efforts may be suffocated within the big box model.

  21. #31 by mdellert on July 10, 2015 - 12:18 pm

    Reblogged this on MDellert-dot-Com and commented:
    The future is no longer now. It’s already yesterday…

  22. #32 by wryterinwonderland on July 10, 2015 - 12:20 pm

    I love my B&N. Often I’ll bookmark books that interest me on my Amazon list and then go look for the books in B&N with my list, which is where I want to buy it, because I want the book right then, even if I am paying a couple more dollars for it. I go to the library to read fiction, I buy at B&N (first) and Amazon (second) when I know it’s a book I want to keep on my shelf. However, that said, I HATE how B&N (and supermarkets!) keep changing where the genres are located. Frustrates me to no end and more often than not, I give up looking or even asking for help because of these changes. I want to be able to find things quickly. These stores think that we buy more by changing things up; actually, we buy less!

  23. #33 by philosophermouseofthehedge on July 10, 2015 - 12:23 pm

    Constantly shifting ground.
    B&N used to be a big customer of my small greeting card company – until they let go of the local stores being able to select materials/stock that would appeal to their specific customers/area and insisted every decision came from corporate. Then the stores/merchandise all changed dramatically – lock step and less original. Less relevant to the area. So no surprise they are gone from here.
    As you say, writers and artists could make some useful suggestions to businesses.
    Intriguing post. Thanks

  24. #34 by ontyrepassages on July 10, 2015 - 12:32 pm

    Big, generic, impersonal, and inconvenient brands are faltering all over the landscape. B & N is sinking. Each McDonalds experiment to reverse their decline fails. Sears and K-Mart are on life support. Blockbuster is dead. Walmart is showing the early warning signs of faltering (bad press, narrowing selection, empty shelves, fewer employees, and more automation). You have to excel in your niche—and you must have a niche that people desire. Amazon/Kindle is convenient beyond imagining, so you must compete at that level OR excel in a way they can’t. Big box stores with distracted/underpaid employees, stale merchandise, and long lines are not going to pull people out of their homes.

  25. #35 by Jen on July 10, 2015 - 12:43 pm

    This article was awesome, Kristen! I am a self-published author and in the back of my head have had aspirations to maybe someday own a bookstore or something else (kind of a quirky combo of things I love) down the road. It’s great that consumers want a face to go with their products—the trademark of small businesses and indie authors. I’ve been following your blog for a few months now and I am really enjoying your posts!

  26. #36 by authorpamelabeason on July 10, 2015 - 12:53 pm

    well, damn, I hope the death of the Nook does not come soon. I currently sell more ebooks on B&N than I do on Amazon. Seems like Amazon readers expect books for free, while Nook readers are at least willing to pay a small amount. And of course Amazon doesn’t help authors with any promotional tools unless you commit to using them exclusively, which I imagine has a lot to do with B&N’s problems. I really don’t want Amazon to end up with no competition. Authors need to remember that Amazon can change the rules (and the royalty percentages) at any time. Monopoly is a very scary game.

  27. #37 by Shawn Raiford on July 10, 2015 - 1:07 pm

    Kristen,
    Yes X 1,000!

    I wonder how this will affect publishers… O__o
    Shawn

  28. #38 by S.M. Vance on July 10, 2015 - 1:14 pm

    Good points in all the above, but I think the statement that B&N is planning to “ax the Nook” may be a bit premature. I’m not finding anything outside the blog cited above that indicates the Nook is going away (and even that blog doesn’t exactly say that). B&N is closing its International Nook stores, its agreement with Microsoft for the Windows app has ended, and the plan to spin off the Nook as a separate business has been scrapped in favor of retaining it in the main entity, but there don’t seem to be any declarations anywhere that they are discontinuing the Nook business altogether. Before panic among the Nookies sets in, should that first sentence be made less conclusive?

    If I may offer another example of the Book Goliaths’ limited thinking, I would point to their materials choices for hardcover books. I prefer reading fiction on my Kindle, but for nonfiction, I like to have a hardcover book if it’s available. Unfortunately, most publishers now use the same paper they use for their paperbacks, or sometimes worse — light, pulpy stuff that can’t stay flat on a humid day let alone remain intact on the bookshelf for a few years. I’m happy to pay the $30 or $35 for something hefty and nice to hold in my hands, but not for a book that yellows and begins to disintegrate before I can get around to reading it. If the Book Goliaths want to continue to make hardcover books, they need to make them worth buying and owning, make them “collectors editions,” if you will. Trying to compete with ebooks on price and convenience is just dumb.

