Skip to content

B&N strives for — what?

(Sarah asked me to fill-in this morning. She’ll return with her workshop next week.)

The age of the big box bookstores is waning. That’s nothing new. The proverbial writing has been on the wall for years, since before Borders shuttered its last store. Barnes & Noble continues to fight for survival and relevancy in the changing environment publishing finds itself in. Unfortunately for readers and for BN’s employees, the company’s leaders seem hell-bent on doing everything they can to short-circuit those efforts.

It’s well-known 2017’s holiday sales season wasn’t kind to B&N. Same store sales were down more than 6% and online sales were down 4.5%. This at a time when other retailers saw strong holiday sales. This was also after the retailer said in November “it would pivot to books and rely more on trusted human booksellers to bounce back from meh performance.” Apparently, that isn’t working — or at least not fast enough to satisfy the powers-that-be. So, new steps have been taken in an attempt to save the company.

B&N announced it will begin laying off employees in a move that “will save the company $40 million annually.” Think about that for a moment. How many employees will be impacted and how will that impact the customer experience, both online and in the store? It’s not surprising B&N isn’t giving any numbers about how many employees will be let go. The one thing it has said is that this will result in a “new labor model” for their stores.

So, who’s being fired — sorry, let go?

At the time of the announcement, the layoffs were for lead cashiers and digital leads. In other words, employees with at least some seniority. It is also reasonable to assume these were also full-time employees, those B&N was on the hook for benefits as well as salary. Hmmm, are we seeing a possible answer to our question about who might be laid off?

We get at least some confirmation from Boise, Idaho. A B&N store there saw several full-time employees being laid off. FULL-TIME employees. Yep, that’s a way to cut costs. Move most of your staff to part-time, where you aren’t required to pay benefits, etc., and where they have no incentive to stay with the company. How’s that supposed to play with the goal of being able to “rely more on trusted human booksellers”?

It doesn’t.

As the Passive Guy suggests, “We’re firing our way to success!” is a long-standing management strategy with a rich history of failure.

111 Comments
  1. c4c

    February 14, 2018
  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

    Idiots. 😦

    February 14, 2018
    • You’re insulting idiots, Paul.

      February 14, 2018
      • BobtheRegisterredFool #

        It’s Barnes and freaking Noble. Even we understand he didn’t mean it offensively. Plus, he is no doubt censoring himself heavily.

        February 14, 2018
      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

        😆

        February 14, 2018
  3. B&N has a long and proud history of doing everything in its power to lose customers. This type of strategy isn’t surprising.

    February 14, 2018
    • Unfortunately, you’re right. Yet, when they get offers to buy them out, they refuse. You’d almost think they want to lose money.

      February 14, 2018
  4. I wonder how those restaurants are doing?

    February 14, 2018
    • Interesting question. We’ve got at least one in the DFW area and, after the initial opening, I’ve heard zip about them.

      February 14, 2018
  5. c4c

    February 14, 2018
  6. They’re going to treat the stores like a dollar store. One person at the cash register, one floater/security/manager person to cover breaks and call the cops when people get unruly. Everyone is part time, nobody knows jack about what’s in the store.

    The ultimate expression of books-as-commodity. I can get the same level of no-service cheaper and more conveniently from Amazon, with better selection. Plus I don’t have to deal with the frowny-faced, pink-haired sea mammal at the checkout. So go wave bye bye to your local B&N, they don’t have much time left.

    I’m sitting here thinking that a gung-ho SFF enthusiast ought to be able to make a little specialty shop that can win in this market. But then I remembered that the little shop can’t really carry much inventory, so its inventory costs will be high because no volume. Also, the shop will have all the same Big Five bullshit that’s already not selling well at Amazon. Why buy Prolapsing Empire at Little Super SFF Store when you’re already not going to buy it at B&N?

    Nobody pays for service, my friends. People always shop cost. Service is something you steal from stores and then buy the thing you want cheaper on-line.

    HOWEVER, I do see a sliver of silver lining for writers and bloggers. Reliable recommendations and reviews of Indy work will become increasingly important as the Big Five dead tree model comes apart. Groups like Mad Genius Club form a core of know quality and similarity, that’s a valuable thing in a market where 800,000 new books go live every month on Kindle.

    February 14, 2018
    • Jerry Lawson #

      Well, the Science Fiction & Mystery Bookstore here in Atlanta had a fair run – something like 20 years before they finally went under.

      But they really couldn’t compete.

      February 14, 2018
    • I disagree. Service is where a store, whether on-line or brick-and-mortar, can separate itself from the competition. I’d rather walk into a place and talk to someone there about what I need, be it an autoparts store, a book store, or a butcher shop, than rummage through a google search and hope what I found listed is actually what I’m looking for.

