B&N for the loss

If you want to see what a sinking corporate ship looks like, you have to look no further than Barnes & Noble. Unlike the Titanic, there is no band playing on the deck as the ship sinks. Instead, the call for “business as usual — in the 1990’s” has gone out. B&N plans to steam backward into obscurity.

The downward trend was confirmed earlier this month when B&N announced its quarterly revenue declined — yet again — 6.6% with a decline on the Nook side of 28.1%. I gave up counting how many quarters in a row the bookseller posted a decline long ago. Between the revolving door in the boardroom and the revolving door in the CFO’s office, the company faces an uphill battle I’m pretty sure it will lose without a major overhaul of the business and the operating plan. But that isn’t what we see coming from the ivory tower. In fact, far from it.

We got our first indication of that in the conference call between Demos Parneros, B&N’s CFO, and their shareholders. In a word salad address that said nothing new, Parneros said this:

As we look to reinvent our customer value proposition and growth sales, we’re focused on a number of initiatives to increase the value customers derive from shopping at Barnes & Noble. Our value proposition is comprised of membership, convenience, digital offerings and most importantly our stores where customers come to browse, discover, and interact with 26,000 knowledgeable booksellers.

Pricing is a key consideration and over the past few months, we’ve launched a number of price tests tied to our membership program to see which authors resonate best with customers and increase the overall value of the program. Our goals are to increase enrollment, conversion and visit frequency.

Beyond pricing, we’re also focused on growing sales by improving the overall shopping, browsing and discovery experience for better visual merchandizing and signage as well as personalized recommendations. This includes testing changes to existing store layouts and remerchandising certain businesses. We believe there are significant opportunities to manage our inventory better, increasing trends and reduce unproductive merchandize.

As part of our efforts to better understand customers and develop a robust data analytics program, we’ve recently installed customer counters in all our stores and reintroduced mystery shops. We plan to enhance customer engagement and personalization through improved customer insights. And recently we’ve established an analytics team building the foundation for better analytic rigor.

Stores are an integral component of our value proposition and recently we made a few critical hires to oversee our store growth initiatives. Carl Hauch has joined as Vice President of Stores and will oversee the entire retail store organization and profitable growth of the business. Jim Lampassi has also joined the leadership team as Vice President of Real Estate Development and is responsible for developing and executing our real estate strategy. I’m excited to have Carl and Jim join our team.

In addition to the two new test stores we have in the pipeline, we are reviewing our entire portfolio in identifying opportunities to open new stores in new markets as well as opportunities to relocate stores as their leases expire instead of simply vacating markets. Our goal is to position the company for net store expansion.

As noted by The Digital Reader, they are going to sell more stuff. Riiiiight.

But it gets better. In a move that shows just how bad things are for the bookseller, Len Riggio, interim (or should we say perennial) CEO, “assured shareholders that B&N is no longer in the tech business. While the Nook e-reader and e-books will remain a part of the company’s offerings to customers, bricks and mortar stores will be its focus.” He went on to say they only got into the digital market because they felt they had to because of Amazon and Google. In other words, they didn’t have the infrastructure for it, they didn’t spend the money necessary to develop it and, let’s not forget, they colluded with publishers to fix the prices for e-books in an attempt to harm Amazon. But they learned nothing in the process. Instead of making their website more user friendly, instead of working to lower the price of e-books to a level that their customers would buy more product.

So what does this mean for Nook customers? No one knows for sure, but I wouldn’t be buying a new Nook anytime soon. It’s possible another company, perhaps Kobo, would buy the Nook end of the business. Or its possible BN will backtrack yet again. Who the heck knows? All I know for sure is this is the way to keep customers is not to sell them tech and then quit supporting it. What they need to do is look at what the true underlying cause of the company’s decline is. I suggest they start with their CEO. Under Riggio’s leadership, both as CEO and as head of the board, “stock price dropped from over $17 a share (when Riggio sold stock in 2014) to $7.30 a share today”

But that’s not the only idiocy B&N has done of late. I started seeing posts a month or so ago about how it had amended its Terms of Service for those indie authors and small presses using its Nook Press platform. That was done with little to no fanfare. What happened, however, is almost immediately BN started purging erotica titles from its catalog. It sent emails to authors, telling them their accounts had been frozen or, in some cases, deleted. Titles were no longer for sale. All I could think of was when Kobo did that some years ago, especially when I read how non-erotica titles were included in the purge. Note, this only applied to those using the Nook Press platform. Traditionally published books weren’t included. So not only was the bookseller angering authors but it was angering its customers by refusing to apply standards equally across the board. Keep the higher priced books from the side of the industry they want to keep and toss out those evil riff-raff authors who dare go direct to the public, bypassing the gatekeepers.

There is a lot to be concerned about with the new Terms of Service.

Please be advised that submitting or posting any of the following content in your eBook file, cover image or product data may, in the exercise of Barnes & Noble’s sole and unfettered discretion, result in the removal of said content and/or termination of your account. Please be advised that the content listed represent examples only and the following list of content is non-exhaustive. Such content includes but is not limited to: 
 

  • Obscene or Pornographic material: This may include content that graphically portrays sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual arousal and erotic satisfaction.
  • Libellous Material: False defamatory statements that intentionally harm or have the potential to harm an individual or a third party.
  • Infringing Material: Any content to which you do not own the copyright or otherwise control the right to distribute. Additionally, content that may violate any other intellectual property rights, such as trademark and trade dress, and/or content that may infringe upon a party’s proprietary rights, such as the right of privacy or the right of publicity
  • Illegal Content or Other Offensive Material: As we may determine in our sole discretion, content that is illegal, content that violates the laws of any jurisdiction, whether or not we sell in such jurisdiction, or other content we deem offensive in the exercise of our sole discretion including but not limited to works portraying or encouraging incest, rape, bestiality, necrophilia, paedophilia or content that encourages hate or violence.
  • Material Violating Privacy: Any content that violates an individual’s privacy.
  • Advertisements: Content contained within your eBook or other content that primarily seeks to sell a product other than the eBook or content itself.

Product Data 

As stated above, the information that describes your eBook (Product Data) is also subject to our Content Policy. Please note that in addition to the points listed above, Barnes & Noble prohibits the following data points in your Product Data:

  • Hyperlinks of any kind, including email addresses.
  • Request for action (i.e.: “If you like this book, please write me a review.”).
  • Advertisements or promotional material (including author events, seminars etc.).
  • Contact information for the author or publisher.

First, the language is vague and gives total control to BN to decide what is or is not in violation of the ToS. There is no appeals process listed. Now, there bight be elsewhere in all their documentation but it is not listed where it should be. Worse, there are no definitions for what the important terms mean. So it is totally subjective and that means it can and probably will be applied differently depending on who reviews a title.

But it gets better. Note the language on “offensive material”. It can determine content violates the law of other jurisdictions, even those where it doesn’t sell products, and use that as an excuse to delete content. Under this clause, many mysteries, thrillers, and historical fiction could be excluded because it portrays things BN “can” determine is offensive. Welcome to the land of the perpetually butt hurt.

Authors, it gets worse. You can’t include your email address in your product data. You can’t urge readers to post a review at the back of your book. In other words, in your “from the author” or afterword, you can’t say “If you like this book, please consider leaving a review”. You can’t even put in contact information for you or for your publisher.

WTF?!?

Technically, this means if you have your logo and publisher name on your title page, you can’t have the PO Box listed as well. You can’t have it hyperlinked. In other words, they want to make it as difficult as possible for your readers to reach out to you. Now, they say this applies only to your “product data” but the earlier language of the ToS makes it possible for them to apply it to everything about your ebook and to change the terms without reasonable notice.

I’ve gone on too long already but I will admit that this is making me wonder if I should reconsider putting titles into BN. If they don’t want my business, either as an author or as a reader, why should I go out of my way to help them? That’s a question we each have to ask ourselves. B&N might not like our answers.

119 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

119 responses to “B&N for the loss

  1. Aimee Morgan

    Barnes and Noble is still in business?

    • Its hard to tell, even when you walk into one of their stores. Maybe especially if you walk into one of their stores.

      • Its getting harder to find one of their stores. When you do, there’s two girls working in the whole store. One at the cash register, one making the coffee. Neither of them reads books, both of them hate their life and they are not shy about sharing that with you.

        Won’t be long before Chapter 11 announcement.

        Which is a shame, really. I used to love going there, and Borders. I used to buy tons of books there too. Now, no. There’s almost nothing to interest me.

        The parallel with the NFL farce is striking. The NFL is experiencing at warp speed what took 30 years in publishing.

        • Chapter 11? Isn’t that where the second murder occurs and the hero realizes he’s been after the wrong bad guy all along? *ducks*

          • Yeah, it is. Sadly, I think they’re headed for Chapter 7 instead, in which they end it all, and then their creditors get to fight over the last few physical items remaining. Which is probably where our hero finds the clue, in the estate sale, for the chapter 11 that’ll happen to another guy…

            *grins*

      • Oddly enough, the one here (Amarillo) seems to be doing pretty well. The junque has not overwhelmed the books and magazines, it is fully staffed, the staff know a decent amount about product and are helpful, and the place tends to be pretty busy (not just the coffee shop). The prices are still high and the selection isn’t as great as I’d like, but it’s a decent book-store. Alas that it is tethered to the parent company. 😦

        • I wish I could say the same about the one closest to my house. I bet I haven’t been in there in two or three years. Why? Because their selection of books had dropped to a level that the small Half Price Books closer to me had as many, if not more, than they did. Then there was the constant push to buy their membership. Add in employees who didn’t know the stock and couldn’t be bothered to check in the back to see if they had a title I was looking for (and that their computers said they had) and I decided it wasn’t worth my time or money to keep going there.

        • adventuresfantastic

          Sounds similar to the one in Lubbock. It’s declined in the nearly 8 years I’ve lived here, but I can still usually find something interesting (although not always sff).