    • #39 by Stephanie Scott on July 10, 2015 - 2:56 pm

      Just saw your post. I’m also not finding any articles beyond speculation that B&N is scrapping the Nook.

  29. #41 by Vivian on July 10, 2015 - 1:53 pm

    This also reminds me of a voracious predictor that eats all the prey within their range and then starves, having become so fat they cannot move…

  30. #42 by amsiemen on July 10, 2015 - 1:53 pm

    I always enjoy your posts. Thank you for sharing your wisdom🙂

  31. #43 by Patricia Robertson on July 10, 2015 - 2:17 pm

    As always, something to think about. What will the future hold for books? We live in interesting times.

  32. #44 by Stephanie Scott on July 10, 2015 - 2:53 pm

    Do you have a source on B&N cutting the Nook? What I find relates to Nook stores closing for international (non US) customers–which is still huge, and I’m with you on everything else in this post. I haven’t seen anything in Pub Marketplace or online articles that says definitively the Nook is being axed. Or, are you speculating based on their nosediving sales?

    Since I have a Nook, this is obviously concerning! At least my books are epub files right? I wonder if I can save them to my hard drive. I was never into Kindle because their files are proprietary and at first they didn’t have library lending (the main reason I went with Nook).

  33. #45 by logankeys on July 10, 2015 - 3:00 pm

    Reblogged this on Logan Keys Fiction and commented:
    Fascinating

  34. #46 by Renee on July 10, 2015 - 3:29 pm

    Thanks, as always, Kristen.

    I’ve heard that shopping malls aren’t as busy because of online shopping. So B&N might be feeling a similar impact.

    I hope Amazon doesn’t become a giant monopoly.

    I think the real issue isn’t Kindle versus Nook, but involves literacy and comprehension. If B&N goes down, will that make it the last big book chain out there? I read that 80% of all the bookstores have disappeared from the NYC metropolitan area – that might be a higher percentage by now. Incredible.

    I do applaud the rise of independent book stores and hope that trend continues – go, books! But for me, the issue of readership goes beyond Kindle versus Nook.

    The death of bookstores reflects a decline in reading – an enthusiasm for reading, as well as a drop in literacy – reading, writing, spelling and grammar. SAT reading scores have fallen to a 40 year low. People do not spend as much of their leisure time reading books. Take a look at B&N. It has a toy section and less retail space for actual books. They’re doing that to accommodate what their customers want.

    Voracious readers tend to be over 40 and female. We oldsters need to engage the young un’s and get them to read. See it as enjoyable and not as a chore. If we don’t replenish readership, publishing sales will continue to plummet. To me, that’s the real reason B&N is in trouble.

    I think we almost need a national push for this, a reading campaign, and we should promote reading the printed book again. Ask any new mom who’s reading to her baby or toddler, reading to a child is a wonderful bonding experience. Let’s capitalize on that.

    It’s hard to believe, but – we’re more technology-savvy but illiterate? When I read posts from a European news site – I’m struck by how more sophisticated the comments are; how the grammar / spelling are correct. Here in the U.S., not so much.

    Schools are too eager to put every lesson on an iPad. There’s a case to be made, that the printed textbook becomes quickly obsolete – yet – I believe the printed book helps our brains process a lot better. We absorb information more deeply via a printed book. A fabulous novel engages our imaginations. Reading a printed book helps us reason, and helps us cognitively. Reading a book “slows us down” in the best possible way. We can contemplate reading a book.

    Putting everything on a computer – I don’t think that’s wise. High school teachers have told me they can’t assign a longer novel to read – their students don’t have the attention span.

    I’m a canary in a coal mine. Meaning, my brain reacted more quickly and negatively to reading online or via gadget because of my ADD. When I’m online or on my Kindle too much, I feel like I start to drool and my eyes roll to the back of my head. Almost the instant that I retreat to a printed book, my brain feels massive relief. If I read too much on the Internet, I cannot read anything beyond 500 words. I don’t have the attention span for it. This struggle doesn’t belong only to me – “The Shallows” documents this phenomenon to more alarming detail.

