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Barnes and Noble Bookstore Chain Put In Play

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the more-clicks-less-bricks dept.

Businesses 414

suraj.sun sends in word that the country's largest bookstore chain, Barnes and Noble, will put itself up for sale. "The news surprised analysts and alarmed publishers, who have watched as the book business has increasingly shifted to online retailers and e-book sales, leaving both chains and independent sellers struggling. ... For years, Barnes & Noble has been battered by large shifts in the publishing industry and the retail environment. Book sales have moved toward big-box stores like Costco, Wal-Mart and Target, and away from mall-based stores like B. Dalton, which Barnes & Noble acquired in the late 1980s. 'There's been a long series of pressures,' said David Schick, managing director at Stifel Nicolaus in Baltimore. 'The market has not been kind to bookstores, and it's for new reasons like competition with Apple and Amazon, and it's for old reasons, like what we believe has been a decline in reading for the last 20 years. Americans have devoted less of what we call media time to books.'"

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Let me tell you... (4, Interesting)

brouski (827510) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136220)

I sure feel great about my Nook purchase this week.

Re:Let me tell you... (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136234)

Funny you mention it. I was considering the Nook too. Although it is nice that you can load Border's app to it from what I've read.

Re:Let me tell you... (1)

jaymz666 (34050) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136448)

have you been inside a borders lately? They look like they have been barely scraping by for years...

Re:Let me tell you... (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136636)

The Borders in my area seem to be doing rather well.

Re:Let me tell you... (1)

ProppaT (557551) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136682)

If you consider people coming in to drink coffee and read books and magazines in store without purchasing, they've been doing FANTASTIC!

Re:Let me tell you... (3, Informative)

east coast (590680) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136838)

Sorry but you don't know this store, obviously. While there are a number of the coffee house crowd it normally does have a flow to the checkout line as well.

Re:Let me tell you... (2, Interesting)

jaymz666 (34050) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136708)

really? They don't have big gaping holes in their floorplan from where all the DVDs and CDs used to be from their huge back collections?

All of the Borders in my area stripped most of their DVDs and CDs out a few years ago, and haven't replaced the floorspace with anything else.

Re:Let me tell you... (2, Interesting)

east coast (590680) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136786)

They have replaced most of that space. Yes. It's an active store with a BN located about 6 miles away.

Re:Let me tell you... (5, Interesting)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136968)

I've not been to a Borders in years, but I've never even got the point of the DVD/CD section in the local bookstores here (which in this area are typically B&N and Books-a-million). They rarely have stuff that other places like Best Buy don't, and the prices are ridiculous. Boxed sets that are $30 at a regular store will be $65 in Barnes and Noble. Sure, they'll sometimes run a sale, and they have those "membership" cards to give some discounts, but even after you factor in all that stuff you're still typically paying more.

Reality check to them: you're never going to get by selling the same thing everybody else does for double the price because it's in a trendy setting. Bookstores excel in one area: having the books that aren't necessarily the latest teen craze. I'm not exactly going to find a copy of Dandelion Wine down at Wal-mart, but I can at B&N.

Stock those hard to find books, and for goodness sakes sort them in same sane fashion(sorting by category can be confusing - sometimes science fiction novels end up in "Literature" instead of the "Science Fiction/Fantasy" section for example). Put in a terminal that allows customers to look up what books you have in stock and show what shelf it's located on.

And if they really wanted to pull in some extra customers - run a free e-book special for purchases in the brick and mortar store. I can imagine a lot more people buying there if Barnes and Noble had a code included with the books sold in their store that allowed you a free e-book copy of the work for your Nook - only for books purchased in the physical store (and naturally using that "no value until activated at the register" scheme so that people couldn't copy the codes out of the books).

Re:Let me tell you... (3, Informative)

RadioElectric (1060098) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136742)

The UK subsidiary went out of business in December last year - all the staff lost their jobs on Christmas Eve.

Funny you say that... (1)

withears (881576) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136912)

I used to own Borders stock and sold it about 5 years ago. We go to a lot of bookstores and just yesterday I started reconsidering buying stock in Borders again. All of the stores I've visited lately (Florida, Washington DC, and North Carolina) have been really busy and a lot of people purchasing.

Re:Let me tell you... (4, Informative)

jockeys (753885) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136678)

I'm in the same boat as you, but I bought the nook with no intention of ever buying ebooks from B&N so I'm not really too upset about it. There are many places to get ebooks. Also, if you haven't tried Calibre to manage your library, you owe it to yourself to try it out.

Re:Let me tell you... (5, Interesting)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136784)

I sure feel great about my Nook purchase this week.

I bought a nook for Christmas this year. Part of my thought process was how useful will the device be if the parent company goes out of business.

The nook has wi-fi, so I don't need to rely on the 3G working. The nook has a user-replaceable battery. It reads open formats like PDF and ebup natively, so I don't need to rely on the B&N storefront to buy my books. The nook runs Android, and is relatively easy to jailbreak, so I don't have to rely on B&N for software updates.

So, I figure that the nook is still going to be a handy device even if B&N goes out of business.

Re: Let me tell you... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136990)

I bought a nook for Christmas this year.

Wow... you really do your Christmas shopping early.

Re:Let me tell you... (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137002)

I bought one too and I'm not worried. B&N will not fold, its too valuable of a brand. Most likely someone like Amazon buys it and supports the nook. If it truly gets abandoned a lot of people won't even notice. I have yet to buy a book from B&N. I just buy the cheapest epub book I can find. Unlike the Kindle, I'm not locked into one vendor. Oh and my library supports lending books straight to my Nook.

Again they miss the point... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136222)

who have watched as the book business has increasingly shifted to online retailers and e-book sales, leaving both chains and independent sellers struggling.

