Barnes & Noble launched a major face lift and rebranding of their eBook self-publishing portal Publit last week calling it Nook Press. It’s a lot more than a new name and I think represents a major, albeit late step forward in their pursuit of the hearts and minds of independent publishers. It is way ahead of Amazon, Apple and Kobo in terms of functionality, support services and design.
Let’s look at the key improvements before talking about their importance to B&N.
Design and usability. The site really is attractive and well designed, quite modern really. This is especially true when comparing it to KDP and even compared to Kobo Writing Life which didn’t launch until last year. Kobo tried to take a fresh approach but I find the design confusing and poorly laid-out. (Of course no “platform” is as unfriendly to self-publishers as Apple’s which seems to be purposely confusing and designed for publishers with teams of operations staff.)
Support. Monday through Friday live chat! This is a major commitment that many self-publishers will find useful.
Collaboration tools. It remains to be seen whether this is in response to a need or a feature that was readily available in the underlying toolset B&N licensed or acquired from Fast Pencil. Authors can upload their book and then invite others to comment and make notes. Collaborators cannot change the book, and authors can enable this on a book by book basis. I can see new authors beginning their publishing process with B&N just to avail themselves of this feature.
Book drafting. Like the collaboration feature I am not sure if authors were clamoring to replace MS Word, Pages, Google Docs, etc. as their drafting tools.
In my initial review of the site the only interesting change I noticed is that they no longer require publishers to add a credit card to their account. B&N was the only major vendor to require a credit card—they claimed it was necessary in the event of a chargeback.
While I like the design and the addition of live support its still B&N with the same marketing challenge of trying to get readers to buy from the Nook store. They hint at a new program to help top self-published books get more looks but it may be too little, too late.
There was also a lot of talk at launch about the hassle of converting one’s Pubit account to Nook Press. I have yet to test this process but it could very well be one of those early growing pains made worse by the crush of new users.
In the meantime it is nice to see Barnes & Noble continuing to invest in the Nook platform. Perhaps they have big plans now to do the same thing to reach eBook readers.