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Saturday, June 27, 2020

Barnes & Noble in freefall

It's not looking great for the mainstream literary and comics publishers either:
Barnes & Noble has laid off many of its buyers and plans to reconfigure its buying approach in the Waterstones' style, which shifted to a more centralized model last year, Shelf Awareness has learned. Other headquarters staff and "some" store employees have apparently also been let go.

The B&N buyers, many or all of whom have been furloughed since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., include such longtime employees as literary fiction buyer Sessalee Hensley, who had been with B&N about 35 years; SF/fantasy and graphics novel buyer James Killen, who had been with B&N 41 years; buyer David Garber, a 25-year veteran; and Lisa Echenthal, a 28-year veteran.
This, of course, is almost certainly good for us, since our books are barely carried by the mainstream. As Amazon takes control of mainstream publishing, more and more people are going to opt out of their feeding trough model.

35 comments:

  1. B&N deserves to go down. I stopped going there after they hosted a drag queen story hour.

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    1. Good plan. I stopped going to Mile High Comics for the same reason.

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  2. Disappointing to see B&N go under.

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  3. 4GW positioning will seeve you well. Publishing is trying to fight 3Gen with 2nd Gen systems.

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  4. Of course, you will go from having a handful of gatekeeper competitors to having, mostly, a mongo one which is at least as converged and four times as criminally and legally ruthless as the rest combined.

    Goliath took it rather well, though. Go for the nuts first. Though, figuratively. Not sure this particular weasel has a pair. Picking a grandma for sneaky? Bleh.

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  5. I bought my Kindle over 6 years ago, and have been in a B&N less than 10 times since then. The last time I was in one was probably 4 years ago.

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  6. so much is going to amazon

    centralization + global corporatism + mercenary's

    sounds like a scary outcome if they can keep competent people on and resist convergence

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  7. The writing was on the wall for B&N once they were acquired by Elliott Management in 2019. I expect bankruptcy and liquidation by the end of 2021 as COVID has accelerated the decline.

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  8. sounds like a scary outcome if [Amazon] can keep competent people on and resist convergence

    The other day I was talking to clients who decided to host their servers on Amazon's cloud. I said it should be a good choice as long as Amazon doesn't crash. They laughed because they thought I was joking.

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  9. Haven't been to B&N in a while, but it's an easy bet that as soon as you walk in you're assaulted with walls of "Why White People Are The Worst" books everywhere you look. Screw 'em.


    with B&N about 35 years, with B&N 41 years, a 25-year veteran, a 28-year veteran

    All to be replaced by one pink-haired 22yo liberal arts grad intern.


    Has book printing been off-shored too? I've never really thought to check.

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  10. Maybe it's just me, but I still miss B. Dalton and browsing real books rather than images

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    1. I have lots of fond memories of B Dalton in the early 80s in high school, still discovering all the great SF of the previous 30 years. Didn't hurt a McDonalds and Alladins Castle game arcade were nearby too. If course that was well before mall largely taken over by joggers.

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  11. During a brief period a frequented this store, because it allowed me to sit and consume its product for free at my leisure. Then I switched to libraries, which eliminated the Starbucks smell and Michael Bublè noises.

    Not that public libraries have a great selection. University ones a bit better. However, once I dove into used Amazon books and free online books, there was no call to enter a Barnes and Noble again.

    Especially considering 90% of the stores are hipster toys, overpriced electronics, self-help, Manga, and Supernatural Teen Romance.

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  12. Barnes and Noble storefronts still exist for essentially one reason only: the "Propaganda Table" of topical socialist tripe set up just inside the entryway. (They sit there for a few months, then go to the libraries, where the taxpayers are billed for a dozen copies apiece each that are never read.)

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  13. >> Of course, you will go from having a handful of gatekeeper competitors to having, mostly, a mongo one which is at least as converged and four times as criminally and legally ruthless as the rest combined.

    Which gives it monopoly status, and many shenanigans that are legal as even a major player in an oligopoly are absolutely off-limits to a monopolist.

    This will make Amazon a legal target that's impossible to miss.

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  14. That a once-grossing $6b annual revenue company relied on a single person to define taste preferences for its primary sales products for 35 years, the latter half of which has been in freefalling decline is insanity.

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  15. Consolidate the market into Amazon, then break up Amazon to free up the market. Market is as accessible as before but without the big players of the past. Most of the good books are public domain so I don't think there's much risk in this strategy.

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  16. Alkulkis,

    Fair and strong move. My block is that it is looking more and more like bureaucrats, politicians, federal and state departments, businesses big and small, even the courts, and else, are throwing in with monopolies. It makes their jobs much easier. No more herding cats, not with "food" only available through a cheesy insecure corridor.

    I'm saying, without a serious fight, this turkey is roasted. Could be wrong. Not what all and else suggests to my eyes. Temporary, for the virus? Nah. The virus, whatever else, is just a convenient excuse to reset to whatever they are trying next. Failure had to happen.

