Barnes & Noble: scary outlook in declining market

New York Magazine published a very interesting article about Barnes & Noble a while back. The article gives an insight into the thinking and doing at B&N.

Some quotes from the article and facts from other sources:

  • The founder of B&N, Riggio, told a reporter a decade ago “I wake up and say that any business created before 1997 is going to be a fossil by the year 2010.”
  • Yet, the company’s retail people saw Borders as the real competition
  • Investing in technology was minimal “enough to be meaningful but not enough to cannibalize.”
  • Amazon launched in 1995. B&N launched their website in May 1997.
  • B&N debuted an e-book store in 2001. The adventure lasted a couple of years. Apparently there was also an e-reader but I did not find specs online (“too early is as bad as too late”)
  • Amazon launched Kindle in 2007
  • B&N launched Nook in 2009
  • Kindle books sell more than hardcover books in 2010
  • B&N pays about $13 wholesale for a hardcover book that retails for $26. With e-books, margins are far lower—as of now, typically in the neighborhood of $3 or $4.
  • As of July 31, 2010, B&N operates 717 bookstores in 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Barnes & Noble College Booksellers operated 633 college bookstores at colleges and universities across the United States.

I found this a scary recap of what has happened with B&N and the environment it operates in. For sure I hope B&N stores will not have the same faith as the Virgin Megastores (last store closing in NY). To me B&N stores equal a cosy environment in which you can browse and explore in peace or with some coffee topped with knowledgable and friendly employees.

What would you do if you were heading B&N, how would you continue to differentiate?

Update Feb 17: Borders filed for Chapter 11 first!

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