          • Zimriel

            Half Price Books is excellent and there are MANY in Houston. Or, were. Not sure how Harvey has affected them…
            I live in the (north) Denver area now and I can report on several used and indie stores around here, with loyal customer bases. As for Barnes and Nobles, there are still some good stores left, but they seem to be half toy stores nowadays. So count on screaming children whilst you’re browsing the stacks. Several (i.e. Boulder) also don’t have the comfy chairs to sit in.

            • adventuresfantastic

              I used to hit multiple Half Price Books on a regular basis when I lived in the Dallas area along with a few indies, such as Paperbacks Plus and Recycled Books in Denton. I’ve been to several Half Price locations in Houston when I’ve been in town, usually the one near NASA. And I always stop by Murder by the Book.

    • They seem to be working very hard to remedy that situation.

    • TRX

      > Barnes and Noble is still in business?

      They had a store local to me. Children born the day it closed are probably old enough to vote now.

      I see people talk about Barnes & Noble, it’s like watching a thread about American Motors or Data General and their business practices.

    • Belva Jennings

      The ones in our part of the country are – only because they’re the only bricks and mortar bookstores anywhere – and people still enjoy having a cup of overpriced coffee and browsing. Whether or not they’re buying, though might be a different matter.

  2. If they applied these rules to traditional publishing, most would be in violation as well, since most include hyperlinks and physical addressing either in their title page or their ‘other offerings’ pages.

    B&N drove me away as a customer a couple of years ago with what they did to their Nook software and hardware. Since we bought my wife’s Nook HD however many years ago I think I’ve only set foot in the store about 5 times. I see little reason to go back.

    Really, I’m just surprised that they are still in business. It surprises me even more that they still have the Nook stuff at all after shuttering their video and app stores and closing out the non-US Nook stores.

    • Very similar experience for me. I love my Nook and would never consider using a Kindle, but B&N killed any sense of customer loyalty when they removed the “Download to a computer” button from their website. The only reason I hadn’t been buying Kindle titles prior to that was because I’d have to convert them, but when B&N removed that button, they shoved me straight into the arms of Amazon & Calibre.

      • SheSellsSeashells

        I quit using the Nook after losing functionality on TWO of them because they’d redesigned the Hot New Nook to have a different charging cable from the Boring Old Nook and were no longer selling anything to do with the Boring Old Nook. Which meant that I had two perfectly functional but unusable tablets due to failure of a (specially designed Nook-only) charger that I could no longer replace.

        Fool me once…

        • Mike Houst

          Find some enterprising young person who likes to tinker with electrical and electronic hardware. There are chargers that will produce the same voltage/amperage as the old Nook chargers, you just have to splice the proper connector on.

          • SheSellsSeashells

            I thought about it, but the company itself made me mad. It seemed a pretty transparent ploy to me, so I switched to Google and then picked up a Kindle for some other entertainment uses as well.

        • Might be able to find the charging cables on eBay, that’s where I found a boring old Nook to use as spare parts (or a replacement) when mine finally dies.

          Or, if you can get those cleaned off, you might be able to sell them on eBay.

        • I typically use my phone charger for my NSTs. My wife’s NT will charge with them as well, just not as fast. Her HD has a special connection so we’re screwed when that one goes, but it seems built better than the NT charger.

      • Javahead

        After he retired from teaching, my father spent a few years working part-time for B & N as a less stressful surrogate for his daydreams of owning a bookstore. And he remained loyal to them (and his Nook) even after he fully retired. Until they deliberately obsoleted it.

        These days, he owns and uses a Kindle and buys his paper books from Amazon.

      • adventuresfantastic

        Same here, along with removing the ability to add a memory card and partitioning the memory to limit space for sideloaded books.

    • I haven’t published on their platform for several years, mainly because it was much more difficult and glitchy to use than KDP has ever been. I have been considering taking at least one series into wide release (and have an exclusive content version available on Amazon), just to test the waters again. But this sort of behavior out of the board room does nothing to endear them to me.

  3. Yeah… I don’t think I want my book listed by these guys. They are closing stores, they are making noises about “getting out of the tech business,” and putting up “we can delete your book if we don’t like it,” signs, that’s not the marketplace I want to be sitting in.

    On the bright side, if they go under, we might finally see the return of the Little Book Store where the owner actually -knows- something about the fricking books. It works for comic stores, it used to work for books too. Less convenient for publishers, but as Dave said yesterday, the friggin’ publishers don’t WRITE the books. They only print them.

    Then there’s the marketing. Oy.

    You know, the thing that’s coming clear to me lately is I hate being marketed to. I do not like being the object of attention for a bunch of guys all screaming “LOOK OVER HERE! BUY THIS THING!!!” What finally drove me off television was the commercials. Same for radio. Seven years ago.

    In the Big Media now the commercials are not the only marketing. The actual -content- of the entertainment is marketing. The very nature of the movie or TV show is an unholy combination of political propaganda and product placement, with no regard given to the people watching the thing. They got your attention, and they are going to make the most of it.

