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NookColor gives stronger brand presence for book publishers

November 1, 2010

Recently we reviewed the new Amazon Kindle and were disappointed with the user experience and, from a publisher’s point of view, the brand experience. Amazon, one of the world’s best customer service brands, seem determined to control readership experience too, putting the publisher’s brand very much at the bottom of the pile. All the more reason then to applaud the new NookColor (or Nookcolor) from Barnes & Noble.

Now, I should say that I have not seen this device (it is currently launching in the US)  but the reviews and the demonstrations online highlight a much more sophisticated product than the Kindle and one which appears to have been designed with the spirit of the publisher, and the traditions of the reader, in mind.

Rather than appearing as an ugly global platform, it provides readers with a portable way of carrying favourite literature in a style that also reflects the warmth of the original products. It’s much more true to reading as an experience than the Kindle – a bit like the difference between Windows software and the old “glowing green screen” way back in the 1980s.

This review is extremely impressive, for example. Unlike on the Kindle, where everything is subsumed within a monochrome Amazon interface and brand experience, the Nookcolor lets you see jackets and layouts of products consumers already feel warm about (e.g. National Geographic). It’s also in tune with Twitter and Facebook – permitting real social networking and word of mouth interchange which can only be good for publishers as well as readers.

Of course, it’s early days and the jury is still out on so-called “picture book” e-books. Indeed, according to a report in Publishers’ Weekly, there are only currently 130 titles available to view (although set to double by year end). This is hardly a start from a position of strength and choice but it does something which to my mind the Kindle is failing to do right now: showing a real respect for the pleasure in owning books and the pleasure of reading.

Amazon can learn from this. Reading is not a commodity, it is a passionate affair. For e-readers to be really successful they need to understand that passion and grow it. A Brand Day Out admires what Barnes & Noble is doing – it’s good for consumers but it also taps into the rich traditions of typography and design which readers down the ages have come to enjoy.

Mind you, I hate the name!

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