And This is Why Barnes & Noble Continues to Trail Amazon In the E-Book World

I love my Nook HD, and I really do want Barnes & Noble to succeed, but they have to stop shooting themselves in the foot by being more complicated than Amazon when it comes to purchasing books and managing an e-book library.

Yesterday B&N and I were just not getting along, and everything I experienced was fixable, if they wanted to.

I saw that “Midnight in Death” by J. D. Robb was free on B&N, so I went over to “buy” it. I clicked “Download,” waited, and got an error message that my transaction had failed, and to try again. Since that’s usually a recipe for a double-charge on my credit card, they would have lost me at that point if the book hadn’t been free. Since it was, I tried again, and the transaction went through.

Time to download to my Nook. Another error message. At that point, I hopped over to Amazon to see if they’d price-matched the book. They had. Fifteen seconds and one-click later, I had “purchased” the book and sent it to my Kindle. A few more clicks, and it was on every other device I might want to read it on. Why couldn’t it have been so smooth from B&N? Nothing should get in the way of a purchaser and a book.

Later in the evening, I decided I wanted to re-read a book I’d previously purchased from B&N. Now, let me note that I usually buy DRM-free books (mostly from Amazon) and convert (using Calibre) to read in the app or device of my choice. So this was the first time I’d downloaded a book to my Nook HD since I’d bought it.

First I had to find the Archive on my Nook. Ah, there it was! Hidden in the middle of an obscure menu. Good placement. As I was scrolling through to find the book I wanted, I accidentally downloaded another book. No problem, I’d just delete it.

Oh, right. “Delete” on a Nook deletes it from your account. I’d forgotten that from my old Nook Color days. Fine, I’d “Move to Nook Cloud.” OK, book was deleted from my device, but the cover was still present, with a “download” badge on it. No, I didn’t want the cover still on my Nook. I wanted it gone!

Those of you who use your Nooks regularly are smiling and nodding about now because you know what I finally had to do to get rid of it. Yes, that’s right. I had to log on to my Library on my computer and move the book to the Archive. I then re-synced my library on my Nook, and it was gone.

Kindle users, you may laugh now. Because to do the same thing on a Kindle involves selecting the “Remove from Device” option. Simple and one step.

Seriously, B&N? How do you expect us to take you seriously when you make it all so complicated?

OK, I’m done ranting now. Time to load a few more DRM-free books on my Nook. Those I can get rid of with a simple “Delete.”

11 Comments on And This is Why Barnes & Noble Continues to Trail Amazon In the E-Book World

  1. It’s more difficult when wi-fi is not available. Purchasing, installing anything to my Nook 2nd gen is like pulling teeth. Everything must be sent to a computer (registered thanks loads) and then side loaded.

    I could deal with that, as Kindle has the same problem in a non-wi-fi area where I work/live. BUT the whole “we’re more into reading” attitude means in order to delete a book from my Nook I can’t just tell it to go away, I have to synch to my computer at home. *sighs*

    Why oh why do they make me want to NOT have my Nook.

  2. Given that nine months after the Fictionwise import, B&N *still* hasn’t fixed the issue with the Lord of the Rings 3-in-1 volume importing as The Two Towers only, and has given me the runaround when I’ve asked, I’ve stopped buying from B&N, much as I love my Nook Simple Touch.

  3. @Castiron, don’t even get me started on the Fictionwise import, but yours is an issue I hadn’t heard about. That sucks!

  4. Sturmund Drang // September 6, 2013 at 7:45 pm //

    Agreed! I want B&N to succeed.
    Agreed! I like my nook simple touch (w/glo)
    Agreed! B&N really doesn’t know how to sell books.

    Don’t forget their including your credit card in the DRM Key on your device. It just doesn’t get any stupider than that. And don’t forget the two books they load onto your device that can’t be deleted without rooting.

  5. I’m a major critic of Amazon in a host of areas, including their use of the DOJ as a surrogate to attack Apple, their primary competitor.

    But Amazon does want to win what we might call the Ebook Wars, and that’s their great strength. They want to sell far more ebooks than anyone else and to dictate the terms under which they’re sold, particularly the prices and royalties paid. And for that, they’re willing to invest money and sweat, as illustrated by the MatchBook announcement.

    B&N doesn’t have that same burning desire to win. Early last December when I released Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments through Apple, Amazon and Smashwords, every other ebook retailer had it available in a little over a week. B&N, let it sit untouched on Smashwords for over a month. And yes, Smashwords recently announced that B&N would now be downloading new books daily. But that’s a bit too late. Many Nook owners have concluded that B&N is the last to get new books. That’s not the way to win. It’s not even the way to stay in the game.

    Apple does seem to care about growing their ebook market share and I’m delighted by how great my latest book, My Nights with Leukemia, looks in iBooks, particularly in comparison with how dreadful it looks in the Kindle app on my iPad. The pictures of hospitalized children at the start of chapters is one of the book’s key features.

    But I get the sense that the zeal Apple’s iBooks team has isn’t matched by much interest among the company’s executives. The latter wants to win with music, videos, and apps. But for them the ebook market is of second tier importance, probably because books have never mattered much to them. You see that with the long delay in bringing iBooks to Macs and now that it is coming, the fact that it’ll apparently only work with the next OS X. There’ll be iTunes upgrades for my aging MacBook for a long time, but no version of iBooks.

    And that upper-executive suite indifference about ebooks is perhaps as the heart of Amazon’s scheme to attack Apple’s ebook agenda through a Seattle law firm that got the DOJ to file that lawsuit. Seeing Apple as only weakly interested, they figured an attack might result in Apple scaling back its already limited interest and focusing primarily on the K-12 education market. We will see if that is true.

