Saturday, September 10, 2011

Betting against yourself, Barnes and Noble?

Poor Barnes and Noble. Do they realize how many people conflate them with Borders? Borders made tons of mistakes, that probably doomed them long before e-readers had any effect.

I was talking to someone the other day about how B & N seems to be adding more non-book product as time goes on; toys, games, knick-knacks of all kinds. "That's what Border's was doing at the end."

"And it put them out of business," the customer said.

"No -- it was a symptom of the fact that their books weren't selling enough, not the cause. They were desperately looking for things to sell to replace the lost revenue. Barnes and Noble is more or less showing they have no faith in the long-term prospects of books. (Never mind the irony of a kiosk of Nook e-readers in the front of their store.)

Meanwhile, independent bookstores are fairly constantly going out of business and almost always blame e-readers, these days. I think that's just a convenient excuse. For one thing, bookstores have always been difficult, and there has always been a large turnover. Interestingly, for all their talk of adopted new technologies -- when I talk to bookstore owners they often have the most ''traditional" of mindsets. Books have always sold a certain way, and therefore they always will. (And then they talk about "adding" the new technology....)

I don't actually believe the e-readers are putting bookstores out of business yet -- unless you say it was the straw that broke the camel's back. On a scale of 1 - 10, I'd say the original "You Got Mail" giant chains, hit with an 8 impact. Then Amazon hit with an 8 impact. I also think that the effect of Walmart and Costco selling books has had a major, mostly unacknowledged impact: I give it a 5.

E-books? I give them a 2 so far.

But then again, if you've already had the dread epidemics of the first three, the little touch of flu from e-books might be enough to kill you.

(Actual book sales would confirm what I'm saying -- sales of books really haven't dropped anywhere near the extent that most people assume.)

Meanwhile, when DC announced their New 52 effort, I suspect that half the internal focus, maybe more, was on the digital outreach.

But now that the comics have actually begun arriving, almost all the media attention and sales and general interest has been in the actual COMICS.

Jim Lee, mucky-muck for DC and artist for Justice League, is famous for holding up a single sheet of paper, showing it edgewise to a room full of retailers, and saying something to the effect of "These are current digital sales...."

The physical copies of the New DC are going to be selling in the millions. I suspect the actual paid digital will be tiny in comparison.

But everyone will tell me digital is inevitable, that books and comics are doomed.

I don't think so. I'm staking my business on the idea that for at least the next 5 to 10 years there will sufficient interest in physical copies.

I think Barnes and Noble is betting the opposite, which means they are betting on their own demise; their leap toward e-readers is an admission that they think their brick and mortar stores are doomed. I think betting against yourself is a sure way to lose.


Duncan McGeary said...

It would take another surge like we've recently seen, and then another, and then another and who knows how many more syncronistic synergies to actually make comics truly mainstream.

But every time one of these surges happens, it's like a small miracle.

For every promotional hit, there are hundreds of flops.

It's not impossible, just not likely.

Duncan McGeary said...

I think bookstores talk a good talk, but they are still thinking within the box.

The conventional wisdom of digital is what they have adopted, not realizing that by thinking out the box they might be able to delay or even divert the inevitability.

I can't explain this -- I seem like the Luddite here, but I believe I'm actually the one who's thinking outside the box.

I'm thinking it's going to take of mix of all kinds of elements to succeed in the future.

Not just a replacement or overlay of digital for physical. That's just simplistic.

jared said...

Something I have been thinking about lately.

My GreatGrandFather subscribed to the newspaper.
My GrandFather subscribed to the newspaper.
My Father subscribed to the newspaper.
I have never subscribed to the newspaper.

Now that I have kids, I keep looking at them thinking

"what have I actively utilized in my life, that will be irrelevant to them?"

I really hope its not physical books.

H. Bruce Miller said...

How is what B&N doing different from what you're doing, except in terms of scale? Both of you offer diversified your product lines including "toys, games, knick-knacks of all kinds" in addition to books.

For that matter, Amazon does the same thing on a vastly broader scale, but without bricks-and-mortar stores.

Again, I don't think it boils down to an either-or choice between e-books and conventional books; a book retailer can offer both, and considering how e-books have caught on it would be foolish not to. The big question, IMO, is not whether B&N will commit corporate suicide by selling e-books but whether it and its Nook can successfully compete with Amazon and its Kindle.

Anonymous said...

Well money is getting a lot harder to find. Thus buying shit for the fun of spending money is over.
Fact is hbm is right no diff between dunc and B, the diff is dunc has low overhead and can defer his own salary, and thus have no costs other than rent. These 'stores' of B or BN have costs of $10's of K a month.
Honestly what's the point of comparison.
The main issue is can you sell dollar shit in the coming depression years?

Anonymous said...

Shit the swiss-franc got hit this week, goldman-sachs had bought a ton of eur/chf before the announcement.
It's amazing that the guys who run the US economy, can get insider info up front from the swiss bank.
It's now getting very interesting, the safe-haven biz has been shutdown; GOLD is essentially dormant waiting for collapse.
Folks now rushing to the USD.
Now only bet left is midwest farmland. :<
The new world order is essentially open for biz, corp-fasicsm, where a few big company's control everything, and nobody else has a clue.