Monthly Archives: August 2014

’Txtr Launches Ebook Stores In Latin America. Wears Its Smashwords Badge With Pride. Indies, It’s Time To Return The Favour!

txtr indies

Berlin-based ebook retailer ‘txtr (for those unfamiliar, there’s no capital, no vowels and the apostrophe is in the right place!) is about to take another big leap forward with the imminent launch of six new ebook stores. Five in South America – Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela – and another in Mexico.

At this point the store menu (bottom right on the ‘txtr home page) has visual links to the new stores, but they feed back to the central store in Germany. We’re hoping to hear back from ‘txtr on a firm launch date for these, and whether we can expect ‘txtr to follow Google Play’s lead and roll out across a wider swathe of Latin America.

Some observers will be dismissive.

‘Txtr has yet to make a significant impact anywhere, and its token stores in the US, Canada, UK and Australia face fierce competition from established American and domestic brands. ‘Txtr also has the failure of its ultra-cheap ereader the ‘txtr Beagle to weigh down its reputation.

But as Tennyson would have said had he lived to see digital books, better to have tried and lost, than never to have tried at all.

Here’s the thing: ‘txtr is a plucky little outfit with ambition, vision and, it seems, enough money (3M, itself no stranger to ebooks, are among its backers) to play the long game.

With twenty-five global stores ‘txtr has already more than doubled Amazon’s Kindle stores, and is firmly in third place behind Google Play and Apple for dedicated ebook stores catering to overseas markets. Throw in the reach of ‘txtr’s partner stores and ‘txtr ebooks are available in some fifty countries. Without surcharges.

Our guess is Russia, Brazil and India will be priorities for ‘txtr, and then to embrace those areas of Europe so far by-passed (notably Scandinavia and east Europe), before turning its attention to S.E. Asia, following close on Google Play’s heels.

For indies this is great news. While some indies have been enjoying sales at ‘txtr for several years through Ebook Partnership, it is only recently that ‘txtr has been easily accessible, thanks to a distribution deal with Smashwords.

Yet bizarrely many indies seem to have opted out of ‘txtr distribution.

Their loss, because ‘txtr is one of the few ebook stores that wears its indie badge with pride.

Check out the indie section on ‘txtr’s US and UK sites, where indie titles are being given significant exposure. Not a self-pub ghetto like on OverDrive (an update on this soon) but front page stuff saying ‘txtr are PROUD to host self-published titles.

At which point you’ll be thinking, yeah, very nice, but it will be the usual suspects. Ordinary indies like us don’t stand a chance.

Think again.

No sign of Hugh Howey and Joe Konrath here! Konrath of course is exclusive with Amazon (apart from Be The Monkey), and Howey, it seems, just can’t be bothered with ‘txtr, or even Smashwords. Given Smashword’s is the world’s biggest indie aggregator and indie ebook store this is a rather curious stance from someone who purports to champion the self-pub cause.

So which indies are ‘txtr showcasing?

Click on this link – – and you’ll see a slide show of highlighted indie authors. Delve deeper to see highlighted indie series and other great little boosters.

Doubtful these authors will be buying their second luxury yacht off of ‘txtr sales just yet, but don’t dismiss ‘txtr out of hand just because no-one’s ever heard of it in indieland.

In the real world beyond, ‘txtr has a lot going for it.

An ebook store with over a million titles, a great device-agnostic platform, and a key understanding of glocalization that Amazon sorely lacks.

While Amazon hints at a pending Kindle Netherlands store, maybe, some time, when they can be bothered, and meanwhile surcharges Dutch readers who try to buy from the Everything Store, ‘txtr long since provided the Dutch with their own ebook store. And the Belgians, and the Swiss, and the Danes, and the Poles, and the Hungarians, and…

In fact, going where Amazon can’t be bothered is a key part of ‘txtr’s strategy.

“Especially in markets where Amazon isn’t yet present, network operators can combine the competitive advantage of being first to market with their billing capabilities to lead the development of the local ebook market. txtr’s e-reading service comes with an integrated billing solution, but we have extensive experience of connecting to 3rd party payment providers.”

‘Txtr has been around since 2008, a year before Amazon launched KDP, and as above counts 3M among its backers. At the other end of the business ‘txtr counts classy book retailers like Foyles (UK), and major tech-players like T-Mobile and Lenova as partners.

‘Txtr may not have Amazon’s brand recognition or traffic, and may forever be a bit-player in the key US and UK markets, and even in its home market in Germany, but elsewhere ‘txtr is shaping up to be a significant player in the global ebook market Amazon shuns.

Here’s the thing: Amazon’s Kindle stores runs on rails. Print rails. It’s a sad irony that the store dedicated to accelerating the transition to digital at home (mainly to reduce storage overheads and shipping costs) predicates its international Kindle expansion on the print market.

That’s just beginning to pay off in Brazil, where Amazon is starting to gain traction in the lucrative print market. But as anyone who has sold an ebook on Kindle BR will know, you can hit the best-seller charts with a single sale, and make the higher echelons of the in-store chart with just a handful.

Brazilians were buying ebooks from domestic and Latin American stores back when Amazon was slapping surcharges on readers who tried to buy from AmCom. No surprise then that Brazilians haven’t rushed to embrace the Kindle store since it launched.

And it’s a similar story across the Amazon sites. With the exception of maybe Kindle UK and Kindle DE, the satellite Kindle stores are simply adjuncts to Amazon’s actual or pending print and other e-commerce interests in those countries.

Which is why we can’t even hope, let alone expect, Amazon ever to become a global ebook player in the way that Google Play and ‘txtr are now positioning themselves.

As the global ebook markets burgeons, so Amazon will become more and more marginalized.

Not a problem for those authors who think the US and UK are the be-all and end-all of their publishing existence – Amazon will continue to be the dominant player here for the foreseeable future. But for anyone with ambitions to become a truly international bestselling author it is stores like Google Play and ‘txtr that will help make it happen.

At the moment Google Play, while supportive of self-publishers (Google Play is actively seeking out indie authors to sign up for special deals) does not make it easy for us.

The Google Play self-pub portal is a challenging process, and as yet very few aggregators will get you in. The UK’s Ebook Partnership and Italy’s Narcissus, and Ingram and Vook seem to be the only alternatives to going direct.

With ‘txtr, by contrast, access is as easy as signing up to Smashwords.

And as is now plain for all to see, ‘txtr won’t hide your Smashwords titles away like OverDrive does.

Just the opposite. ‘Txtr will proudly shout them from the rooftops.

At a time when indie authors are increasingly being sidelined by ebook stores (in the UK three of the biggest ebook retailers have no self-pub titles at all); at a time when Trad Pub is dominating the ebook charts; and while the big players like Amazon and Kobo continue to pay lip-service to indies while giving Big Pub all the perks (how many years has it taken just for indies to get pre-orders?), we need all the friends we can get.

If you are in Smashwords and have for some reason opted out of ‘txtr, you might want to reconsider.

If you are not in Smashwords at all, then the ‘txtr distribution alone is a good reason to reconsider, plus they have great distribution to Flipkart, India’s biggest ebook store. So far as we know Smashwords is the only “free” (pay-as-you-sell – there are no free lunches!) aggregator getting titles into ‘txtr.

So a big round of applause to Mark Coker and Smashwords for the deal with ‘txtr, and an even bigger one to ‘txtr for embracing and promoting self-published titles, instead of hiding them away.

Now how about we indies do something to show our appreciation?

Next time you’re doing some promo, spare a thought for ‘txtr. No, none of the big promo newsletters even know ‘txtr exists, but there’s nothing to stop you adding a ‘txtr link to your tweets and FB posts.

If we all tweeted a ‘txtr link alongside our Amazon links it could make a big difference, not just to our sales, but to ‘txtr’s future.

‘Txtr is making the effort for us. Let’s return the favour.


Ebook Bargains UK.

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.


Beware The Future – It’s Closer than You Think. What The Internet of Things Means For Indie Authors. Part 1.

Go Global In 2014


The problem with the future is, its coming up behind you. You can never be quite sure how far away it is, and you can never be quite sure whether it will sweep you up with it, sweep by and leave you behind, or just run right over you.

Over at the Motley Fool recently they ran this snippet from an old copy of Newsweek. From February 1995.

In it one Newsweek journalist opined,


“Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries, and multimedia classrooms… [They say] we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure. The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper…

“We’re promised instant catalog shopping — just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obsolete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month?”


As the Motley Fool says, “It all seemed so laughable at the time. Unless you were a 14 year-old.”

Amazon was barely six months old when that article was written. Ebooks were slightly more than a figment of a 14 year-old’s imagination, but not by much.

How times change.

And how they will change again.

No matter how improbable some things seem right now, the fact is nothing is set in stone, and the future takes no prisoners.

We talk here a lot about changes ahead. Seismic changes. Tectonic shifts.

But it all seems so unreal.

Let’s ignore the future and spend our time pointlessly taking sides in the Amazon-Hachette dispute instead. Or fire off another round of tweets denouncing that stupid publisher than ten years ago sent us a rejection letter. Or spamming everyone with yet another Facebook campaign saying “Buy My Book!”.

Meantime the future just keeps on happening.

The Motley Fool were using the Newsweek report to make a point about the Internet of Things (IoT). Obviously the Fool’s take was what is in it for investors. And the numbers they are talking about are quite breathtaking.

But the rewards to investors will only come if the companies being invested in are hugely successful in the real world. And the real world is where we indies live and where we indies make a living.

The Internet of Things is going to radically change our existence.

We don’t need to have the faintest idea about what the Internet of Things might be to grasp that the world around is changing by the day.

The ebook world of 2007 when the Kindle first launched is as different from today as 2007 was to 1995.

We indies can sit back and let the future steamroller right over us. We can sit back and watch the future sweep by us and leave us behind. Or we can be part of it.

We know where we want to be.

The future is already here. The next ten years are going to totally transform our lives. Be ready for anything.

Cybermed, for instance. That is to say, actual medical care (care, not advice) administered over the internet.

As we’ve said before recently, we are fast approaching a tipping point as the IoT moves from geeky science fiction to mainstream reality. And it is at once the most exciting, but also the most scary, development in the history of mankind.

Most of you will be familiar with the new trend in “wearables” – fancy little wristbands and the like that monitor blood pressure and heart rate, for example.

But these are just gimmicky applications getting the public used to the idea of biotech monitoring. What comes next is where the exciting – and scary – bit comes in.

This article on VentureBeat today is well worth reading for a rough idea of the way biotech is going. Google, Samsung and Apple are particularly well-advanced with this.

The VentureBeat article mentions the pending iWatch from Apple and what it might offer. We suspect VentureBeat are being a little conservative and Apple’s variant will be even more spectacular than is suggested here. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, also sits on the board of Nike, and Apple and Nike have been working closely together for a while. Anyone thinking Nike just makes expensive trainers for teens needs to catch up with the real world!

Amazon? Amazon has just this month been in secretive discussion with the FDA, and lately head-hunted the guy behind Google Glass, so a safe bet Amazon is about to jump on this bandwagon.

Hey, show us a bandwagon and we’ll show you Jeff Bezos jumping!

One of the key distinctions between an e-commerce company like Amazon and a tech company like Apple or Google is innovation. The last serious innovation we saw from Amazon was in selling print books on-line. Since then Amazon has led the way in taking ideas developed by others and using them for its own ends. The Kindle and ebooks are a classic example. Notwithstanding the complete flop that is the Fire phone, Amazon generally do these things with a spectacular flourish (again, the Kindle is a great example), so it will be interesting to see what they are looking at next.

