Category Archives: Barnes and Noble

I’ll Continue Using My First Generation Nook (Even Though I Don’t Want to)

This post is going to be a lot of bitching and moaning.  Feel free to skip if you aren’t in the mood to hear me kvetch.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a rant about how the Nook Glowlight is a big step in the wrong direction, as least as far as my ereader needs are concerned.  Long story short, in spite of a much better battery life, the Glowlight limits how much of the internal memory can be used for files that aren’t Nookbooks, things like screensavers or, say, third party books.  Hint: not nearly enough.

GlowLight_imgI could only load about 2/3 of my third party books on it.  At the time, all of these would fit on the first generation Nook.  (I’ve since filled the device memory.)  The Glowlight (what Freudian slip is making me keep typing Blowlight?) does not allow for a memory card.  Time to switch  to a different brand of ereader.

The logical thing would be a Kindle, except that all of my third party books are in EPUB format.  Plus, none of the Kindles I looked at would allow the addition of a memory card. (I’m talking ereaders, not tablets.)

I did some research on Kobo, but they were a little pricey.  Then I noticed yesterday that they had the Aura on sale, which does allow the insertion of a memory card.  While I’m not willing to pay the full retail price, especially since I would rather have the Aura HD which is more expensive, I was willing to shell out the sale price.

So I set up a Kobo account and ordered one.  The transaction was declined.  I thought it was a security thing with my credit card, so I called to authorize the payment.  No, the payment went through.  After a day of emails and phone calls to Kobo that didn’t really go anywhere, I called the credit card company to cancel the payment.  Turns out that after I talked to them yesterday, the payment was automatically canceled.

I decided to give it one more try, and this evening I sent a new order in to Kobo.  During the checkout process, I realized what the problem was.  I had put my home address (i.e., the shipping address) in for the billing address.  I use a PO box for most of my mail, certainly for things like credit card bills.

Well, duh! No wonder the credit card transaction was declined.  The billing address I entered didn’t match the billing address on the credit card account.  Proof that you have to be smarter than what you’re working with.  Which, as least as far as yesterday is concerned, I wasn’t.

So I entered the correct information in the correct places.  I clicked the final SUBMIT button.

And the order didn’t go through.

Kobo refused to accept a PO box.  Not as a shipping address, because I put my home address for that.  As the billing address.  You know, the billing address that my credit card company declined yesterday because it wasn’t a PO box.

There is no number to call to make a direct order.  Which means I wont’ be buying a Kobo.  So there is no ereader that meets my needs that is available.

I will continue using my first generation Nook.  At least the battery dies.  (I suspect you can’t get batteries for the original Nook anymore.)  Or until someone comes up with an ereader that has a long battery life, will let me add a memory card, and actually is willing to take my order.

Until they do, I have a message to all B&N, Amazon, and Kobo: a pox on all your houses.

I’m Starting to Understand Why Barnes and Noble Is Hemorrhaging Money

So my wife and I and have been going back and forth on whether she should get me a tablet for Christmas.  She got a Samsung a few months ago, and lately I’ve been playing Mah Jong on it.  The reason for this is simple.  I’m either too tired or there’s too much noise/distraction/interruption to try to read.  (The concentration with simple games and reading is different; that’s all I can say.)  I don’t want a tablet because I don’t want to read on a backlit screen.  I do enough of that either at work or on my phone if I’m reading to kill a few minutes while I’m waiting in line or something.  The game playing thing is usually a sign I need to get more rest and/or have less stress in my life.

GlowLight_imgI have a first generation Nook.  What decided me on that rather than a Kindle is that B&N is only a few minutes from my house, so if there’s a problem (which has happened), I can get help from a person fairly quickly.

For quite a while I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a Nook Glowlight.  They’re light.  The screen refreshes faster.  They have a  touchscreen.  I can read in a dark room.  And most importantly, the battery has a much, much longer life.

