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Barnes & Noble Launches PubIt! E-Book Publishing Platform, Still No Color Nook


E-publishing pretender to Amazon's crown Barnes and Noble has just launched the "PubIt!" self-publishing platform, designed to bring digital publishing within the reach of more authors. It also promises "no hidden fees."

B&N's press release notes PubIt! is an "easy-to-use platform that offers independent publishers and authors a lucrative way to digitally distribute their works through and the Barnes and Noble eBookstore." The product is trying to differentiate itself from market-leader Amazon's own efforts in this direction by making things extremely simple. The words "clear and competitive terms" and "no hidden fees" will be appealing to may self-publishers who are looking for a novel way to access the nascent e-book market. B&N even helpfully notes it's a nice way to get your works in front of "millions of new readers" (while carefully neglecting to mention that you actually have to promote your works, and get them popular in order to actually sell them—just as you would for a paper copy.)

All accepted titles get wrapped into B&N's electronic bookstore ("one of the world's largest digital content catalogs") pretty speedily, within 24 to 72 hours after upload. That's faster than Apple's track record of accepting apps into its app store, and will be of great interest to authors who write time-sensitive publications or serialized e-books. You'll be able to price your work between $0.99 and $199.99, and receive "a competitive royalty" based on the price, given that B&N has to make a profit itself and will have to cover the costs of hosting and distributing your texts. So for books between $2.99 and $9.99, publishers get 65% of the list price, and for cheaper books or those over $10 publishers will get 40%. This isn't as lucrative a deal as Apple or Amazon's 70/30 split, and is definitely intended to shape the price distribution of the expected wave of self-published books to a sub-$10 bracket (with a $3 cut-off so that the majority of books have some price-related notion of "quality"). For their pains, B&N notes "publishers can be confident they will be compensated from the list price they set with no additional charges, regardless of file size."

This last point is pretty interesting, since it's a tacit hint that many self-published texts may be image-heavy, which instantly makes you think of university-level (or even school-level) textbooks. Self-publishing for these sort of books will make a lot of sense for many lecturers who are keen to turn a small profit on text books for their lecture courses, without any of the hassle of finding and persuading a publisher of the benefits of their work.

And then our minds instantly turn to the current problem dogging e-books with textbook publications in particular: The lack of color displays on the leading e-readers. In B&N's case this is the Nook—which does sport a color display, but only for the purposes of browsing titles and controlling the device. Though B&N does have e-reader apps (just like Amazon does) for other platforms like the iPad and Android smartphones, all of which can definitely cope with color images, the Nook's e-paper unit can only manage grayscale. Isn't it about time B&N one-upped Amazon's Kindle with a Nook that has a full-color unit? It would be a decisive move right now in a highly competitive market, but we understand why it's not quite happening right now: The dedicated e-reader market is all but certain to be squashed by the incoming wave of tablet PCs (led by the iPad) and color e-paper displays aren't mainstream yet—though Pixel Qi's system is nearing this sort of readiness.

To keep up with this news and much more like it, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.