Sunday, July 15, 2018

The fate of Barnes and Noble.

As you might imagine, I'm interested in the ultimate fate of Barnes and Noble.

I've always felt that the chain stores were more damaging to my business than Amazon. I don't have a ready explanation for this except to say that that they are different beasts living in different eco-systems. I share an eco-system with B & N, but not with Amazon.

The catchphrase is, "Amazon requires a click. B & N just requires a look."

Don't know if that makes sense, especially since a click is so much easier than driving to the store for a look. But people aren't rational. One is not the same as the other.

Besides....there is nothing I can do about Amazon.

Anyway, I don't have any fondness for B & N. I don't really understand why the American Booksellers Association is striving to save them. But then, I don't understand or agree with most of what the ABA model bookstores do. They seem to fail continually, and new ABA stores pop up to take their place, not having learned a thing.

One thing about being a small business is that you realize that everyone thinks--and I probably thought this at first too--that big businesses are more efficient, better at what they do. That's how they got big.

Well, the latter part of that may be true, but the former is no longer true. I'm ten times more efficient with my purchases because every dollar counts. Having been trained in the comic trade where I need to order product blind months in advance without any recourse to returning unsold product, I've learned to be lean and mean and agile.

I'm the little mammal scurrying beneath the feet of the dinosaurs. The Internet is the asteroid.

What I've noticed most about B & N is how feckless they are. They come up with a strategy and when that strategy doesn't immediately work, they change strategy.

So here's a clue: Choose a strategy and MAKE it work.

I had my doubts about their Nook from the beginning. I thought they'd be flayed by the higher end and the lower end, and that they'd be the mediocre middle. Turns out, the higher end Kindle was still cheaper than them, and that was a double whammy.

But they bungled even that attempt from the beginning. They were both overly pushy--their big booths--and yet also gave off a provisional odor, as if they'd abandon the effort if it didn't work.

You can't do that. The first time they offloaded some of the work, they showed their doubts and that was a deathknell.

Since then they have wavered back and forth with the strategy of adding other product than books showing doubt about whether it's a good idea or a bad idea. (Never mind Borders desperately tried to fill their store with knick-knacks and that didn't work. Never mind that Waterstones in England rededicated themselves to books and were successful at it.)

Ironically, now they're talking about building smaller stores, but I wonder if they have the assets left to do that. And...well, if they are feckless about it, wavering, it won't work. No one will trust them to follow through.

I'm not sure what will happen to the Big Five publishers if B & N goes down. But I do know they'll be a lot more interested in my little store than they were before.

With my luck, I'll have the only remaining Barnes and Noble in the country in my town. 😀

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