I’ve gotten to where I don’t read on my Nook much because it takes too long to scroll through things or change between the nookbook folder and the Documents folder which has all the things I’ve sideloaded.  Yes, they are in separate folders on the original.  But mainly, I don’t use it as much as I used to because the battery life is so short.  I don’t like having to put it back on the charger so often.  Like before I’ve finished reading.  But, hey, waddaya expect?  It’s first generation technology. Continue reading

Why You Soon Won’t be Able to Find a Good Book in a Store

I was reading one of Kris Rusch’s columns over at The Business Rusch the other day, the topic being shelf space disappearing in book stores.  At that reminded me of an unpleasant experience I had the other day in Wal-Mart, one that is now repeated every time I walk into the store (which isn’t nearly as often as it was a few weeks ago).  If you haven’t read Kris’s column, please go read it now.  I’ll wait.

There, that didn’t take too long, did it?  Ms. Rusch brings up some very disturbing points, and while some of them are negative, others are mixed.  For what it’s worth, here’s my take on things, including why I’m not going to be shopping at Wal-Mart as much in the future.
 For starters, I understand the point Kris makes about Barnes and Noble trying to drive customers online.  It helps their bottom line for two reasons.  First, in the short term, it provides an incentive for Nook purchases.  Eventually that market will saturate, either because everyone will have one and the technology will mature to the point that repeatedly releasing an updated version will no longer be cost effective, or more likely that a new technology will come along and make the Nook obsolete.  The second reason, and the one that bothers me, is that it will allow B&N to either close more stores to get out of expensive leases or devote more shelf space to non-book items such as toys, games, stationary, and greeting cards.  Along with more floor space to sell the Nook.

Borders, even before it declared bankruptcy, was undergoing this at a disturbing rate.  When I started graduate school at UT Dallas back in the early 90s, the Borders at the intersection of  Royal and Preston was one of the two go-to bookstores in the Dallas area, the other being the Taylor’s near Prestonwood Mall, although living at what was then the northern edge of the suburban sprawl, i.e, in the other direction, I tended to frequent the Bookstop in Plano near Collin Creek Mall rather than drive an extra hour.  All three had excellent selections of science fiction and fantasy, mystery, and scientific and technical books, and all were willing to order titles not in stock (although Taylor’s charged to do so). 

Then Taylor’s closed, Barnes and Noble bought the Bookstop chain and closed the one in Plano to open a B&N on the opposite side of the mall, and suddenly Borders was the only good place to get almost anything in print. 

That didn’t last long.  I’ve only been in that Borders a few times in the last five years, and usually it was to find a magazine I couldn’t get at the big B&N on Northwest Highway.  I don’t know if that particular store is still open.  I’ve bought very few books there in the last half decade or so.  Each time I went in, it seemed the fantastic literature had been moved to a different area and had less shelf space.  Along with all the other books.  And there more titles turned face out, which is one of the points Ms. Rusch made in her essay.  Books facing out take up more space, meaning the shelves hold fewer books.  The last time I was there, it wasn’t worth the gas to drive over.

So how does Wal-Mart figure into this?  It’s simple.  They’re committing the same type of stupidity as the major chains, but they don’t have the excuse of an ereader to fall back on.  I live a little over two blocks from K-Mart, four or five blocks from Target, and about a mile and a half from the nearest Wal-Mart (there are four in town).  I’ve been going to this Wal-Mart for one reason.  They have had a section of their book department devoted to science fiction, meaning that the section was labeled as such.  Now the selection was at least 50% fantasy, but I’m not complaining.  I read considerable amounts of both. I’ve seen Wal-Marts that devote some shelf space to a few sf/f titles before, but this is the only one with entire section devoted to the stuff.  A number of them have sections for westerns, which I’m not knocking, except I don’t think westerns sell as well as sf & f.  Maybe Wallyworld is different, because the westerns section in my local Wal-Mart is still intact.  And none of the employees, excuse me, associates, I talked to could tell me who made the decision to remove the fantasy and science fiction. 

What did they put in its place?  They moved the romance section over and put “Books” where the romance previously was.  They’re still putting the display together (they’re anything but quick here), but it appears to be mostly children’s books and cook books.   All face out.  I guess they think fewer titles with more visibility will sell more books.

So now I have one less venue I can walk into, pick up any one of several books, and browse through them.  As far as I’m concerned, electronic browsing isn’t worth the time it takes.  I like to flip through the book.  I’ve bought plenty of books at that Wal-Mart, some of which I’ve reviewed at Adventures Fantastic. And I like a good selection, which, given its size, this one had.  But it’s no longer worth the time and gas to drive over and put up with the crowd for the books they have now.