    I do not respond well to guys screaming at me. The end result is me pretty much rejecting all media, and writing my own stories for my own self in my spare time. If I’m the -only- person that ever reads them, so be it. At least the story goes the way I want it to, and not the way some marketing focus group says will sell more t-shirts.

    • We can only hope. My city, about 160,000-170,000 people, has no bookstore. Well, there’s one little strip-mall 800 sq ft used bookstore, but that’s it since Borders closed. No. Bookstore. The nearest one is in the next city up, 15 miles away and past the bottlenecks (there’s a river involved, so those aren’t going away.) It’s a B&N in a mall with horrible parking and worse traffic (both on the streets and in the mall itself.) There used to be Tower (yes, there was a BOOKstore), but the fall of Tower Records took down Tower Books as well. So there’s nothing.

      If B&N goes the way of Borders, that’s a bi-metro area of nearly a million people without a bookstore, and unfortunately, the way people have been acting, it’s not like they’ll notice.

      I’m supposed to do an author event some time this year. With B&N unwilling to do such things, I still haven’t gotten word on what I’m supposed to do about it.

      • Whenever there’s a hole in the market, eventually somebody smart will find it and fill it.

        The primary problem a would-be bookstore owner has right now is finding books to sell. B&N would not be having this problem if their store full of wildly popular books that everyone wants.

        • The books are there. It is getting past the engrained “Amazon is evil” mentality that many of the bookseller organizations operate under. If they’d do that and start ordering from Createspace or the new print platform under KDP, they could even break the reliance chain on companies like Simon & Schuster — and, in the process, stock indie authors.

          • Imagine, a book store where you could go, and the guy would know what kind of thing you were looking for, and have one right there for you to buy.

            What a dream, eh? ~:D

            • Hey, I’d be happy if they knew that Baen existed as a publisher. Yes, believe it or not, but I’ve been in B&Ns that have argued with me that there is no such thing as Been or even Simon & Schuster, even when I point out books published by them on their own shelves.

          • My small press publisher just purchased and renovated a used/new bookstore in Louisville—you can BET she’s going to be ordering from POD groups, since that’s entirely what the small press does. (It also has art and gaming, because that’s how you build community. Bookstore by itself doesn’t fly much anymore.)

      • Fortunately, in the DFW area, we are starting to see a few successful indie bookstores cropping up. They never really left the area but a number of them went out of business during the height of Borders and B&N. They are indie author friendly, unlike B&N (although they would prefer it if print books were not from Createspace/Amazon). But they understand that it is the books and the authors that matter to their readers and not where the books come from.

      • TRX

        That’s why I keep saying “If your business plan involves ‘bookstore’, you might want to rethink your plan.”

        “Hey, let’s increase profits by closing stores and getting rid of all that excess overhead!”

        “How will customers buy our products then?”

        “What products?”

        “The ones customers buy.”

        “Customers? What do they have to do with profits?”

  4. In order for their actions to make sense to me, there would have to be a population that doesn’t like the way things are now, but would buy their product under the terms of the changes. Who in the heck would THAT be?
    I don’t read, write, or drool over erotica, but I can tell by the way that Amazon throws some stuff into my recommendation list that there are people who do. Is there something going on here I don’t understand? I’m particularly confused by the idea that traditionally published books are not included. Those cost something to manufacture, ship, store, and stock. E-books cost NOTHING in those areas (barring the cost of having a hard drive on a server). So, why keep the ugly one?
    If they decided, hey, we are moral! Let us not speak of ****ies and ***s and firm sweaty **********************s rolling around in tangled ******s and hot ***s and dino love; see, THAT’S a position I could understand, and even respect, as long as they were only risking the money of adults who consented to that program. However, since they are preserving the dead tree versions of that section of literature, I don’t think they can justify it on the basis of ethical concerns.

    I just don’t understand what they want to accomplish.

    • “I just don’t understand what they want to accomplish.”

      Liability protection, probably. If TradPub is the publisher of Book X, and the Homeland Security (or #BLM more likely) come after that book, B&N can say “Oh, is it bad? We did not know that. So sorry.” They don’t have any investment in it, they didn’t publish it.

      But if it is a Nook book, then -they- published it. That means they own any backlash from it. If there’s one thing big corporations are afraid of, it is backlash. And these days, a picture of a female black model on a book cover can get you a whole Tweet Storm all to yourself, as we saw with the YA novel whose name I can’t remember. Black girl on the cover, and holy crap you’d think the world had come to an end.

      B&N does not want to be responsible for Book X. They just want to sell it. Let TradPub take the heat for the “controversial” books, when B&N publishes they want it to be nice and safe. If some snowflake gets bent out of shape, B&N can say “So sorry. We deleted it. Nothing to see here, move along.”

      • Except they aren’t the “publisher”. They are the distributor. But I get what you mean. No, it is them pulling a Kobo (which is why I left Kobo a few years ago) in order to keep a few vocal readers happy and to keep their traditional publishing clients happy. After all, those publishers don’t want to see their profits for books like 50 Shades being cut into by the evil indies. So, what do you do? You don’t go after the indies directly because then you run the risk of alienating your own authors. No, you go to the distributor and tell them that you want something done to protect your product and, btw, their biggest client. Now, I don’t “know” this is how it happened but it’s what my gut tells me is at least a major consideration.