But Amazon is way, way behind when it comes to the Internet of Things. And whether its cybermed or any other branch of the next generation of internet development, the one safe bet is what Amazon does will be geared to one end: Amazon. We’ll explore in a future post why this is a particularly scary scenario.

But let’s stick with the IoT for now.

In a related post on VentureBeat there is a report on how Intel have just unveiled the world’s smallest wireless modem for the IoT. Yes, only geeks may have heard of it, but the IoT is already big, big business. The Internet of Things European Research Centre estimates that currently there are 80 items a second being connected to the Internet of Things.

And the IoT hasn’t even left the starting grid.

The Solidworks blog, way back in February of this year () estimated that by 2020 – just six years away – there will be 100 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things. No, not smartphones and tablets and laptops, but everyday devices like your coffee machine, your garage door, your car’s back seat, your packet of breakfast cereal…

It’s called the Internet of Things for a reason. And the impact on our lives is going to be breathtaking in its scope.

We’ll explore in detail in future posts the myriad ways in which the IoT is going to impact on literature, publishing and indie authors, but here’s just a teaser of what the future has in store for us.

Hugh Howey’s latest post asks why Amazon cannot provide us with data about how far a reader has read a book, at what chapter they gave up, etc. Basic data Amazon will have from every live-linked (as opposed to side-loaded) device, be it a Kindle device or one using a Kindle app.

Like most sci-fi writers, Howey is way behind the times when it comes to science reality. 🙂

Never mind how many pages a reader got through. What about how much the reader’s adrenalin pumped when they got to that scary scene in your zombie holocaust novel? Or how their pulse rate quickened when they got to that sex-scene in your erotica novel?

Did they all but fall asleep reading that long, boring description of your new fantasy world you’ve created, which you just had to spell out in the first chapter instead of drip-feeding amid the action? Did they switch the TV on halfway through another chapter and have one eye on the TV screen and the other on your book, trying to decide which was more interesting? And what were they watching anyway?

Did they pause half-way through to tell someone how much they were enjoying this book? Did they speak to them, tweet them or what? What exactly did they say? Your tweets are already public knowledge. Your emails may not be so public, but are hardly private. Voice recognition is already well-advanced – who’s to say your next-generation device won’t be relaying back your every conversation?

The IoT is potentially George Orwell’s worst nightmare come true.

But back to those readers and the data Howey wants. Er, Hugh, Data Guy’s gonna need a bigger boat!

Did they read it at home on the couch, or on a bus? In the dentist’s waiting room or on the subway? Did they make an extra-strong espresso to make sure they stayed awake to finish the book? Or was it a Diet Coke or a full-sugar Pepsi? Chilled or room temperature? From the can or in a glass?

The IoT will know these things. Devices will talk to each other. It’s called the Internet of Things for a reason.

Perhaps more importantly, did the character in your book drinking that particular brand of coffee or that particular cocktail, or travelling off to that particular exotic location, entice the reader to click on the link? What link? By 2020 most novels will be full of discreet advertising links – that’s how most of us will be paid, not by royalties.

And never mind links, you can be sure if you lingered on that page where that particular brand of coffee was drank you’ll be getting a mail-shot from a retailer offering you a great deal on coffee, and if the book was set in Tahiti you’ll be inundated with ads from holiday firms asking you if you want to experience the real thing.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

By 2020 indie authors will be competing with robot-written novels with perfect spelling and grammar, simultaneously translated into as many different languages as need be, and yes, if we are honest, they will be pretty good.

Easy to say no robot can ever reproduce a fine work of art, but try telling that to the chess players who used to say no computer could ever beat a Grand Master.

And of course most novels are not fine works of art.

Pretty much every novel out there is a re-working of an existing theme or idea, and especially in the age of indie ebooks many are little more than dire quality first drafts. Most series are simply the same characters and same situations with a few name changes and tweaks here and there. That’s what most series are about, after all. Comfort reading, not originality. Comfort reading, not Shakespearean drama.

Try looking at Wikipedia and working out which posts are written by a human and which are bot-written. The number of bot-written posts on Wiki is staggering. But you’d be very hard-pressed to tell which is which.