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  17. With Amazon likely to control the majority of retail within the next two years, it will not just be books they will be banning, but consumers. If your social credit score is not good enough, you will be declined service. It's coming. You know it. "US corporations like Visa have started to create their own version of China's "social credit score" metric in the US". https://www.zerohedge.com/political/gab-ceo-warns-visa-helping-bring-chinas-social-credit-score-america

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  18. I purchased both Right Ho, Jeeves and Alt*Hero Vol. 1 through B&N/

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  19. Maybe all those laid off B&N people can learn to code. They should have no trouble finding books on the subject, after all.

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  20. >>>>The writing was on the wall for B&N once they were acquired by Elliott Management in 2019. I expect bankruptcy and liquidation by the end of 2021 as COVID has accelerated the decline

    I think the college books division is still held private, so they'll survive a collapse of the retail side. Of course colleges are taking a hard hit of late too.

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  21. >>That a once-grossing $6b annual revenue company relied on a single person to define taste preferences for its primary sales products for 35 years, the latter half of which has been in freefalling decline is insanity.

    I managed stores for them around 10 years, long ago during the transition from books to crap. They brought on all the operations management from the then-current Kmart collapse and it showed right down to staff hiring and service. They were solidly about books and hired book people before. One of the unfortunate choices was the back catalog vanished from the shelves a few years after to make room for more toys and games and vapid displays.

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  22. It's been nearly a decade since Borders went under, and I've always expected B&N to follow. I use to enjoy hanging out at Borders coffee section Browsing what was usually computer books. There was even three or four master level chess players who showed up to play speed chess once a week. They didn't have Starbucks, but another brand (Seatle's Best -- an alternate Starbucks), which I liked much more. The employees at that store were very friendly. I stopped by on their last day to say goodbye to a couple of employees that I'd seen for years.

    I never felt that way at the local B&N.

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  23. I had a great aunt that had a bookstore. Barnes & Noble built one of the meg-stores two blocks away from her store that she had operated for over 30 years. B&N would sell books cheaper than she could buy them. They ran her out of business.

    A better business model has come along and is running B&N out of business. Too bad it is a company that has taken the book "1984" as a business plan.

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  24. Akulkis wrote:Which gives it monopoly status, and many shenanigans that are legal as even a major player in an oligopoly are absolutely off-limits to a monopolist.

    This will make Amazon a legal target that's impossible to miss.

    That requires a legal system that wants to hit. It remains to be seen whether Trump can make that happen.

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  25. I was perusing the B&N web site and could not believe how 'woke' they were. Every BLM and Lbqqrstuvwxyz book proudly pushed in your face. And, pronouncements of how they were doing all they could to wake up America!

    Well good for them. I hope they steep dive faster.

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  26. tsquared wrote:had a great aunt that had a bookstore. ... B&N would sell books cheaper than she could buy them. They ran her out of business.
    A used book store can probably still make it. Coffee and pastries or waffle cones and used books would be a winning combo.

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  27. 23. urthshu June 28, 2020 9:06 AM
    They brought on all the operations management from the then-current Kmart collapse and it showed right down to staff hiring and service.


    it is absolutely baffling to me, how many "executives" and "marketing" people can continue to be employed or hired due to their prior experience
    ...
    without any regard to how much of that prior "experience" has been abject failure.

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  28. If it fold's, I can't say I'll miss em. I haven't bought from Barnes & Noble in many years.

    But when I did, even the common employee's at our local store seemed 100% twisted. When I heard Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box was available, I went up there to buy the thing. At the register I was warned by the cashier that I was buying a book of "creationist propaganda" (his words). It cracked me up at the time. Looking back on it, what an idiot for an employee. The whole company is fruit.

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  29. If it's anything like "Indigo / Chapters" in Canada, then I can see why it's doomed. 1/3 the stores are games / climate propaganda for children, 1/3 is giftie garbage, blankets, soap, hot chocolate mug sets, candles.

    Most of the 'books' they sell are the feminist garbage hardcovers you see up at the front, all marked down to $5 - $7. If there's a profit margin on them it's ultra-thin. My guess is they need the cover, so they can say they sell them. Snobby liberal bitches like to sound smart to one another, and you can't impress anyone by saying you went to a bloodbath & beyond with a starbucks attached.

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  30. >>without any regard to how much of that prior "experience" has been abject failure.

    At the time a good deal of it was attributed to the movie Rain Man.

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  31. I am not sorry they are dying.

    Now, if they had a wine tasting center in their stores instead of coffee shops maybe I would feel different.

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  32. >>Most of the 'books' they sell are the feminist garbage hardcovers you see up at the front, all marked down to $5 - $7. If there's a profit margin on them it's ultra-thin

    Remainders and hurt books. Profits are actually good for those but it's part of the downfall of book oriented bookstores. I've got a lot of thoughts on it but not my blog and it's all history at this point.

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  33. Some happy winters in my childhood were spent in bookstores.

    B&N killed them. Then Kindle killed them.

    This weekend, I took my kids to a great used book store here. Loved it. All the old stories from my youth there.
    However, I was the ONLY male there. Dead Tree Books are totally converged.

    I feel a bit like Cato. Old enough to remember a civilization that is now dead.

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