Yeah, because piracy hasn't hurt it any. Riiiight.

Re:Again they miss the point... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136266)

Piracy hasn't done a damn thing, it's just not en vogue for Americans to read. Because they're fat and stupid, you see.

I can say that because I'm an American.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Again they miss the point... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136392)

Think again. I just pirated about 150 USD worth of books just last night that I would have paid for it wasn't for IsoHunt. Sorry if it bursts your bubble but I'm being honest about it. No price can beat free.

Re:Again they miss the point... (1, Troll)

chill (34294) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136452)

But honestly, if it wasn't for IsoHunt, would you have really spent the $150 or just done without? You acquired them because they were free and easy. If you *had* to pay, odds are you would have either gotten fewer or none at all.

Re:Again they miss the point... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136490)

Textbooks don't count, I pirate the fuck out of those. Two-hundred bucks for the chain rule? Hah! Greedy motherfuckers.

--Ethanol-fueled

I still enjoy reading a good physcal book(store) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136238)

over a pdf and whatnot on a ipad, kindle and the like... more comfortable near a pool too. There something about entering a book store. At least for me.

Re:I still enjoy reading a good physcal book(store (4, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136276)

I've always sworn that I'd never become the old fart who's confused in the world of modern technology, but I really miss being able to walk into a record store and flip through the endless racks of LPs or CDs. I suppose I'm going to miss book stores too, when that day comes not too long from now.

Re:I still enjoy reading a good physcal book(store (2, Interesting)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136394)

I think that there will be book stores around even in the future, but they need to be more specialized.

There is a difference between a book and an e-reader. If the book breaks it's still mostly readable, and it requires no power to be read.

Considering the amount of crappy channels on TV these days I'm amazed that not more people are reading books, but they are probably surfing the web instead.

Re:I still enjoy reading a good physcal book(store (1)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136802)

The people who watch those crappy channels are probably not reading much beyond weekly updates of the antics of Jordan and Peter Andre.

Specialisation and giving good advice count for a lot. I picked-up quite a few interesting books in a UK bookshop after a brief chat with one of the staff who had actually read some of the books and could offer a decent comparison between them. I suppose though that many people will go online these days when looking for book suggestions, and it's kind of difficult for a bookshop to retain staff who'd have broad enough interests to offer meaningful advice on the many areas. The guy who is well-read on his Christopher Hitchens is probably not going to be much in to Jordan's literature and angel-assisted healing shite.

Re:I still enjoy reading a good physcal book(store (2, Interesting)

DallasMay (1330587) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136632)

Another thing is that B&N is the class A example of the "Big Guy that Crushes the little guy". This is the company that the movie "You Got Mail" was based on. Why are we sad to see it go again?

Re:I still enjoy reading a good physcal book(store (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136776)

If anyone at B&N had even the vaguest inkling of a clue, the "little guy" (Amazon) would have never even existed in the first place.

Mods on crack (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136758)

Parent was modded "Funny"?

WTF?

It's incredibly insightful is what it is. Personally, I'm not much of a book-browser. I've always found books to be too expensive for impulse buying. But the thing that I'm really going to miss about bookstores is the magazine rack. Magazines pretty much *must* be browsed because they rotate out every month.

I actually subscribed to Photo District News last week because the bookstore where I used to drop by and pick up a copy 2 or 3 times a year has recently closed. Now I'll get the next 24 issues which is more than an ex-photographer like me needs. Still, no place to browse means no place to pick up random goodness.

Criminy, I would have never discovered things like Utne Reader and a bunch of other weird little magazines if I hadn't had a bookstore to browse.

And just to head off the obvious, yes, I know there are such things as newsstands. In my part of the world, as real bookstores become quite rare, bookstores still outnumber reasonably sizable newsstands by 25-to-1.

Re:I still enjoy reading a good physcal book(store (2, Insightful)

foobsr (693224) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136904)

I've always sworn that I'd never become the old fart who's confused in the world of modern technology, ...

It is neither you nor 'modern technology', it is the majority which is confused, e.g. believing to be able to 'multitask' with the help of friendly gadgetry while at the same time unable to read (and comprehend) simple texts (see post above) or to add one-digit nuimbers (as mentioned in some other post yesterday).

CC.

We live in a multimedia word (4, Informative)

ClaraBow (212734) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136258)

It is extremely hard for our kids to even have an opportunity to learn to love books! They are exposed to so many competing media at such an early age that books get relegated to schools as something they use. I teach and every year it gets harder and harder to get kids to read the simplest of texts. It is very sad as books offer a very personal relationship and intimate relationship with characters that no other medium can provide.

Re:We live in a multimedia word (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136320)

It is very sad as books offer a very personal relationship and intimate relationship with characters that no other medium can provide.

Wrong. How do books provide a more personal relationship than an electronic device like an iPad or even cellphone? Words are powerful whether they be on a computer screen or on paper. Sure, it's a different method of consumption but it's the same words.

The big debate here should be over the fact that iPad-type devices don't give you the same rights a physical book do so either the price should be drastically cheaper or those rights should be instituted.

Re:We live in a multimedia word (3, Insightful)

ClaraBow (212734) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136408)

I wasn't distinguishing between physical and electronic books. It is the act of reading that is personal and intimate, irregardless of whether the text is printed on paper or delivered electronically.

Re:We live in a multimedia word (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136450)

irregardless

You're not actually a big reader, are you?

Re:We live in a multimedia word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136480)

tl;dr

Re:We live in a multimedia word (0, Offtopic)

ClaraBow (212734) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136634)

I do know that "irregardless" is used chiefly in nonstandard speech or casual writing and I was using it as such! I happen to like the word irregardless even though it hasn't been blessed by the word gods yet! Language is a living, breathing entity and it is continuously changing!

