The Incredible Shrinking Barnes & Noble

“The Incredible Shrinking Barnes & Noble.” This was the LA Times‘ blog post yesterday. I like it and I have stolen it. It speaks volumes to the future of the mall. Entertainment centers for browsing shoppers are shutting down.

Barnes & Noble sees 30% fewer stores in the next decade. The bookseller had 726 stores in 2008, 689 stores in 2012 and in 10 years this will drop to 450? Perhaps this is optimistic? The certainty is that there will be much shuttering.

Barnes & Noble’s projected closings and Target’s  new price-matching policy are all signs of retail in distress. The trend toward mobile shopping is likely to have a lasting impact on the retail landscape.

The physical bookstore could become a thing of the past.

With the mobile consumer in mind, a yoga studio could sell books about spirituality and enable customers to tap their phones to order a physical or digital book in a context-rich environment. The same is true for a doctor’s office, a movie theatre and other locations.

Barnes & Noble executives are undoubtedly aware – as Borders executives before them – that the 2010s are eerily reminiscent of the music industry in the 2000s. Books, reading, and commerce behaviour has changed.

The relationship between shopper and store has changed.

Does this mean good riddance to bookstores, publishers, agents? Perhaps there is a new, more efficient order in town? Perhaps a new, streamlined business model would be both good for consumers and good for the industry long term?

Unquestionably the market and mall is primed for new disruptive models. Amazon coming in with Apple-like book genius bars? New purchase, delivery and consumption models that live between the store and the Amazon cloud?

Stay tuned!


Amazon & The End of The Book (NOOK)

By Gary Schwartz

With the supposed separation of the Nook digital books business from Barnes & Noble, expected company losses and lowered guidance for fiscal 2012, the bookseller’s stock fell dramatically last week. The Nook tablet and ereader was the poster child of Barnes & Noble’s in-store growth strategy, but now that approach is in play.

Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble’s nemesis, Amazon, is doling out cash to authors who make their ebooks available exclusively on Kindle for 90 days.

Kindle Direct Publishing – KDP for those in the know – has put aside at least $6 million in 2012. Books can be “borrowed” for free and authors receive royalty payment based on the popularity of their title. This may be one more step towards the end of the bookshelf as we know it.

While Amazon erodes the viability of the physical store, the Amazon storefront is fast becoming  confusing to navigate, and it is a slippery slope for authors.

If we let the age-old publishing process that allows a book to percolate, sometimes arduously, from manuscript to agent to editor to published work to fade away, who will curate our content? Can the publisher and bookstore forge a new role in the value chain?


News: First NFC-Enabled Book (LATimes)


Atria is publishing its first book to be equipped with a smart chip, the publisher announced Friday. Tapping the RFID-enabled sticker with an NFC-enabled smartphone will bring up a website with additional materials for the book. The debut smart book is “The Impulse Economy: Understanding Mobile Shoppers and What Makes Them Buy” by Gary Schwartz. Appropriate.

The smart book allows the physical book to become interactive for both the book buyer and the book browser, Judith Curr, Atria’s executive vice president and publisher, said in a statement. “The reader can tap to rich interactive content on their phone. The goal is to engage the consumer and start a permission-based two-way relationship that may lead to the sale of this book or further sales in this category of interest.”

The interesting thing about this take is that it seems to be a way for the publisher to try to sell the potential book-buyer on the book using interactive content. This buyer is someone who is browsing in a bookstore, sees the book and taps the sticker on the book without being obliged to purchase it. Now there is additional online marketing pizzazz convincing them to buy the book.

I guess this makes me old-fashioned: the way I decide to buy a book in a bookstore is to pick it up and look inside.

Would it be possible for a book with a smart chip that adds enhanced content, rather than marketing? How could it be packaged if the book is sitting there on the shelf, easy to flip through?

It will be a while before I find out. NFC-enabled phones use Near Field Communication to communicate with radio frequencies at short range and are often used for purchasing. Android phones can be NFC-enabled; iPhones cannot.