There are already bot-written novels on the retail sites, and while they may not be making much headway right now, the software will just get better and better.

How long before a bot-novel offers you the chance to decide Character A and Character B need to jump in bed together, or Character C needs to dump Character D and get a thing going with Character E? And if you later change your mind, just tell the device and the story line will change, right there in front of you.

How long before you just decide what mood you are in and the bot writes a novel right there and then to suit your every desire? Vampire western with lesbian erotica and a hint of steampunk, two cats and a scene with a furry rabbit, shaken, not stirred? Coming right up.

How long does it take a bot to write a 100,000 word novel? A lot less time than it took you to read the first word of that sentence.

No, these won’t be prize-winning works of art. Your shot at the Man-Booker prize (or whatever it’s called this week) is safe.

Yes, purists will heap these bot-works with scathing criticisms, but readers are not always so discerning. Just look at what makes the charts nowadays…

And it’s a short step to the algorithms giving bot-written works preferential treatment in return for smaller unit payouts. What does a bot care if it gets a 70% “royalty” or just 5%?

As we’ll be exploring in forthcoming posts, the IoT is not all bad news for indies and literature. There’s a lot we can gain from it, if we are prepared to go the extra mile.

But being aware of it is the first step.

Don’t get left behind by the future. Grab a front-seat ticket and enjoy the ride!


Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Jeff Bezos Writes Open Letter To The World’s Children As Disney Dispute Escalates

Dear Kids,

Ever since Mickey Mouse made his first appearance way back in 1928, children all over the world have been enjoying Disney cartoons and films.

Here at Amazon we love children’s films and cartoons and always do our best to make sure you kids have the best possible entertainment available to you, at prices your poor, struggling parents can afford.

But kids, we’ve got some disturbing news for you. You might want to peek through your fingers for this, or maybe hide behind the sofa.

Okay. Here we go.

Uncle Walt is actually dead. No, honestly. He doesn’t run Disney anymore. Nasty men in badly-cut suits run Disney now, and they HATE you kids and they HATE your parents. And they think your poor, struggling parents should pay through the nose every time you want to see an episode of Donald And Goofy.

I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s all true. Cross my heart and hope to die. These nasty Disney men in badly-cut suits want to charge your poor, struggling parents even more money than they are now.

And for what? It’s just a bloody cartoon! There are no actors to pay, and no make-up artists. They don’t even have to pay for costumes and lighting. It’s just some guy with a box of crayons drawing silly pictures and doing silly voices and another guy flicking the pages real fast so it looks like they are moving.

And those nasty people at Disney want to charge your parents more for this rubbish!

We say hell, no! Oops! Sorry, don’t let Mom see that bit. We say, no, no, a thousand times no!

Here at Amazon we firmly believe that if you repeat the same thing enough times people will start to believe it, so we say again, Amazon is the cheapest place in the whole universe for absolutely everything, and tell your Mom and Pop that if they use our Fire phone it will prove it for you, because all the deals it comes up with are at Amazon.

But you won’t find the latest Disney cartoons and films anymore, because we’ve blocked them, just because we love you kids so much.

In fact, we’re not going to stock them anymore until Disney agree to pay us a whole shit-load more money back down and agree with us that cartoons and films for kids should be so dirt cheap we lose even more money than we are already doing everyone has them on their Fire TV, whether they want them or not.

Now we know a big fight between an evil, money-grabbing mega-corporation like Disney and a struggling Mama & Papa retailer like Amazon if not something children should have to worry about. It’s not your fight. When two big kids start arguing in the playground it’s always, always, always best to keep well away.

Well, always except this once, because kids, we desperately need your help.

We want you to send an email to Uncle Walt (yes, we know we said he’s dead, but just bloody do it anyway and stop arguing!) and copy us.

If your mean parents haven’t bought you a KindleFire tablet yet and you don’t have email, just get your crayons out and rip a page out of a book and write on that. There’s usually lots of space on the title page, just under where its says Published by Hachette. Don’t forget to throw the rest of the book in the trash where it belongs.