Re:We live in a multimedia word (2, Informative)

RadioElectric (1060098) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136768)

... except it means exactly the same thing as "regardless", it's just a corruption. Same as "flammable" is to "inflammable".

Re:We live in a multimedia word (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136894)

Fucking grammar/language nazis. Take a long walk off a short pier. Languages are living, and no one but you uptight assholes really give a flying fuck. Quit being so fucking pedantic, it DOES NOT MAKE YOU LOOK SMART.

This message has not been proofread, if there are errors I dont care.

Re:We live in a multimedia word (1)

ClaraBow (212734) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137010)

I'm aware that "regardless" and "irregardless" means the same. I grew up hearing the word irregardless a lot so it has stuck with me. I will be more careful in the future ;)

Re:We live in a multimedia word (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136876)

I do know that "irregardless" is used chiefly in nonstandard speech or casual writing and I was using it as such! I happen to like the word irregardless even though it hasn't been blessed by the word gods yet! Language is a living, breathing entity and it is continuously changing!

tl;dr version: it's a perfectly cromulent word.

Re:We live in a multimedia word (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136444)

It is very sad as books offer a very personal relationship and intimate relationship with characters that no other medium can provide.

Wrong. How do books provide a more personal relationship than an electronic device like an iPad or even cellphone? Words are powerful whether they be on a computer screen or on paper. Sure, it's a different method of consumption but it's the same words.

The big debate here should be over the fact that iPad-type devices don't give you the same rights a physical book do so either the price should be drastically cheaper or those rights should be instituted.

Whatever it is, am on my 7th book on kindle ipad version and it DOES NOT feel the same way an old worn paperback does in finding the attachment to the characters.

Maybe another century of human conditioning with electronic books change this. But for now i still prefer my book case as a matter of preference.

-S

Re:We live in a multimedia word (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136396)

We have a PS3, an xbox 360 and a Wii, plus a PSP and an NDS. We have several hundred DVDs and blu-ray titles, plus on demand FiOS, several computers around the house and netflix. Our two kids spend more time in books than on all those combined. Don't blame the options available, blame the parents.

Re:We live in a multimedia word (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136940)

I have this running joke that the only toy my kids will ever have is a block of wood. People always laugh when they hear me say it but I'm half serious. I want my kids to develop an imagination and be able to rely on it when the power goes out, when we're taking a trip in the car or when everything on TV sucks.

Anyway, I want to commend you on raising your kids to value books so much and I hope to do the same for mine.

Re:We live in a multimedia word (5, Insightful)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136412)

If your parents read to you, more chance you'll grow up liking books & reading.

Re:We live in a multimedia word (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136694)

Also getting them books they enjoy. Something I see far too much, particularly from schools, is this emphasis on "classics." They want kids to read "good" literature and thus try to cram stuff they don't like at them. This very much leads to a books = boring kind of mentality. Let kids read what they want to read, even if you don't consider it to have literary value. I'm not saying don't offer them classic books, but if they don't want them leave it alone.

For that matter, maybe what they are reading now will be classic some day. More than a couple of the "great" books we were made to read in school really weren't in my opinion. Wuthering Heights is basically a trash romance novel, it just happens to be an OLD trash romance novel and one that people latched on to as being "classic" for that reason.

Re:We live in a multimedia word (1)

iotaborg (167569) | more than 4 years ago | (#33137016)

You hit the nail on the head, at least for me. I didn't read a book I actually liked until I was 12 or so, but that was far too late to get me really into books. I only read a book or two a year at my current rate.

A sad day (3, Insightful)

lostros (260405) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136294)

I know that i will certainly miss the ability to wander through a bookstore and pick up authors or titles I might not have otherwise. I love brick and mortor stores and I for one am not ready to see them go.

Re:A sad day (2, Interesting)

muridae (966931) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136972)

I know that i will certainly miss the ability to wander through a bookstore and pick up authors or titles I might not have otherwise.

If by that you mean the limited selection that happens to be on the shelves. I love brick and mortar book stores, but the B&Ns in driving distance are horrible. If the book is not part of some reading club book of the month, or by an author that was featured on one of those lists, or it is not a major seller, they do not have it. The staff is always happy to order it for me and have it shipped directly to my house, but they can't look up a price on it to let me know how much that will cost. I know books are not impulse buys for everyone, but it seems that these stores would rather store an entire shelf of Marilyn Monroe photo essays (the same one) than stock a few non-book-club titles.

It is almost insulting, to me, to have the staff at such a store suggest that I could buy the book online. If I wanted to do that, as many other posters have pointed out, there are places with better prices on both the books and shipping.

Maybe if they charged sane prices (5, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136298)

Last time I went into a B&N store I was looking for something to read on an intercontiental flight, I found something but a quick check on amazon.com(not even bothering to look for anything that may even be cheaper) they had about a 50% markup and thats not even including the sales tax(shipping from Amazon was free). Now I understand having to pay a couple of bucks more for the convenience of walking out of the store with the book, but 50% is just insane. Their online store isn't much better, 95+% of the time they are considerably more expensive than amazon. They aren't dying solely because of factors outside of their control, they are dying because they feel entitled to margins that the more successful players in the industry have known to be unreasonable for a long while.

Re:Maybe if they charged sane prices (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136430)

They aren't dying solely because of factors outside of their control, they are dying because they feel entitled to margins that the more successful players in the industry have known to be unreasonable for a long while.

Well, I think more accurately what happens is what you're describing is factors outside of their control.