My local B&N has a decent selection, meaning I can find something that interests me.  But I can’t find everything, including much of the stuff I want.  Kris Rusch wrote about not being able to find her latest science fiction novel, City of Ruins, in a B&N but being told it was in the warehouse and she could order it.  The local one here didn’t stock it either.  Nor did they stock Howard Andrew Jones’ The Desert of Souls or Scott Oden’s The Lion of Cairo.  They had a novel by Paul Finch which I wanted to review, only they sold it before I could buy it and didn’t order a replacement copy.  It was a zombie novel; the replacement would have sold.  I’m going to have to order all of these books.  And that’s a hassle.  I ordered the Oden, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.  The other three will probably get ordered sometime before the end of the summer.  I want to review and discuss all four of them, but I’ll probably review other things I have at hand first.  It’s easier and faster that way.

I could go on.  There’s a locally based chain with a number of stores in Texas called Hastings I could write an entire post about, but this is negative enough as it is.  The more I write, the grumpier and more depressed I’m getting.  If you’re like me and like to spending time in book stores just browsing to see what treasures you can find, I don’t hold out a lot of hope of being able to do that much longer.

This essay has been cross-posted at Futures Past and Present.

E-Book Prices: A Not-So-Brief Rant

Ok, the main point of this post is to vent my spleen.  I’m not sure what good it will do other than perhaps get some frustration out of my system.  But if you’re reading this, you’re probably among the people who would most understand.

I was browsing in the local Barnes and Noble over the weekend.  There were a number of books there in multiple genres that looked intriguing (no big surprise).  One in particular seemed to be a really good fit for this blog.  It was a new release in mass market paperback, and no, I’m not going to tell you the title.  I’ll refrain out of respect to the author.  You’ll see why in a minute.  It appeared to be something that would move quickly to the top of the TBR pile, both because it looked like something I would really enjoy as well as something the people who read this blog would be interested in.

Now, before I go any further, you need to understand something to get some context.

After moving to the house where we currently live, we had to make a decision about what to put in storage since this house is considerably smaller than the previous one.  Over half my library is currently in boxes.  Much of what isn’t probably should be for the simple reason that I don’t have much space.  As in literally none.  I don’t have room in the house to bring more books in.  The shelves are spilling over, and my wife is starting to complain about tripping over the stacks on the floor.  Which is why I got an ereader, specifically a Nook, because B&N is just down the road.  When I buy a paper book, I need to clear space by either taking one (or some) to storage, selling them, or giving them to friends.  I will still buy paper books from a few writers, either because those writers are ones I want to read in physical copies or because I want them signed.  Also, there are some books that don’t have electronic editions, especially if they’re from small presses.  But with those exceptions, all of my book buying for the foreseeable future needs to be in electronic format.

I’ve got my Nook with me at B&N, so I check to see if there’s an electronic edition of this particular book.  Yep, sure enough, there is.

It costs the same as the paper edition.

Which means it will cost me more than the paper edition, because with a B&N card, I get a discount on the paper copy.  While annoying, it’s not so surprising.  I don’t have a problem with a business model in which electronic copies are similar or even identical in price to the paper copies initially, with the electronic copies dropping  in price over the course of the next few months.  I probably won’t buy the electronic copies until they’ve dropped in price.   Not just because I’m cheap, but I’m so far behind on my reading that usually it takes a couple of months before most new books rise to the top of the TBR pile.  So why not wait and pay the lower price?  If I want the book so badly that I buy it when it’s first published, it’s probably one I would want in paper.

But that model not what I see happening.  Most of the major houses that I’ve checked aren’t lowering the price of the ebooks after a few months, at least not by very much.  Now, I admit I haven’t done anything even approximating a scientific survey.  But looking at the things I read and the types of books I buy, I don’t see a lot publishers pricing their electronic copies much differently than their paper copies.  (Angry Robot seems to be an exception.)  For example, I would love to have the Del Rey Robert E. Howard collections in electronic format.  That way I could read whichever story I wanted to wherever I am as long as I have the Nook with me.  All of them as of this writing are either $12.99 or $13.99.  The exception is the newest collection, Sword Woman, which is only $9.99.  I have no idea why that one is priced so low now, because I bought it electronically when it was published a few months ago and paid $12.99.  And, yes, I hear what you’re saying:  I can get other electronic editions of Howard’s work.  But I want the Del Rey editions because those are the ones that have the corrected texts, the alternate drafts, and the fragments, as well as other material.  My point is I think these books are priced a little high.