  5. I’ve never been enthused about B&N anyway, mostly over how they treated iocal indy authors. If you weren’t a big name, forget about doing a signing at a B&N. Oh, and they would order your book for a customer, but your books certainly wouldn’t be on their shelves. Basically, you were a bad smell to them, and they wished you would go away. So – I never bothered much with B&N.
    Borders was different – Borders bookstores were welcoming, appreciative, would do signings, even set up special days focusing on groups of local authors. Hastings was the same way, although they were more about other stuff than books. But they both are gone now, and I’ve been hearing for years that B&N was circling the drain as well. Perhaps this is the final plunge…

    • There was a time, before Borders went under, when our local B&N was very supportive of the local authors. Unfortunately, that ended about a year before Borders closed and there’s been no going back.

      • If it’s anything like the Borders death spiral, the directive came from above. Our GM was told way back when I was still working with Borders (a good seven years before the end) that he shouldn’t be soliciting and creating his own author events, he should do it through the corporate offices, and only certain (bestselling) authors would get the nod.

        He later went to work for the city’s Chamber of Commerce, where they appreciated his talents.

        • Yep – that is where the indy authors who DID have good results with B&N got all their events from. It all depended, so they said in group – on the local manager of a particular store. If the local manager was enthusiastic about local indy authors as a draw for the store – fantastic.
          If not – well, as I said: you were a bad smell that they wanted to go away. I did some local events where B&B were involved – they were good about it, but only because it was a massive local event.

  6. paladin3001

    c4c..brain is almost literally fried.

  7. tprice

    I was sad when they closed the B&N near my parents’ house since it was the first one in the midwest and they made a big deal about returning to the city where one of the 2 founders had gotten started (forget if it was Mr Barnes or Mr Nobel) before he moved to NYC. Then I realized I hadn’t bought a book from them in many years and don’t think I have ever bought one off their website. Tried to a few times but never could figure out how to navigate the thing.

    I admit to going into a B&N once or twice a year but that’s because its the most convenient entrance to the mall which holds the theater I’m meeting friends at…

    I think because i go in every 6 months or so its frequent enough to notice the changes but far enough apart they didn’t blend together, I have been really noticing the book selection going down and “other stuff” going up. Its actually becoming a halfway decent game store!

  8. Two or three years ago I gave up on B&N. I went to one near(ish) to $RELATIVE’s places (more ish than near, mind) and wondered where the book had gone to. I asked about the one I was after (which the B&N web site said they had). “We can order that… and you can pick it up here.” “I’m from out of state.” “For a fee we can have it sent elsewhere…” Well, for a (smaller) fee, I can have Amazon do it, so I did.

    There is a Nook app for Android. I installed it… about three phones ago – and never used it. $HOUSEMATE only uses the Nook as an alarm clock now, far as I can tell. I might not use the Kindle much, but the Kindle app sees some use. Why? Well.. what can Kindle do? What can Nook do? And how much does it cost? And that’s withOUT KULL.

    “Amazon is killing B&N!” Nonsense. B&N is committing suicide. Amazon is merely (or at least mostly) just doing business.

    • Uncle Lar

      FYI, Kindle uses the proprietary azw file format or the public mobi version. Nook uses epub, but then so does the iBooks app that comes native on all Apple devices. Nook may go away, but its format I expect will be with us for some time.

    • Like your housemate, my kindle only serves two functions these days. 1.) Music player while doing housework (it has a good speaker!) and 2.) Formatting check before publishing.

      Everything else is either read in paper at home, or on the kindle app on my phone wherever I’m bored and have time to kill.

      • When you get older reading on phone stops being an option. I like my oasis.

        • I do most of my reading now on my Oasis. For one thing, there are no distractions since I can’t jump off and check email or facebook at the drop of a hat. I gave Mom a Paperwhite after she started having a few issues reading on her iPad or Kindle Fire. Her retinologist recommends using an e-ink reader for anyone because there is no real reflection off of it, less even than off a print book, and because you can so easily adjust the font size and background.

          • I wish someone would manufacture an e-ink reader that isn’t tied to one particular format. They are much easier on the eyes than a phone or tablet. 😮 Or is that what an Oasis is?

            • The Oasis is an e-ink reader with lights embedded along the sides to make it readable at night. It is, however, tied to Amazon’s formats. So you either need to be able to convert other formats to MOBI and side load or email them to your Oasis or you have to buy from Amazon and vendors who supply MOBI files.

        • When I got a Kindle, my reading skyrocketed. It wasn’t just the free and public domain books; it was easier to read than a paperback. Age creeps up on the eyes. These days, I prefer Kindle over paper.

          I might look at a “cheap” refurbed tablet one day, one large enough to easily read PDFs, put a Kindle app on it, and go that route.

        • While I still read on paper from time to time, my preferred method is eBook. And I much prefer it on my eInk Nook over my wife’s tablet or a monitor. My eyes don’t get as tired.

