Will Barnes and Noble Actually Fail?

Krysta continues her discussion on the possibility of Amazon eventually signing the death warrant of Barnes and Noble.

I’ve been giving this more thought and while my Barnes and Noble experiences haven’t always been stellar, there is value in having actual, physical bookstores in areas that wouldn’t have any but for Barnes and Noble. I am blessed to be in an area where I have options other than Barnes and Noble, but not everyone does.

I don’t want to absolve Barnes and Noble of any responsibility for their own demise but as a logical consistency, I should shop much less at Amazon for the same reasons I try to avoid Walmart.

Still mulling this thing over, but it’s worth considering what types of business practices we want to support with our dollars.

13 thoughts on “Will Barnes and Noble Actually Fail?

  1. hearthie says:

    Total honesty here, but I think if B&N fails, it fails because of mediocrity, not just Amazon – and that is a retail thing right now. Sit down with your teacup, this won’t just be about books.

    There are two strands of shopping ATM. One is “cheapest/fastest” and the other is “experience/specialty”. For the last 15 years, the pressure has been on all the retailers to pursue the cheapest/fastest … but there can be only one winner in that game. Amazon has come out on top of the online game, just as Walmart came out on top of the physical game. Walmart put other stores out of business, Amazon is doing it too.

    But not every customer is looking for cheapest/fastest. Nordstrom is starting a model where they have stores just for you to try on the clothes, then order them online. Nice stores, with coffee and good service. Experience. There are any number of online stores from which you can get specialty items that aren’t sold in the Big Dogs.

    I have friends who bemoaned the demise of TRU. Why? There was no “fun toy store” vibe in there, it was a big echoey warehouse that smelled of plastic. No experience, nothing I would want more than I want the convenience of clicking and getting free delivery. TRU drove the small toy stores out of business, and were eaten in turn by Amazon. Chase cheap/fast and that’s what you get. B&N, if you will recall, drove quite a number of smaller book stores out of business! You want me to cry for them?

    B&N used to be somewhere I’d look forward to spending hours – and there’s one five minutes from my house. Now? I hardly find a book that I want. They’ve eaten up more than half the store space with a cafe, gifts, toys, the Nook area… and the books that are left are middle of the road. Boring. You don’t physically GO to a book store to find best-sellers en masse, you go in the hopes of finding something weird and wonderful, a new friend.

    I can shop for anything I know that I want online – but I still enjoy physical shopping, the pleasure of the browse. So, if you want my physical feet browsing your store, you need to have things I can’t find online (easily), you need to make the browse pleasant, and for gosh sakes, you need to increase your quality, because cheap/fast makes for terrible hand-feel.

    Retailers that are going to survive are going to have to change their orientation completely… and Barnes & Noble could still do that. In the meantime, trying to make me feel guilty for acquiring my plastic flotsam at Amazon is a waste of time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Elspeth says:

    I mentioned in the post that Barnes and Noble bear some responsibility for their own demise, and yes. They absolutely drove smaller bookstores out of business, same as Walmart did to mom and pops.

    And yep. Like I said, my experiences there have been less than stellar. I think the author of the posts I am reblogging is primarily concerned with places (unlike where you and I are) where you can’t find any other physical bookstores besides B&N.

    Not only am I in shouting distanc from a couple of pretty good indie bookstores, our public library system is abolutely a.maz.ing! I can’t say enough good things about it, really.

    You know I always love your thoughts on the difference between easy/fast/cheap or quality/higher monetary investment.

    So thanks for sharing that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bike Bubba says:

    What Hearthie says. If you have to look through ten tons of junk to find a treasure, you’re not coming back. One thing I used to love about B&N, though, is that they had nice editions of classics that were out of copyright. The advantage of getting them there as opposed to Amazon was that you could see how well they were bound and verify that they were not revised/edited.

    Speaking of which, if I had a nickel for every book I’d picked up that turned out to be “retold” by a kid with a B average in college English who thought he was a better writer than Shakespeare, I’d be a wealthy man. Thankfully “picked up” does not mean “bought.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elspeth says:

    Because of time constraints (meaning I waited till the last minute to get one of our 4th grader’s lit class novels), I went to a Barnes and Noble to pick up the original Peter Pan.