I don't think they need those margins because they feel 'entitled' to them, so much as Amazon has been able to rely on its sheet size to work on smaller margins. B&N is now simply being squeezed out so badly, they they can't compete.

For them to sell at the same price as Amazon, they'd likely have to do it at an even greater loss -- which will squeeze them dry even faster.

Amazon has truly been able to exploit Economies of scale [wikipedia.org] , and B&N has not. With fewer people buying books overall, and Amazon being able to sell a much larger volume at a lower price, B&N has been squeezed from both ends.

This isn't about entitlement.

Re:Maybe if they charged sane prices (1)

gabebear (251933) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136668)

50%-100% markups aren't just coming from economies of scale...

B&N doesn't have to beat Amazon's prices, but if it's always going to cost me at least 50% more, I can't justify using B&N unless I NEED the book that day. Luckily I live in NYC and pass by Strand every day...

Re:Maybe if they charged sane prices (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136878)

50%-100% markups aren't just coming from economies of scale...

It's not just economies of scale, but it is all determined by economic factors.

I remember about a decade ago, people thinking it was absurd that Amazon had a market cap greater than B&N. B&N had stores, and other assets, as well as a place in people's retail habits. Fast forward, and Amazon has become something between a Fed Ex and a Wal Mart. They're huge, they sell a lot more books than anybody else so they can afford to sell each one cheaper, and they don't need to pay for the overhead of running a chain of retail stores.

B&N doesn't have to beat Amazon's prices, but if it's always going to cost me at least 50% more, I can't justify using B&N unless I NEED the book that day.

And, ultimately, that is why B&N is putting themselves up for sale. You can only try to sell the same thing at a higher price than your main competition for so long before eventually it becomes apparent that fewer people are buying from you, and you're making less on each sale.

They can't sell on equal footing with Amazon, because they don't sell like Amazon. It really is a combination of economies of scale, and the relative way their operations are structured.

Now, in 5-10 years when there's almost no bookstores left because they can't compete with Amazon, it will be a sad day. But, the mom and pop bookstore has even less chance of competing with Amazon.

Re:Maybe if they charged sane prices (2, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136516)

If Borders in the UK were anything to go by, "entitled to margins" isn't really the problem. There's every possibility the structure of the entire business is such that they essentially have to charge that much or they'll be making a whacking loss.

An example: Virtually every book these days has a barcode, right? The barcode identifies the book, you can either use an existing database or build your own as you acquire stock. You can then scan your stock as it comes in and again at the checkout as it sells. Very easy, barcode scanners are cheap and the software isn't hard to acquire.

Borders used their own specific barcode labels. Which means every book had to have a separate barcode label which they'd have to pay someone £X/hr to apply, which means they had to manage their own unique barcode database, allocate barcodes - essentially they had added a layer of technology to deal with stock management which was almost entirely unnecessary. That layer would have cost money to set up and operate - money that nobody else was spending.

That's an example of one - fairly obvious, because it's customer-facing - silly thing. IME, it's vanishingly unlikely it was the only silly thing they were doing.

Re:Maybe if they charged sane prices (3, Insightful)

khchung (462899) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136928)

If Borders in the UK were anything to go by, "entitled to margins" isn't really the problem. There's every possibility the structure of the entire business is such that they essentially have to charge that much or they'll be making a whacking loss.

Borders used their own specific barcode labels. Which means every book had to have a separate barcode label which they'd have to pay someone £X/hr to apply, [...]

That's exactly what GP's "entitled to margins" means.

If you are a sane manager, unless you think you are "entitled" to huge margins, you would be changing your business practices so your costs stay within your margin (which should be in line with your competitors')

By keeping their business structured in the way to requires more margin that their competitors, and keeping the high margin on the prices, they are thinking they are "entitled" to such margins, and are in fact slowly killing the company.

Re:Maybe if they charged sane prices (1)

Manip (656104) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136544)

That's just silly. Amazon's typical markup is approx. 10%, a brick and mortar like B&N has a typical markup of around 25%. But keep in mind these are markups on the price the suppliers charge to these companies. If Amazon for example sells 10K of this book, and B&N sell 5K then the initial price is higher. As soon as Amazon got ahead then it is likely to stay ahead and consumer pressure will only re-enforce that.

You claim B&N charges 50% because they feel "entitled" but realistically Amazon has less than 1 staff per 500 orders, compared to maybe 3 staff per 500 orders at a B&N retail store. They also have to pay more in heating, cleaning, lighting, and other silly service costs that are associated with having a public face.

The sales tax issue is funny, or sad. Maybe both. States really deserve what they get if you aren't paying them sales tax when you order out of state.

Re:Maybe if they charged sane prices (4, Insightful)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136610)

That would explain why the Half-Price Books around here are doing great. They are usually the same price as Amazon with a brick and mortar store.

Re:Maybe if they charged sane prices (3, Insightful)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136616)

Amazon works out of a series of large, fairly automated warehouses. This allows them to keep their costs low. B&N, in comparison, has to maintain large storefronts on expensive retail real-estate, staffed by a crew of sales people, managers and maintenance staff. Based on my experience, B&N tends to maintain their stores at a level above that of their competition. B&N's real costs are considerably higher than Amazon's. That markup you speak of is, in part, a reflection of that.

Re:Maybe if they charged sane prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136640)

B&N's biggest problem is that they have brick-and-mortar stores and Amazon doesn't. That means B&N has to pay a lot of rent and staff salaries, benefits, 401k's, health insurance, etc while Amazon just stores books in a big warehouse and has a relatively small crew that runs around packing them into shipping boxes. Much lower overhead. Hence the markup and B&N's inability to cut prices enough to compete. Matching Amazon's prices would send B&N into bankruptcy immediately. I appreciate Jeff Bezo's ability to provide books at a low cost, but if he destroys the bookstore industry in the US I'll curse his name until my dying breath.

Personally, I'd like to think that there will always be bookstores, but that they will become very specialized and cater to niche markets, much like the British bookstores so prevalent in London. I wandered into a military bookstore in the West End near Leicester Square the last time I was there and was just agog. The selection wasn't huge, but the rare editions on hand were just mind-boggling--19th-century editions of all kinds of classics. Wouldn't have surprised to find a first-edition copy of "On War" by Clausewitz in the original German. Were I a wealthier man, I would've dropped a few thousand pounds there, easy. I defy Amazon to match that kind of specialized stock.

Re:Maybe if they charged sane prices (3, Insightful)

cappp (1822388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136818)

That’s because B&N are competing with the likes of Amazon and Costco who can exploit their strengths and easily outcompete. Amazon doesn’t pay sales tax in large portions of the US, maintains a smaller inventory, doesn’t pay for stores, has a tiny staff, and offers a huge range of goods through which to earn money. It doesn’t hurt that they’ve been supported by investors for the who were willing to see consistent annual losses with the hope of eventual stellar profits. Costco stocks a tiny portion of available titles, specifically those targeted at mass the mass audience, and sidesteps the problem of placing anything with questionable star-potential on its shelves.

A little digging [bookfinder.com] suggests that a book selling at its list price will give the retailer approximately 45% profit.

Based on a list price of $27.95
$3.55 - Pre-production - This amount covers editors, graphic designers, and the like
$2.83 - Printing - Ink, glue, paper, etc
$2.00 - Marketing - Book tour, NYT Book Review ad, printing and shipping galleys to journalists
$2.80 - Wholesaler - The take of the middlemen who handle distribution for publishers
$4.19 - Author Royalties - A bestseller like Grisham will net about 15% in royalties, lesser known authors get less. Also the author will be paying a slice of this pie piece to his agent, publicist, etc.
This leaves $12.58, Money magazine calls this the profit margin for the retailer, however when was the last time you saw a bestselling novel sold at its cover price.

Assuming the previous is correct, your local Barnes and Noble has to stretch that money to cover all those incidental costs of running a physical, specialist store – rent, local taxes, utilities, sales taxes, staffing costs, benefits, insurance, stocking cost, inventory and so on. Their prices are a real kick in the pocketbook but I don’t think they’re exactly swimming in profits either. Indeed, a quick look at their wikinvest page [wikinvest.com] reveals that

company-wide operating margin fell from 2.8% to 1.3% in FY2010

. My econ’ tends to be on the weak side, and correct me if I’m wrong, but that means they’re making a profit of approximately 1c on every dollar sold (couldn't find the figure for Amazon but it looks like Apple has an operating margin of 29.1% and Microsoft has 39%).

Re:Maybe if they charged sane prices (1)

duplicate-nickname (87112) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136996)

That still doesn't help the fact that I feel ripped off every time I buy something at B&N. Is that really the experience you want your customers to come away with?

It's the price of books has became obscene... (2, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136304)

Sorry but I stopped buying books at B&N for one reason... Obscene prices. sorry but $69.99 for a book on Python programming is robbery. When I can get the same book on Amazon.com for $29.95.

Or how about the photography books ranging from $49.99 to $129.99 for an Ansel Adams coffee table book... Exact same books on Amazon.com for less than 1/4 the price.

I'm sorry. But I buy almost nothing from them.... Except their clearance books, those are honest pricing. Everything else I buy elsewhere.

Re:It's the price of books has became obscene... (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136330)

You are blaming the store for charging the MSRP - the _MANUFACTURER'S suggested retail price. While I agree that the price of some books are insane but that's hardly B&N's, or any other book store's fault.

Re:It's the price of books has became obscene... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136390)

I don't care if it's Jesus's suggested retail price. If it's less than half the cost somewhere else, it's moronic.

Are you trying to say that stores are required to sell at MSRP? They aren't.

Re:It's the price of books has became obscene... (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136524)

No, they're not required to sell at the suggested price - but they are required to sell at a price that covers their costs and allows them to make a reasonable profit.

Chances are their costs are simply higher than those of Amazon, and they're not able to make the same volumes to pull in the money they need based on higher volume and lower margins.

None of which means you should pay more and buy from them of course; it just means that it's not moronic, it's simply a business model that's failing in the face of an alternative one.

You miss the SUGGESTED part (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136438)

MSRP is just what the manufacturer says someone might like to charge. In some industries, it is a guideline, but in most cases it is deliberately inflated to make stores look good. Pro audio gear loves this. You'll see MSRPs that are double, sometimes more, what you actually pay. It isn't because the store is taking a loss or whatever, it is because the manufacturer has a stupidly high MSRP on purpose to let the stores pretend to give people a great deal.

Book MSRPs are additionally stupid because you'll notice they have a Canadian figure. Ok, but the dollars are just about parity right now and have been for some time. That means books should cost about the same. That higher figure is based on nothing but BS.

So if Amazon can make a profit (and they do make a good profit) charging half of MSRP, then B&N charging full MSRP means they are ripping you off. While stores do have to charge a bit more because of overhead, double is not acceptable.

Look at software. A new game on Amazon might run you $5, about 10%, under what it does at Target. That is what you'd expect. A slight difference.

Re:You miss the SUGGESTED part (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136706)

MSRP is just what the manufacturer says someone might like to charge.

Book stores actually buy their inventory up front, if my days in a book store aren't too hazy from the passage of time. So, a store with an inventory has a fairly big cost invested in the actual books. Someone like Amazon can buy them as they need them and exploit supply chain savings.

