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B&N’s Jim Hilt Says Print Isn’t Dead

Barnes & Noble is shifting its focus from device to content, according to Jim Hilt, vice president of e-books at Barnes & Noble who spoke at the Digital Book World conference today.

He said that 2011 was about the device and 2012 is about the content.

“The device is just an entry point at helping consumers do what they already do today, which is read great books and discover content,” he said. “Putting the browsing experience that you can get in a bookstore on a 7-inch display is the challenge of our industry right now.”

Despite the popularity of eReaders, Hilt warns booksellers not to get carried away with eBooks. “The idea that the print book is going to die some slow long death is actually a fallacy,” he said.

He said that shoppers may get excited and only buy eBooks for the first couple of months after buying a device, but once the novelty has worn off they’ll probably return to stores and do a mix of shopping on devices and in stores. Hilt even said that Barnes & Noble and indie bookstores could work together as comrades in physical stores.

In the presentation, Hilt said that analytics in books would play a big role in publishing. He suggested that the retailer could share the details of which pages did well and which killed a book.

He also said that the industry needs to support digital book lending. “We need the broader industry’s help to realize that this doesn’t cannibalize the digital business but it actually helps consumers transition into digital,” he said.

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