Monday, May 14, 2012

Barnes & Noble Prefers Customers to Shop from Home - Removes Customer Seating from Stores

This has been one of the busiest few days that I have experienced in a long time, meaning that I have not even been able to visit my own website since last Friday.  I was relieved to see that the Blogger folks had not misplaced it this time while I had my back turned.  As a result of what so far seems to have been the successful removal of the cataracts on her left eye on Thursday morning, my wife has been unable to drive.  That means that, in addition, to getting her back to the surgeon's office for follow-up exams and in preparation for this Thursday's surgery on the right eye, I've been running errands and carting grandkids around.  Enough said.

I suppose the good news is that I have been able to do a lot of extra reading while sitting around hospitals and the doctor's office - and the bad news is that I'm now five book reviews behind and still losing ground.  In fact, I'm about 60% through one of the better spy novels I have read in a few years, Lehrter Station, by David Downing.  This thing is so good that I did not realize until today that it is the fifth book in a series featuring British journalist/spy, John Russell.  I can't speak for the first four books, but I find this one particularly interesting because it takes place in occupied Berlin only a few weeks after the end of World War II - before the wall went up.  More later, of course, but I already feel like recommending Lehrter Station to everyone I meet.

I dropped by my local Barnes and Noble for a few minutes on Saturday morning and was disappointed to see that all the comfortable seating the chain previously provided for customers is long gone.  This is so wrongheaded of Barnes & Noble management that I don't even know where to begin.  Rather than spend an hour or two browsing the store, I lasted about twenty-five minutes before my back began bothering me and I put my three potential purchases back on the shelf because I couldn't face standing an additional ten minutes in line.  What is B&N thinking? Traditional shoppers and book lovers are already getting the message from those guys that the Nook is where they want to take the chain and that traditional books are not all that important to them anymore.  If you don't believe me, just look at all the wasted open space completely surrounding the huge Nook displays that slap you in the face when you walk into one of the stores.  Personally, I am insulted that Barnes & Noble is trying to push me out the door so that I will shop via my computer rather than browsing for a while.  Stupid, stupid, stupid...but when you have no brick & mortar competition, you can get away with stupid for a while.  But only for a while, B&N, because you are quickly alienating people like me who have supported you for years.

Pat Bertram, a writer I follow over on Goodreads, has an interesting piece there about some of the unintended consequences of the literary world's rush toward digitalization.  Pat has been brilliantly posting about the grieving experience she has been enduring, but this piece is a bit different.  I'll let its title lure you in - if you find it intriguing, just click on this link: Is a Salinger-Like Reclusiveness a Viable Option in Today's Book World?


Speaking of Goodreads, I don't know if you will be able to read the post I've linked to unless you are a member with a password - if not, do yourself a favor and use this as the incentive to join the site.  You will most definitely enjoy it.  I find that Goodreads and LibraryThing are not so redundant that I have to have only one or the other.  Both sites have features that I enjoy and offer benefits not available on the other site.  So it's a win-win situation, if you can spare the time, to belong to both of them.  

11 comments:

  1. I know you're in Texas while I'm in Colorado but it seems you were shopping in "my" B&N. I noticed the same thing the last time I was there. I actually went to the kids section and sat down at one of their "kiddie" picnic tables to browse the titles I picked up.
    One of my book clubs actually meets in a B&N. When we started many years ago, it was book club "nirvana"... special meeting area with comfy chairs, complimentary Starbucks drinks and 20% off each month's selection. Those are are gone and we're sitting in folding chairs in a corner. The only reason we haven't found a new meeting place is that the "coordinator" of the group is a sweet older lady and we're afraid if we defect, they'll find a way to let her go. Needless to say, most of us hit the library for the selection. It's sad, really ... what they're doing to loyal customers.
    Sorry for the novel... I guess it's just a sore spot with me.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh dear. This sends shivers up my spine thinking about the library world, because, you see, the library world has long been jealous of the way people seemed to glom onto BN and other big bookstores' way of doing business. That's why more libraries started including coffee shops and putting in comfortable seating where people could sit and look through their books and drink their coffees (and attract insects and rodents with food crumbs...). Now I wonder what public libraries are going to start looking like next.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kathy, I think they are making a huge mistake. I know that, for me, the longer I browse in a bookstore, the more books I ultimately walk out the front door with. Since my browsing time has now been sliced bigtime, that means fewer sales to me - and I don't own a damned Nook, so they sure as heck won't be making up the sales that way.

    I went back last night because I had to kill some time before picking up my granddaughter at her dance class - the store was almost empty at eight...not a good sign.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Let's hope, Library Girl, that libraries don't blindly follow B&N's lead on this one because their current management doesn't seem to have a clue when it comes to luring and keeping customers inside the store. I still can't believe they blew it this way.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks, Ms. Factotum. She gets the second eye done on Thursday morning and then, with a little time to let the swelling go down and for her eye muscles to strenghten and she should be good to go. I'm starting to envy her a bit, to be honest. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I was never that big a fan of B&N stores (though I did have a soft spot for Borders, alas), always getting the feeling that their stores were organized in a cold fashion that didn't quite appeal. And the choices were always significantly more limited than any alternative stores. It really doesn't surprise me that they've turned even colder, and to be honest, I'm not that upset by it. I have a feeling that this will clear up space for stores that do place an importance on the in-store experience. Whether this will be in the form of the more expensive independent bookstores, or perhaps a new type of chain, I think the market is beginning to realize the demand for actual bookstores... at least, I hope that's the case!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I hope you're right, Biblbio, because the chain sure seems to be making some dumb business moves lately. It will be interesting to watch this shakeout evolve into the next phase of bookselling.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Mine still has quite a few comfy chairs -- knock on wood. I've been to others, though, that are just as you describe.

    ReplyDelete
  9. My local B&N still has some seating but the Nook area is definitely taking over. Even more disturbing to me than the Nook area of the store is the 3 or 4 aisles of toys and puzzles that my store now carries.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Kathleen, I have to agree it's kind of a shame to see so much Barnes & Noble floor space dedicated to non-book items these days.

    Enjoy those comfortable chairs while you can; I'm willing to bet that they will disappear soon enough.

    ReplyDelete