    • You are absolutely right about B&N killing itself. I warned folks before Borders closed that most of its problems were self-inflicted. It is the same thing with B&N. They have gotten away from their core business. They have failed to adapt to changing demands in the marketplace. They failed to understand that they couldn’t keep expanding and building bigger and bigger freestanding stores in an economy that was going to bottom out sooner or later. They are now the little boy sticking fingers into the leaking dike and finding more leaks than they have fingers and toes.

      • “I warned folks before Borders closed that most of its problems were self-inflicted.”

        Yeah, and the staff knew it. Ask a Borders employee from the last five years of the chain about “Push Books” and you’ll get an earful.

  9. snelson134

    This is all incredibly reminiscent of what the late Jerry Pournelle referred to as Levitical License Agreements back in the early days of micro: full of Thou Shalt Nots. Including the classic “Our product isn’t actually fit for anything, including what our advertising says it is, but if you make a backup or otherwise misuse our product, you will pay us 5000 whenever we decide you’ve misused it.” As he said in one column, “I wouldn’t sign that agreement blind drunk.” And our best choice is his frequent tagline: “Users Unite! It’s US they’re after.”

    PS: I’m re-reading “Adventures in Microland” at the moment. And realizing the same thing I realize every time I re-read Brooks’ Mythical Man-Month, which is that the tech industry and content publishers in general haven’t learned a damned thing except how to rent-seek.

  10. SheSellsSeashells

    FWIW, after continuous exposure to the Madness here I have been trying to create some salable fiction. The notion of trying to indy-pub with Barnes and Noble literally did not cross my mind until coming here and going “oh, B&N are still in existence. That’s nice, I guess?”

    • Welcome to the madhouse that is a writer’s brain. As for B&N, there are still readers who prefer buying from there. But, one reason I’m considering going back isn’t to support the company or because I think I will sell a lot of books there but for appearances. Just as someone looking at your Amazon page will think you are a “real” author if you have print and digital editions available, they think the same thing if they go to your website and see links going to other places besides Amazon. Sometimes, appearances mean more than reality. Unfortunately.

      • SheSellsSeashells

        Thanks! I’m grateful that several years of writing ad copy have cured me of the need to write the Great American Anything, but it’s still a tad terrifying, and I am battling the temptation to commit a trilogy.

        I have a few ublished novelist friends, but they’re all Puppy Kickers and would be…unsupportive. So I come over here instead. 🙂

  11. Mike Houst

    “Our value proposition is comprised of membership, convenience, digital offerings and most importantly our stores where customers come to browse, discover, and interact with 26,000 knowledgeable booksellers.”

    Membership is overrated. If I deign to shop there at all, I should receive the lowest price standard. You want to charge me a higher price because you don’t have all my demographic information, well, I can go shop on-line, or at least at a different brick and mortar place not part of their chain.

    Convenience? Not when it takes 40+ minutes to drive there.

    Digital offerings? I have an Internet connection. If I want digital offerings, I’ll go on-line for them directly.

    Interact with 26,000 knowledgeable booksellers? Are they nuts? First of all, far too many of them can’t find their butts with both hands, a searchlight, map, and a GPS unit, much less find a book I’m looking for. Second, I can operate their computer search stations just as well as they can, no other human interaction required.

    So what’s that leave me? Browsing and discovering. Which I can do just fine at a comic book and gaming store, or my town library.

    So Bricks and Nobody there will continue the downward spiral. When they reach the unable to maintain profitability, I don’t know. But I’ll be shopping for reading material elsewhere long before then.

    • Ed Bear

      I gave up on Barnes & igNoble years ago. Fortunately I had my entire library backed up on my own hardware. I haven’t missed a [redacted] thing.

      These days, B&iN is a useful publicly-available bathroom, and I can use my phone to photograph interesting books I can get in kindle format and use Calibre to stuff them into my phone as ePubs.

      Like I said. Haven’t missed a thing.

    • snelson134

      “Interact with 26,000 knowledgeable booksellers?”

      At least half of whom are positively bragging that they will actively make it difficult for me to find the books I want because wrongthink. Yeah, that was what finished me off.

      • Even before the political thing, most of their personnel were young kids who quite literally read nothing but maybe something that tied to a movie.

        • I am constantly stunned by how many people respond to “I read science fiction,” with “Oh, like Star Wars?” I’m sure I said READ, and you don’t want to get me started on the notion that Star Wars or other movies are the very definition of the genre…

          • The novelization of Star Wars is actually quite good. We had the novelization long before the movie came around, and the movie was actually a disappointment.

            • Zimriel

              Lots of Star Wars novelisations are good (“Paradise Snare”, “Shatterpoint”, anything by Zahn). Maybe not as good as “Dune” but few franchises are. Just because it’s a franchise tie-in doesn’t mean it’s dreck.
              To the extent the franchise owner wants people to keep buying his stuff, that’s an incentive for the authors NOT to put out dreck. There’ll be other problems, mostly involved in the authors not taking risks; I’ll entertain those complaints.