Here’s what you’ve gotta say:

Dear Uncle Walt (deceased),

We love Disney, we really do, but we don’t think you’re playing nice with my other friend, Mr. Amazon, and we think that’s not fair. Not fair at all.

We want you to stop being nasty to Mr. Amazon and agree to everything they ask, otherwise when we grow up we’ll stop watching Mickey Mouse altogether, and tell our grandchildren not to either. So there.

Just email your message to unclewalt(deceased) and copy us. Send your bits of paper with wax crayon all over to Uncle Walt, Hollywood. No need for a zip code, it will get there. But don’t copy us that shit those letters because we’re a tech company and don’t do paper, okay?

Thanks, kids. We really, really appreciate this, and to show our appreciation we’re going to do absolutely jack-shit let your parents get free shipping and films and music for just $99 a year.

And shut that brat up who’s asking how it can be free if it costs $99. We told you already, if you tell folks something often enough they believe it, no matter how dumb it sounds.

Thanks again,

Your bestest friend ever,

Uncle Jeff and the Amazon Cartoon Team.


If any of you brats are thinking, “Nah. Can’t be bothered,” think again, sunshines.

Or Harry Potter will be next.

Amazon Begs Indie Authors To Help Fight $10bn Media Conglomerate. You couldn’t make it up…

Go Global In 2014

When it comes to desperate measures and stooping lower than a snake’s testicles nobody does it better than Amazon.

Emailing KDP authors begging them to write to those nasty people at Hachette is bad enough. But to dress it up with a load of bull about paperback prices, World War II and George Orwell takes sad to a whole new level.

As Amazon rightly say, “We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies”.

In the next breath, “We’d like your help. Please email the CEO of Hachette and copy us.”

Amazon implore us to tell him in no uncertain terms, “Stop using your authors as leverage.”

Quite right, Amazon. It’s fine for you to use KDP authors as leverage in this dispute which has nothing to do with us, but how dare Hachette do the same thing.

“We want lower e-book prices,” says Amazon, the company that is encouraging indie authors to raise prices through Pricing Support, while penalizing us with lower “royalties” if we try to offer readers a real bargain. Apple still pay us 70% if we price below $2.99. Amazon take 65%.

“Hachette does not (want lower prices).”

Bull. Hachette wants the right to charge a premium for new releases, just like every other entertainment media does.

A quick glance at Amazon’s listings will show only a handful of Hachette titles are priced above ten dollars. The bulk are well below ten dollars, with many at indie prices, and even free.

“Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices… Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.”

Curiously Amazon omitted to mention that they are currently being sued by the Federal Trade Commission for illegally scamming millions from parents of children using free Amazon apps. Not some accidental scam. The FTC has Amazon internal emails confirming Amazon was aware of this for a long period and chose to do nothing.

“Even Amazon’s own employees recognized the serious problem its process created,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. The FTC highlighted one internal communication in which an Amazon employee likened the growing chorus of customer complaints to a “near house on fire.”

This of course is not in any way disrespectful to Amazon app customers.

Amazon says Hachette “think books only compete against books.”

And Hachette said this when, exactly?

“But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types.”

Says Amazon, with its unlimited “free” streaming of video and music for Prime members.

“Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99.”

Therefore it is eminently good business sense for Hachette and every other publisher to sell a new release at $14.99 while readers are willing to pay a premium for the new release, and then sell to all those others at $9.99 at a later date.

It’s interesting to note that Macmillan, Penguin-Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, etc, etc, are all selling new releases at $14.99 and Amazon is making NO fuss at all about this.

Where is the Amazon email asking us to spam the email boxes of the CEOs of Macmillan and co. telling them to bring their prices down because consumers are suffering?

This has NOTHING to do with benefitting consumers and EVERYTHING to do with the fact that Amazon can’t get its own way with a particular supplier in a particular dispute.

