Two factors affecting the future of reading are the demise of Borders and the advent of digital books and reading devices. Now Barnes and Noble is in a digital dispute with one of the largest publishers of graphic novels, DC Entertainment, and the largest online book distributor, Amazon, and a digital reading device is at the heart of the matter.
While e-book sales are rising, and may have surpassed physical books in sales, it’s hard to read a magazine on a Kindle or Nook. The Apple iPad is better however, with its larger screen and color monitor.
Now Amazon has launched a tablet to compete with the iPad, the Kindle Fire, and as part of its promotion of the new device, it has entered into an exclusive agreement with DCE to publish digital versions of “Watchmen” and 99 other graphic novels/collections, including “The Sandman” series.
Barnes and Noble is also releasing an iPad rival, the Nook Tablet, and is upset that they won’t be able to sell these same 100 novels in digital form. (One report says this exclusive deal is only good for four months.) So Barnes and Noble has retaliated by removing those 100 graphic novels from its brick-and-mortar stores (although you can still get them online if they are shipped to your home address). Books-a-Million, which bought some of the closed Borders stores, also removed the books.
This may be a tempest in a teapot. The online community seems to be siding with DCE and Amazon for the most part, with Barnes and Noble described, in a derogatory fashion, as being in a snit. Others reasonably wonder why they need a Kindle Fire or Kindle app to view digital versions of graphic novels if they already have or prefer a Nook Tablet.
I doubt this will turn into a VHS or Beta debate. After four months, DCE will probably allow a Nook compatible version, and may reconsider similar exclusive offers in the future. Possibly they just wanted to be included in the initial Amazon Kindle Fire publicity blitz and didn’t intend this is as a long-term business strategy (the publisher can sell more copies if customers can read it on a Nook, too, right?).