I realize supply and demand, author popularity in other words, comes into play.  I’m okay with that.  A publisher expecting someone to pay more for a popular author than for an unknown is not unreasonable.  That’s the way the free market works.  It’s not just someone like Howard, an author has been around for a while and has a solid fan base that isn’t going to go away, whose books are being overpriced.  I’ve looked at a number of titles from a variety of publishers, and most of them are priced the same as the paper editions or maybe a dollar less.  (I’m talking mass market paperbacks here; electronic versions of books only available in hardcover are usually about half the hardcover price.  But hardcovers are luxury items.)  And not all of these titles are recent.  And not all of the authors are well known.  There are several first novels that look appealing by people I’ve never heard of before that have the same price in electronic and paper formats.

Before you conclude I’m one of these people who think ebooks should be priced at one or two dollars, I’m not.  I don’t have a problem paying between $5 and $10 for an electronic version of a book, although I naturally prefer the lower end of that range, provided the paper copy is considerably more expensive.  I see no reason to pay the same price for an electronic book as I do a paper copy, no matter what the price is on the paper copy.  There’s no reason I should.  There’s still editing, copy-editing, layout, cover art, and similar costs no matter what the format.  These all need to be taken into account when pricing the book, which is why I don’t think one or two bucks is a reasonable price for many ebooks, especially those coming from major publishers.  But there’s no printing costs, no shipping costs, no warehousing costs for electronic books.  I find it hard to believe a dollar difference between electronic books and paper books covers all the cost of printing, shipping, warehousing, etc.  The publishers shouldn’t expect me to pay for the rent on their Manhattan offices by gouging me on the price of the ebook.

If most of the difference in production costs between electronic and paper books went to the author, I would have a different opinion.  But it doesn’t, and so neither do I.  See J. A Konrath’s analysis for some numbers to get an idea of how much money most authors see on your average ebook compared to how much the publishers get. 

So I find  book I want to read, one that has an electronic version priced at or near the price of the paper version.  I have some choices.  I buy the paper copy, but with the spatial and spousal limitations I have, that’s not an option I can use very often.  Let’s assume it’s not in this case, which is a safe assumption.  I can buy the ebook, and sell out my principles, letting the publisher manipulate me to pay a price I think is too high.  I have a really difficult time doing that.  Or I can take what’s behind door number three, as they used to say on the game show Let’s Make a Deal.  I can pass on buying the book and wait for a copy to show up in a used book store.

That last would be my default option except for one thing.  There’s a writer who won’t get paid for the book.  As an aspiring writer myself, I have as big a problem with that as with the first two options.  I realize not everyone does.  If the average book buyer thinks the cost of an ebook is too high, they won’t buy it.  There’s more than enough to read out there that’s priced lower. More good and interesting stuff than any one person can ever read in an entire lifetime.  With the internet connecting second hand book dealers with customers miles away, a reader can find the book he or she wants at a lower price by exercising a little patience.

And that’s where I think big publishing is going to hurt itself.  By pricing itself out of the market.  Publishing is very much a free market right now in the sense that customers have power and the publishers don’t.  We have power, like I stated, to wait, read something else, or get it used.  That power is only going to increase as more authors begin to self-publish, both backlist titles and new books, and price their books significantly below what publishers are charging.  Readers are going to expect a certain price range on books, and books outside that range aren’t going to sell.  With the cost of fuel rising and driving everything else up along with it, book buying is going to become more of a luxury.  I know it is for me.  That means that higher priced ebooks are going to be less attractive to readers.  And the trend will probably get a lot worse before it gets better.

We need more variety in fantasy and science fiction, in detective fiction and historical adventure.  Not less.  There’s too much lowest common denominator crap on the shelves as it is.  That means more writers need a way to get their books to readers and still make enough to keep writing.  That won’t happen if their books, print or electronic, don’t sell.  The publishers will drop them like hot rocks.  And more voices will be silenced. More careers will end far too early.  And everyone, readers and authors and publishers, will all be the poorer for it.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what I decided about that book I really want to read and review for you here?  I’m still thinking about it.