Last week, I examined the dedicated e-reader designed for use with Barnes & Noble’s stores, both digital and brick and mortar––the NOOK. And if you read that post, you’ll recall that I mentioned Barnes & Noble will no longer be producing a dedicated e-reader, and in fact is no longer producing an e-reader at all; it is, however, lending its name and all of the might of its online platform to the latest incarnation (or should I say “one of the latest incarnations?”) of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The resulting hybrid will give Barnes & Noble customers the necessary continuity to keep using the interfaces to which they have become accustomed, while also lifting the burden of production and distribution (at least, partially) from a company that is still, ultimately, struggling to keep its foot in the door of print book distribution. Amazon’s Kindle store and Apple’s iPad have collectively changed the course of ebook distribution and consumption, whether we like it or not––and like so many others, Barnes & Noble and Samsung are hoping to create the next best thing, or a near-approximation of the iPad that still gives the bookseller an edge of control over the end user.
(There are altogether too many options on the iPad for a bookseller’s tastes––too many apps and too many readable file formats within those apps. The more options, the less easily a bookseller can drive sales in a particular direction––and profits.)
But we’re not here to talk about the new tablet (although you can read a most thorough CNET review here). We’re here to talk about the original Samsung Galaxy Tab series, which is now up to at least its tenth iteration … if not a higher number (they throw in variant names, with the “Galaxy Tab S” and “Galaxy Tab Pro” and so on complicating a neat and orderly numbering system). The entire line is noted, however, first and foremost for being the first (or among the first, depending on who you ask) to embrace a full Android operating system––and as such, it became a solid, distinct, and direct competitor to both the iPad (which runs on Apple’s iOS) and the Kindle (which varies a bit from iteration to iteration, but for the most part employs a heavily modified and limited version of Android). I think it’s worth mentioning both tablets like the iPad and dedicated e-readers like the Kindle in the same breath when it comes to the Samsung Galaxy, because the relationship between the two is hybridizing so quickly as partnership projects like the Samsung Galaxy NOOK become the new normal.
Here’s the thing with the Samsung Galaxy Tab series that gives it an edge over the Kindle and the original NOOK: it’s a fully-fledged tablet, with a far wider range of capabilities as a device than a dedicated e-reader. You can access the Google Play store, and run a whole slew of apps that have little or nothing to do with books, and yet the reading-related apps you can download are beautifully designed and presented, so the e-reading experience is still highlighted and underscored as important to app developers. Many people rate the average Samsung device as somewhat less responsive and intuitive than the iPad, but Apple is famously canny about using software to create closed loops around its hardware (that is, the average iPad has to be “jailbroken” before it is “hackable”––you have to actually tamper with the operating system to render it more adaptable). Basically, Android-based operating systems like the ones the Samsung Galaxy Tablets run are way more easy to customize, tinker with, and generally geek out over.
And there are a lot of Samsung Galaxy Tabs out there. There are no hard and fast numbers for me to quote to you, but it’s safe to say they’re not hurting too badly if they have the capital to launch “boutique” or specialized lines like the NOOK hybrid. (Each iteration costs a lot of money and time and talent capital to design and maintain and run support for.) Some recent reports do, however, indicate that sales were not quite as high as they should have been––and as the company supposedly reported them to have been––and this is a matter of great concern. Samsung has the benefit of a large support network and a diverse portfolio to fall back on if one project or device doesn’t sell well; Barnes & Noble had no such safety net, and thus lost its ability to respond effectively to rapidly shifting market demands.
Here’s what you need to know as an author when it comes to the Samsung Galaxy Tab: it’s not going anywhere. Oh, iterations come and go the way my love of rain comes and goes (and boy, does that one fluctuate a lot). But the great thing about a series like this one is that Samsung will continue to make new additions as long as the market exists and as long as there is a demand for Android-based devices that aren’t locked into being dedicated e-readers like the Kindle. Customers want variety and customizability, games and work and literature all in one device, without the need to untangle multiple cables or swap out chargers on the nearest wall outlet. And as long as there are Android-based operating systems, the Google Play store will remain an important distribution point to keep an eye on.
Are you selling through Google Play? I personally hope so, and if you are and would like to share your story, please (please please) drop me a line in the comment section with all of the details.
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|ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.|