      The hard part is keeping pricing competitive while providing the service.

      February 14, 2018
      • You are making a basic mistake of retail thinking that what is being sold doesn’t matter to how it is sold. To use your examples you do not try to sell autoparts the same way as books or meat. Lets start with autoparts which I am very familiar with growing up in a mechanics home with his own business. Lets say your serpentine belt breaks and you need to replace it because you need your vehicle to get to work the next day. Are you going to go online and try to find one where there is 3 different size belts for your model vehicle all based on year and accessories to which one you need and then wait two days for it to arrive when you need that vehicle the next day? No you will not, you will go to the local autoparts store and tell them make, model, year and accessories and walk out 5 mins later with the part. Yes there are autopart sellers online but they are not taking over that industry because of that time factor of needing the part then not 2 days later which is very different from dead tree version of books. There is none of that with books and Amazon, you can browse it very much like you do a B&N brick and mortar (except without the pleasant smell of the paper) and there is virtually no reason you have to have it that day instead of 2 days later being shipped. Also for the most part even when you go in to request a specific book at B&N the person needs to do a computer search, very similar to how you search Amazon, except you now got a person that is barely above the “Do you want fries with that” mentality doing your searches for you. Also anyone that would buy meat online I wouldn’t trust them to tie their own shoes,

        February 14, 2018
      • Kamas716 said: “Service is where a store, whether on-line or brick-and-mortar, can separate itself from the competition.”

        You would think so, and I certainly used to, but the trick is getting people to -pay- for the service you are providing. People say that they want the service of an informed salesperson and a floor model of the thing they’re looking for, so they can see it and touch it. But they don’t BUY it there. They use the store to decide on the model, the colour, the flavor, whatever of the thing they want. Then they price shop it online, and get the cheapest one.

        In an atmosphere where the little store with the great service is competing against the mega-conglomerate with massive volume and no service at all, the little guy is not going to survive. If nothing else, the storefront rent will kill him.

        February 14, 2018
        • Randy Wilde #

          Back when I still played tabletop RPGs, there were a couple of gaming stores in town plus the obligatory shelves in bookstores. Amazon was also there, but not as monolithic as it is now… I guess this was 15-20 years ago.

          Of the two stores, one had a better selection (especially of OOP stuff and small publishers, and accessories like miniatures and paint), better discounts, and was a lot more convenient… just a few blocks from where I worked. I was on the bus, so convenience was a significant factor. It was maybe an hour closer for me.

          Whenever I went in there, though, I got the feeling I was interrupting a game. I spent a lot more money at the smaller, more expensive, less convenient store… there, even if the people working were in a game, they’d pause to help a customer.

          Sometimes service does matter.

          February 14, 2018
          • Service absolutely matters, at least to me. I remember something similar about one of our comics stores. I used to take my son there all the time. Then management changed and the emphasis shifted more to gaming (which was always going on but not to the detriment of sales). It got to the point where no one was minding the store. My son and I finally started going to another store in the same chain about 10 miles further from home. The gaming still went on there but, as with the second store you discussed, the workers always stopped and were happy to help us if we had a question or needed anything.

            February 15, 2018
            • Curtis #

              57 years and I never once went into a book store and asked for any sort of help finding a book. That was the reason to go to book stores. I wasn’t in a hurry. I was willing to walk the shelves and look for what I might be interested in. Had that with the old used book stores in every city from Newport to Huntsville to San Diego and in between and then all the used book stores perished from the earth.
              There’s one left in Wooster I now get to about once a year.

              Srsly, when the libraries divest their books older than 2 years at less than $/book, I will simply look for them as a friend of the libraries. I buy most of mine on Amazon as one might expect from somebody with 2 iPads, 2 iPods, and 3 kindles I bought for $25 apiece. These days 95% of my reading is digital. I still find interesting books in the stacks but I prefer the weight and view of digital print with font I can change as my eyes grow dim.

              February 18, 2018
        • Zsuzsa #

          The old saw: “If you want to know what people think they SHOULD want, give them a survey. If you want to know what people actually want, see what they buy.”

          Over and over again, people have demonstrated that they prefer cheap prices to good service.

          February 14, 2018
          • That is a bit of an oversimplification. A lot of readers would gladly forgo with Amazon if they had a good bookstore with knowledgeable staff and the store either had a large stock or was willing (and reliable) to special order titles. We like the experience of going into a bookstore and browsing. But, if we have to wade through a bunch of non-book related items to get to the books, if the atmosphere isn’t conducive to browsing — and reading, if the staff isn’t helpful or knowledgeable, etc., we will go to Amazon because the experience we crave is no longer there.

