Monday, February 4, 2013

If Barnes and Noble Dies

What will happen if Barnes and Noble dies?

As many of you have heard, Barnes and Noble plans to shut down a third of its stores within a decade.

But the news that almost a third of its stores will be shut down... that is scary. Seriously. I can't imagine B&N becoming what it once was. And now that Borders has gone, B&N is the last hope for large retail bookstores, and that hope is dwindling.

Unless there is a huge surge of interest, corporations do not shut down a third of their stores in hopes of opening them up later. Usually, it is permanent. And, usually, more closures follow.

My hope is that there will be a huge surge of interest when people realize just how harmful the destruction of B&N will be to physical books. Right now, mainly writers and those in publishing are freaking out about this. Only when it hits close to home - when day-to-day people realize bookstores might be a thing of the past - will there be panic and call for change.

I truly don't think people have lost their love for physical books. Most book sales are still for physical books, although ebook sales are high. I think that there is this huge ebook scare which has spread like an epidemic through our community. But let me play devil's advocate and think of what will happen if B&N dies. I believe that if B&N dies, people will react.

I read another interesting article (read it, it is hilarious/true) just yesterday which made me think harder about this. The article basically begs Barnes and Noble to stop shoving its Nook down the throats of its customers. Customers go to B&N for print books, not ebooks.

When I see my own Barnes and Noble, I have to agree with the writer.

The lonely Nook saleswoman at the entrance is just that: lonely. Almost every single person who walks into the store goes to the shelves, browses the stands, picks up a hardcover or a paperback; the Nook is not on their agenda.

The article says that instead of discouraging customers to buy physical books, B&N should encourage them. Barnes and Noble has come to symbolize the physical book; Amazon, the ebook. Shouldn't B&N capitalize on the niche that it has? Might that tactic be its savior - a widespread campaign for physical books?

To add on, if B&N dies, unless independent booksellers spring up, the Kindle will have a monopoly on publishing. If people still want to read, Kindles and ereaders will become like the cell phone: once a luxury, now a necessity. BUT, people won't want to fork over a hundred dollars to read. Let's be honest. Reading is not a necessity. People can do without it, and if ereaders become the only way to read a book, non-booklovers (the more common folk) won't be motivated to buy them; reading as a whole will stagnate.

So I am willing to bet that most ereader-buyers are book lovers (who else would spend about $100 on a tablet with the purpose to buy more books?). NON-BOOKLOVERS BUY BOOKS TOO! In fact, non-booklovers as a populace buy more books than the fanatic book lovers. The non-booklover can be the print book's savior. Instead of putting an $100 investment in reading, non-booklovers can buy each book individually (and cheaper too).

Have faith that people won't want to fork over $100+ for an investment to read more. Ironically, non-booklovers may be B&N's best friends.

HERE is where the beauty of capitalism comes into play. If B&N dies, other competitors will pop up and challenge Amazon's crown. Most of the populace still thinks that the idea of ebooks becoming the standard is ludicrous and don't believe the threat. The outcry when they do realize the threat will give birth to competitors (and hopefully, B&N) wanting to meet the demand.

But I worry about the state of us writers in that transition period. The Big 5 publishers sell to bookstores, and B&N is a HUGE part of that. What will Harper Collins do if B&N falls? Sell to Amazon or to the as-of-yet unorganized independent publishers that are trying to fill the B&N vacuum? What will they do during that transition? Just wait around? Will the Big 5 (just a few months ago, the Big 6) become the Big 4?

It is a scary thought, but in the end, realize that everything works out for the best. If people feel passionately about an issue, trust that the issue will see to itself. I frankly like ebooks; I can get all the classics for free on my iPad. Still, I buy more classics than I download (I like the feeling of making SOME physical headway in 800-1000 page books -___-).

This ebook scare is a scare, and we have to calm down and see it for what it truly is: an innovation that is making room for itself. Change is good, and have trust in people to speak up for their passions. 
My hope (and trust) is that ebooks and physical books will find equilibrium at some point. After all, if one thinks about it, B&N has a monopoly on bookstores. Let ebooks rise and physical books fall, and they'll meet in the middle.

Until then, all we can do is wait.

How do you feel about all this?


  1. I'm sorry - I am an eBook convert and do see them dominating one day like mp3's have taken over the music industry.
    Maybe this will be a chance for the independent stores to survive instead?

  2. I do love my ereader, but the thought of not having a physical bookstore is very sad. I love my book stores. We don't have Borders or B&N in Canada (or at least in my area), but I imagine our stores are going to be in the same spot one day too. Sad.

  3. I live in Canada, so things are a little different here. Our bookstore chain isn't closing stores, but it is diversifying in what it sells. And this means fewer books in the stores.

  4. Ebooks are cheaper and have no shipping cost which means I can afford to buy more books. Our one B&N is at the mall, the last place in the world I want to go. If I want to browse for new authors or get a hardcover book, I use the library.

  5. Wow! I had not heard the news about B&N closing 1/3 of their stores. In the town where I live, there is an independent bookstore, which I love. (Actually, the owner was the person who published my first book.) But I also like the local B&N. Just to walk around, get a coffee, and then sit and write, "among the books."

    I agree that if they go under, something else will take its place. Having said that, though, I have not noticed a replacement for Blockbuster...

  6. I didn't know B&N was closing 1/3 of its stores! We had lost both Borders and Atlantic Books in my city, so we had NO book stores until an independent company opened (down the street from me, too!). If B&N closes in my STATE, we'll have NO major bookstores! Fahrenheit!!

  7. I'd heard about B&N closing down some stores. It makes me sad, but who's going to listen to little ole me? Certainly not anyone who can make a change. I go to bookstores for one purpose, to buy books. Print books. Peruse the shelves. Admire covers (I love covers!) Read back of book blurbs. Find something new. It's not to purchase the Nook. I do have a kindle, but man, there's nothing like the scent and feel of the printed word.