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It's so much easier to predict the past.  ;)

This has been taking on a feeling of inevitability for a long time now. It feels similar to when Hollywood Video went out of business. Blockbuster was the stronger company and so held on longer, but where are they now? With this, B & N was in better shape than Borders, but...
 

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I went for yogurt a few weeks ago and the B&N, in the same plaza, was closed.  I was shocked.  That was literally the ONLY bookstore for miles that provided service to people unwilling to brave downtown traffic to get a book. 

I'm just left feeling sad.  I love bookstores, they made me an author.  It wasn't for print books, I'd never have fallen in love with books like I did -- years and years before digital was even a twinkle in the eye of Amazon.  And if I'd never fallen in love, I'd never wanted to write my own. 

Lose/lose.
 

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It actually makes me feel a little better. Maybe they have a workable plan for brick-and-mortar consolidation and survival. Maybe.
 

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I don't think it's a slow death as much as it is sensibly sizing for the market. The 1990s where we had a Borders and B&N on every streetcorner was an unsustainable anomaly. I suspect we'll see the emergence of some kind of chain of smaller stores like the old Waldens to fill in the spaces on the map that just can't support a superstore.
 

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/28/barnes--noble-to-close-stores_n_2566386.html

I am impressed with the PR ability of Barnes and Noble to make closing over a hundred stores SOUND like it's meaning business is doing well. Alas....

There are so many areas where Barnes and Noble is killing itself, and you can't tell me 3 quarters of reported losses, the last one showing losses for digital too, is a sign of a robust business. It sounds to me like time for a Hail Mary Pass.

Borders was warned for years about their unwillingness to get on the digital bandwagon and/or redesign their retail space to appeal to a crowd with more disposable income to splurge. And they died.

Barnes and Noble has been warned for over a year that parts of Nook are awesome, but the website and customer side sucks. If I put in $0.00 and get a full page of books that do not remotely relate to ANY books I've ever bought before, your virtual sales assistant (the search bar on your site) has failed. Where they made stable, awesome devices, they forgot that the most important part is the content on the device. And now, they're getting beat by $1 or more on the same titles in digital on other sites.

If you can't deliver a superior digital experience, and you can't deliver a better pricing structure for the same product, and you can't TIE your retail experience to your digital one, then what on earth are you doing?
 

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RobertJCrane said:
Dammit, B, I lost a lot of buddies in the Battle of the Line... ;D
We all did, Robert. We all did. :D

Katie Elle said:
I don't think it's a slow death as much as it is sensibly sizing for the market. The 1990s where we had a Borders and B&N on every streetcorner was an unsustainable anomaly. I suspect we'll see the emergence of some kind of chain of smaller stores like the old Waldens to fill in the spaces on the map that just can't support a superstore.
This is where my understanding of the traditional print market kinda breaks down, but didn't B&N's brick and mortar stores become super-successful via immense buying power? When Shakespeare and Co. puts in an order for books, they ask for 1-10 copies, but when B&N puts in an order for books, they ask for 1-10 copies for each of their 1,300+ stores. With no great online print store to speak of, won't B&N's shrinking orders as compared to Amazon, Costco, Target, etc. just accelerate the worsening of their relative costs and result in a runaway collapse?

Some publishers, printers, and distributors have to be freaking out right now. Many indie bookstores have risen up to fill the void left by Borders, but the growth of indie stores will not be great enough to replace the loss of 1,300+ more U.S. bookstores in the near term. I think the real question is going to be not what happens to B&N, but what happens to the members of the book supply chain as B&N rock bottoms. Which entities have enough cash to weather the storm? Which are are going to get caught in B&N's backwash?

B.
 

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Elizabeth Ann West said:
If you can't deliver a superior digital experience, and you can't deliver a better pricing structure for the same product, and you can't TIE your retail experience to your digital one, then what on earth are you doing?
You have to wonder who's running the show over there and how investors could possibly allow the CEO to continue to drive their company into the ground without even a finger lifted to save it. Mind Blowing!!
 

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Tip on how to read paywalled WSJ articles: Take the article title (in this case "B&N Aims To Whittle Its Stores For Years ") and do a Google search.  When you click on the link there to WSJ, it will open.  I don't know why this works given that the resulting URL is the same.  It probably is the result of the WSJ letting Google see the full articles so they can be indexed.

It sounds like B&N sees the writing on the wall, as they should.  But B&N is also shooting itself in the foot by trying to defeat Amazon.  They are refusing to sell Amazon titles that aren't available for Nook, plus they make you buy a membership to get a decent price.  How many customers browse books at B&N and buy them on Amazon from their cell phone while still in the store?  Target and WallMart are refusing to sell Kindles, fearing Amazon advertising.  These brick and mortar retailers are driving their customers to Amazon.
 

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What makes it particularly ironic is that it was B&N that was the retail innovator who gobbled up all the indies years ago (remember the movie, "You've Got Mail"?). Now they're being gobbled up by Amazon. I agree we may revert eventually to the small bookshop at the mall where overhead is much less than a big box location.

All this said, success is based on location. Two Barnes stores in my area are constantly packed. I've been unable to find a seat at their cafes (trying to use up a Xmas gift card) any afternoon I drop in and they appear to do a brisk retail business. But that's just anecdotal observation.
 

