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First Page: Katrina

First Page: Katrina

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Some days Katrina Villalobos could barely manage the strength to get out of the bed. After opening her eyes from a particularly good dream, she’d be glad to be alive and next to the person who she cherished more than her very life. Then she’d roll over and greet nothing but cold pillow still indented with her corazon’s head print. Then pain and memory so sharp she felt as if she were performing an exercise in self-mutilation would wash over her. She’d grab for the pills she kept next to her bedroom, take two to get rid of her continuous headache, then stop and deliberate whether she should take another twenty. For whole minutes, she’d stare at them, mesmerized by their bleached white pureness. Her alarm would go off for the second time, she’d drop the pills onto their assigned spot and get out of bed.

Those were the good mornings.

On the bad mornings, she’d wake up from nightmares of Lucia dying. She’d shot straight up, like heroines in the movies, and have to struggle to grasp a real breath. Seconds stretched into lifetimes as her lungs would try to give her heart a reason to get the blood pumping. But her heart had died a long time ago and her body was housing the ghost of long dead memories. She’d stumble into her living room and fumble under the sofa cushions for the gun bought after Lucia, sunshine, and flowers. Her fingers would stop their trembling as she cocked it and placed it next to her head. Before she’d close her eyes to watch her life flash before her eyes, her eyes would settle on Lucia’s drawing of them together, holding each other so tight it seemed they merged into one another. She’d put the gun down, take a deep breath, and either light a cigarette or pour herself some wine before she took a cold shower.

This was one of those mornings. The very violence of these kinds of mornings did not scare her. Quite the opposite. Katrina took a small amount of pleasure from the painfulness of her existence. Any other way of living would be an affront to the memory of her corazón. She could not pretend that her very reason for living was anywhere but six feet under. Her solace in the midst of her mental self-torture was pure because it meant that Lucia had meant something to her and would always mean something to her.

Katrina had become used to cold showers. She even liked them. They would hit her like cold tears from heaven, the kind that fell on her girlfriend’s coffin as they lowered her to the ground. Although it hadn’t been raining when she’d had Lucia buried, whenever the dream memory would hit her there would always be rain. What she wanted desperately as she was showering was a cigarette. She wondered what stopped tobacco companies from creating a cigarette that could be smoked in the shower. She’d gotten used to cigarettes as well, the kind that scratched at her throat and made her voice sound like she’d been up all night making love to sandpaper. Lucia had loved her voice, had told her that it sounded like cashmere over silk as Katrina whispered soft words across Lucia’s thigh.

Her landline rang as Katrina got out of the shower. She owned a cell phone but didn’t have the energy half the time to charge her phone. The one person who she wanted to talk to was gone.

Print as the future of Barnes & Noble

Print as the future of Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble is a venerable brand in US consumer circles. It touts itself as the world’s largest bookseller and is composed of three segments: the main retail segment, B&N College. and Nook Media.

In 2009, B&N launched the Nook, a product aimed at the upper middle class mother with two children. Overpriced and underfeatured, the Nook tablets have faltered despite the hundreds of millions of dollars poured into the Nook segment of the business.

After poor holiday sales in 2012, it was acknowledged that BN would need to move away developing hardware devices and look toward licensing its product on existing platforms.  After the disappointing 2013 holiday sales, BN’s CEO was fired and the Nook Media head moved into the position leaving Nook Media without an internal leader.

Everyone in the business of publishing is holding its collective breath about the health of BN. On the plus side, the largest portion publishing revenues come from the sale of educational books (textbooks and other educational products) but that market is headed for a disruption soon. On the negative side, overall consumer dollars spent on books is contracting. One think tank believes that it will continue to contract over the next five years as consumers shift dollars from higher paid books to self published and free books.

Barnes & Noble cannot excise the Nook arm completely because its market share in the digital market would be foolish to give up and second a bookstore without a digital component looks backward and incomplete. And the Nook brand is meaningless without Barnes & Noble attached to it. But focusing hundreds of millions of dollars on the development of hardware instead of on selling books is also a non starter at this point.

Instead B&N should pour that money into the development of a low cost, high efficiency print on demand machine. The current print on demand technology requires the installation of a behemoth device that currently costs about $100,000.  Have you paid attention to the posts about 3D printing? 3D printers cost about $10,000 and can print out guns, exoskeletons, and even small planes. How is it that it requires ten times the cost to produce something made of glue and paper?

Barnes & Noble’s future is in providing quality physical objects to in store customers. To that end, they need to do three things.

1) Encourage publishers or produce on their own print books as art. I’m not talking coffee table books. I’m talking about Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code with pull out art and maps. (I’m using this book as an example because of its immense popularity). I’m talking limited edition print books that are gorgeous objects. Things people want to display on their bookshelves and share with their friends. Books that people will buy for their family members and friends as gifts. It’s the enhanced book we’ve all been talking about but in print form, rather than ebook form.

2) Print + Ebook bundling. I know. Ebooks are a big profit maker for publishers but the time has come to bundle the two together. BN could do exclusive bundling, maybe that is something it subsidizes for a while. In the devices it would license from another manufacturer, there would be  NFC (near field communication) capabilities. Pass your device over the embedded NFC tag in the print book and you would instantly have the digital book on your device. (NFC tags do not require any power, but instead take the power from the nearby device).

3) Any book, no shipping necessary. If BN developed a low cost print on demand machine, it could take any book that was published in digital or print and create a print book for a customer in under five minutes. During the time it was printing the book, the customer could wander around, buy a coffee and find more things to purchase.  Instead of telling the customer that they could order it in, they could capture that sale immediately. Plus, there would be the benefit of no wait time and no delay.

Further, BN could license this technology to the independent bookstores as well as coffee shops or even partner with Starbucks (as they already do). A low cost print on demand machine that could print and bind a book in just a few minutes could revolutionize brick and mortar bookstores. BN has a great retail name and it needs to use it to leverage the love people have for physical objects by using technology to meet the customer’s instant gratification needs.

I think the future of Barnes & Noble is by elevating the print book and bringing the digital conveniences to the retail format.