Three articles have sparked my thinking on this post. The are:
- The Charlie Stross piece entitled Cutting their own throats,
- Joseph Esposito's insightful post on How B&N Can Take a Bite Out of Amazon, and
- The New York Times article, The Bookstore's Last Stand
Stross talks about how the publishing industry has allowed Amazon to use DRM as a tool against itself. Esposito suggests "B&N needs an MCI solution" while the Times piece encourages B&N to have a sense of urgency in avoiding the same fate as Borders.
Rolling all of these together I have a radical, three-step suggestion for William Lynch, CEO of B&N:
- Get publishers to understand they need to get out of their comfort zones before one player in the publishing ecosystem establishes what could become an irreversibly dominant position.
- Start distributing ebooks not only in EPUB format, but also in mobi format.
- Do it all DRM-free.
Yes, I realize I'm asking for a lot here, but I think it's time for bold moves from the brick-and-mortar leader. If Lynch implements what I've described above then suddenly bn.com is able to sell content to those millions of Kindle owners (not to mention owners of pretty much every other ereading device). More importantly, bn.com becomes the content destination for every smart consumer who doesn't want to get locked in to any particular hardware device or content vendor.
The risk to B&N? They lose some nook sales along the way...maybe. I'm not convinced that would happen though. What B&N would really do is radically expand their base of potential ebook customers and earn some serious goodwill as they break down the walls of DRM and platform lock-in. And so what if they were to lose some nook sales? All reports indicate B&N represents less than half Amazon's ebook device market share. Whatever they stand to lose in hardware sales could easily be made up in ebook sales to all those Kindle owners who want the peace of mind that they'll be able to read their library on any device in the future.
In today's world the winner is the company with the deepest pockets who can afford to sell devices and content at a loss longer than the competition can. In the world I'm describing the best device and content provider wins. I like the world I'm describing much better than the one we live in today. How about you?