    There’s evidence (stats) that show that we retain and learn more reading from a printed book, as opposed to reading on a Kindle. (continued)

    (continued)

  35. #47 by Renee on July 10, 2015 - 3:30 pm

    (continued)

    But there’s a stigma, too, if you prefer a printed book, you’re old, a dinosaur, outdated. That’s gotta stop.

    Our technology addiction is having an impact on us neurologically – screen time interrupts our sleep, too, as well as affecting our concentration.

    Let’s face it, the book enthusiast was always seriously outnumbered, but the computer games and Internet have made us a true endangered species, and writers – authors – are competing for this dwindling number of readership every day.

    When literacy drops, so does our vocabulary. Even our pop music lyrics are at an 8-year-old level:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/lyrics-for-billboard-no-1-singles-have-average-reading-level-of-an-8yearold-10260029.html

    I have often wondered about the staggering success of E.L. James, which I suspect has to do with timing, much as “Valley of the Dolls” was a major hit due to its timing… but also because the “Fifty Shades” books are so easy to read. The vocabulary is basic and the plot isn’t complex. E. L. James has ushered in a tidal wave of New Adult books that are simply written, heavy on insta-sex and insta-love, and “lite” plot. But I also think there is a post-feminism factor linked to the book, (Newsweek had a cover article on it, going back to the dominance fantasy as evidenced in the 1950’s “Story of O.”)

    Finally, I found some demographic information about Kindle owners – someone will have to substantiate this, because it’s a blog site. According to this link, 65% of Kindle owners are over the age of 40 – and most Kindle owners are women.

    http://kindle-demographics.blogspot.com/

    This offers further proof that readers are (a) older and (b) tend to be female.

    What’s going to bring boys back to reading? What’s going to bring on minority kids?

    This is why Harry Potter was exciting back in 1997 – it attracted readers of all ages and had more complexity than “Fifty Shades.”

    I do think the printed book is going to make a comeback. I can’t explain the hunch, but I think homeschooled kids who learn from printed books are going to seriously outpace kids who are attached to computers at public schools. SAT reading scores have plummeted in the past few years. I think computers are used as a babysitter too often, not as a learning tool.

    When more studies start to show the deterioration in literacy – and prove that printed books help calm the brain and help it cognitively – books will make an exciting comeback. Some teachers are starting to realize this and they’re fighting to keep printed books in their classrooms.

    Newspapers and magazines – hard to say. I love to look at magazines, the photos, etc., but newspapers make sense online, because news changes 24/7. I’d love to see newsmagazines make a big comeback, too… but we’re in a Kardashian type culture now.

  36. #48 by mitziflyte on July 10, 2015 - 3:41 pm

    Reblogged this on Mitzi Flyte and commented:
    “Consumers liked downloading a song instead of traipsing to a music store.” This is so true for so many things these days. Malls are virtually empty because we have virtual malls at our fingertips. We have virtual friends at her fingertips. I had to drive for my job for so many years that sometimes I HATE to get into the car (unless I’m listening to a book — on Audible and through my phone)…Even books on CDs are easier. When my daughter lived in Seattle she could order her non-perishables online and have them delivered. Big bag of cat food: check…cartons of soda: check…box of detergent: check…all brought up to her second floor, no elevator apartment. I can’t find my hair product in the store. Do I run around hoping it’s in the one down the street or the next one a few miles away? Nope. I let my fingers do the walking…

  37. #49 by Becky on July 10, 2015 - 3:48 pm

    It’s funny you should post about the Nook. I just downloaded the Nook app so I could read a free book I got from Hallmark Channel (I think? It’s a Debbie Macomber book). That’s absolutely bananas how business works.

  38. #50 by mcm0704 on July 10, 2015 - 4:04 pm

    I hate to think that all the actual stores will close. There still has to be a place for traditional books, not to mention the terrific coffee shops that many of the stores have. While we are swiftly moving into the digital age, there are still folks who like to browse in a bookstore, and authors who like to do signing events in one. (smile)

    Oddly enough, for a couple of my books, the sales at Nook beat the sales at Amazon. LOL

  39. #51 by Erik on July 10, 2015 - 4:13 pm

    The practical life advice here for PEOPLE would seem to be that we have to be willing as we try new things to embrace what is working – and let go of what isn’t, even if we have emotional ties or other stakes in it. (For writers, that means “killing our darlings.”)

