Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Borders’

ReadWriteWeb DeathWatch: Barnes & Noble

June 29th, 2012 06:24 admin View Comments

Barnes & Noble remains a big player in a growing industry, and until Google changed everything this week, it made fantastic hardware for the money. But as with Nokia, a changing market and financial problems are driving a proud Number Two into a subordinate role that threatens to choke it out of existence.

The Basics

Barnes & Noble was the king of the book superstore. In the early 1990s, it revolutionized the book industry by going big, wiping out the little guys with economies of scale. At the end of the decade, as Amazon lured users with its online logistics edge, Barnes & Noble clawed back to a strong second spot with streamlined operations and an online push.

And when e-readers hit the market, Barnes & Noble had the foresight to launch its own device, the Nook, while its closest competitor, Borders, sold third-party devices. The decision worked for Barnes & Noble, which built the Nook into a nearly $2 billion business, while Borders has stumbled into bankruptcy.

In April 2012, Barnes & Noble and Microsoft entered into an agreement to create “Newco,” a Nook-centric company that would combine educational and digital business lines, and create new, complementary products. Microsoft reportedly paid more than $300 million up front for a 17.6% stake, pledging an additional $300 million over time.

The Problem

Barnes & Noble is a one-trick pony in an industry full of device, platform and content convergence. For the most part, Barnes & Noble has remained a bookseller, and that narrow focus has relegated the former goliath to a bit player.

Microsoft’s infusion of cash into “NewCo” after yet another quarterly loss has helped the company deal with amped-up competition from the Kindle Fire and other e-readers. Still, like another prominent Number Two player, Barnes & Noble’s financial woes have forced the company into an unbalanced relationship with its Seattle benefactor. Microsoft gets a physical presence and access to the growing educational market – a traditional Apple stronghold. Barnes & Noble almost certainly gets pressured to build a low-margin Windows-based Nook, so Microsoft has something to compete with the Kindle Fire and the new Google Nexus 7 tablets.

Physical bookstores are dying, and content sales are becoming more device-dependent. Google and Amazon have deep enough pockets to aggressively market loss-leading tablets. Barnes & Noble doesn’t. Microsoft does, but who knows if it will cut its losses and run if the going gets rough – or if it decides to focus on Windows tablets like the Surface. For Microsoft, the education market is just a nice-to-have. Barnes & Noble doesn’t have that luxury.

The Players

Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch gets digital retail. He’s run e-commerce for Palm, Gifts.com and HSN.com, and unlike the Riggio brothers (founder and chairman Leonard and vice-chair and former CEO Steve), Lynch isn’t hamstrung by an emotional attachment to paper books. He also understands the opportunities of Barnes & Noble’s physical stores, like linking book reviews into Nooks via NFC chips. He has a hard road ahead, but Lynch may be Barnes & Noble’s greatest asset.

The Prognosis

The Nook, as an entertainment and collaboration device, is not on par with competitive tablets. That may be fine for consumers who just want to read e-books, but over time it’s likely to lose out to inexpensive yet full-fledged tablets. With Newco, Barnes & Noble and Microsoft might have a shot at capturing a solid chunk of the nascent educational e-book market, but they’ll have to demonstrate success relatively quickly or Microsoft could decide the push isn’t worth the effort. Barnes & Noble may not fold anytime soon, but it’s on a path toward increasing irrelevance.

Can This Company Be Saved?

Absolutely, but it’s going to take a lot of work and a bunch of luck. Google’s new tablet will hurt Nook’s direct sales, and Barnes & Noble will need to find new ways to get users into its ecosystem – for example, aggressive bundling of devices with textbooks. The company’s future may boil down to how much help Microsoft chooses to give. If the Surface and other products promote the Nook store, and if Microsoft cuts a licensing deal for low-cost Nook devices with the power to challenge Google, Barnes & Noble has a decent shot at long-term survival. If the competition gets ugly and Microsoft cuts and runs, as it has before, Barnes & Noble will likely fade away. Even if Lynch plays all his cards right, he might still lose the game.

