B&N bought Fictionwise/eReader almost two years ago. In that time we’ve seen the NOOK become a hit, and B&N turn eReader’s digital rights management into the default system for their own branded store. Meanwhile, Fictionwise and eReader are shambling around like zombies; still going through the motions of selling books but without any fanfare or bells and whistles.
A year ago eReader and Fictionwise were still selling ebook readers, and while I thought it was an odd plan at least they were doing something! With the advent of the “agency model” for pricing, Fictionwise’s membership plan disappeared, dropping a discount plan that was very lucrative to loyal customers. There’s an eReader app for most major platforms, but it pales in terms of development versus the NOOK app. From dropping by their front pages, it seems both sites are heavily focusing on romance, mystery and science fiction, the three niches that have served them well in the past. But with no references to compatible ebook readers and the same tired “downloads” chart on the eReader site, it might as well be as though the ebook explosion never happened for them!
Here’s what I found most interesting, and since I visit eReader and Fictionwise rarely I don’t know when it was added. But there’s a long string of links along the bottom of both sites, all of which lead to B&N’s eBookstore, B&N’s NOOK, etc. It’s listed under “eBook Resources at Barnes and Noble” but if you look at the links available they are all items people look for at an eBookstore. I couldn’t find a category listing “free ebooks” on eReader or Fictionwise’s main navigation areas, but there’s a link to “free ebooks” under the resources header that leads to B&N. They also link “Cheap ebooks” and “Romance ebooks” under that same B&N header. Essentially, B&N is subtly redirecting people to their own site as they look for specific areas, even though the old familiar Fictionwise and eReader still exist.
The question is, what’s the long-term plan here? A year ago the only reference to B&N was “Fictionwise (A Barnes and Noble Company)”. Now there are links attracting customers right to the B&N site. How long until eReader and Fictionwise just redirect to BN.com? The writing’s been on the wall for quite a while, but it seems like it’s getting brighter and more clear: B&N is slowly transitioning all their ebook properties under BN.com, and it’s only a matter of time.
I’m curious about buying habits at eReader/Fictionwise as of late. Obviously, B&N doesn’t break it out separately from just “ebooks”, but who are still shopping there? Do they have a major customer base or is it mostly legacy libraries? Let us know more about your thoughts on Fictionwise/eReader in the comments!