  40. #53 by jimcopeland on July 10, 2015 - 4:36 pm

    Dear Kristen:
    Thanks for the heads up on B&N. I lived within a couple of blocks from one in Overland Park, KS in the 80’s. It was a beautiful store. I loved it. It’s gone now! I wanted a Nook, but held out for a Kindle. I have two books I am trying very hard to get into the system. The titles are: The Avenging Cycles, and Guilty.
    I will place your link in my blog and hope for the best.
    Regards,
    James M. Copeland

  41. #54 by marymtf on July 10, 2015 - 5:49 pm

    Those large retail stores may be crumbling (oh, woe, how I miss Borders) but little independent stores are springing up all over. They are small, so manage quite well. I am hoping there’s room for publishers and readers in this brave new e-world. Avenue bookshop began its life as Sunshine books. I’m its faithful follower. I also own an iPad, so download books and am loving it. But perhaps it’s because I am of an age. I’ve experienced the joys of handling new and second hand books and now leap at the chance of downloading new writers and old classics. It’s truly a wonderful e-world.🙂

  42. #55 by areece on July 10, 2015 - 7:12 pm

    Reblogged this on Amy Reece and commented:
    Very interesting and encouraging article!

  43. #56 by areece on July 10, 2015 - 7:15 pm

    Reblogged on https://amyreece.wordpress.com/. Very interesting and encouraging for an indie author.

  44. #57 by Nurse Yen on July 10, 2015 - 9:12 pm

    Hello! It’s sad to see the once big companies in the day succumbing due to failure of adapting in the rapidly advancing times. Makes me think of Nokia, the once top cellphone company in the Philippines, is now forced to play second to the new big ones, Samsung and Apple, because they jumped on the smartphone wagon a little too late.🙂
    I’ve recently come across Chandler Bolt’s video saying that indie writers are never in a better position to compete with the big publishers and authors than right now in the digital age. I don’t know how true this is with regards to fiction publishing, but I can see it holding true to nonfiction.

    Perhaps because indie author books come cheaper ($3 vs $10+ makes a huge difference) and are more accessible. Or maybe because indie authors, having only themselves to rely on, have kept themselves abreast with the times and are delivering to meet an increasing number of fast paced consumers’ demands. 🙂
    I guess the moral lesson here is one should never get complacent. I quote Mad Eye Moody, “Constant Vigilance!”😀
    Thanks for this thought provoking article and looking forward to your Hooking the Reader posts!

  45. #58 by Fleur Camacho on July 11, 2015 - 1:32 am

    I think the real question is, what will Amazon do? Especially if B&N fails. They can have us all on the hooks, at their mercy. Let’s hope they don’t fail.

  46. #59 by myeagermind on July 11, 2015 - 2:00 am

  47. #60 by kamas716 on July 11, 2015 - 3:21 am

    Reblogged this on westfargomusings and commented:
    I honestly think the Nook and it’s eLibrary will be cut or sold off within about a year. Hopefully someone will buy up the customer list and library.

    When B&N first came to town I was quite excited. When I went looking for an eReader I chose the Nook because it had the hardware and DRM schema that worked best for me and my family. But, I don’t think B&N understands its customer base (readers) because they do a lot of things to discourage readers. Of course, they’re not the only ones. It seems most of the publishers don’t understand readers either.

    I detailed back in march ( https://westfargomusings.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/goodbye-bn-youve-driven-me-into-the-arms-of-another/ ) why I wasn’t going to be one of their customers anymore. For them to get me to come back? It would take a culture change within that company of such earth-shaking magnitude that Arizona would have ocean front property. It takes a long time to build up a good reputation and a solid customer base, but it can be thrown away in the blink of an eye by treating your customers like ****. That they rolled out a new website that they have been working on for two years and it doesn’t work for their customers nor their 3rd-party marketplace vendors says volumes about how well they are doing.

  48. #61 by Lorie on July 11, 2015 - 9:12 am

    I find your blog fascinating. The information you provide is great.

