In the Nook of Time
Normally quarterly results reported by Barnes & Noble late in August would be of interest mainly to sales and finance types in the book world. But these are not normal times. People took notice on Tuesday when the nation's largest bookseller said that sales of digital items--its Nook e-reader, Nook accessories and e-books--rose 140%, and that Nook business should top $1.8 billion this year.
That wasn't all the news. B&N's website, which sells printed books as well as digital products, also did nicely: sales rose 37% and e-book sales quadrupled. Oh, and the company says it has nearly a third of the e-book market. Wall Street--not a fan lately of traditional media retailers--liked all these trends and promptly bid up B&N stock by 15%.
All that indicates that B&N has turned a corner in its effort to be a player in the e-book revolution and will not follow its onetime rival, Borders, into oblivion. The trends also mean that there will be real competition on the digital playing field, that it won't be an Amazon monopoly. This is important because the Kindle is the one e-reader that doesn't "share" with others and because Amazon tends to, shall we say, play rough.
By the way, B&N's shift doesn't mean that its stores are going away. It's easy to forget that about 80% of books sold continue to be traditional books, and the stores have been a big help in B&N's digital push: many Nooks have been sold in person to store customers. Perhaps most important, the stores continue to show their value as a kind of showroom, introducing readers to the great books that continue to be published, regardless of the changes buffeting the business.
This is all good news for publishers and authors, for most bookstore competitors of B&N--and ultimately for readers.
Happy reading! --John Mutter