Several blogs were reporting this morning on Barnes & Noble’s announcement that it will sell the Nook in the UK this fall, marking the first time in its 95-year-history that it has ever expanded overseas. But, as this article on Paid Content points out, it may be too little, too late:
“Kindle has already been in the U.K. for two years and recently partnered with British bookstore chain Waterstone’s to sell Kindles in its stores. Rakuten’s Kobo is already in the U.K., too, and both companies are expanding rapidly to other countries. Microsoft’s $25 million payments could help B&N catch up, but it is already far behind.”
In this day of the ‘world’ wide web, the international market can’t—and shouldn’t—be ignored. I remember when publishers first started cracking down on geographical restrictions. Baffled readers with credit cards in their hands were turned away from making purchases at their favourite stores. I remember being in search of an e-book copy of a certain Margaret Atwood book. This author is so local that her sister lived around the corner from my parents and walked her dog in the same park as them, and yet through some bizarre twist of an antiquated print contract, the only vendor who would sell me the book was Waterstones UK.
Thankfully, the issue of geographical restrictions seems to have worked itself out somewhat; it’s been a long time since I’ve seen public complaints about readers unable to get the books they want. But the international market continues to experience growing pains. Rakuten rushed its release of the Kobo Touch into Japan so it could be first on the market and beat the ever-expanding Amazon, and then was roundly slammed for buggy software, lack of titles and hardware complaints. Here in Canada, cross-border shoppers purchased Kindle Fire tablets in the U.S., and found that the licensing agreements governing its video content made even the e-book software virtually unusable for all but hardcore hackers.
There are three other reasons why the Paid Content article sees tough times ahead for Barnes & Noble (glitchy hardware, falling prices, slowing e-book sales) but I think they are right to view the reluctance to expand beyond the United States as an issue, and I think this should be a lesson for other companies. The Internet is full of non-Americans. They have money. When they hold out this money and offer it to you in exchange for your product, it’s foolish to turn that money away. And it’s doubly foolish to do so and then complain about your sales.