Nook May Be Barnes & Noble’s Salvation

Barnes & Noble released its first-quarter earnings report on Tuesday, revealing that sales of its Nook e-reader and e-books have been helping to offset the company’s sinking physical book sales.

Barnes & Noble Nook Color

The Barnes & Noble Nook Color

Total revenue was up 2 percent to US$1.42 billion. Store revenue was down 3 percent to $1 billion. Online revenue was up a whopping 37 percent to $198 million. The retailer posted a loss of $56.6 million, or 99 cents a share, for the quarter.

Barnes & Noble predicts a bump of between $150 and $200 million in the next year, with an expected influx of shoppers coming from the failed Borders chain. Barnes & Noble is expecting its highest holiday numbers in five years. It also forecasts sales of the Nook and e-books will more than double this fiscal year to $1.8 billion. The news sent the company’s shares up 8 percent.

Barnes & Noble has bet its future on the success of the Nook. Sales of Nook devices rose 140 percent to $277 million for the quarter. Nook is the No. 2 dedicated e-reader after Amazon’s Kindle. If the Nook lives up to the company’s projections, it will account for a fourth of the chain’s sales and all of its growth.

Nook Draws Big Investors

The Nook may be key to Barnes & Noble’s credibility with investors. It has helped the company distance itself from the troubles that doomed its competitor Borders.

“First of all, the Nook is Barnes & Noble’s only viable business, and it’s the reason both [investors] Ron Burkle and John Malone have taken such an interest in the company,” said Porter Bibb, managing partner, corporate finance, at MediaTech Capital Partners.

“Barnes & Noble will, inevitably, have to downsize its bricks and mortar empire,” Bibb told the E-Commerce Times.

While Barnes & Noble continues to run a powerful retail chain of stores, those stores may be a burden rather than an asset in a publishing world that has very successfully taken the plunge into digital products.

“Print books will not disappear completely, but in June, for the first time in history, Amazon announced it sold more e-books than print books, said Bibb. “That trend is irreversible as more and more readers and tablets hit the market.”

The Nook may end up the leading dedicated e-book reader once Amazon commits deeply to a tablet.

“The Nook is a super way to read and store books. Its features and functions make it far superior to the Kindle, unless price is the only criterion,” said Bibb. “Amazon’s tablet will obsolete the Kindle anyway, and Barnes & Noble should have the e-book market to itself in a year or two.”

Barnes & Noble and its investors are betting that Amazon’s tablet will take the company’s eye off the Kindle. That could leave Barnes & Noble as the go-to company for consumers who want a device for books only.

“Sure, you can read books on an iPad or any other tablet, but enough people will want a dedicated e-book reader to give Barnes & Noble a viable future,” said Bibb. He pointed to the continued popularity of the iPod as an example of consumer preference for a dedicated device.

“You can get songs on an iPhone or a tablet too, but millions of people still like their music on an iPod,” he said.

B&N’s Future Depends on Nook

The Nook platform is a valuable asset because it gives Barnes & Noble a way to directly distribute e-books to its readers. The Nook Color is also important because it integrates popular Android and tablet features.

“In many ways, Nook sales are a great predictor of future Barnes & Noble book sales, because the Barnes & Noble e-commerce site will supply most of the content that a Nook owner buys,” said Carl Howe, director of anywhere consumer research at the Yankee Group.

“The Nook Color also broke new ground in attracting e-readers by using an Android color tablet as the base platform,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

An Amazon tablet could shake things up a bit for the Nook.

“Nook sales may take a hit when Amazon introduces its own tablet, but I think there’s plenty of room for multiple e-book and e-reader vendors in such a young market,” said Howe. “E-books are where the growth in publishing is, so the Nook is the means by which Barnes & Noble is shaping its future business.”

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Knowledge Management: The Silent Star of Modern Service

Think back to March 2020; the arrival of the pandemic disrupted your home life and your work life, as public and private organizations struggled to implement virtual solutions to keep work, school, and the economy going as best it could. Daily life quickly became a transition to working over video connections, homeschooling our own children; ordering groceries online, and learning to cook became new mandates.

Even adjusting to virtual happy hours and navigating virtual-only IT help and office support were new challenges. Employees working in contact centers or service roles were suddenly sitting at home with only a computer, attempting assist customers with service issues — with no supervisor or colleagues to lean on for assistance.

Accomplishing these tasks back then was virtually impossible without the ability to find information and knowledge online. The pandemic’s impact on business operations rallied organizations to push for new and better KM solutions. Nothing like a pandemic to help us understand how knowledge underpins service operations!

Today, the start of the post-Covid business environment reveals knowledge management is making even stronger strides, strengthening hybrid approaches to working and supporting the ability to implement AI and machine learning application innovations at scale.

The Power of KM Tools

Knowledge management is a business process formalizing the creation, capture, management, governance, and use of an organization’s intellectual assets. It consumes the top of spend for AI apps for customer service organizations and it powers virtual assistant and smart bot utterances.

According to Oracle’s KM platform developers, knowledge management has shone a spotlight on the need to access what organizations know, regardless of where their employees are located, whether in home offices or regional work centers. It provides organizations with the know-how needed to support agent work processes. This includes fluidly mixing home and work lives, sharing internet connections and home space among working parents and kids in virtual classrooms.

