Barnes & Noble: Gone By New Year's?
If anyone gives you a Barnes & Noble gift card, be sure to cash it in by the end of the year.
This may be the last year that Barnes & Noble bookstores remain open.
It's bad news for people who love books. It's worse news for the next generation of readers, who may never experience buying a book in a bookstore.
B&N has been closing about 20 stores per year since 2012 and has said it will continue to do so for the next several years. But its financial position is bleak.
This follows a decades-long period of expansion, moving into neighborhoods where privately-owned bookstores thrived, destroying those stores with cut-price best-sellers, and all but owning the book business.
Borders collapsed because of poor choices -- weak locations, an overemphasis on music, and, worst of all, selling off its online bookstore to Amazon for $20 million in the 1990s. Chump change, by today's standards.
So why is B&N on the ropes if it has virtually no competition today from chains or privately owned bookstores?
First, Amazon makes it so easy to buy books.
Second, publishers thrashed B&N by selling best-sellers at deep discounts in non-traditional outlets such as supermarkets, Wal-Mart and Costco, thus removing a key source of revenue for the chain.
Third, the woefully underfunded Nook is competing with Amazon's Kindle, which is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.
Fourth, the antiquated model of printing books on spec, putting them on trucks, and crossing your fingers that they'll sell doesn't work in the internet print-on-demand era.
And fifth, book buyers want decent customer service. At B&N these days, the only way to find a sales clerk is to attempt to shoplift.
The company that owns QVC nearly bought B&N a couple of years ago, presumably to sell low-cost jewelry and other tsotchkes in B&N's nationwide chain of stores.
That would have been hello collectible coins and bye-bye books.
Now, one of B&N's key investors has cut the level of its financial stake in the company. A wise move, alas.
In many B&N stores, it's actually hard to find books. You've got to wade through toys, umbrellas, Nook displays, chocolate bars, notebooks, birthday cards, and all kinds of other stuff that has stolen shelf space from books.
The publishers have to be running scared. If B&N suddenly shutters its doors, then billions of dollars of books, which the bookstores take on consignment, go into the limbo of bankruptcy court.
But the fate of B&N weighs most heavily on readers. Literary agent David Vigliano says that the disappearance of bookstores, and the move to buying books on Amazon, represents the death of browsing.
Serendipity -- the sweet surprise of happening upon an unexpected book -- is an experience that can happen only in a bookstore.
Yes, Amazon's algorithms can point you to books you may like, but there's no substitute for wandering the aisles of a bookstore, looking into a section you might never have visited before, and finding a new author or subject you had never considered.
That experience is on the verge of disappearing. Barnes & Noble killed privately owned bookstores, and Amazon and technology are killing B&N. It's downright Darwinian.
Can B&N hang on through the holidays? Most likely. But sad to say, once Black Friday gives way to the 12th day of Christmas, a once-proud book chain may well have reached its final chapter.
And that would be chapter 11, of the Bankruptcy Code.
About Michael Levin
New York Times best-selling author, "Shark Tank" contestant and "World's Greatest Writing Teacher" Michael Levin runs www.BooksAreMyBabies.com, the portal to the ultimate 200+ video channel on writing and getting published. Levin has written more than 100 books, including eight national best-sellers; five that have been optioned for film or TV by Steven Soderbergh/Paramount, HBO, Disney, ABC, and others; and one that became "Model Behavior," an ABC Sunday night Disney movie of the week.
Pet Care | Real Estate | Restaurants | Tech | View All | * Add/Upgrade Business
Placer County News HeadlinesVacation Deals: On Tight BudgetsLet's face it, we all love our vacation time. A time to break off from everyday routines, ditch a portion of the responsibility we call life and enjoy doing what we love
Joyce and Jim Raley Teel & Joseph Gallo HonoredMore than 700 guests came out to honor Joyce and Jim Raley Teel, Raley's Family of Fine Stores and Joseph E. Gallo at their induction into the California Grocers Association Educational
Roseville Solar City Location Looks to Fill 300 JobsSolarCity , one of the nation's leading solar providers, announced its move into a vast new Roseville, California office to accommodate its growing local staff.
Republicans Start Swinging in Auburn Golf BattleAuburn, CA- The temperature are rising and Republicans will be heating it up in Auburn at the 4th Annual Placer County Republican Golf Tournament
Top 100 Paying Jobs in California (Part 5)Part 5 in the countdown to #1 to the Top 100 Paying Jobs in California
Jessica's Law Enforcement Changes Prompt ResponseJessica's Law authors George and Sharon Runner today responded to a decision by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to stop enforcing Jessica's Law residency
Maria Menounos: Special Olympics Global AmbassadorThe Special Olympics has announced that author and television personality Maria Menounos of E! is joining the Special Olympics family as the movement's newest Global Ambassador.
Van Halen to play Shoreline Amphitheatre on July 16For Northern California fans, Van Halen's only scheduled area appearance will take place at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View on July 16.
Rocklin Home for Sale: Retreat at Whitney OaksA brand new, custom home on Whitney Oaks golf course lot is now available in Rocklin.
Placer County Ranks #1 in Quality of Life, Second HealthiestFor the third consecutive year, Placer County has ranked as the second healthiest county among California's 58 counties.
A Blue Tie Affair: KidsFirst Annual Luncheon April 16thThe 17th Annual Signature Luncheon promoting awareness for Child Abuse Prevention will be hosted by retired PCWA General Manager David Breninger and his wife Linda.
Roseville City Jail Slated for ConversionThe Roseville City Council has approved the conversion of the Roseville City Jail to an arrestee processing center when
NEWS: In Case You Missed It