Monday, January 13, 2014

Barnes and Noble: More Important Than Independent Bookstores?

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.

What do you think? What would the world be like without Barnes & Noble?


  1. Honestly I am a little sad to read about B&N. I love that store. I do think though maybe they have opened too many stores. It will be sad if all these places put them out of business. I ended up getting a new eread for Christmas and I chose not to get another Nook. I love my Nook Color. But I've been hearing about B&N possibly doing away with them so I chose to not get one because of this. Perhaps this is why other people didn't buy a Nook. I actually did a post about this last year ( My mom did get a Nook HD for Christmas and I looked at it and it was really nice. Again I don't know why people don't buy one. I always find great deals at B&N too (only better probably on Amazon). Here's hoping they fix this.

  2. Personally, I love BN. They have a much better selection and much better customer service than any indie book store I've ever been to. I also love my Nook HD, and even if BN did go away, this particular Nook functions more like a tablet and is able to carry any e-reader app, which I love about it.

    Since I moved, BN is about 40 minutes away, which was really devastating because now I have to travel that far to browse shelves and shop in a bookstore. That said, I'll be heartbroken if BN goes the way of Borders.

  3. I used to be a Borders girl myself. They were closer, they had more stores that were closer and easy accessible. B&N is a bit further and the three locations that are somewhat close are kind of a pain getting in and out of. But like you, I don't have an indie store close by at all. Plus with B&N I can at least save money on buying my books, which I can't do with indie stores.

    I have been hearing B&N isn't doing well and it worries me because I don't want them disappearing. I love being able to go to the bookstore and just browse the shelves. Or stick bookmarks from authors into the books so the next read gets a nice surprise!

    I find that Walmart, Target, etc. rarely have the books I want to read, so it's not like I could buy them there anyway. They are choosy about what books they'll sell and I find it annoying. Only because if bookstores do disappear--sob!--then where the heck am I going to buy my books? 90% of the books I buy/read are real books. I don't buy ebooks unless they're enovellas or an ebook only kind of deal. I'm weird like that. I want to hold a book and love it. Not wait for the device to charge so I can read. You don't have to wait for books to charge in order to read them.

  4. I have to say that I love indie bookstores, but I also really, really love B&N. It's the only real bookstore near me, and there's something to be said about walking into a store that's wall-to-wall novels. I love it, and I think I'd be devastated if B&N went the way of Borders. I don't buy ebooks - I review them, but I always buy physical copies in the end...

  5. I loved going to Borders when I was in college and grad school and I enjoy going to Barnes and Noble when I can. My library now makes our annual end of the year shopping trip to B&N to spend the rest of our book budgets. I also like looking at the displays and the stores have a nice atmosphere. I agree that it is important to support stores like B&N as well as indies because B&N is probably the most high profile brick and mortar bookstore left. I do tend to shop at Amazon but only because there isn't a B&N near me and I have a Kindle but there is something to be said for holding a new book in your hands or being able to browse or spend an afternoon at the bookstore.

  6. I am a former brick and mortar bookseller with an indie book store in the town I live in and a B&N about 4 miles away. My personal opinion is that we, as readers and book buyers, should support B&N and indie shops at the expense of Target, Walmart and other stores whose primary emphasis is not books. We also, given a choice, should buy our books from outlets other than Amazon, otherwise Amazon will swallow up all. Even if that means paying a little more.
    Amazon, B&N, and the indies all serve distinct purposes and are, IMHO, all important to a thriving literary community. B&N is the last place one can go and browse an expansive selection. The indies are the where new authors are nurtured and can find an audience and where people who love to read can interact face to face. And Amazon provides both opportunity and the ability to get everything, even those small run books that a B&N and especially an indie, can't possibly have enough shelf room.

  7. I love bookstore period. I prefer indie bookstores when I can, but the closet thing to me is a Barnes and Noble and frankly, I love it too. I hope they stick around. But the truth is, all bookstores are struggling. With so many people going the e-reader way, less and less people by physical books. It's like Netflix and whatnot. I love Netflix, but I miss perusing the local video rental store, all of which are gone in my town. Such a dilemma.

  8. I am in love with B&N. The closest one to me is about 20 minutes away, not terribly far but not around the corner either. It's HUGE though. Two whole floors and books and I can wander for hours and hours. Sometimes, that's what I need to do to destress and just clear my head. I don't get that from Amazon or Wal-Mart.

    I don't have any indie bookstore near me either. Boarders used to be a five minute drive down the street, so that was pretty bummy when they closed.

    I know it sounds dramatic, but I'd be heartbroken if B&N closed their stores - or in general.

