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 HeadlinesO2 breathe Walk in Roseville set for October 10thO2 breathe fundraising Walk, benefiting the Pulmonary Hypertension Association on Saturday, October 10, 2015 at Maidu Park in Roseville.
Roseville Gas Price Battle: Costco vs. Sam's ClubRoseville, CA - Roseville gas prices continue to drop bringing welcome relief to motorists. The price war between Costco and Sam's Club in Roseville continues to benefit consumers
California Fire Updates Summary (8-29-15)California Fire Updates 2015: Although 6,300 firefighters remain on the lines battling 13 active wildfires, crews made significant progress over the past couple of days.
Retired Navy Captain Assists Returning VetsTom Mayhew was only 6 when he watched his father march his mother down the hall of their El Paso, Texas, home with a rifle pointed at her back.
Toyota Highlander continues to shine as midsize SUVOne of the most highly-rated midsize sport utility vehicles is the Toyota Highlander, a sensible, well designed crossover.
WJU Gala to Honor Four Esteemed AlumniROCKLIN, Calif. - William Jessup University will honor four esteemed alumni who are excelling in their respective fields of endeavor at its annual Jessup Gala
California Fire Update Summary (8-28-15)California Fire Updates 2015: A Red Flag Warning has been issued for Saturday from the Lake Tahoe region south through Mono County for high winds, increasing fire danger
Hacker Lab Jumpstarts Pursuit of Virtual RealityROCKLIN, CA--When three Sierra College students attended the July 24 Virtual Reality meet-up at Hacker Lab in Rocklin, they had no idea it would put them on the fast track
Sierra College Patrons to Meet September 8thRocklin, CA - The Patrons, a volunteer support group of the Sierra College Foundation, invite the public and those interested in becoming members of the organization
Roseville Crime Report Digest Update (8.28.15)Roseville, CA - Weekly crime report update digest summary for Roseville, August 28, 2015.
California Water Use Drops over 31 Percent in JulyDrought Watch: Despite continued hot conditions, Californians surpassed June's conservation rate and reduced water use by 31.3 percent during July, exceeding Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.'s 25 percent
California Fire Update Summary (8-27-15)California Fire Updates 2015:Over 9,000 firefighters are battling 16 active wildfires across California. Warmer weather over the past couple of days has hampered containment efforts
NEWS: In Case You Missed It