Amazon is and will remain for some time the most important outlet for most indie authors. That doesn’t mean we have to respond to this kind of underhand interference in a dispute between Amazon and a supplier we have nothing to do with.

As Amazon rightly say, Hachette is “part of a $10 billion media conglomerate.”

Amazon omits to mention that Amazon is a $150 billion conglomerate.

WTF is a company that size doing begging indie authors to intervene to help it settle a dispute with another supplier?

You couldn’t make it up…


Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Nook UK – New E-reader. New Readers?

Go Global In 2014

Nook have just launched their GlowLight ereader in the UK. (link) A reminder that it’s business as usual for Nook even though they are due to be spun off from the B&N mother ship next year.

Will it help you get sales on Nook UK?

Yes, if you play your cards right.

Nook is still a low profile name in Britain. Nook devices are sold primarily by just two stores – John Lewis and Argos. They are available elsewhere, but as just one more device on the shelf, amid far better known brands.

The problems for Nook outside the US are two-fold. Brand recognition and late arrival.

Barnes & Noble is an unknown quantity outside the States unless you are an indie author or a regular trans-Atlantic traveller. So much so that you will be hard-pressed to even find the B&N name on the Nook UK website.

Bear that in mind when promoting. Readers have no idea what B&N is over here even though they may have a Nook ereader or tablet, or being using the Nook app. To promote to the UK and European / Australian markets don’t say B&N, say Nook UK, Nook Australia, Nook Lithuania or whatever.

But the bigger problem for Nook is late arrival. By the time Nook got to the UK the market had already been carved up by Amazon, Apple and Kobo, with a handful of domestic players joining the fray.

That’s not so say the stranglehold cannot be broken. Both Sainsbury and Tesco Blinkbox have shown it can be, very effectively, but they come at the problem from a totally different direction.

Even Google Play, with brand recognition to die for, is struggling to get a foothold in the UK, and for an unknown name like Nook it was far too little, far too late.

For Nook’s international expansion, the same applies only moreso.

That’s not to say you should write off Nook UK or Nook International as a dead loss. Far from it. It could and should be providing you with a small but lucrative stream of extra income. If it’s not, take another look at your marketing.

The Nook UK site is great. Unlike B&N it isn’t trying to sell you other products – not even print books – which means it has a clean, crisp reader interface and is not throwing smartphones, diapers or dog food in your face.

More interestingly, Nook UK is VERY often cheaper than Amazon UK.

Often, but not always. And sometimes promotions on Nook US do not carry over in timely fashion, so your 0.99 special in the US might still be showing it’s original price in the UK. And very occasionally a listing on Nook US doesn’t appear on Nook UK at all. From what I can see this tends to happen when using an aggregator.

For those who can, NookPress gives you far more control over pricing and promotion than going through an aggregator. Not least being able to set separate US, UK and Europe prices.

It’s not entirely clear what Nook is doing with its international expansion right now. At one point (late 2013) Nook was making titles available in over thirty countries, but only with a Windows 8 app.

But the NookPress dashboard now gives you the option to set a European price for France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands, with the caveat that due to high volume of content it may take time for (indie) titles to filter through.

Until Nook is formally separated from B&N it’s unlikely we’ll see much more action than what’s already underway.

The big question is who will buy out Nook next year. Microsoft seems to be favourite right now, but not by much. Samsung have abandoned their ebook project, so we can rule them out.

Three outsiders to keep an eye on are Wal-Mart, Tesco Blinkbox and Alibaba. Any of them could afford Nook out of loose change. All have an interest in digital media and in getting one up on Amazon. What better way to do that than to buy out one of the key rivals to the Kindle store and plough serious money into it to make it a serious player?

The AIS blogs delight in telling us how badly Nook is doing, but Nook has significant market share in the US and a very valuable customer data base. Whoever takes on Nook is going to have something very nice to build on if they plan on competing. And all three of those outsiders mentioned – Wal-Mart, Tesco and Alibaba – have far deeper pockets than Amazon.

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