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Barnes and Noble Throws a New Wrinkle Into Ebook Battles – Self-Publishing

In another twist to the increasingly changing ebook landscape, Barnes and Noble announced on May 19 [2] that they are launching a self-publishing platform sometime during summer, 2010. The platform, called PubIt! (not really loving the name, but its ok), will allow self-publishers and independent publishers to upload their works and sell them through B & N’s online store. Though the works will have Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection, they will be in the standard EPUB format, allowing them to be accessed on just about any ebook reader or computer. While Barnes and Noble hasn’t announced a price model for these works (their press release describes it as “competitive royalty model”), they’ll likely adopt the Apple and Amazon agency models of 70% of sales to publisher, 30% to seller. Consumers will be able to purchase PubIt! books through the Barnes and Noble online store and their widely available eReader app, but, in a nice twist, you will be able to fully preview the PubIt! works if you are inside a B & N store, instead of a sample preview if you are outside the store. This is an interesting touch, since it lets folks look over an ebook in its entirety the same way they could with a normal book in the store.

By introducing PubIt!, Barnes and Noble helps lower the barriers to entry for independent and self publishers to enter the ebook market, which only helps increase the pool of books for consumers to buy. This larger pool will help Barnes and Noble to cater to the long tail of the demand chain, filling niches of demand that large scale publishers would not be able to easily do. Although Amazon and Apple have similar services, Barnes and Noble’s move will cause both companies (as well as Google for the upcoming Google Editions [3]) to ensure that they make similar access available for their services in as easy a manner, and promote the access in a similar manner.

Macroeconomically, by increasing the supply of titles in the marketplace as a whole, B & N is adding pressure to the market to keep title prices low, though this effect may be limited if there is a price floor in the market for ebook titles (similar to the 99 cent price level for iPhone/iPad apps – not many if any non-free apps have lower prices). Lastly, while the EBooks available from the PubIt! service will be accessible on almost any device, it would be interesting to see if any of the independent or self publishers become “exclusive to Barnes and Noble”, relying on the eReader’s app reach through various devices, or if they will try to get their works uploaded to any similar services offered by the other ebook store sellers (Apple, Amazon, Google, Borders, etc.). 

You can read the press release announcing PubIt! on Barnes and Noble’s website [4]. There is a sign up form for PubIt! service on the PubIt! page [5].

Do you think this is a catalyst to get more self-published / independent works in the ebook market? Will the store be popular or be a bust? What about the ability to preview ebooks based on your location within a B & N store? Should other sellers with physical storefronts (Apple / Borders) offer a similar service?