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BN is a business built on lies and deception. Even the past quarterly reports to shareholders try to make it all sound like "retrenching for a brighter future." When it is clearly the story of a business that died two years ago.

I suspect the same problem exists here as when I was in journalism--the people least capable of aggressively adapting in the face of dramatic change were the ones in charge. You can only imagine what the board meetings are like. And even as late as last year, a BN spokesperson was telling Publisher's Weekly their digital sales were on par with Amazon--and it didn't get challenged!

So a lot of this is this typical poison of people swallowing candy because medicine is too bitter. Just go read some of the coverage of the Digital Book World conference. This is epidemic in pretty much every sector of the publishing industry. And the dominoes never fall as smoothly as a CEO publicly fantasizes. I still think 2014 at the latest--although its possible someone would buy the digital division (Kobo?) if they immediately snipped the chain that connects to the paper anchor.

Will it happen? Bold leadership reacting to dire circumstances? More likely, all the insiders selling off whatever stock options they have before the collapse.

Hint: This isn't going to be slow.
 

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<rant>
I did a google search to find when the B&N near me was open, and I happen to see the complaints against the store listed at the bottom and decided to read a few. The biggest complaint? Shiftless layabouts whining about how they removed all the big comfy chairs and electrical outlets!

I couldn't believe it. My biggest complaint has always been going in there and seeing people treat the place like their personal living room... Feet up on the chairs, blocking the aisles just sitting there reading books for free. And people wonder why these stores are closing when half the people in the store seem to show up early, pick out a good book, and sit there reading it all day without buying it. If you want to read books for free, go to a library.

If I ran B&N I'd take out all comforts of home and institute a strict, minimal browsing policy. The people that would get angry and not come in anymore are the ones that aren't buying anyway... so there :)
</rant>
 

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Elizabeth Ann West said:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/28/barnes--noble-to-close-stores_n_2566386.html

I am impressed with the PR ability of Barnes and Noble to make closing over a hundred stores SOUND like it's meaning business is doing well. Alas....

There are so many areas where Barnes and Noble is killing itself, and you can't tell me 3 quarters of reported losses, the last one showing losses for digital too, is a sign of a robust business. It sounds to me like time for a Hail Mary Pass.

Borders was warned for years about their unwillingness to get on the digital bandwagon and/or redesign their retail space to appeal to a crowd with more disposable income to splurge. And they died.

Barnes and Noble has been warned for over a year that parts of Nook are awesome, but the website and customer side sucks. If I put in $0.00 and get a full page of books that do not remotely relate to ANY books I've ever bought before, your virtual sales assistant (the search bar on your site) has failed. Where they made stable, awesome devices, they forgot that the most important part is the content on the device. And now, they're getting beat by $1 or more on the same titles in digital on other sites.

If you can't deliver a superior digital experience, and you can't deliver a better pricing structure for the same product, and you can't TIE your retail experience to your digital one, then what on earth are you doing?
This.
 

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Al Schneider said:
If I ran B&N I'd take out all comforts of home and institute a strict, minimal browsing policy. The people that would get angry and not come in anymore are the ones that aren't buying anyway... so there :)
I don't think the answer to falling sales and people buying online is to make your stores less appealing and turn the relationship between your staff and customers (even the shiftless layabouts) adversarial. But then again, I've never run a successful chain bookstore (but neither has B&N management at this point, bah dum bah!).
 

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I am sad to think that B&N may wind up closing its physical stores. I went into Wal-Mart today out of curiosity and scoped out what they had on the shelves in the romance section. I was rather taken aback to see that it could have been a bookshelf from ten years ago. Danielle Steel, Connie Mason, Jane Feather, Debbie Macomber, Jayne Ann Krentz, Rachel Gibson-- all writers that made it big a decade or more ago (although some of them are admittedly still turning out big hits regularly). I'm not sure what traditional publishing will look like when the only books that hit physical shelves are in Wal-Marts and Targets, but I think it will look very different. Sooner or later new authors may have to self-publish to get started.
 

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RobertJCrane said:
I don't think the answer to falling sales and people buying online is to make your stores less appealing and turn the relationship between your staff and customers (even the shiftless layabouts) adversarial. But then again, I've never run a successful chain bookstore (but neither has B&N management at this point, bah dum bah!).
If you look at the large and (relatively) successful indies, turning into a hostile environment is not what they're doing. Building a relationship with your customer so they will go to the (unnecessary) trouble of using gas, finding a parking place and coming to your store instead of logging onto Amazon seems to be the way the stores that are doing relatively well are going.
 

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JRTomlin said:
If you look at the large and (relatively) successful indies, turning into a hostile environment is not what they're doing. Building a relationship with your customer so they will go to the (unnecessary) trouble of using gas, finding a parking place and coming to your store instead of logging onto Amazon seems to be the way the stores that are doing relatively well are going.
I went to one in South Carolina that was positively booming. People lined up for hours (I was doing a signing) to buy books from the four clerks manning the register.

What was different about this one? Their scheduled events was full! Storytellers for the kids in the kid section, rooms with authors doing free talks, me there for a signing, announcements every fifteen minutes about what was going on, it was a social mecca. They were actively getting the community involved making "it" the place to be.
 
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