            As much as people blame Amazon for the downfall of the small, locally owned bookstores, they are placing the blame on the wrong entity. That happened when the big box stores like Borders and BN moved into the market. They are the ones who offered books at a discount and offered amenities the smaller stores couldn’t. But, as they cornered the market, they started raising their prices, charging for their “members card” (or whatever they call it) and their emphasis turned from being a bookstore to being “so much more”. Add in a decline in service at the big stores, and it is as if they wanted us to move on to Amazon and other online services.

            February 15, 2018
            • The “members card” thing always hacks me off. You’re sucking me in with a small discount so you can track me. Then adding insult to injury, I have to pay for the card?

              I pay cash. Track that, boi. 😡

              February 15, 2018
              • Pretty much my opinion. When they started asking for my card in the coffeeshop at BN was when I knew they’d gone full derp.

                February 15, 2018
            • Curtis #

              My local used bookstore featured in so many articles and reviews is run by a pair of militant lesbians. It’s a nice bookstore and the atmosphere works and I can’t complain (they don’t offer coffee dammit) but in over a 100 visits there, not once has any of the all girl staff interrupted me by asking if they could help me find something. My kind of bookstore. Admittedly I thought they went full Purple when I came in one day and found they spent the day off turning every single male authored book spine to the back of the shelf so only the books written by women (et fellow travellers) could be seen by name and title.
              I don’t do member cards.

              February 18, 2018
      • @kamas716 You don’t want a store, you want a librarian. Taxes pay for those, but only buyers pay for helpful store clerks. If you want to keep your helpful store clerk, it looks like you’re going to need to spent $40 billion more per year at B&N. 🙂

        February 14, 2018
  7. BobtheRegisterredFool #

    40 million annually is apparently about 80k per store. These cost savings are heavily in benefits. Which raises the possibility that the difference in benefits costs with and without Obamacare could have been enough to keep the company going. (Okay, yeah, the industrial dysfunction abetted apparently massive levels of corporate dysfunction. Which probably would have been sufficient in itself.)

    February 14, 2018
    • Zsuzsa #

      I wondered that too. It’s become awfully expensive to have a full-time employee in this climate.

      February 14, 2018
      • Yes, but you have to weigh that expense against the expense of training new employees due to the more frequent turnover you have with part-time employees. You also have to look at the customer experience. I don’t know about you, but I am more comfortable when I go into a store or restaurant and see familiar faces. That tells me there is stability in the business and it, more often than not, means the employees know their stock and can knowledgeably help me. There is nothing more disconcerting than to walk into a bookstore and say “I really love (insert author name), but I’ve read all her books. Do you have a recommendation for books that might be similar?” and have the clerk look at you with a blank stare because they have clue zero who the author is.

        This was something I started seeing with Borders before it went bankrupt. I’d go in to find a book by David Weber or someone and be told they didn’t have it. I’d ask if they could order it and have all the information needed for them to do so. The clerks I worked with 1) had never heard of Weber, 2) didn’t believe Baen was a real publisher and 3) couldn’t find Simon & Schuster in their computer system. So, Amazon got the order. That sort of thing is what I’m seeing with BN now.

        February 14, 2018
        • Brett Baker #

          Whoa! That explains a lot.

          February 14, 2018
    • Oz #

      Long term, no full time employees also = no customers. If people aren’t earning full time wages they stop buying luxuries like books. Long term, employers that go for part time employment to boost profits find that they get the exact opposite effect.

      Back in the day it was Ford Motors who lobbied for the five day working week – because they realised they needed to give their employees a day off without church so that they would go shopping for a car. That’s short term pain for long term gain.

      In retail, cutting staff expenses is short term gain for long term pain.

      February 14, 2018
  8. I’m waiting for the first vultures, er, venture capitalist consortiums, to begin circling. “Let’s buy them out, load it with debt, then bail!”

    Which stinks, because the regional B&N is actually a decent book store. 😦

    February 14, 2018
    • Oh, they’ve been there for years now but BN won’t sell. Why do you think they keep bringing Riggio back to run the company? As recent as a few months ago, there was another offer for the company that the powers-that-be didn’t think was “serious”. I swear, I’m starting to wonder if BN’s executives aren’t waiting for the feds to bail them out.

      February 14, 2018
  9. Ed Bear #

    This was inevitable. B&N has always been a brick-and-mortar store, so they had no real incentive to develop a strategy for the digital market. As a result, they bought into the big publishers’ attitude of “ebooks are just a fad” and went along with their efforts to discourage ebooks with overpricing.