  49. #62 by anneparent on July 11, 2015 - 3:31 pm

    Wonderful article. I’m taking a class on marketing and branding and this article has made me delve into the idea of the new world of publishing and how it will affect me as an unpublished author. Thanks!!

  50. #63 by Catherine on July 11, 2015 - 4:07 pm

    Thank you so much for an informative blog post. I’ll tell you, although I don’t have a “nook”, I do own a tablet but haven’t purchased e-books. Why? I love real books. I love the entire process of going to Barnes and Noble (yes I do go there), looking through what may strike my fancy. I love holding that physical book. I love the scent of the pages. I love highlighting lines from stories that are memorable. I love creating the visuals in my mind. I love the dog-eared pages to remind me where I left off. I just returned from three weeks of fun in the sun in the Cote d’ Azur and read four books–all of which were entertaining and lovely reads. I have two more to read and will at my leisure. But yeah, I love me a good book. Thanks again, and since I’m new to blogging, I’m not very savvy at linking and all that stuff. I will add your link to my next post on my Atypical60 blog. If you get the chance to read it, that’ll be cool too! Best, Cathe

  51. #64 by lalouziane on July 11, 2015 - 5:46 pm

    Reblogged on cpd-inc.com (Swamp Sass)

    Many years ago I worked at a bank. This was the time when banking was de-regulated. It was sad to see. For their entire careers, most of those folks came in every morning and sat at their desks with their coffee. Occasionally they measured their desks to be sure where they were in the hierarchy. They did their jobs.

    De-regulation came and suddenly the banks had to be profitable. They’d never had to do that before. Heck, banks don’t even manufacture anything. Their customers bring the money to them!

    They panicked. They knew they needed to make money, but how? They had always just sat there, being the bank and they made money.

    Reality hit them pretty hard. They had no idea what to do and most of the people who worked for them had no idea, either. They had always been bankers.

    I think the same thing is happening in the traditional publishing business and bookstores. They have no idea what to do. What they have always done… is not working anymore.

    There are not many free-thinkers and that is sad. I remember talking to a bank VP when the internet came along and I told him he should get on the internet. I was going to list some things he could do… I told him he could get instant news, access to magazines, etc. on the internet. He said… if he wanted a newspaper, he could go downtown and buy one.

    I drove by one of their signs the other and they were advertising on line banking. Bless their hearts. It’s difficult and usually painful for people to change what they are doing or how they perceive the world works.

    But it will and does change. Some businesses thrive while others fail. Bottom line, the customer is the person who drives how businesses work.

  52. #65 by lalouziane on July 11, 2015 - 5:49 pm

    Reblogged this on Swamp Sass and commented:
    Very interesting for authors.

  53. #66 by Linda Rodante on July 11, 2015 - 7:34 pm

    I love your statement: “The indies are responsible for altering the publishing landscape.” I am doing my first book as an Indie and still find myself justifying my decision to many. However, I feel good about the decision I made. Thank you for that line of encouragement!

  54. #67 by David Villalva on July 12, 2015 - 9:30 am

    Brilliant wordplay here, “We are either architects of the future or artifacts in the future.” Well done!

    And now I’m taking my kids to B&N today while I still can.

  55. #68 by marlainagray on July 12, 2015 - 11:00 am

    Reblogged this on Marlaina Gray and commented:
    Fascinating reading!

  56. #69 by Mark Wayne McGinnis on July 12, 2015 - 4:08 pm

    Excellent post! It’s ironic that I sometimes go to B&N to write my indie books… Usually when I want a new idea for cover art. There’s a kind of hallowed feeling there… like I’m witnessing the end of an era – an institution that will (in all likelihood) go the way of the dodo bird (although I’m not sure there really ever was a dodo bird).

  57. #70 by ericamilesx on July 12, 2015 - 9:06 pm

    That comment in blue, “We are either architects OF the future or artifacts IN the future”–is that an original quotation from you? I would like to quote it, but would, of course, like to have the appropriate annotation. Thanks in advance for your clarifying response.