    If you’re a Amazon watcher like I am, that’s a key part of the Amazon personality. Much like Microsoft in the early 1990s, they like to bully competitors and suppliers. But there is a difference. Microsoft blundered on through the mid-to-late 1990s, despite warning signs that they were in big legal trouble. Amazon isn’t like that. It will bully until it meets with effective resistance, then it typically changes and begins to play more fairly. It’s a bully, but it’s a realistic one.

    Their efforts to force POD publishers to use their own CreateSpace affiliate (rather than Ingram’s Lightning Source) illustrate that. They began yank the Buy Now button from companies that wouldn’t sign up for CreateSpace. Then one publisher on the East Coast took them to court with a good argument that requiring in-house printing for retail sales was illegal bundling. Rather than lose, Amazon settled out of court and, as a POD publisher myself, I’ve not heard a Buy Now threat since.

    Unable to bully, Amazon turned to making CreateSpace better. It still has issues. I complained only two days to it that, having once begun an order for proof copies, it was impossible to kill that order.

    But it now offers better error checking of uploaded files than Lightning Source. It offers a significantly better profit from sales. It offers the author/publisher ‘proof’ copies at a slightly better price. And from what I have seen, it ships books quicker. And the old criticism of CreateSpace, that its books were of poorer quality than Lightning Source’s, no longer seems true. I’m impressed with the quality of the print images in my latest books. The only downside is that CreateSpace offers less options, no matte-finish covers and fewer sizes.

    That illustrates that Amazon’s zeal to win and willingness to invest can be turned to good effect if people stand up to them. Blocked from bullying publishers into signing up for CreateSpace, it made the product appealing.

    That’s what’s particularly vile about Amazon’s use of DOJ surrogates to go after Apple and the Big Six publishers. Smaller publishers and individual authors don’t have the resources to go toe-to-toe with Amazon. They did.

    Notice in particular how obsessed the DOJ has been with preventing Amazon’s large opponents from working together in any way. That’s what’s been so suspicious about this lawsuit from the start. At every decision point, DOJ’s lawyers seemed to have asked themselves not what would be best for the public but what is best for Amazon. This lawsuit has been about protecting a company with a 70% market share.

    Amazon can hatch up all sorts of nasty schemes within itself without engaging in any conspiracy because you can’t conspire with yourself. But when major publishers discuss among themselves the fact that letting Amazon control 90% of the ebook market (at that time) might be a bad thing for everyone, well that’s supposed to be an evil and a criminal conspiracy. Not so. It was simply good business sense.

    Time will tell what will happen. B&N is probably doomed, at least as a major competitor. There’s little hope for someone who does not want to fight. Apple may or may not fight. It’s executives aren’t that ‘into’ ebooks, which is unfortunate. On the other hand Apple has demonstrated time and again that it doesn’t like being threatened or bullied. These moves by Amazon through a compliant DOJ could just inspire it to give Amazon a good fight in the ebook market. And that would make many of us very happy.

  6. Yep, I truly wish for B&N to succeed. However, unless they change their customer service tactics, replace every last one of their web design gurus (sarcasm), update and provide a FAR BETTER search engine of “My Library”, it isn’t going to happen. I love the Nook products but truly dread when I need to find any book in my library. God forbid I have a problem that requires contacting customer service. And as mentioned before, I don’t even want to go down that road with the Fictionwise fiasco!

  7. I’m starting to be glad that B&N didn’t ship to Denmark when I tried to order a Nook… This sounds like waaaaay too much trouble.

  8. Since the Nook HD now supports the Play store, you have a simple fix: Install Kindle for Android. 😀
    Or Coolreader, Aldiko, Bluefire, Mantano, Moon+ , or even Pocketbook .
    Don’t fight bad software, just ignore it.

  9. I started with a Nook because in general I’d rather not support Amazon, but I wound up moving over to the Kindle after all because of how terrible B&N’s customer service is, and how unintuitive the Nook is.

    First, they double charged my debit card on three different purchases, over the period of about two months. It took multiple emails and phone calls and finally a call to my bank each time to get my money back. The customer service people were either rude or clueless each time I spoke to them (with one insisting that the charges were all correct, even though they were obvious duplicates). Finally, I asked them to remove my debit card from the account completely. I got my books from All Romance eBooks or Powell’s instead and just side-loaded them.

    Then my Nook screen malfunctioned, so I decided to leave the B&N headache behind. A few months later, I went to download the ebooks I’d purchased at Barnes and Noble.

    I wasn’t able to. The only way I could download the books I’d already bought? Add a credit card to my account. Why? I’d already paid for them (multiple times). Why should I have to add a credit card just to have access to something that’s already mine?

    I never did get my books. B&N’s customer service was absolutely no help. It’s no surprise at all that they’re getting ready to go out of business.

  10. @Felix, I agree that it’s easy enough to install alternatives, and many of the apps you mentioned have features that the stock reader doesn’t have. However, readers shouldn’t feel compelled to install other apps to get away from bad design. There’s no reason B&N shouldn’t be as user friendly as Amazon.

  11. If you’re trying to get a book off your nook HD tabletop after you’ve already sent it back to the cloud, you can just do a long-press on the cover and then select either “remove from tabletop” or “do not display on home” and that should remove the cover from your display.

    I own 5 nooks (1st gen, ST Glow, Color, HD and HD+) and yet I now do most of my book buying on Kindle. Not just because of the selection and price matching but because their website is so incredibly helpful and intuitive, unlike BN.com. I can also return a Kindle book within a week of purchase if it’s formatted badly, or if it goes on sale during that time, or even if I just didn’t like what I bought. But at BN.com, your purchase is non-refundable in all cases. And don’t even try to get any kind of technical help online for your nook. Ever.

    If only we could pair Amazon’s website with the nook hardware, life would be so much nicer. /endofrant :)

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