Thursday, April 11, 2013

An Open Letter to Barnes and Noble, Re: eBook Prices

Dear Barnes and Noble,

Over the years, I have been a loyal customer.  I have enjoyed your selection of books and other media both in the physical bookstore and online.  In fact, I applaud your foresight in maintaining your own online presence instead of going the route Borders did of partnering with Amazon, which ultimately led to their demise.  For many years, I have enjoyed the discounts afforded through your B&N Membership program and I would shop at Barnes and Noble the way some women shop for clothes or shoes.

When I was in the market for an eReader, it was an easy choice to go with the Nook.  I wanted the eInk screen because I spend plenty of time in front of backlit digital displays for work and school and my eyes need a break.  At the time I was comparing models, Amazon was extremely persnickety about the files allowed on the Kindle while the Nook was much more accepting of eBook files outside of what B&N offered.  I was drawn to the fact that I could load PDF and ePub files downloaded from other sources (such as my syllabi for the classes I was taking in graduate school at the time). Of course, I was happy to purchase for Nook books through B&N, but it's nice to have options.  Also - should my Nook have problems, the thought of going into a Barnes and Noble store and talking to an actual person appealed to me greatly (I have not had issues with my Nook, which is certainly a major point in the Nook's favor).

Since then, I talked to plenty of people who are die-hard Kindle and Amazon people who frequently cited the higher prices of Nook books and various advantages of shopping solely at Amazon (the Amazon Prime service being high on the list of the "Yay! Amazon!" camp) as reasons why Barnes and Noble, quite frankly, sucked (their words, not mine).  I turned around to defend the Barnes and Noble model, citing that you can't get the cozy bookstore feel from a website that connects you to an impersonal warehouse out somewhere in the boonies.  I like being able to browse through the shelves of a store or a library (the same people crowing about the ease of these digital downloads also tout the idea that the traditional library is dying.  As a librarian, I can assure everyone that this is far from the case).

However, recent events have forced me to re-evaluate some of my entertainment media purchasing practices.

The latest of these is the eBook pricing of the novels being re-released under the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary reprints.  Like a good consumer, I like to compare prices.  Yes, usually the Barnes and Noble prices are slightly higher than Amazon, but I figured that the difference in price is worth supporting a business that keeps with the traditional bookstore model in addition to selling online (and the price difference usually no more than a dollar anyway).  Except this time - the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary reprint line is eleven books all prices separately.  I want to buy all of them, but I also have to budget my expenses carefully when considering such large purchases.

So, when I see this is the Nook price -
Same price for each individual book in the series.
And this is the Kindle price -
For the mathmatically challenged, that is a difference of $5.75  - which adds up when this is the case for a series of 11 books.  FYI - The price on Apple's iBooks for the same title is exactly the same as Amazon's.
... I have to wonder, does Barnes and Noble, really want to keep my business?  What, are people not buying enough $4 muffins from your in-store Starbucks?  If you guys are going to jack up prices needlessly (and it is needless, seeing as Apple's iBooks lists the same prices as Amazon), I will happily take my money over to Amazon.  In truth, I let my B&N Membership lapse and have already gone with Amazon Prime because it combines the services of Netflix and a B&N Membership for a hell of a lot less than what I was paying when I had both separately.  Plus, since the time I was initially in the market for an e-reader, the Kindle has become much more flexible in what types of files they allow on the device.  Not to mention that I have an iPhone now and love the variety of apps available to me, so I could very well be persuaded to get an iPad and do all my digital reading using Nook, Kindle, Adobe, Bluefire, OverDrive and whatever other reader apps there are out there (and still check my Facebook and Twitter feeds) all from the same device.  Honestly - how many separate electronic devices do I need?

Maybe I'm just late to the party, but I'm starting to see what the Amazon-only people were crowing about for all that time.  If these astronomical differences in prices are going to continue, I don't think the "cozy bookstore" thing is going to keep me coming back to B&N and I certainly won't be able to defend you guys to my friends and co-workers.  Besides, I can get the same sort of coziness at my local library where the books, DVDs and browsing experience are completely free! Another reason I am not worried for traditional libraries even though I'm becoming less and less confident in the brick-and-mortar bookstore.

Beyond that - who says I even have to leave my house for the cozy-bookish lifestyle?

Sincerely yours,

Chrissy Johnson
Salt Lake City, Utah
April 11, 2013

ETA: Including a screengrab of the price of the same book on the Apple iBooks Store - just so you know that it's not just Amazon drastically lowering the price -

Still $3.99 - same as on

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