              • snelson134

                “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” was far better than any of the sequels so far.

                Alan Dean Foster wrote the alternative ending to the first film.

    • Side note:B&N membership is even worse than giving them your information.
      Last I checked, you had to pay them money.

      • Yes, you do. Only frequent buyers manage to get enough in savings to recoup the cost.

        • Zimriel

          Since the membership counts for coffee, and since I buy their coffee on a weekly basis, this deal works okay for me. I’ve been on that plan since the 1990s. And aren’t we all, in this thread, “frequent buyers” of books?

    • Once upon a time, in the distant past, there was a chain of bookstores called Book Stop. They were the first stores I encountered that had a membership program. For awhile, it was free and then it was, iirc, $10/yr. But, for that money, you got a decent discount on everything. On best sellers, you got an even deeper discount. Oh, and they didn’t always sell at cover prices. Their stores weren’t fancy but their employees were knowledgable and they loved books. But they fell to Borders and B&N. Sigh. I miss them.

    • TRX

      > all my demographic information,

      The local Radio Shack wouldn’t sell you anything, not even a 59-cent resistor, without all your demographic information. They’d just cancel the sale and look around you to the next customer in line.

      Of course, it was “the internet” and “Amazon” that was responsible for the chain’s demise, not Soviet levels of customer service…

      • Ferox

        I remember that. My standard response when purchasing some piece of kit from Radio Shack was “Bob Fred, 111 Main St. 867-5309”, accompanied by a deadpan stare.

  12. Kristina

    I went in a B&N about 4-5 months ago to get my uncle a cook book of how to make things with beer from the clearance section. He loved the book. It cost me 8 bucks. Then I got a coffee. Most of my book stuff is with my kindle now. I wish I had room for more physical books but 35-40 boxes in the attic are my old book collection. 😛 The B&N near my house might survive longer then others because its at a popular shopping complex with many higher end stores in a more affluent area. But that’s only going to be a stop/gap for so long.

  13. Oh, please. Your customers are going away and you don’t know why. Until you find out, the odds are that nothing you can do will fix the problem. Random flailing about will only make it worse.

    “As we look to reinvent our customer value proposition and growth sales”

    I know what those words mean individually, but the combination makes no sense at all. If your thinking is this clogged with jargon, it’s no wonder your business is floundering. You have an excellent chance of reinventing the Tower of Babel.

    “we’ve launched a number of price tests tied to our membership program”

    Lovely. And what about your customers who aren’t members? You know, the walk-ins who come to buy books, not magazines or toys or coffee? Who are you listening to, your customers or the publisher’s sales agents? Your customers have been speaking directly to your bottom line, but you’re deaf as a post.

    “We’re focused on growing sales by improving the overall shopping, browsing and discovery experience for better visual merchandizing”

    How about improving the quality of your merchandise? For instance, books that don’t make the customer go “yuck” and put them back on the shelf after they have browsed them.

    “We believe there are significant opportunities to manage our inventory better, increasing trends and reduce unproductive merchandize”

    Wait a minute. Do you imagine you have the power to affect a customer trend? There’s a problem right there. As far as reducing unproductive merchandise, it does make a sort of business sense to cut something that isn’t selling and replace it with something that sells better. So, how do you determine that? What do you propose to replace it with? Picture puzzles? Sex toys? Something that sells even less? It would be wonderful if you could predict Next Week’s Hot Thing, and stock that. But, until you can figure out the secrets of tea leaf reading and crystal ball gazing, you might try proven winners. As in, tracking what came out last year, 2 years ago, 5, 10, 20, or 50 years ago and people are still buying.

    “we’ve recently installed customer counters in all our stores and reintroduced mystery shops. We plan to enhance customer engagement and personalization through improved customer insights”

    Oh goody. Exactly what does it mean to “enhance customer engagement and personalization?” and how do you plan to go about it? How do you plan to get these “improved customer insights?” That could mean that you intend to hire salespeople who like to read and talk with customers about what they like to read. Provided you actually listen to such salespeople, that could even work. But why not say so, instead of waving vague generalities around?

  14. Confutus

    I had a beautifully snarky comment, and WP ate it. Let’s try this again.

    Oh, please. Your customers are going away and you don’t know why. Until you figure that out, random flailing about will only make it worse.

    “As we look to reinvent our customer value proposition and growth sales”

    I know what those words mean individually, but the combination makes no sense at all. Are you sure you aren’t reinventing the Tower of Babel?

    “we’ve launched a number of price tests tied to our membership program”

    Lovely. And what about your customers who aren’t members? You know, the walk-ins who come to buy books, not magazines or toys or coffee?

    “We’re focused on growing sales by improving the overall shopping, browsing and discovery experience for better visual merchandizing”

    How about improving the quality of your merchandise? For instance, books that don’t make the customer go “yuck” and put them back on the shelf after they have browsed them?

