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Barnes & Noble Book2Nook Program

A Barnes & Nobel Nook.

A B&N Nook

For quite some time now, there have been these things called books.  We’ve made them out of all sorts of plant matter and sometimes we refer to them as scrolls or tomes or whatever.  But in the end, they have all  been essentially the same thing:  dead plants mashed into paper on which we scratched characters to convey information from Brain-A to Brain-B.

Much later, we invented e-readers so that we no longer needed to destroy plants in order to convey information and could avoid the costly movement of heavy dead plants to and fro.  Instead, digital files could surge around the Internet and appear magically on e-readers for our enjoyment or education or both.

Here’s the problem:  if you’re like me, then you have an e-reader but you also have a few hundred pounds of dead plants lining the walls of your home collecting dust.  Even worse, some of the series that you may have been following for years (I’m looking at your George R.R. Martin) have yet to be finished.  Does one continue to buy them in print at a higher cost in both money (for hard-cover editions) and resources in order to have the full set or does one get the digital copy and leave the earlier books to sit incomplete and forlorn on a shelf?

The Book2Nook Program

Okay, that name is mine.  Since I’ve put it here, it’s very unlikely that, should Barnes & Noble ever do this sort of thing, that they’d use it as they’d probably have to give me credit and stuff.  Which is a shame because it’s sort of a catchy name.  Also, this is not a real program (yet) so don’t go yelling at B&N except, perhaps, to try and get them to make it exist.

This is what I’d like to see happen:  I grab up my copies of the first five books of GRRM’s Song of Ice and Fire and head to my local B&N store.  I walk up to their nook counter or customer service (or whatever), I hand them my dead plants, they scan the bar code or enter the ISBN (or whatever), swipe my B&N Membership Card, and then the electronic versions of those books magically appear on my device the next time it connects to the internet.

But, here’s where things work out for B&N and not just for me:  they get to take those books and do whatever they want with them.  At the least, they find a recycler to take those dead plants and help to avoid killing more by giving them new life as some other paper product.  They could also be shipped to soldiers, donated to children in need, or given to local libraries.

This idea supports reading, it’s environmental, there could be huge PR benefits for B&N, and it can help millions of people reduce back strain while moving!  What’s not to like?

Barnes & Noble is uniquely suited to this sort of program since they have brick-and-mortar stores while Amazon.com doesn’t.  Thus, Amazon would have to create shipping labels, incur the cost of that shipment, process the shipment, etc.  Plus, since the dead-tree-owner and Amazon aren’t face-to-face, it’s possible that a nefarious (or clueless) owner would send the wrong book!

But clearly, it’s not quite as simple as I make it out to be.  A mechanism in the Nook software to allow B&N employees to credit an account for a book that’s turned in might need to be created, for example.  Plus, getting the nook versions for free may be naïve; a reduced cost–maybe two or three dollars–is more likely and would help defray costs and pay programmers’ salaries.

Regardless, this whole idea is pretty much a win-win situation for both B&N and readers everywhere.  Or, at least for those readers who have a Nook. And, those that don’t neither gain nor lose anything.  So they’re winning by not losing!  I believe there is only one phrase that can describe this situation:

  • http://dashifen.com dashifen

    That I’ve posted this on the SOPA blackout day should in no way imply that I support SOPA/PIPA or think they’re cool.  It’s just the day I was motivated to write the post.  Nothing more, nothing less.

  • J.R. Riedel

    It is an interesting idea but there are  more costs associated with it than you directly addressed. Your point about amazon needing to print shipping labels would basically apply to Borders as well. They need to either pay the recycling or transporting or disposal costs this would raise. 
    Considering what they did (still do?) with disposal of unsold inventory might help to put it in perspective. After a set time period they will take excess books, tear off the front cover and mail the front covers to the publisher. They then proceed to throw out the rest of the book. (this is why its hard for self published authors to get books in brick and mortar stores, because every book cover sent back earns a full refund)
    So while it is a good idea, it would be much more expensive to them then the PR it would generate. Well, unless they want to shut down like Borders… (I miss borders)

  • http://dashifen.com dashifen

    I don’t know. The disposal costs could be passed on to the customer and that couldn’t happen with an unsold book.  Plus, since these books have been given to B&N to do with as they please, I have to think that a better solution that “throwing them out” can be found. 

    Plus, it’s one more piece in the Kindle vs. Nook chess match.  Nook opened well with the Nook Color (and the Tablet later) but Kindle’s responded with the Fire.  This would be a way for B&N to respond with something that Amazon really isn’t well situated to handle since they lack the physical location at which books could be dropped off.  I think there’s a solution out there in the problem-space, it just takes B&N to want to do it.

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