This isn’t a very good time for sellers of dedicated e-book readers. It isn’t just that sales have slumped. The Digital Reader tells of the calamities befalling trusting purchasers of the Kobo Mini, who thought they were buying new but actually were getting refurbished demo devices (refunds available).
Alas, owners of the new NookGlowLight Plus have been in for their own nasty surprise. The Plus right now cannot read library e-books or those purchased from other stores, such as Kobo’s—even those selling ePub books, the kind the GlowLight Plus is supposed to work with. The glitch is related to Adobe DRM. Yes, such problems are one more example of the misery from this consumer-hostile technology.
The good news is that an authorized spokesperson for B&N tells TeleRead that a fix for the library book issue will come in the next few weeks by way of a software update. Alas, her statement didn’t fully address the issue of the use of the NookGlowLight Plus with books from other companies’ bookstores.
I’ll be optimistic. But until we get an unequivocal answer, I would advise people not to buy GlowLight Pluses if they want multi-store capability for reading DRMed ePub books (no, I’m not expecting the ability to read Kindle books without conversion—Amazon books are not in ePub).
The spokesperson is checking just to make certain that Adobe DRM support goes beyond library books, and I’ll either update this post or publish a new one when I get an answer. It isn’t sufficient to say “support for Adobe DRM ePubs and PDFs.” Is this just in a library context, backed up with a concrete example in the spokesperson’s email to me? Or does it also mean other stores for sure? With all the fine print that B&N has used in the past, one can’t be too sure.
Meanwhile here is the spokesperson’s statement:
Thanks for reaching out. As follow-up to your question, B&N has a free OTA software update planned in the next few weeks. It will add the following:
1. Support for Adobe DRM ePubs and PDFs. Users will be able to side-load Library books, sign-in with their Adobe ID on the NOOK GlowLight Plus and open their public library books
2. Improved In-Store Wi-Fi experience
3. Improved Web log-in portal management (Wi-Fi hotspots, public Wi-Fi, Hotels, etc.)
4. Additional bug fixes and improvements
Let me know if you have further questions.
OK, all that is good. I just hope that the “support” and “sign-in” parts will—as I expect—cover books from other bookstores.
Meanwhile there is the pesky question of why B&N would release the GlowLight Plus without telling prospective buyers that it would not immediately be able to read e-books from other bookstores and libraries, the way the company’s other readers can. Why wasn’t the company more proactive? And why was the QC that bad, assuming the problem was unknown at the time of release?
As I’ve said before, I’m really, really rooting for B&N to succeed as a major alternative to Amazon (same for Kobo). Dodgy marketing and communications practices or lack of good ones or sufficient QC will not help.
If e-reader companies discover problems in just-released products, they should be the first out with the bad news—“own” it, in PR parlance—and be able to assure customers that fixes are on the way.
If mainstream e-book-reader vendors cannot treat customers well, that’s one fewer reason to buy from them as opposed to more obscure companies. On top of that, keep in mind that B&N’s hardware competition extends far beyond Kobo and Amazon and the rest. We’re talking, too, about e-books vs. cell phones.
What a contrast between B&N and my favorite gas station: For more than a decade, I went to the Duke & Pickett Auto Repair Center here in Alexandria, Virginia. Then the owner retired. The Yelp reviews aren’t quite as glowing as before. Now I’ll be going to Seminary Plaza Exxon. Jim Reed, the manager, takes pride in close communications with customers. He won’t do a cent of work on your car without consulting with you first. What’s more, I paid $0 for the first checkup; Jim couldn’t find anything wrong and the Honda Fit manual didn’t call for work at this time. What a terrific feeling!
I want the same upside surprises and first-rate communications when I deal with B&N. I own none of the company’s e-readers now—given my particular hardware tastes and the past misery I’ve suffered, such as the loss of some Fictionwise titles after B&N bought that e-store.
Amazon has its faults but generally offers more upside surprises than the reverse despite its use of proprietary DRM and its own format. I’m waiting for B&N and Kobo to catch up with Amazon and Seminary Plaza Exxon in customer satisfaction. TeleRead’s Joanna Cabot, who reviewed the Kobo Aura H2O, is similarly grumpy about Kobo (her thing is the rotten user interface that Kobo keeps inflicting on e-reader customers).