In essence, KM helps to bring the wisdom of the office environment to the desktop. Since 2020 people have been meeting by video calls 50 percent more than pre-Covid. During that interim, close to 70 percent of full-time employees have worked from home.

Knowledge management helped make this possible in four critical ways:

  • In today’s virtual world where we cannot just ask the person sitting next to us for support, KM becomes the new foundation for service. “What we know” is available to employees regardless of “where they may sit.”
  • KM provides a single source of truth helping employees determine good information from bad. The increase of information means more data to go through to determine what is good and what is bad. The explosion of data creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day, making it hard to determine the veracity of the information being shared.
  • When contact centers and support services were either offline or completely overwhelmed, knowledge management came to the rescue, allowing customers the ability to solve their own issues on their own.
  • Knowledge provided the backbone for organizations to quickly spin up virtual assistants, chatbots, and AI to fill in the gaps of employee shortages.

It’s safe to say that knowledge management really is the brainpower of the organization. Oracle’s Knowledge Management platform enables the organization to “know what it knows” and enables employees and agents to flag gaps in know-how and problem-solving information knowledge underpins every customer touch point. In this new future of service, KM is the fuel to power smarter, faster, and virtually accessible information management.

New World, New Challenges

Today’s deluge of data so swamps businesses that they fail to meet their customers’ expectations and drown in $75 billion in lost revenue yearly.

To find that buried data takes some 3.5 billion searches per day. On average, Google now processes more than 40,000 searches every second.

More remote employees means more dispersed information, and more need for organizations to harness data to provide their customers and employees with a unified, cohesive experience.

Time is money. Employees spend an average of 36 percent of their time each workday searching for information. That is a tremendous impact on their workloads considering that 88 percent of the organizations worldwide made it mandatory or encouraged their employees to work from home after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic.

Given this sea of information floating around, think of the KM platform as a both rescue and a transportation vessel for billions of business bits and bytes. Oracle’s tools do more than preserve knowledge. They allow workers to quickly preview content with accurate formatting and embedded assets.

The Future

It’s become evident that virtual or hybrid work environments are likely to become standard fixtures for organizations. Knowledge management will continue to play and imperative role, as the need for collaboration and the ability to share and find organizational information virtually at any time only increases.

The growing need for other technologies such as content management, enterprise search, CRM, and IoT devices and support is increasing demand for a single source of truth which can only be offered by enterprise knowledge management.

Oracle’s knowledge is a powerful solution, which in integrates seamlessly with other technologies, allowing organizations to easily meet the demand of both employees and customers in this new workforce reality.

The future of everything is data. Oracle — as a data company — does data better than anyone; and our differentiated service automation tools — including knowledge management — empower businesses to run as efficiently as possible while creating competitive differentiations which enables organizations to drive efficiency and facilitate org growth with agility, precision, and speed:

  • Articles are tagged with essential meta data to make know-how findable by product, category, and content collection type.
  • Knowledge Search enables agents to ask a natural language question and get precise, helpful results back, easily scannable in a search results page.
  • The Article History function shows all the article versions and their respective meta data.
  • The Side-by-Side option lets authors quickly identify what has changed between versions.
  • Editing articles is proficient with the included WYSIWYG Editor that provides rich text authoring with HTML support. Comments let authors collaborate and track suggestions and edits.
  • Hierarchical Products and Categories tool helps users organize the knowledge base, while the Control Visibility option lets content creators disperse the article to ensure the information gets to the correct audience.
  • Search and Browse Knowledge provides a free-form search that agents can use to augment their product understanding and training.
  • Recommended Knowledge leverages machine learning to find articles that match the service request. Its search parameters allow agents to find more articles that help resolve the service request.

How Organizations Benefit

Now, more than ever, the ability to have a central repository of organizational know-how, assets, guidance, and learning is critical as employees must work together while physically apart. Oracle has a broad portfolio of cloud-based knowledge, content, and learning products to compose employee and customer-centric experiences that address the needs of hybrid and at-home workers.

Oracle Content Management offers comprehensive digital asset management, including video indexing and storage, while Oracle Knowledge helps manage answers to frequently asked questions, and Oracle Intelligent Advisor enables coaching, guidance, and policy orchestration that can automate a variety of organizational process flows.

Oracle Learning products (Guided Learning and Learning Management) can onboard and coach employees from day one through their exit interview. Oracle Digital Assistant offers intelligent conversational UI capability to help employees navigate their digital workspaces and Oracle Virtual Builder Cloud Service provides a low-code application development framework to deliver knowledge, content, and advice to employees when they need it, to get their work done no matter where they are working — at home, or in the office.

Bottom Line

Few organizations have been able to carry on business as usual. The pandemic’s impact on business operations rallied organizations to push for new and better knowledge management solutions. Oracle’s service solutions now provide a way to sustain momentum and accelerate growth.

Trust Oracle for a contextual knowledge and content offering that enables employees to know what they know, capture what they learn, and share that learning and knowhow and content when needed to achieve their goals.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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