DeathWatch Victims So Far

Research In Motion: Things are hurtling downhill even faster than expected. Massive losses – more than 11 times worse than expected – and new delays in its Hail Mary BlackBerry 10 operating system update have made the company’s dire situation even harder to ignore.

HP: No change in status

Nokia: No change in status

38 Studios: No change in status

Source: ReadWriteWeb DeathWatch: Barnes & Noble

Delaware To Permit In-state Online Gambling

June 29th, 2012 06:05 admin View Comments

Businesses

schwit1 writes “Delaware became the first state to enter the realm of legal online casino gambling Thursday with the governor’s approval of legislation that allows for full-service betting websites offering slots play and games like roulette, poker and blackjack. Federal law limits online gambling to players within the state’s borders, which will be verified using geolocation software. The state hopes to launch online gambling in 2013 and intends to make betting available on a variety of digital devices including smart phones and tablets.”

Source: Delaware To Permit In-state Online Gambling

Ethiopia Criminalizes VoIP Services

June 15th, 2012 06:02 admin View Comments

Censorship

An anonymous reader writes “The Ethiopian government has passed legislation criminalizing the use of VoIP services like Skype and Google Talk. Anyone using these services within the country now faces up to 15 years in prison. ‘Ethiopian authorities argue that they imposed these bans because of “national security concerns” and to protect the state’s telecommunications monopoly. The country only has one ISP, the state-owned Ethio Telecom, and has been filtering its citizen’s Internet access for quite some time now to suppress opposition blogs and other news outlets. … Reporters Without Borders also reports that Ethio Telecom installed a system to block access to the Tor network, which allows users to surf the Web anonymously. The organization notes that the ISP must be using relatively sophisticated Deep Packet Inspection to filter out this traffic.’”

Source: Ethiopia Criminalizes VoIP Services

Pakistan Blocks Twitter Over ‘Blasphemous’ Images

May 20th, 2012 05:23 admin View Comments

Censorship

Diggester writes with this news from the Times of India: “Pakistani authorities on Friday further widened the crackdown on websites with blasphemous contents by restricting access to popular social networking website Twitter. Pakistani users were unable to log into Twitter after internet service providers blocked access to the site.” The block was prompted by Twitter’s refusal to take down messages promoting a cartoon contest to which the Pakistani government objects for its depictions of Muhammad. This end-run falls right in line with the pessimistic reaction from Reporters Without Borders to the Pakistani court decision calling Internet censorship unconstitutional.

Source: Pakistan Blocks Twitter Over ‘Blasphemous’ Images

Can Barnes & Noble Balance Physical and Online Sales Without Killing Itself?

May 3rd, 2012 05:31 admin View Comments

In what has long been a nightmare scenario for booksellers, the physical bookstore is becoming a showroom for the online shopper. After casually browsing the tomes in comfort, people will use their smartphone or tablet to buy their choices online at a much lower price. While most booksellers can do little more than fume, Barnes & Noble is not just meeting the threat head on, it’s embracing the change.

William Lynch, chief executive of the New York-based company, told Fortune magazine Tuesday that he planned to have near-field communication installed in Nook e-readers as early as this year. The technology would make it possible for browsers to touch books in the store with Nooks to get more information, such as reviews, and then purchase titles in whatever format they want.

The company declined to discuss its strategy Wednesday. “We haven’t announced anything further,” a spokeswoman said in an email.

The success of Lynch’s idea depends on convincing publishers that it’s in their best interest to embed into their books information-storing chips that the Nook could read. If they agree, then Lynch would move a step closer to merging the physical and virtual words.

Barnes & Noble is in a unique position in having physical stores, an online store and an e-reader. “[The stores] remain a very important advantage for the company – the only retail player in the category with integrated three-channel distribution under one brand,” said Peter Hildick-Smith, president of the Codex Group, a book market research and consulting company.

Even Amazon, which has about 60% of the U.S. e-book market to Barnes & Noble’s 30%, understands the importance of having physical stores. The online retailer has been selling its Kindle e-reader through retailers since at least 2010 and is currently in chains such as Target, Best Buy and Staples (although Target announced Wednesday that it plans to stop selling Kindles).

