What should the Big Six be doing? Something different, that’s for sure. This is what I’m suggesting, and I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with me 100%. But I’ll stick my head out anyway. Here’s my top-ten list.
First: Settle with the DOJ. The lawsuit is a tar baby and every minute they spend fighting it just cost them more money and time. And right now time is the more valuable commodity. They have to get their mind off the lawsuit and back into the game.
Second: Remove all DRM as soon as possible. They’ll have to do it individually and over time to prevent another collusion charge, but it can be done. This breaks the chains that tether Kindle owners to Amazon. They need to understand that consumer electronic gadgets have a short lifetime, usually 1-3 years. Removing DRM also allows smaller retailers to compete effectively also.
Third: Pick a platform and develop it. They need an online retail store that can compete with Amazon in order to have any future leverage. It should not be Apple. Apple is a hardware company. The only way to make an e-book simulate hardware is to tie it to a device with DRM. In order to tip the balance in their favor, the Big Six need to accept the fact that e-books are software and make them available through ALL devices. That means a platform that speaks every language, and without DRM.
Fourth: Help Leonard Rizzio. If he can’t buy back enough controlling shares of Barnes and Noble himself then find him some help. B&N needs to be a family-owned company again if it’s going to survive. The mindset needs to be both short term and long term. The current partners and shareholders only concerns are profits and the next fiscal quarter. Find a leader worthy of the task and stick him in the driver’s seat. He needs someone who understands what’s happening and how to fix it, someone without grey hair who can steer the ship through this storm. If not, I think they’ll go the way of Borders in under three years.
Five: Revamp the returns policy. It helped the market years ago, but in today’s market it’s nothing but dead weight.
Six: Promote the E-Pub format. Encourage scanners on e-readers. Develop small e-book stores of the shopping mall size. Embrace the internet.
Seven: Streamline the process. A year and a half to produce a book is just stupid. Instead of departments within the company simplify it into small teams. Have a member from each department on each team and assign the book to the team from start to finish.
Eight: Cut the overhead. That fancy office in the Flatiron building may be nice, but it’s not an asset. It doesn’t put money on the plus side of the ledger. Find cheaper digs.
Nine: Develop a program by which Indie bookstores can better sell e-books. Right now the customer has to register their e-reader with the store and perform a series of technical duties to get to the product they want. It’s easier for them to just give up and go to Amazon. Convenience is the key to this and right now there isn’t any.
Ten: Ditch the agents. Instead, monitor sales of the growing self-publishing crowd and be ready to snap up the proven authors that rise to the top. The public that you’re trying to reach are already sorting through the slushpile for you. Trust them.
I was gonna add dye your hair, but that would have been eleven.
You may commence firing…