Friday 23 March 2012

MomoLondon: Barnes & Noble NOOK Developer Workshop

This evening had a two-parter Mobile Monday London. First was the Barnes & Noble NOOK developer “workshop”, which was followed by a panel session on tablets.

I expected a hands-on workshop for the first part, but it was a presentation — and an odd one too. Barnes and Noble are the biggest bookstore chain in the US but they have no presence out of the States at all. Here was their developer relations team, inviting UK developers to register and release apps into their US-only store, for which they would be paid (and taxed?) in US dollars. Outside of the US, you cannot purchase apps at all… at least for the moment.

B&N are promising that they will expand their electronic sales worldwide “soon”, but they weren’t able to give details of when, or even in which countries. It was an interesting proposition (especially given the different demographic), but I suspect not one that will attract many European developers.

  • Barnes & Noble US: 60m customers per year
  • 1300+ stores in 50 states
  • Currently only US-based, but expanding electronic sales worldwide “soon”

NOOK hardware

All run Android, but only the Color and the Tablet have the B&N store and user-installable apps. All the readers have WiFi connectivity, though the first NOOK (no longer on sale) had a 3G option as well.

  • NOOK — Android 1.5; separate eInk & LCD displays
  • NOOK SimpleTouch — Android 2.2; eInk display (no apps)
  • NOOK Color — Android 2.1; LCD display (1024 X 600, 169ppi)
  • NOOK Tablet — Android 2.3; LCD display (1024 X 600, 169ppi)

B&N know a lot about customers…

  • NOOK target customer: Julie
  • 70-75% of customers are female
  • 38 yo, 3 kids
  • 1-2 books purchased per month
  • technology should be simple — it just has to work
  • not highly technical


  • apps are fastest-growing content area
  • includes Netflix, games, kids’ games
  • apps selling 4-10x over other store
  • curated app store (only 1000s of apps)
    • organically growing…
    • pleased with growth as discoverability & curation for market is important
  • carefully designed recommendation engine
  • customers will review!

Types of app

  • what would your mum want? what about your sister?
  • really responded to education, kids & learning
  • B&N is #1 in kids books
  • don’t have ad-supported apps…
  • 98% of apps are paid, though apps can have trial versions (see later)

App exposure

  • banners on website
  • content on digital screens in store
  • nook boutiques in stores
  • develop mechanisms to entice customers back into stores…
    • have a private “InStore” API
    • e.g. Angry Birds got access to Mighty Eagle for free
  • can read any book on the Nook in-store for free

nook developer

  • Need a US tax ID (EIN) to register…
  • to get an EIN:
  • SDK contains emulator & adb settings (essentially just skins)
    • uses a standard emulator so doesn’t have additional Nook APIs
    • similarly may have some Android features not supported by Nook…
    • only solution is to test on a real device (as always)
  • two SDK versions: NOOK Color & Nook Tablet
  • special access for T1 level developers: adb access to real devices
    • not available for customers
    • only provides 16 provisioning files (side load to max 16 devices)
  • widgets are not supported
  • microphone input supported for Tablet only
  • no camera, no location, …
  • additional features:
    • shop intent — jump to an app in the B&N market
    • single shop page can have both “buy” and “free trial” buttons
    • InStore API — uses store WiFi network to identify location
  • testing on device:
    • from apps, hold volume up key and tap on top-left to open “extras”
  • app submission
    • meta information must be approved before APK can be uploaded
  • developer account is free, but you must pass an interview process to get full (T1) access

sales & payment

  • Two clicks to purchase (credit card attached to account like iTunes)
  • don’t support in-app purchases at the moment
  • subscriptions for magazines but not within apps
  • credit card through BN account, but other payment mechanisms not allowed
  • no sale of physical goods
  • app sales come through to the developer as a cheque in dollars…
    • this is particularly dreadful for European developers, as banks make a charge on each payment
  • sales are only to the US at the moment
    • sale transaction happens in the US (with a US-based credit card)
    • can purchase other content internationally, but not apps (how can they tell?)
  • ebooks
    • can use pubIt to self-publish through B&N stores
    • for existing publishers, ebook & kids publishing are separate content groups in the US
  • devices are sold in bulk to educational establishment in the US
    • done via regional managers

follow up notes

  • apparently Amazon launched the Kindle in Europe with similar targeting at 30+ mothers — they flopped, as in Europe it was mainly bought by (non-early-adopter) businessmen

No comments: