Sunday, May 27, 2012

Finding NOOK Books

I love my NOOK (which seems to be the new way to write this, as opposed to "nook" with no uppercase letters). I'd much prefer to read a book on my NOOK than in paper copy if at all possible. There are two reasons for this. As I've mentioned before, an ereader gives you the option of making any book a large print book. With my older eyes and staring at a computer screen for ten to twelve hours a day, this is a BIG DEAL. The other reason is portability. My NOOK is almost always in my purse, letting me carry whatever I'm reading, or thinking of reading, with me all the time.  Much better than carrying around an actual book, particularly when I'm reading something by Diana Gabaldon or George R.R. Martin.

Barnes and Noble has done a pretty good job of keeping ahead of Amazon on the hardware side. I have the original NOOK, which introduced the little color touch screen at the bottom that enabled readers to turn pages with a finger swipe, navigate through the options by tapping the screen, and display book covers beautifully. They were first with a color device, a touch eink screen, and, most recently, a built-in reading light.

Barnes and Noble is a major #FAIL in making it easy to find books. Amazon is the king of book searches and recommendations. I know I'm hardly the only one who searches for a book on Amazon, then types the exact title into the Barnes and Noble site to buy the book. If you don't remember the exact title or the spelling of the author's name, Amazon can usually find it for you anyway. Barnes and Noble--not so much.

What brought this up today was that I received one of their regular promotional emails this morning with recommended reads. One of the categories was "Gripping Short Fiction from NOOK Snaps." NOOK Snaps? When did that category show up? Obviously (or not so obviously), Snaps are essays, short stories, and novellas. As usual, the first screen, should you chance to find it, is broken into categories so you can narrow down your search. Also as usual, if I choose a category and then type in an author's name, I get not only short works, but everything B&N sells by the author. :::sigh:::

Okay, so, while interesting, how was I supposed to know this category existed? I looked at the left side of the screen where they have the NOOK book categories. Nope, not there. I hovered over NOOK books in the menu bar to bring up another list of categories. Not there, either. It was only when I clicked on the "See More" under Subjects on that pop-up that I got to this screen where it showed as a separate option. Curious as to why Snaps weren't easier to find, I went back to the main NOOK books page and scrolled down. Sure enough, under "Quick Links," there it was. No explanation for what it was where a casual browser would see it or anything.

Also on the Browse eBooks screen and under the "Quick Links" you can see NOOK First. NOOK First is sort of Barnes and Noble's response to Amazon's KDP Select program. It's ebooks that you can only find on Barnes and Noble. Less onerous than KDP Select, the exclusive period is for thirty days instead of ninety. But the catch is you can't buy your way in, but have to be approved by B&N for this program. That's why the "sort of" in my description.

Tucked under the "Quick Links" is also where you'll find PubIt ebooks. These are self-published, just like Amazon's KDP. If you're looking for Indie authors, this is where you'll find them. Again, other than the predefined categories, there's no way to narrow the search further. Lots of authors, while remaining traditionally published for some books, are indie publishing their backlists and new work themselves. Lots of times I'm looking for just the self-published works.

EARTH TO BARNES AND NOBLE!!! No one scrolls down on a web page unless they're sure something exists on that page and they're determined to find it. Quick Links should be the FIRST section of the sidebar, not the last. NOOK First should be a tremendous marketing advantage and should be one of the things you see first when you go to the main NOOK eBooks page. You shouldn't have to scroll down to see it. And, oh yeah, you might want to mention that these books are EXCLUSIVELY available on NOOK. Just like with Snaps, YOU might think your clever marketing term is obvious, but the average reader isn't going to take the time to figure it out.

And on Friday, the main NOOK eBook page should have at the top, in a large font with an exclamation point, FREE FRIDAYS! Yes, every Friday B&N features a free book from a traditional publisher. You'll see these if you turn on wifi, select Shop, then page through the Special Offers & Articles section of the NOOK; but that requires that you remember you should do it. I don't know about other readers, but when I turn on my NOOK, I do it to read, not to shop. If I want to shop, I go online.

And you know how you find this out online? It's in the Nook Blog. What's that you ask? It's part of the Community section. Never saw that? I'm not surprised. They only way I've found to get there is to select Help, then Frequently Asked Questions, then B&N Book Clubs. That gets you to the Community Page (only one section of which is actually about Book Clubs). Another well-hidden feature.

These free books used to be something special. A couple of years ago, publishers were eager to develop their ebook markets through free books. Currently what you'll mostly see is books that were already free. Maybe the program lost traction because no one knew about the Free Fridays book?

A more reliable way to find free ebooks on Barnes and Noble is to go to the Nook Book Discussion topic on the Boards and select the "Free NOOKbook summary thread please no OT" and select the last page or so. This is maintained by readers who discover current free books from traditional publishers.

This Community Page should be another thing easily visible from the Barnes and Noble home page. And the links to the B&N Twitter account and Facebook page should NOT require scrolling all the way down to the bottom of the home page. Being online is all about Community. People want to interact. 

I didn't mean for this to turn into a rant. I meant it to be helpful. Unfortunately, I get frustrated with the way Barnes and Noble has failed to capitalize on what is a wonderful device with terrific books available... if only you can find them. If they truly want to compete with Amazon in the eBook market, they're going to have to try a little harder to make books easier to find for their readers.
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