Insights From Barnes & Noble on the Ebook Market

Jim Hilt, vice president of ebooks at Barnes & Noble, took the stage at Digital Book World Conference + Expo to share insights on the ebook market from Barnes & Noble:

— Explosion of players in tablet marketplace has fundamentally changed the way that readers interact with books and content.

— Publishers have opted to give retailers greater pricing control and that helps retailers think of different ways to reach the market.

— Fifty Shades of Grey and Sylvia Day proved that 2012 wasn’t the year ebooks broke out of being dominated by romance, science fiction and other genre books.

— The biggest change that has happened through digital is that discovery can happen almost anywhere. “The places in which a book can be discovered is almost infinite,” said Hilt. “What is our role in airports, restaurants…in our community?”

— When somebody becomes a digital reader, what happens to them? they have a very big burst of digital buying. From that point forward, they move to a much more core behavior: They go back to bookstores and they talk to friends about books. “It’s not just about where people discover content,” said Hilt. “It’s about time: the first stage of the ebook reader and then as they upgrade devices.”

— Everything known about bookselling can be applied in the digital space. The only real change is that the date and touch-points have fundamentally changed. each device is a different touch-point that changes discovery.

Things that have stayed the same: Recommendations from a friend still make the sale. Literary fiction is hard to read. Fantasy readers can read endlessly.

But reader behavior across segments and genre — in terms of what makes them discover, buy and love a book — is common between print and digital.

“There’s still nothing better than going into a bookstore and talking with someone about books,” said Hilt. “It’s our challenge to translate this to the digital space.”

— There is a paradigm shift from categorizing books by topic and genre to selling books to customers through their interest.

“We need to focus on the interest of our users and create really personal ways in which we can interact with them,” said Hilt. “And it’s not about personalization. It’s more about what are you interested in at a broad level and how do I put those books in front of you.”

The strategy shift will help Barnes & Noble sell back-list ebooks and books across categories.

“We’re going to be coming and working with you on interest rather than categorization of books,” said Hilt to the 1,300 publishers assembled at Digital Book World Conference + Expo.

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