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Partnerships Are Key for NOOK Kids, says B&N’s Kevin O’Connor

“It’s opportunistic, needing a book right now…it’s tied into meeting an immediate need.”

By Dennis Abrams

Throughout his career, Kevin O’Connor, director of business development and publisher relations NOOK Kids, has focused on working out deals with publishers and licensors, while at the same time creating a rich merchandising ecosystem for content.

O’Connor got his start as an intern at Sesame Street, where he worked in TV production, audience research and international TV before being promoted to be Sesame Street’s lead account manager for the Tyco/Fisher-Price/Mattel relationship. In 2010 he moved to Barnes & Noble to work on their then-secret NOOK Color device, where he contributed to the underlying business model for kids digital books, drafting the distribution terms (with a licensing component) for publishers. In a career that has involved pitching both publishers and authors while creating marketing deliverables and promotions for partners to ensure that their e-content sells, O’Connor has displayed a deep commitment to delivering great experiences for families by reaching out through partnerships. As he says, “I play well with others.”

He is particularly proud of his involvement with Barnes and Noble’s NOOK, saying that “I’m a big fan of reading, and of books, and it’s a pleasure and honor to be able to be here during this transition as we get into digital and make sure that the underlying business model works for both publishers and authors and that it doesn’t go the way of the music industry — so that people can still make an living as authors and illustrators and publishers.”

And to make sure that happens, O’Connor believes in the importance of both the physical store and the online experience. “We’re conscientious about delivering materials, and for authors to be able to promote their books, and then to be able to replicate the store experience online. At Barnes and Noble we understand the importance of positioning to stimulate a reader’s curiosity to get them to pick the book up and read a sample, to loan it to a friend — the best marketing in the world is getting them to pick up a book in a physical store and being able to replicate the experience online.”

At Publishing Perspectives’ Children’s Publishing Conference, held May 31 in New York City, O’Connor will be part of a panel discussion, “Born Digital, Buy Digital: Sales, Publishing and Community Building for the New Generation,” along with Jacob Lewis (Figment) and Paula K. Allen (Nickelodeon Global Publishing). “I’m going to talk about the difference between what we see in what’s going on in digital picture books for kids and what’s going on in physical. It’s about meeting a different need, it’s opportunistic, needing a book right now…it’s tied into meeting an immediate need. And then at the stores there’s so much about giving and passing along a cultural experience that we don’t quite see on the digital side yet.”

It should make for a fascinating discussion. Remaining seats are limited. Register for the conference today.

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