So if Amazon can make a profit (and they do make a good profit) charging half of MSRP, then B&N charging full MSRP means they are ripping you off.

No, it means that B&N isn't moving as many units as Amazon, and in order to cover their costs, they need to charge more. If you sell 10x as many books, you can make way less on each book and still make a killing.

Amazon doesn't operate 'brick and mortar' stores. It's a difference in business models, and Amazon is making up thinner margins by selling vastly more books -- and doing it online. B&N has to maintain stores and physical inventories.

It's unfortunate for B&N, and it basically means that Amazon has managed to displace all of the big players by going on-line and selling literally everything. My wife is a regular Amazon shopper, because for price and convenience, she just orders the books and they appear -- usually within a day or so. I can't argue with the economics of buying from Amazon, but I can see the position B&N is in.

Seriously, B&N isn't "ripping you off". The reality of it is, in the last decade or so, Amazon's new business model has completely undercut the business model of a traditional bookseller, and made it too expensive to keep it going. But, the reasons have more to do with economics rather than trying to give you the shaft by charging the MSRP.

I'm afraid you're making some sweeping statements about some aspects of business which you may not fully understand. Specifically, how much B&N needs to charge in comparison to Amazon to cover their costs.

It's not much different from the airline industry -- they've been squeezed to such a thin margin that even if they're charging us all too much damned money, they're still barely making pennies on the dollar, largely for historical reasons.

Re:It's the price of books has became obscene... (1)

galfridus73 (873250) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136464)

The MSRP is rarely the rationale for the brick-and-mortar stores charging the MSRP. The reality is, Amazon can charge much less because it doesn't need much else other than a crew of stockpeople, programmers, and a shipping department. B&N has to pay for multiple people to keep the stores open, even when no customers are around, and keep it nice and tidy, police for shoplifting, pay for people to staff the cafes, etc. It's simple economics. Amazon is going to charge less because it costs them less to stock the book and sell it to you.

Re:It's the price of books has became obscene... (1)

Pahroza (24427) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136492)

Well then, whose fault is it? After all, it's only a "suggested" retail price.

It's up to the bookstore to to get an appropriate contract with the manufacturer/distributor and ensure they're still capable of profitability. They should be working on selling as much product as possible, not raising the cost due to lack of volume.

Re:It's the price of books has became obscene... (1)

gorzek (647352) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136576)

I'm sorry, but only idiots charge MSRP for anything in this day and age.

MSRP? You're kidding, right? (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136666)

MSRP is *suggested*. It's pretty much always inflated. It's a meaningless joke and an often-cruel one, too, in nearly every industry.

These days, charging MSRP for anything is almost always a way to drive away customers.

So, yes, I blame bookstores if they're stupid enough to charge MSRP.

Re:It's the price of books has became obscene... (1)

portforward (313061) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136432)

Yeah, I have to agree with you. The retail prices for new books in general are too high for me. I would love to buy more from Barnes and Nobles because I do like the store, but I just can't bring myself to pay the prices. It seems like my wife is always asking me to go to the used book chain Half Price Books (we have been to two different Half Price Books stores already the past seven days), but she almost never wants to go to B&N because of the prices. My miserliness usually wins out over my enthusiasm, and I find that I can wait for something for a couple of years, and then it will appear at Half Price Books or some other used book place. If I can't wait (which is rare), then I'll go to Amazon. It just doesn't make sense to me to pay $20-30 for something that I know will be available to me for $2-7 in two or three years.

I know that is probably cutting into B&N's bottom line, and probably publishing in general, but I have other ways to part with my scarce resources.

Now that I think about it, I did buy a book from B&N about four weeks ago. It was originally marked at $37, and I paid $5 on clearance. So yeah, I'm a cheapskate.

Re:It's the price of books has became obscene... (-1, Redundant)

Lummoxx (736834) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136470)

I agree.  They don't even try to compete, and I stopped trying to compare prices with Amazon years ago, because B&N was NEVER less expensive.

My company also provides a Books24x7 account now, and everyone in the company has it.  So right there is a few thousand people who have no need to purchase tech books anymore.

Re:It's the price of books has became obscene... (2, Informative)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136538)

sorry but $69.99 for a book on Python programming is robbery. When I can get the same book on Amazon.com for $29.95.

...which also is like robbery, considering that you can find most information on the internet.

Re:It's the price of books has became obscene... (1)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136886)

Depends on your style of working. Personally I use online references a great deal - particularly for sample code, but I do like a printed book. It's quick to reference, and I can take it to the pub with me and fill it up with stickies. I've used Python and Objective-C books on my iPhone, and it was useful for reading, but not quite as easy as a paper book that I can flip through with the knowledge that I know pretty much where everything is found.

Re:It's the price of books has became obscene... (1)

Randle_Revar (229304) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136732)

Bleh, Amazon is the Wal-Mart of bookstores. Some of there low price comes from not having stores, but a lot of it comes from their size allowing them to push around publishers and authors. Cheap and convenient as it is, I have basically given up buying books, or anything else from them. Which reminds me, I should delete my wishlist over there...

Mom and Pop (5, Funny)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136306)

And, with this shift, we will see the resurgence of the mom and pop bookstore that sells new and used books in a loving environment which was previously squeezed out by the mega chains. And I'm fine with that.

Sadly, we'll also see the resurgence of those bookstores with five cats wandering around the store making the place smell like stale cat urine. I'm less fine with that...

An interesting take on why they're failing (5, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136312)

Norman Spinrad has some interesting points [blogspot.com] about how the publishing and book sales businesses operate. They're like the music industry, only a lot worse in how they calculate the acceptable level of risk... even if an author has proved to be a fairly safe bet.