  9. Well this just sucks. I don't shop at Barnes and Noble very often, but still. It scary to think what might happen if they do shut down.

  10. I think supporting both is a good way to go, but I try to stick to indies as much as I can. Still, B&N has a wider presence and is more accessible to people, so I'd rather have people shop at B&N and keep a bookstore open than buy books online/elsewhere and have a B&N close. However, I do think B&N holds too much power on the publishing side and it'd be interesting to see what would happen if they no longer held that sway.

  11. This is such a great discussion. I think it'd be devastating if B&N were to close. I'm currently in DC, but in my hometown of Honolulu, bookstores are on a decline. We went from 5 corporate bookstores to 4 to 2 and now to 1 single B&N. There are a few indie bookstores, but most are very genre specific (i.e. Christian, Hawaiian, Graphic Novels, Japanese, etc.) or preowned only bookstores. So if B&N were to close, I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen. Can you imagine what would happen if there were no bookstores in Honolulu? That's just crazy! Yes, indie bookstores should be supported, but we also need to do our part to keep B&N open.

  12. That's a really hard question, Alison! The indie bookstores by me are not friendly at all and forget about asking for recommendations. You just get a cold shoulder! I have a really good working relationship with B&N as a Bookstore Manager at my school. I order all of our English novels from there. The customer service is excellent and I *know* the ladies and gents that work there. They are very hard working and will go beyond the basic courtesy to help you. So for me, there's no contest. I'm going to support B&N.

  13. As Barnes & Noble is my "local" bookstore, too, I'm sad that it looks like it's on the way out. Maybe our government should bail them out, like they did with the banks and car manufacturers.

  14. For me, it's pretty much all about convenience. I have a great indie bookstore near me, but it's not THAT near. B&N is a lot closer. So, if I'm going to go into a brick and mortar bookstore, I usually choose the former. However, I also buy books at Target and Costco and, most frequently, from Amazon. So, to me, it's about two things: convenience and cost. And, you know what? B&N is spendy. Very spendy.

  15. I don't have an indie bookstore so it's B&N for me. Target and Walmart have consolidated their book section to such a small group of authors that it's almost not worth looking there anymore.

    I guess it's a thing now to slam the *big* stores but the staff at my B&N is very knowledgeable and helpful - with all genres too.As you said, they are readers too. Some of the staff has been there for over 10 years so I would hate to see that go.

    The few times I have been in a Indie bookstore, they were rude or didn't even bother looking up from the counter. I know that's not the case everywhere so I don't mean to generalize but I think it shows that there's room for all types of stores. It's not a one ice fits all kind of scenario.

  16. Hmm, now this is interesting. We don't have B&N in Canada, but I feel the same way as you about our equivalent, Chapters/Indigo. I would be devastated if Chapters went under. I freaking love that store and you're right, the people there are just as passionate about books as the people working in indie bookstores. Besides, all the indie bookstores near me sell used books only (which I love as well and have their own place). But if I want new books, Walmart/Target/Costco just don't cut it because their selection is always so weak. Though I admit... I rarely purchase books in store anymore. I'm much more likely to buy them at Chapters online to save money.

  17. Right after Christmas, I bought a membership for the year, so I hope they don't go out of business! The customer service at the closest B&N to me isn't the best, but it isn't bad, either. I go there a lot. Love that place! They also have the best and cutest journals ever!

    There's one store only fifteen minutes from me that's locally owned, and I have huge sentimental reasons for going there. My late mother used to take me there as a kid all the time, and it looks and smells exactly the same. I like going there to feel closer to her. And they sell most paperbacks for $2.75, which is really cheap! I love the lady who works there - she isn't the owner, but she and I love talking books.

    I really like Half Price books, and the customer service there is better so I guess if B&N goes by the wayside, at least there's HPB. They've just started selling new releases for 20% off. If I order books online, I'd really like to get into The Book Depository. I've never ordered from there before, but I like the fact they have free shipping to just about anywhere no matter how much you spend (at least I think that's how it works?).

  18. You know, I actually hadn't looked at the situation from this point of view! I'd never considered the impact it would have on the industry overall, not just in terms of jobs lost by B&N employees. It's very eye-opening to see this laid out! I mean, on a basic level, I wouldn't want B&N to close because it's always been my go-to physical bookstore because the indie bookstore I go to is more out of the way.

  19. We don't really have indie bookstores in our town, so Barnes & Nobles really is my only option. But even if I had the option, while I love the idea of indie bookstores, I hate how you can't always find what you're looking for. At times they do have books you may not have found otherwise, but it's almost impossible for them to have anywhere near the stock of a Barnes & Nobles.


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