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 HeadlinesDevon Bell Sworn In as Placer County SheriffAuburn, CA - Today, Devon Bell was sworn in as Placer County's newest sheriff. Bell, 49, replaces longtime Sheriff Ed Bonner, who just retired mid-term. Bell will serve out Bonner's
Corky's Corner: ESP EII ST2 ReviewedRoseville, CA- Let's start off by saying when I opened up the case I was shocked by the killer flame maple top and color of this ESP guitar
7 Things You Can Do Today to Reduce Anxiety and Increase JoyRoseville, CA- Are you experiencing higher levels of stress or anxiety lately? You can approach your stress/anxiety with your mind, body, spirit, and emotional health in mind.
Volkswagen Jetta more simplified for 2017Roseville, CA- The diversity that was the calling card of the Volkswagen Jetta for many years has been diluted a bit in the wake of last year's emissions-cheating scandal.
10 Lowest Gas Prices in RosevilleRoseville, CA- If you closely follow gas prices in Roseville or regularly read this weekly column, you realize the low gas price leaderboard is often comprised
Suspect Arrested in Connection with CHP Officer's DeathCHP Valley Division officers arrested Alberto Quiroz, 26, of Sacramento in connection with the death of CHP Officer Lucas Chellew
2017 Audi FIS Ski World Cup at Squaw Valley[Olympic Valley, Calif.] - The 2017 Audi FIS Ski World Cup at Squaw Valley will mark the return of World Cup ski racing to the area after nearly 50 years,
Autism Grant Aims at Helping Schools and ClinicsAubyn Stahmer, director of community-based treatment research at the UC Davis MIND Institute, has received a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health
Mom Serves Dementia ResidentsLast week, I introduced you to Tish and Joe Griffin, mother and son, of Destin, Florida.
Rocklin Burglary Suspect Killed by PoliceRocklin, CA- This morning February 25th, 2017 at 10:01 AM, The Rocklin Police Department responded to a residential burglary in progress on the 4900 block of Bradford Place
Roseville Police Activity Weekly Update (2.23.17)The City of Roseville police activity weekly update for the period covering February 17-23, 2017
Fine Forgiveness at Sacramento Public LibrarySacramento Public Library is waiving all overdue book and material fines through Wednesday, March 15 as part of its new Fine Forgiveness promotion
NEWS: In Case You Missed It