Barnes and Noble vs Amazon

Photographer : petr0 on sxc.hu

I see a lot of posts and articles about Barnes and Noble. Some in comparison to Amazon. Some in comparison to long gone and often missed book stores. And some not comparing it to anything, but simply reporting the latest and not so greatest. Almost all of the articles, except perhaps the ones based on an interview with someone at B&N with rose colored glasses on, predict doom and gloom.

I don’t have to look hard to understand why.

My books are listed at both B&N and Amazon, and just watching my own efforts, results, and buying habits, I can deduce a few things.

  • The volume Amazon moves compared to that of B&N is incredible. Half of many sales on B&N put me in the top 150 on B&N, where double that put me in the top 750 on Amazon. 
  •  Barnes and Noble customers are book buyers, and if they are there looking for books, they are less sensitive to price and aren’t as apt to focus on only snagging discounts.
  • The reviews are even more of a joke on B&N than Amazon. – Anonymous reviewing is not at all reliable or dependable. I’m not suggesting that Amazon’s reviewing system is good either, just that it is preferable. 

So what is it, exactly, that is making Amazon outsell Barnes and Noble so drastically? I am sure there are a lot of reasons I can only guess at, but let me highlight a few.

Amazon has a strong, thriving affiliates program, and even with the recent changes to that Amazon Affiliate Terms of Service, it is quite strong. Because of this, there are literally hundreds of sites who work each day to funnel traffic into Amazon. And I’m not just talking about the big free books sites, because sure those are helpful, but the scope of Amazon Affiliate Sites is much broader than that. And it goes from large sites, all the way down to book bloggers and authors. I might get 5 cents more per sale at B&N, but by being an Amazon Affiliate, I get 5 cents (or so) of every dollar you spend on Amazon after I send you there for that browsing session.

B&N has an affiliate program as well, but it doesn’t cover digital goods. If you’ve ever wondered why there are a lot more sites that promote amazon products and amazon free books than ones on B&N, now you know why.

Now, keeping in mind how many other sites are funneling traffic to Amazon, take a look at how adept Amazon is at keeping you there. Their keywords work. Their also-boughts, and recommendations work. Once you are there, there is always more to see.

On B&N, while visibility seems to last longer after a good sales push, the internal keywords put simply, don’t work. On my book’s dashboard, I’ve added the keyword ‘YA Fantasy Romance’ and I’ve also listed all three words separately. That box says it is for ‘keywords that help your audience find your book.’ That sounds great, but if you go to the Nook Store and search “Ya Fantasy Romance” a total of 14 books come up, and none of them are my books. So exactly how are those keywords working? As far as I can tell? They aren’t. I may not be on the front page of results at Amazon, but at least I am in the results.

I personally want to see B&N survive, including its retail stores. I love bookstores, I love browsing stores, and reading in stores and buying in stores. But if B&N really wants to survive, it needs to stop trying to turn away help. There are so many sites that I would imagine would be very quick to work as a B&N affiliate if they offered one for digital purchases. Especially after the Amazon Affiliate changes that have some uneasy. Getting those customers there won’t be enough, but it is a start.