    Because of time constraints (meaning I waited so late that I had to swing in there on my way to barely making it somewhere else on time), I went straight to the info desk and asked the lady where I could find it.

    She asked me which one and I said, “the original”. She somehow surmised, since my newly minted 10-year-old was with me that it must be for her, and went and got an adapted version. When I asked if it was the original, she repeatedly insisted that there was no way a teacher would have assigned the original to a fourth grader. It was “too hard”.

    So after wasting a good chunk of the time I was already mismanaging that day, she finally got me the original, but she was still pretty sure I was getting the wrong book.

    I wasn’t.

    My next trek in there was too pick up the Narnia books that were next on the lit class list. I went and found them for myself.

    One thing they do have at BN that I enjoy perusing is a wide array of cookbooks.

    They have too much YA fiction in there for my tastes, as far as fiction goes.


  5. Elspeth says:

    And yes, Bike, they do still have a pretty nice selection of nicely bound classic books. One of my favorite books from them is a big volume of 6 Jane Austen novels. I read one of the books in that volume every year.


  6. hearthie says:

    I like the hardbound classics too.

    Admission: When the local mall was dystopian, I enjoyed going into Crown books more than B&N. Never knew what you’d find!


  7. Krysta says:

    Thanks for sharing! I actually agree that B&N shares the blame for its financial struggles. I recognize that gift items sell more than books, but think that the gift area was made too expansive. I can’t find titles I want in store because there’s less room now. (Who goes into B&N to buy soap, candles, and blenders, anyway?) And the customer experience has often been, well, not the good kind of experience. But, yeah, my primary concern is that the fall of B&N will mean that many people will no longer have a physical bookstore within close proximity and that Amazon will have a monopoly that will hurt publishers’ ability to negotiate fair prices. So I think B&N is worth saving while they hopefully rethink their business strategy.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Elspeth says:

    I am happy to share these because I do appreciate the importance of actual physical bookstores and how B&N fills that void in some markets. Even they aren’t ideal.

    I avoid Walmart, in general, because when I am at home in my city i can. My in-laws however live in an extremely rural area. When we visit them in the country, the ONLY major retailer for miles and miles is Walmart. So when I am there i shop at Walmart. Else I don’t shop.

    I think B&N should probably ramp up advertising for their online business. It might be one way to salvage more brick and mortar stores. For better or worse people are shopping online more and more.


  9. hearthie says:

    The only reason I read the Left Behind series was being stranded in rural Arkansas without a bookstore – but with a Wal-Mart.

    FWIW I use my nook heavily and have a B&N membership… so it’s not like I don’t shop there. I buy books there more than I do at Amazon. (Flotsam – Amazon). I just think they could do a lot better at being a bookstore. Say, by going back in time 15 years with their own stores?


  10. Krysta says:

    Yeah, I can see how avoiding Walmart might be a problem. The same with Amazon. Some people have wondered if they should stop shopping at The Book Depository since Amazon bought it. Well, it’s easier to stop shopping there if you’re not international. The free international shipping is obviously very useful to people!

    And that’s the thing. Amazon does a lot of things right. They do try to prioritize their customers. People want to shop there as a result. (B&N meanwhile struggles with getting people to want to shop there.)

    Yeah, I think B&N does need to expand their online presence. Right now their online prices are closer to Amazon’s but a lot of people seem not to know that. And I’m not sure B&N actually wants people to know that since they get more of a profit from in-store purchases….


  11. AmyP says:

    If I were queen, “retold” versions of classics would have warning labels on the front cover.

    I go to Barnes and Noble a lot (because it’s often convenient and I often buy birthday gift cards there), but I mostly think of it as a magazine store/coffee shop that happens to be attached to a bookstore. 80-90% of my B & N spending is magazines, cafe treats and gift cards.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Elspeth says:

    “If I were queen, “retold” versions of classics would have warning labels on the front cover.”

    Yes! Because I got taken once and was NOT happy about it.


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