Balancing Physical, Online Sales is Key to Success

Getting the right combination of the physical and online sales channel is key to survival. For example, Borders sold e-readers from Sony and Rakuten, maker of the Kobo, and had Amazon run its online store. With no connection to the online customer, Borders didn’t have enough to survive. The bookseller went out of business last year.

Barnes & Noble has not made the same mistakes as its one-time rival, and its current strategy actually plays into the habits of book readers. Codex has found that people who own e-readers also buy physical books. “They’re not just pure-play e-readers; they are living in the print world, as well,” Hildick-Smith said.

In a February survey, Codex found that only 2% of book buyers bought only digital books. In general, people read nonfiction on e-readers and fiction in physical books, Hildick-Smith said.

Of course, Barnes & Noble still faces a number of hurdles in its online business. Nearly all Nook sales originate from the company’s 691 stores, which are only in the U.S. The company needs to reach the international markets, which is why Barnes & Noble partnered last month with Microsoft. The software maker agreed to invest $300 million in a new subsidiary comprising Barnes & Noble’s Nook and college bookstore businesses.

Under the deal, Microsoft will develop a Nook application for Windows 8, which is expected to ship this year, Lynch told the financial news agency Bloomberg. The app will take Barnes & Noble’s digital books to consumers in Europe, Asia and Latin America, according to Lynch. Along with selling e-books, Barnes & Noble will also have to sell Nooks, which it hopes to place on the shelves of retailers in other countries.

If successful, Barnes & Noble could become a stronger competitor to Amazon, which has a tremendous head start. The online retailer sells its Kindle e-reader in stores in the U.K., Germany, France, Canada and Australia, and through its website in 175 countries. Amazon also sells books in seven languages.

Despite being the underdog, Barnes & Noble seems committed to putting up a fight by proving that the physical and virtual can coexist and prosper.

Source: Can Barnes & Noble Balance Physical and Online Sales Without Killing Itself?

Pakistani Court Rules On Internet Censorship: Unconstitutional

May 2nd, 2012 05:10 admin View Comments

Censorship

Fluffeh writes “It looks like some Pakistanis are taking on ‘the man.’ With plans laid by the Pakistani Government that could sink up to fifty million websites that it isn’t a fan of, Pakistanis took the matter to court — which ruled that such action by the government was unconstitutional. Reporters without Borders was however a little more skeptical ‘The high court’s ruling, if respected, would make it impossible for the government to introduce any nationwide website filtering system. While welcoming the ruling, which penalizes the lack of transparency in the PTA’s past website blocking, Reporters Without Borders calls for vigilance because the PTA could try to circumvent it by devising a constitutional procedure based on the anti-blasphemy law and national security provisions. ‘”

Source: Pakistani Court Rules On Internet Censorship: Unconstitutional

Iran Plans To Unplug the Internet, Launch Its Own ‘Clean’ Alternative

April 10th, 2012 04:54 admin View Comments

Censorship

suraj.sun writes “Iran topped a recent list of repressive regimes that most aggressively restrict Internet freedom. The list, published by Reporters Without Borders, is a part of the 2012 edition of the organization’s http://en.rsf.org/beset-by-online-surveillance-and-12-03-2012,42061.htmlEnemies of the Internet report. One of the details addressed in that report is the Iranian government’s bizarre plan to create its own ‘clean’ Internet. The proposed system, an insular nation-wide intranet that is isolated from the regular Internet, will be heavily regulated by the government. In addition to developing its own Intranet system, the Iranian government is also creating its own custom email service and a national search engine called Ya Haq (Oh Just One) that is intended to replace Google. In order to obtain an account on the state-approved mail service, users will have to register their identity with the government.” The “clean Internet” part, at least, was also mentioned earlier this year; Iran is one of the recurring champions when it comes to such dubious honors.

