Information Technology, Investing, Publishing

Barnes and Noble Missing Major Revenue Stream

Let’s be up front here. There is simply no way I’m going to purchase an Apple product or give Apple money. Did that years ago because a contract required it and I will never do it again. Given that, it should come as no surprise to you I’m considering the purchase of a SanDisk Clip Sport MP3 player. Looking to purchase one rather soon so I have plenty of time to load “space music” on it before my contract ends in a few months.

I’ve already posted about the CD player which died on the way out here, lack radio stations along the way and worthless content of Sirius satellite radio, so the decision is boiling down to these options:

  • Massive data plan for cell phone to use Pandora.

  • MP3 player to plug in.

  • Cross fingers and hope real hard current CD player doesn’t die from a chuck hole like the last one.

Even if I chose the last option and it turned out to stay alive that leaves me with other problems.

  • The center counsel can only hold so many CDs.

  • No method of shuffling CDs to mix it up.

  • Rummaging for CDs while driving isn’t really the safest thing to do.

CDs are great for short drives but tend to be a real problem on 3+ day drives. Of course 3+ day drives are a much larger problem if you come from an area which has really great local radio and drive across areas which, radio wise, are a desert.

One thing I have come to like about Pandora is the shuffle. I’m not hitting anything to make it shuffle. What I mean is the Higher Intelligence Agency channel/class/whatever they call it may not play HIA music but it does play a lot of stuff very close to an in some case just as good as HIA. It’s a limited market yet they manage to shuffle between artists in such a way as to keep it fresh.

Let me explain it another way. I like Gordon Lightfoot. I like almost every song on his greatest hits CD I own. What I can’t do is start at the beginning of that CD and make it to the end. I need his music like the radio used to play it, once every couple of hours. In truth, when coding or on long drives I don’t listen to songs with words. Short drives fine, but not long ones. The “space music” stuff keeps me going and doesn’t seem to make me tired like music with lyrics. I assume it is because the brain is doing additional processing for the lyrics and 8+ hours of that takes a toll.

Now that I’ve made the decision to purchase an MP3 player and load it up with music the question of “where” to obtain the music comes in to play. My first thought was to purchase from Barnes & Noble. They sell my books and I try to be a loyal customer when it comes to things they sell where I’m willing to pay first run price. I phrased that oddly because I don’t consider dumpster diving through the Big Lots $5 or less DVD bin being disloyal. I’m not looking for a particular movie just something to kill one or more evenings with which has a $5 or less price tag. I certainly went to BN and paid full tilt for my “Farscape” 15th Anniversary collection.

Imagine my shock when I found you can download Nook books but not music. Seriously? There are canned packages on the market for commercial music download. You add some servers, another disk storage array and sign a few contracts. Badda-bing badda-boom you are an on-line music retailer. Obviously there is money in it, just look at iTunes. You can even choose to do a phase 2 once you open the music download business on your Web site. Phase 2 would be to put little kiosks in your stores so customers can purchase and download music while in store. Didn’t you already do this with Nook?

Quite possibly the saddest part of all this is if you dig hard enough you can find the artists themselves have retail sites. I went to BN.com looking for Lindsey Stirling. She is quite possibly the most gifted musician I’ve heard in the past decade. I could purchase physical CDs, then go to the hassle of ripping it to my netbook using the USB CD player then USB it over to my MP3 player (once I purchase) – or – I could search the Web for Lindsey’s site.

Click on the store link. Then purchase the digital album.

I just find it odd that BN.com hasn’t gotten into the music download business. This is an IT issue and IT issues can be solved, especially when there are canned packages already on the market. (I’m pretty certain Lindsey didn’t write her own.)

What I would really hate to find out is that Barnes and Noble is where the DEC sales resistance force found refuge. Kids today don’t remember DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation.) They were the original owners of the operating system created by God, OpenVMS. There were several demi-god created operating systems which preceded it, RSTS/E, RSX-11, RT-11 and others. The last three I mentioned are of particular importance because of the story I’m about to tell.

Some time between the peak of the PDP hardware line and the massive growth of the VAX line hardware engineering created a Micro-PDP. The timing is important because IBM had not yet released the IBM PC with that god-awful couldn’t-be-loved-by-its-own-mother x86 chipset. I forget the size. It was much smaller than the Micro-PDP they sold years later and it was slated to sell for about the same amount as original IBM PC/XT/AT line.

The main difference here is the PC line had a wretched architecture, near worthless OS and no application software. The Micro-PDP could run anything already available for RSTS/E, RSX-11 or RT-11 because it could run all three business class multi-user operating systems AND they came with a real version of BASIC, not a cheap hack. Indexed file support was native, not a $500+ add on package. DEC marketing took a look at the thing, then took a look at all of the quarter million dollar full cabinet PDP systems in inventory and said no. They were not about to market something which would cut into their sales commissions.

Why is this tail relevant?

A similar tale is told of Barnes & Noble and ebooks. I’m sure much of it is urban legend but it does seem to fit the history. I just hope the same tale isn’t why they don’t have a music download business raking in oceans of money and keeping the company in the black. DEC marketing thought they were wise to avoid any business line which would cut into their cash cow. DEC doesn’t exist anymore. INTEL, which should have been a washed up chip maker before they started is now a massive company and Microsoft torments consumers every minute their PC is turned on.