    They then bought Fictionwise, which KNEW how to market eBooks, and took their eBook technology without taking the rest of the package, which would have meant a major change to their business model. (Horrors!) Meanwhile, Amazon, which had NO tradition of paper-only, has eaten their future.

    Nate Hoffelder, over at The Digital reader blog, cites the Circuit City debacle and gives B&N 19 months to live, now that the people who actually make the stores work as stores are being laid off. I think that may be an optimistic estimate, and the end likely to come sooner.

    February 14, 2018
    • Yep. they are circling the drain. The only question is how long it will take for them to go down for the count.

      February 14, 2018
    • And WHEN B&N goes (I would invest no money on that timeline. There’s probably stuff going on we don’t know of) – the remaining ability of the big 5 to gatekeep gets a major knock. Expect serious changes in which publishers exist, and which authors are retained. So far the cuts (and they have happened) show teh stupid is not confined to B&N. They’ve been buying expensive in the hope these will rescue them, dropping midlist (which are cheap) to pay for it, and filling any spare slots with cheaper still noobs (into which they invest little more than shelf-space). Interesting times.

      February 14, 2018
  10. Christopher M. Chupik #

    As someone who used to work at a bookstore, this makes me sad.

    February 14, 2018
    • As it does me. However, I do take heart with the growth of locally owned bookstores.Fortunately, many of them have learned lessons, not only from what happened to the smaller bookstores and chains when the big box stores arrived on the scene but with what they’ve seen happen to those big box stores. Many of them are finding their niche markets and doing all they can to corner that part of the market. They are more open to local author events as well, something readers enjoy.

      February 14, 2018
  11. Brett Baker #

    Crap, sounds like I’ll HAVE to order books online in the future.

    February 14, 2018
  12. I’m in a group for former Borders employees (got out well before the fall, but lat e enough to see the early rumbles.) Some of the folk hit by this downsizing had been Borders employees, so they’ve had to go through this more than once—and they know the signs, though that doesn’t help with immediate employment.

    My husband, who works in logistics, told me well in advance when Borders was sure to close. The death sign is in being unable to pay suppliers. Once those payments start being late, it’s all over but the screaming. He hasn’t mentioned this yet in regards to B&N, but I won’t be surprised if he does.

    Pity that their bookshelves aren’t as nice as the Borders ones were*. I was really sad to miss out on that fixture sale for lack of a truck.

    *Solid real wood, slight backwards tilt, scaled to actual books instead of knickknacks. They were selling the tall ones for less than $100 by the end.

    February 14, 2018
    • Those were great bookshelves. Our local library got a number of them via donation after the local Borders closed. As for the rest of it, I’ve not heard about BN no- or slow-paying, yet. But I also have a feeling both BN and publishers will keep that news closer to the vest than they did with Borders. Back then, publishers really didn’t see how badly the loss of Borders would impact them. They are terrified of something happening to BN and will do just about anything to keep the public believing the chain is healthy.

      February 14, 2018
    • Those sound like gorgeous shelves. *sighs wistfully*

      February 14, 2018
      • Get your boys busy with a circular saw. Nice shelves can be made from a single sheet of 3/4″ plywood. ~:D

        February 14, 2018
        • Heh, not in this house. Maybe in the future.

          Rhys made me a lovely floor-to-ceiling shelf back in the Philippines. It’s built into the wall, and used to hold not just my computer screens, but also a cable TV that used to run nature shows or cooking shows all the time. My set up was weird and basically was “Work from pretty much the time I wake up and just plunk my head down when done” – the bed was my work area. The room is now the library (the loft bed I originally designed with shelving and work area underneath is still built into the nook where the bed would have gone.

          February 14, 2018
          • Sounds nice!

            February 14, 2018
            • Heh; I practically stayed in that room nonstop for about … a year? except for bathing, bathroom breaks, and to go do groceries. Telecommuting doing copy for websites with increasing targets was painful after a while. I had music that ranged from trance (Armin Van Buuren A State of Trance mostly) to tracks like this one that helped me type really fast since I was working to a beat.

              February 14, 2018
              • Jerry Lawson #

                ASOT? Yep – he’s good writing material. Also, Solar Fields ‘Random Friday – full album’ and ‘Until We Meet The Sky’ are good for me.

                February 15, 2018
    • I loved the local Borders outlets in San Antonio – they were so much more agreeable to working with local indy authors. B&N can’t be arsed.

      February 15, 2018
      • I never I any problems working with Borders. BN can’t be bothered.