Source: Iran Plans To Unplug the Internet, Launch Its Own ‘Clean’ Alternative

Turkey Bans Pastebin and Tinyurl

March 15th, 2012 03:32 admin View Comments

Censorship

First time accepted submitter anonimim writes “Pastebin and Tinyurl have been blocked in Turkey. Pastebin was blocked last week by a court after the hacking of Turkish Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK). Four databases including email addresses and plain-text passwords stolen from BTK were posted to Pastebin last month, in retaliation for the blocking of Blogspot, Incisozluk (a popular Turkish community dictionary) and thousands of other websites. The more shocking ban was that of Tinyurl, a URL shortening service. Turkey currently blocks thousands of websites and is classified as one of the countries under surveillance by the 2012 Internet Enemies report (Pdf) published last week by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF).”

Source: Turkey Bans Pastebin and Tinyurl

New ‘Enemies of the Internet’ Listed In Reporters Without Borders Study

March 13th, 2012 03:45 admin View Comments

The Internet

New submitter Warmlight writes “The BBC reports that ‘Bahrain and Belarus have been added to Reporters Without Borders’ annual list of “enemies of the internet.” They join 10 other nations on the campaign group’s register of states that restrict net access, filter content and imprison bloggers. India and Kazakhstan have also joined RWB’s list of “countries under surveillance” because of concerns that they are becoming more repressive.’ I wonder how ACTA will affect this in the next year? In their report, they say, ‘Resistance to ACTA is stronger than ever and the treaty may not see the light of day. Vigilance must be maintained.’”

Source: New ‘Enemies of the Internet’ Listed In Reporters Without Borders Study

With E-Book Ban, Apple’s “Closed” Nature Goes Too Far

February 29th, 2012 02:15 admin View Comments

were-closed-150.jpgIt’s easy to take jabs at Apple for sometimes being to “closed.” From restrictions on mobile apps to the limited customizability of the iPad, it’s a reputation that the company has earned even as it sells millions upon millions of devices. Even the original Macintosh infamously discouraged tinkerers by requiring specialized tools to physically open it up.

While it may frustrate many hobbyists and hackers, this approach is simply a cost of being one of Apple’s millions of otherwise satisfied customers. It’s rare that the company crosses over the line between closed and alarming. But that’s exactly what just happened.

The trouble started shortly after Seth Godin submitted his latest e-book to Apple’s iBookstore. The marketing pundit and super-prolific author penned a book titled “Stop Stealing Dreams” and sent the finished copy along to Apple for approval. Much to his shock, the book was rejected.

The reason? An email from Apple identified “too many links to Amazon store” as the prime offense. Yes, simply linking to one of Apple’s competitors is a bold and forbidden enough gesture to cause a book to get banned from its digital storefront.

As Godin himself outlines on PaidContent, this is pretty disturbing stuff. “What’s inside the book shouldn’t be of concern to a bookstore with a substantial choke on the marketplace,” Godin writes. “If it’s legal, they ought to let people read it if they choose to.”

On the iPhone, Apple has certain obligations to the carriers and its own market dominance, which sometimes lead the company to forbid certain features from finding their way onto the iOS platform. In many cases, this is understandable.

But this is different from free mobile WiFi tethering or other app features that directly compete with Apple or the carriers. These are books. You know, the things that have historically been banned and burned when the powers that be don’t appreciate their contents. Books contain ideas and information. You know, the stuff that’s supposed to be much more fluid and accessible thanks to technology.

Of course, the book-burning analogy has its limitations. Anybody who really wants to read Godin’s book can go get it from Amazon or in another format outside the iBookstore. But there’s something unsettling about a dominant player in a information-centric marketplace such as this refusing to offer a piece of content strictly for competitive reasons. How would we feel if Barnes and Noble refused to carry a book about the history or corporate philosophy of Borders or Amazon? Or if they wouldn’t order a book written by the CEO of a competitor, simply because doing so would inadvertently aid the enemy? Many people would rightly be freaked out by that.

Source: With E-Book Ban, Apple’s “Closed” Nature Goes Too Far

YOYOYOOYOYOYO