    “We believe there are significant opportunities to manage our inventory better, increasing trends and reduce unproductive merchandize”

    Wait a minute. What in Sam Hill makes you think you can either increase or decrease a sales trend? Ride the fickle waves of popularity like a bucking bronco? As far as reducing unproductive merchandise, what do you propose to replace it with? Picture puzzles? Sex toys? Something that sells even less? It would be wonderful if you could predict Next Week’s Hot Thing, and stock that. But, until you can figure out the secrets of tea leaf reading and crystal ball gazing, you might try what was published a year or few ago, and still sells. You know, a mix of proven winners and new stuff.

    “we’ve recently installed customer counters in all our stores and reintroduced mystery shops. We plan to enhance customer engagement and personalization through improved customer insights”

    Oh goody. Exactly what does that mean and how do you plan to go about it? That could possibly mean that you intend to hire salespeople who like to read and talk with customers about what they like to read. But in that case, why not say so, instead of waving vague generalities around?

    • These kinds of corporate statements always try to put a bow on the pig. If invaders descended on a company and carried the employees away as slaves, they’d tell the shareholders that they were expanding into new markets.

  15. Some of those restrictions are not quite as onerous as it may seem:

    As stated above, the information that describes your eBook (Product Data) is also subject to our Content Policy.

    Note this is not what goes into the book, but the version of the blurb that goes on B&N’s website: the stuff visible when you visit https://barnesandnoble.com/w/1122123095 (for example). Contact information on the title page is fine, a request for reviews in the afterword is okay…

    … oh, I just re-read what you wrote and noticed that you covered this:

    Now, they say this applies only to your “product data” but the earlier language of the ToS makes it possible for them to apply it to everything about your ebook and to change the terms without reasonable notice.

    In that case, disregard what I said above and consider what you missed:

    Advertisements: Content contained within your eBook or other content that primarily seeks to sell a product other than the eBook or content itself.

    So that page of “Other Books by This Author” may get you banned.

    • Joel, I saw the bit about advertisements but, by then, I figured there was enough stupidity from B&N that no one would be surprised by this bit.

  16. The Local Representatives of the Intergalactic Council replied:

    Agent Xzqurb has prepared a complete listing of books which malign the history and intentions of the proud natives of Alpha Centauri 4. We call on Barnes and Noble, now that we have pointed out these hideous examples of so-called fiction to them, to immediately and completely purge these products from their electronic and physical shelves. After all, these are a prima facie example of content that encourages hate or violence, and we will not put up with such treatment. If it continues, we will cause such a world-shaking kaboom! So… remove those bits, and shred that paper!

  17. Pingback: On B&N, Spenser Rapone and more - Nocturnal Lives

  18. Micha Elyi

    … our stores… 26,000 knowledgeable booksellers.

    Ha ha. Wanna mess with the heads of those 26,000 knowledgeable booksellers at Barnes & Noble? Go to a store, find a clerk or just go to the sales counter, point out that the store has a Women’s section, a Women’s History section, and a Feminism section then ask where the Men’s section is. 4 out of 5 will go help you look for it, unaware that they haven’t got a Men’s section. One helpless clerk, upon realizing that she’d been had pointed to the Military History section and said, “There it is!” (Feminism is evil. Sexist evil.)

  19. You mean it’s not a coffeehouse? Those books are for sale?

  20. Parneos Quote: “As we look to reinvent our customer value proposition and growth sales…”

    Filled to the brim with marketing jargon like that, B&N’s CFO clearly doesn’t have a clue about how to sell books. He needs to read something practical like Trump’s The Art of the Deal. No jargon there.

    As for B&N’s niggling author rules, you might do what I do. If you’ve been supplying B&N directly, you might shift to going through Smashwords. One upload to it, and it takes care of sending your files to almost every ebook distributor but Amazon, including those who supply libraries. You have complete control over who gets or doesn’t get those files and you set the prices. And they’ve very author friendly.

  21. Peter B

    Just went in to my local B&N after a couple of years. Overall, wider aisles, more chairs, even more non-book stuff (action figures, games, and so on.) FWIW, none of the staff members I knew as book people were there. But that’s OK: they had fewer books by (I think) fewer authors though romance, mystery, and manga/graphic SF seemed to have expanded.

    It felt like the Titanic with newly rearranged desk chairs on the Titanic, except they had put out a bunch of new tchotchkes for decor.

  22. emdfl

    They really pissed me off when some idiot at headquarters decided that the science fiction section would just be alphabetized and not have the newly published books at the front end of the shelving. I have no idea where new sci-fi is now. On the other hand I can sometimes get good deals on Lego-Minecraft stuff for the grand kids…

    • adventuresfantastic

      Yeah, that really pissed me off, too. I’ve noticed my purchases have declined a bit since they did that. I don’t have the patience to sort through the dreck.

  23. My wife had a membership in FictionWise until Barnes and Noble bought it and closed it down. She was supposed to get a $100 refund, which B & N has never sent her, so she won’t have anything to do with them. I am ambivalent, however. Way back in 2001, they carried my first novel, which Borders never did. I still remember the wonderful feeling of walking into a random Barnes and Noble and seeing two copies of my book in the stacks. I’ll always think fondly of them for that.