  58. #71 by Daphne Shadows on July 12, 2015 - 9:39 pm

    I think e readers totally suck. I only read books that I can physically turn the pages of and dog-ear.
    BUT, that’s me as a reader.
    As a writer, I have to be realistic. And realistically, most readers are very different.
    I think that’s one of the hardest things – not denying what is pretty obvious simply because you don’t like it.
    As a reader, I’ll continue buying physical books.
    As a writer, I’ll get my books out to my readers, in whatever way it is that they are more willing to buy. It only makes sense.

    • #72 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 13, 2015 - 8:54 am

      I can’t say that. I have a stigmatism and there were entire genres (high fantasy) I’d quit reading because they were too hard on my eyes. E-readers have helped a LOT. Also, if you are someone who travels, books weigh A LOT. E-readers let me bring a stack of reading without hemorrhaging money to pack the extra weight.

  59. #73 by Catherine at Critique My Novel on July 13, 2015 - 1:16 am

    Depressing. Amazon will rule the world one day. I love B&N and want to support them as much as I can. I have a Nook and refuse to buy a Kindle. And I hate to see B&N floundering. I just wish I could do more. But I am only one person.

  60. #74 by jrizzotto0808 on July 13, 2015 - 10:03 am

    Speaking as both a reader and a writer, I stopped buying books at bookstores as soon as I bought my Kindle. Not only is it easier to find a book with their recommendations but I don’t have to buy new bookshelves. Another Goliath is the public school system. As a teaching implementing the new Common Core Standards, I understand how hard it is to turn a dinosaur around. Hopefully it’s not too late for B & N. Maybe they have a David in their ranks.

  61. #75 by jrizzotto0808 on July 13, 2015 - 10:04 am

    Reblogged this on Life at the College of the Crones and commented:
    Great reading!

  62. #76 by sbjamestheauthor on July 13, 2015 - 11:06 am

    Reblogged this on S B James, Doing the Write Thing and commented:
    The second reblog for me today (what’s wrong with me?) but this is a pretty big deal. The Nook store, in fact B&N’s entire website, is in complete disarray. We need to be nimble, Indie Authors!

  63. #77 by Steven Ramirez on July 13, 2015 - 3:27 pm

    Excellent post, Kristen. This demonstrates clearly that B&N sewed their own seeds of destruction years ago, and now we are finally seeing the “fruit.”

  64. #78 by Becky Bean on July 14, 2015 - 10:37 am

    Dude, how hard would it be to unlock the Nook so you can purchase .mobi and .epub and all other formats on it? Maybe I’m misunderstanding the problem, but wouldn’t that be an easy way to market it? “No matter what the book format, you can read it on your nook! Books are books – fall into the story, not the technology.” Or something like that.

    I mean, you can make them do it but it’s hard.

    Sorry – this is me grumpy that I’ll have to figure out how to switch all my books to kindle. What a hassle. SIGH.

  65. #79 by katmagendie on July 14, 2015 - 1:54 pm

    Pow! and Shazam! You know, I’ve never actually seen a live Nook in the wild – not even a domesticated one. Huh.

    Kind of off topic-ish: Seems I remember something a while back where B&N was “punishing” authors for posting links to Amazon on their websites and not B&N – maybe it was a rumor only.

  66. #80 by Mollie Player on July 18, 2015 - 11:49 am

    So I guess what we really need to be asking is, is Amazon getting rid of all the competition so they can raise eBook prices and lower author pay outs? As a Kindle author I am still sort of amazed that I’m earning fair pay for my books (30%).

  67. #81 by kleungsf on July 20, 2015 - 7:57 pm

  68. #82 by ddominikwickles on July 28, 2015 - 7:48 am

    I don’t see B&N surviving. I think they are just treading water until they give out. The idea of having a coffee shop in the store was a good way to get the coffee-hyped consumer in the door and possibly to see and buy, but online they probably can’t compete with Amazon.
    Speaking of fighting like David – could I ask you a good way to market my books in towns when I travel? I’ve made flyers with little tear offs of the book title and author name (to take with them to order when they get home) but I can’t figure out the best places to post them. i write romances with intrigue so my audience is women. Those women are out shopping but do they really read posts on bulletin boards? I rarely do🙂 Any suggestions? I’m sure it’s obvious but I can’t see it yet. Thanks!

  69. #83 by anijioforlawrence on August 1, 2015 - 4:43 pm

    Reblogged this on xdayschocolate.

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