Saturday, May 23, 2009

Barnes & Noble Loses Less Than Expected

I saw a few days ago that Barnes & Noble lost approximately $2.7 million during the first quarter of 2009, a scary number to a guy like me but less than the bookseller was expected to lose by those supposedly in the know. Digging into the details a little, it seems that both store sales and online sales are slipping for B&N, so the company's problems may be growing as the marketing of books continues to evolve.

Is the Kindle starting to impact B&N's online sales? I don't own a Kindle but I do have a first generation Sony eReader and I can truthfully say that I still, after all this time, much prefer owning a hard copy of a book - even the ones I might be disposing of later, or maybe, especially of the ones I am not all that sure I will want to keep. I know that I can get some cash back, or another book in trade, for a hard copy I own, something that seems impossible (or illegal) with e-books. But maybe I'm one of the exceptions to the rule and Kindle and eReader really are starting to impact the online sales of B&N and Borders.

The bigger problem that I observe when I go to Barnes & Noble is that so many people seem to be there to drink coffee, while trashing a few magazines and newspapers, or to do high school or college homework research. I seldom see those same folks at the cash register when I'm checking out. And, too, it seems that it's mostly bestsellers and other books by "hot" authors that are going out the door when I'm around despite the tremendous number of square feet devoted to publisher back lists. I really, really hope that stores like B&N and Borders survive forever, but I'm starting to wonder what they will look like in another ten years - or if they will even exist (remember Crown books?).

12 comments:

  1. Everybody go buy books (from Barnes & Noble)! ;)

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  2. I do remember Crown Books and lots of other bookstores, too. I suspect things will look very different for books, probably in five years, let alone ten.

    Thanks for keeping us up-to-date on this.

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  3. To think that book stores of this magnitude may close their doors one day is scary!! I love my internet but I don't want everything from it!

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  4. I don't remember Crown books. Where were they? When?

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  5. I don't know what it's like to read on a kindle, but I do know that I get a migraine if I spend too much time on the computer and that doesn't happen when I spend the same amount of time reading a paper book. I wonder if other people are affected the same way.

    As far as people using B&N as a library/coffee shop: I think that is called stealing. You know -- to sit in a bookstore and read their books and magazines without paying for them.

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  6. I knew you'd come up with the solution, Annie. :-)

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  7. You might be right about the timing, C.B. The pace of change seems to be accelerating all the time - I'm afraid to sleep anymore. :-)

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  8. Staci, I don't think they will completely go away, but I do wonder if they will have to downsize or cut back on the number of locations - or both?

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  9. Suzi, see this link for some detail on Crown Books:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crown_Books

    Crown was pretty big in Houston for a while and was very successfully competing with Barnes & Noble and was bigger here than Borders is even today, I think. They had smaller shops located all over the city in places that the B&N people shunned at the time. Ironically, today,there is a big B&N in the same parking lot that used to be home to my local Crown Books store...

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  10. Factotum, I don't usually get a headache when reading on one of the e-book devices, but I can't read as many pages on one of those as I can in a book before my eyes seem to tire...definitely don't enjoy the reading experience as much on the e-Reader.

    I understand that B&N and Borders make a lot of profit in their coffee shops but it does bother me to see magazines and newspapers being trashed by coffee drinkers who treat them as their own. There's no way the trashed copies can be sold, so someone is taking a hit on their destruction, whether its the bookstore or the publisher. I wonder if the store is ripping off the covers of the magazines and paperbacks and returning them to the publisher for credit. The last thing I want to buy is a used newspaper or magazine for full price, that's for sure.

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  11. They already closed the B&N by my house. Granted it was in a high rent district, but still...It is not all bad though because there is a really good indie bookstore on the next block that was hurting when B&N moved in, so now the pressure is off.

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  12. That's an unusual turn of events, Erin. Three cheers for the indie...

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