Re:An interesting take on why they're failing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136834)

I read the link, specifically the first half. It was painful. I didn't read his book excerpts he linked,but if that blog post is indicative of how he writes, then there is no way in the world he should ever be published.
.

Sad Day for Print (4, Interesting)

radicalpi (1407259) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136316)

I love reading, unfortunately I don't make enough time for it. I consider myself a very technical and electronic-savvy person. However, I have no intention of purchasing eBooks anytime in the future. There is something about owning a paperback and curling up with it as you flip through the pages. eBooks lack this personal touch. Browsing an online catalog doesn't compare to rummaging through the stacks and perusing a bookstore's inventory. It scares me greatly that we may, within my lifetime reach the point where we see the closure of the last brick and mortar bookstore.

Saw this coming (3, Insightful)

Cereal Box (4286) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136326)

I remember seeing B&N devote a rather substantial amount of space to toys, games, etc. around a year or so ago, figured the writing was on the wall.

Re:Saw this coming (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136664)

What you saw was always there, in the form of a kids "zone". They expanded it or you just noticed it for some reason.

I don't think the writer of the article RTFA (1)

lostros (260405) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136350)

It sounds to me that this is just an internal power struggle for control of the company. Barnes & Noble continues to profit from their stores, and have very good digital sales. It seems that the writer just wanted to do a piece about woe is me, the bookstores are failing, but it doesn't seem they are unprofitable, or planning on closing any stores.

Re:I don't think the writer of the article RTFA (1)

rla3rd (596810) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136560)

I dont either, i think the writer WTFA :).

Pricing hurts. membership requirements too (3, Interesting)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136352)

There is a large free standing B&N up the street from me and a similarly large Borders not far down the road. The B&N has a Starbucks which probably draws a good number of people to the B&N on its own.

While book pricing isn't bad its not great. New releases usually can be found cheaper elsewhere and they lord over you the fact that you can buy into their membership with a low $25 fee to get books at better prices. This is where they lose me, I don't want to be badgered into being a member of their store, let alone pay for the privilege. Throw in the horrendous pricing in their DVD and CD section and suddenly I find myself comparing all prices or desiring to hit the net to see if I can find it cheaper. Membership "rewards" never come across as friendly, let alone one I have to pay for.

While I do laud them for having an atmosphere that encourages spending time there, reading, sipping coffee, and etc, they need to work on their pricing and ditch this pay for membership to get a discount routine. Just ditch the requirement to get a discount on books entirely.

Badgering membership crap (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136570)

There is a large free standing B&N up the street from me and a similarly large Borders not far down the road. The B&N has a Starbucks which probably draws a good number of people to the B&N on its own.

While book pricing isn't bad its not great. New releases usually can be found cheaper elsewhere and they lord over you the fact that you can buy into their membership with a low $25 fee to get books at better prices. This is where they lose me, I don't want to be badgered into being a member of their store, let alone pay for the privilege. Throw in the horrendous pricing in their DVD and CD section and suddenly I find myself comparing all prices or desiring to hit the net to see if I can find it cheaper. Membership "rewards" never come across as friendly, let alone one I have to pay for.

While I do laud them for having an atmosphere that encourages spending time there, reading, sipping coffee, and etc, they need to work on their pricing and ditch this pay for membership to get a discount routine. Just ditch the requirement to get a discount on books entirely.

I can understand why they badger you into memberships. I have a good friend who had her hours cut severely (like from 35+ to way less than 15 per week), causing her to lose her health benefits (badly needed at that) because of a failure to meet an insanely high requirement for new and renewal of memberships.

They badger you because their incomes and benefits hang on it.

What a pity (2, Interesting)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136366)

I have a soft spot in my heart for B&N ever since I dug up an old volume II of a four volume set of some first hand accounts of the U.S. Civil War. They were out of print, and I couldn't find them in any new or used book store I searched at. A few weeks later B&N had them show up on their web-page. Somehow they had gotten some in stock. Now whenever I'm book shopping, I try to pick B&N over their competitors now. I have to admit though, it's a LOT easier to just go to amazon and click on things than go looking for a brick and mortar book store. Also, consistent with the summary, I do spend less time reading than I used to. This is something I've recognized and am trying to change. Of course, I have a lot more money than I did when I was younger, so I can afford to buy things like hardbacks of new titles rather than paperbacks in the bargain bin so I bet I spend more money on books than I ever did.

Egon Spengler Was Right (1)

SplicerNYC (1782242) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136504)

Print is dead.

The last physical media to fall? (3, Interesting)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136506)

About 12 years ago Napster made downloading music easy. We had easy ways to take that downloaded music and integrate it with our existing habits via CD burners. Legal alternatives soon followed. Eventually record shops closed their doors. Not due to piracy but to due to uselessness. Now we have devices like MP3 players and iPods that let us enjoy our downloaded music in a more efficient manner than the old burn-to-CD method.

Thanks to codecs like Divx, movies became downloadable in a semi-reasonable amount of time. Later technologies like Hulu made streaming possible. Rentals stores are taking a beating and stores specializing in selling movies and TV shows have all but disappeared. Originally like CDs, you had to burn your movies to DVDs to watch them on a TV but thanks to HDTV and to set-top boxes, there are more efficient ways to enjoy downloaded TV and movies.

With books there was always a rub: There was no simple way to integrate them with out existing habits. You could print something but it would likely be on single-sided 8.5"x11" paper. You could read it off the screen but that's a lot less comfortable and convenient. With books, we had to wait for the more efficient device in order for electronic distribution to become feasible. I imagine we'll see a very rapid shift now that such devices exist and are becoming affordable. It'll be like the near-overnight industrialization that happens in nations these days compared to the slow, drawn-out process it was when Britain industrialized.

