Another quickie, this time more serious but still delivered in my always erudite yet entertaining style. Barnes and Noble (B&N from here on out) looks like it is on the ropes and may even go the route of Borders; big losses and a prediction of more big losses. Not good. However there might be a silver lining to this which I will elucidate later.
B&N has made all the wrong moves IMHO, some of which I will speak of here. First, the Nook Tablet: B&N failed to capitalize on it when it was ahead of Kindle Fire in the e-book market. Also, although nobody else seems to pick up on this, Nook Tablet lack of apps versus the Kindle Fire and lack of ability to load third party Android apps on it (Kindle could do this, at least at that time). To a techy like me this was a killer for B&N’s tablet reader (I actually own both the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet so I kinda know what I’m saying here). There was no way the Nook was going to catch the Kindle even with B&N’s in store presence.
Second, Nook’s more limited e-book catalog and B&N’s clumsy and unattractive site. These are additional killers for me although from time to time I find Nook titles ahead of Kindle and some books on Nook that are not in the Amazon catalog (weird).
Third, too much floor space dedicated to non-book crap (see above) and Nook without compensating for the more limited book floor space. A lot of investor and marketing types would disagree with me but I’m right even without the MBA. I’m a real customer. I love books, especially real ones. The only advantage B&N has over Amazon is brick and mortar stores. You simply cannot browse books at Amazon despite the “Look Inside” feature. Some people, the kind that go to bookstores (dummy MBA), like to touch books; like to smell, feel, and peruse a few of the tomes. B&N corporate types think that by putting more non-book and Nook crap, and fewer real books in the stores they will boost sales. Readers shun most of this crap and non-reader knuckle draggers don’t go into bookstores unless they are those idiots in the cafe with laptops and tablets that pretentiously pretend to be writing the next Great American Novel (they only ever buy one drink and take up all the good tables all day). But I digress… Even the readers who do the “browse, scan, and switch to Amazon” usually can’t help leaving the store with something if they could find anything they might be interested in. Book lovers are suckers for the impulse buy.
Fourth, I think B&N devotes too much space to the wrong genres, not because I hate those genres but because they don’t sell in BOOKSTORES. For instance, I know Paranormal Romance is supposed to be a big thing with teens and young women (I think some older women are sneaking these in too). I never see anyone browsing this space in the store. They must be getting these books elsewhere, probably WalMart or Target or Sams. At the same time I always see someone (or two) in the Graphic Novel section which they have squeezed down to two shelf columns. Now I’m no fool, unlike B&N merchandising types; B&N is trying to appeal to the wrong demographic. The average (and remember 50% of the people are ALWAYS below average for anything) WalMart customer never sets foot in a bookstore. I know I have two B&Ns and many WalMarts in my metro area and I have utilized both. (I hate WalMart. It has to be the grimmest shopping experience on earth. I have more fun at Sams Club.). Just scan the crowds, you’ll see what I mean. But the dummies at B&N just look at sales numbers from publishers and “the buzz” in the business. They are ultimately too lazy to go walk around in stores and do a POS stint to absorb the obvious.
Expect a lot of store closures. I know in my town where there are two B&Ns one has gotta close soon. A good feeding frenzy for book buyers who want short term bargains and all that crap in the front of the store.
I promised you a silver lining and I’m not here to disappoint (heh, heh, heh). Independent bookstores, the ones that managed to stay open, should get a boost from a B&N demise unless Amazon decides to get into bricks & mortar in a big way. I don’t think the latter is likely once they knock off B&N. The independents will be the only place where the real book lover can go to handle a real physical book (besides the few BAMS). Now independent bookstores have their own set of problems, like lack of focus on small presses and/or regional printed matter and an over-reliance on big publishers. Most of these problems are caused by bookstore owners with blinders on or an old notion of the market. Most should have some on-line presence in addition if they are going to survive.
Man Oh Man look at where we are! I said this would be quick and it wasn’t but you are getting used to me disappointing you (heh, heh, heh). Since it’s topical, soon to spoil like rotten fruit, I’ll publish it now. I usually sit on these pearls for awhile and I actually have a few, okay one, in the hopper so I can hone what is already an almost perfect blog post, but your brain will explode if I unleash too much profound knowledge too fast.
Go buy a real book from a real store before it’s too late! Oh, and the Blackhawks won the Lord Stanley Cup!