For many years, the line in the book industry was to support independent bookstores. Stay away from the big, impersonal corporate behemoths: Barnes & Noble and Borders.
Fast forward a few years. There's a new villain in town named Amazon. Not to mention Walmart, Target, Costco, and every other big store and website selling books cheap. Borders has gone the way of the dodo bird.
Barnes & Noble is seemingly on its last legs. The digital division had a 60.5% decrease in revenue over the holiday period. Sales of Nooks decreased 66.7%. Digital content sales decreased nearly 30%. Meanwhile, sales on the retail side of the company decreased 6.6% - much less than the digital sales, but still a decrease.
The slow, torturous death of Barnes & Noble leads me to this question: If I have the choice between buying a book at my local indie bookstore or buying a book at my local Barnes & Noble, which should I choose?
On the side of the indie bookstore, statistics show that supporting local businesses leaves more money in your community than supporting corporate chains. Independent bookstores are struggling just like Barnes & Noble to stay afloat. Indie bookstores offer charm and, typically, a level of service that B&N does not.
I usually default towards supporting an indie bookstore, but...If B&N dies, the book industry will suffer far more than if a local indie bookstore dies. Think how many people publishers employ simply to cater to Barnes & Noble. Sales reps, publicists, and so many more. These jobs would be lost without Barnes & Noble. Think of how many authors benefit by their book getting placed at Barnes & Noble stores across the country. Not to mention how many people in your community work at Barnes & Noble. Far from the stereotype of the bumbling idiot, as a former B&N employee, my experience is that most people who work at Barnes & Noble are as passionate and knowledgeable about books as any indie bookstore employee. All these people will be without jobs if B&N dies.
Arguably, in the aggregate, the death of many indie bookstores would be as damaging as the death of Barnes & Noble. That's probably true. But it doesn't change the fact that the death of Barnes & Noble would be devastating to the book industry and to many readers.
Barnes & Noble is my local bookstore. The closest indie bookstore is two hours away. (It says a lot about the culture - or lack thereof - of my city of over 100,000 people that it only cares enough to have one bookstore...grrr). If I want to go to an author event, if I want to go to story time, if I want to buy a new book, if I merely want to browse the shelves, Barnes & Noble is my only option (apart from the lovely library of course).
But even if my community had multiple bookstores, I think I would prefer to shop at Barnes & Noble. I want to save and nourish independent bookstores, but I think - for now at least - it is more important both for me personally and for the book industry as a whole to save and nourish Barnes & Noble.