Barnes and Noble is in trouble and they know it. It's a good time to sell.

Re:The last physical media to fall? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136596)

Not due to piracy but to due to uselessness.

Tell that to my nephew who, at the age of 18, has well over 500 albums in his collection of downloads and has never paid a single cent for any of it. Nor has he ever been to a concert in his life. So much for that theory on supporting artists...

Re:The last physical media to fall? (3, Interesting)

jlusk4 (2831) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136760)

There's also print-on-demand. Drop your Kindle in the tub and you're out, what, $175? Drop a paperback in, and you're out $6. Same with whacking insects, trips to the beach, leaving the thing lying in your chair while you move the laundry to the dryer in the laundromat....

not meaning to sound ignorant, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136508)

> suraj.sun sends in word that the country's largest bookstore chain, Barnes and Noble, will put itself up for sale.

uh, which country?

Got Libraries? (1)

DallasMay (1330587) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136574)

'Cause it looks like they might just be useful in the future after all.

Books are too expensive for casual reading (3, Interesting)

grumling (94709) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136600)

The bookstores wanted a lot of repeat business, so they pushed frequent buyer cards and book clubs (like Columbia House records in the '80s). Because they gave a "discount" price to frequent buyers, the publishers were free to jack up the price to keep margins high. When a casual buyer came in to get a book, it was priced at $16-20, which is just on the edge of an impulse buy. This was to push you into signing up for the frequent buyer club (which as others point out, wasn't free at B&N), even though you had no intention of using the card enough to make it pay. You may have bought that $20 book, but you weren't likely to go back either.

As for WalMart and Target, well, they found a niche and filled it. Now the casual buyer has a place to get a book once in a while. The high end book addict will eventually head to e-books. Or maybe sooner than later. I basically haven't bought a book for years, but suddenly I have the Amazon Kindle app on my new phone, which I used to get 3 books on the first day without even giving it a second thought... that's slippery economics. The quality of the screen is just fine for reading, too (Samsung Galaxy-S). The hardcore reader will give up the "paper experience" when they realize they no longer have to trudge down to the store, stand in line, and all the other stuff to get books. And if Amazon keeps beating up the publishers on price for all books, not just the popular ones, we should see a resurgence of reading.

And I don't buy the story that people don't read. They may not read novels, but given that the guest on The Daily Show is an author, and the first step in running for president of the US is to publish a book of some sort, there are readers out there.

I'm sure it really helps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136626)

that Barnes and Noble has a pretty significant "online only" discount on their books. The one book I wanted to buy was 28% off online, but in-store I'd have to pay full price. They wouldn't price match.

c0m (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33136628)

Leafing Through a Book (3, Insightful)

rla3rd (596810) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136676)

The one thing that I will surely miss is being able to leaf through a book before i decide to put down my hard earned cash for it.

This is one thing that keeps me coming back to B&N when purchasing a book. Yes, there are time when I leaf through a book in the store, only then to note the title and then buy it cheaper through Amazon. But there are also times that I will use Amazon's reviews to narrow down my choices, then head out to B&N to leaf through the books before making my final decision, then purchasing it there on the spot.

I end up doing the latter for more expensive books. I'd rather spend the extra money knowing that I'm going to like the book, then send my money to amazon to purchase a book that I may find horrendous.

Book stores of the future will be more like (2, Interesting)

VShael (62735) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136698)

a coffee shop (not Starbucks) where people can sit and browse online catalogues, google books, but mostly talk with other knowledgeable people about books. The communication face-to-face will be much faster (and more civil) than the online discussion forums that Amazon tries to run under each books page.

People will be able to buy their ebooks there, but the place will also have one of those print-on-demand machines, for people who want to print off a hand held copy of a book. Either one bought from the store, or one they've prepared themselves via PDF on a memory stick.

There won't be any physical books in the book stores of the future.

the kindles and ipads of tomorrow (1)

dnaumov (453672) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136722)

will kill traditional paper books for good and I won't miss them. Over the past 15 years or so, I have been reading very few books (maybe 1 book every 3-4 years). Since I got my iPad recently, I have already read 5. The convinience is simply killer. I am sure I can't be the only one.

Love books, but totally gone e-Book (2, Interesting)

SwingMonkey (1420805) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136800)

I love books. I love reading. I'm also the first to admit that a lot of what I read is crap (Science Fiction and Fantasy) but the mileage varies. At last count, since acquiring my iPod touch (with the "Bookshelf" app), followed by and iPhone (with the "Kindle" app) and most recently the iPad (again with "Kindle" - I finally gave in for the larger format) I've read about 300 e-Books in the last 3 years. Yes, it felt a little weird for a while, particularly on the small screen devices, but that didn't take long to get past.Meanwhile the convenience is/was totally addictive! Now I can find pretty much anything I want, anytime I want it. I never get caught short with nothing to read (well, once in a U.S. Embassy that wouldn't allow *any* electronic devices, but that's a different story). The only time I *have* to have a physical book is taking off and landing on airplanes, and hopefully they'll wise up soon, but I don't have to pack a dozen books to take away for a fortnight. Don't get me wrong, I still love reading "real" books, and I still browse bookstores when I get the time - but after having bought (and subsequently given away) something like 2,000 paperbacks over the previous 15years, I mostly only buy hard cover editions of a few authors any more. I'll sometimes be buying the e-Version of stuff while I'm standing at the bookshelf.

I disagree. (1)

Grimbleton (1034446) | more than 4 years ago | (#33136956)

Every time I go to Half Price Books I can barely walk down an aisle they're so busy.

The real culprit is book PRICES are ridiculous

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