        February 15, 2018
      • Theoretically, as part of my book contract, I’m supposed to do a promotion of some sort at a local bookstore or equivalent. I say “theoretically” because when I pointed out to my small press publisher that the nearest bookstore—at 15 miles and a horrific bottleneck away—is a B&N, and the next nearest (40 miles) is also a B&N, they conceded that I had a problem fulfilling that point.

        I’m really tired of not having a bookstore.

        February 15, 2018
  13. carlton mckenney #

    I watched Unisys try to fire its way into profits. Company went from about 150k world wide computer manufacturer and software/support to a 15K consulting organization. Only bean counters think you can fire your way out of a poor strategic vision.

    February 14, 2018
  14. Christopher M. Chupik #

    Hopefully there will always be brick and mortar bookstores. There’s nothing quite like wandering into one and browsing to see what you can find.

    February 14, 2018
    • RCPete #

      Our small city is pretty much post-brick-and-mortar for bookstores. One mall had a Waldenbooks in it, but the owner had another store over the Cascades and had to choose, and we lost out. The mall was renovated from enclosed to medium-sized strip, and got a Borders. Not sure if I was ever in it; at that time I was buying hardback books from Amazon.

      With the demise of Borders, there were a few specialty stores (two religious and a used book store), but except for one religious store, all closed. The big grocery/general stores have book sections, usually from the big 5. Meh.

      February 14, 2018
      • Christopher M. Chupik #

        If nothing else, I hope used bookstores survive. I expect brick and mortar to go the way of the dinosaurs.

        February 14, 2018
        • Find a way to do it and make money. You’ll have the whole market all to yourself.

          February 14, 2018
        • They will. But not as big box stores. They will be niche market stores and used bookstores.

          February 15, 2018
        • Yes – as long as Half Price Books is there – I have an option for browsing, and at a reasonable price.

          February 15, 2018
  15. Zsuzsa #

    So out of curiosity, suppose you (i.e. any one reading this comment, not just Amanda) were CEO of B&N. What would you recommend doing to save the company?

    Because I’ve got to admit that I’ve got some sympathy with the decision to fire people. I understand the whole, “they’re going to make their experience even worse,” but they’ve got to either increase profits or cut costs, and in most businesses, the biggest cost is personnel.

    February 14, 2018
    • The first thing they have to do is get stability in their front office. They have changed CEO’s something like 4 times in the last 5 years, iirc. Then they have to settle on an identity. Are they are bookstore or are they a store that sells entertainment with a slant toward books? They need to shed most of their too large stores and go back to smaller real estate footprints. That would lower overhead in a major way. bigger isn’t always better.

      They also need to return stock decisions, if not to individual store manages, to regional managers instead of trying to stock their stores as if readers in Washington state are interested in the same things as Texas readers or as New Hampshire readers. If a book is selling well in one store, that store should be able to keep it on the shelves and not be told to remove it simply because it doesn’t sell well in major markets hundreds of miles away.

      As for employees, they need to bite the bullet and pay for full-time employees. Give them a reason to stay with the company. Make sure they are well educated not only on what stock is in the store and where to find it but to what the books are about. They need to be able to make informed suggestions when someone asks for help. If they are going to be a “bookstore”, they need to stop making it less inviting for readers.

      I could go on. There is so much more but it all comes down to one simple question: is BN a bookstore or is it a general interest store that also sells books?

      February 14, 2018
      • RCPete #

        Your description reminds me of the two independent book stores I frequented in Silicon Valley. Not sure why the one in San Jose closed, but the one in Palo Alto apparently got clobbered when B&N opened a few big box stores in the area.

        February 14, 2018
      • That’s one things Hastings got right for many years: let the local managers choose. Once they got past the gotta-push titles, local managers could say “These sell well, these don’t move.” At Flat State U, you had military history and Baen out the gazoo, and a large manga and anime section (college town with a lot of ROTC and recently-out-of military and Reservists in a 50 mile radius). In Borger TX you had a different selection entirely, although still a large swath of Baen titles (oil patch. Go figure). And then management got “centralized for efficiency”…

        February 14, 2018
        • Brett Baker #

          I’m a dairy farmer, been one all my life. I like Baen the same reason military and oil patch guys do. Good, exciting stories, if they have a message It’s one I can support. You don’t find many SJWs in fields where the gods intervene to make your life worse for their amusement.

          February 14, 2018
    • Fire HR :-). And then everyone who doesn’t actually see customers….

      February 14, 2018
      • There you go, making reasonable suggestions again, Dave. Bad Monkey!? You know better than to tell the establishment to be logical and — gasp — businesslike.

        February 15, 2018
  16. Uncle Lar #

    B&N agreed to come to a local con last year and host a sales table. They insisted that the con levy a requirement that attending authors could not themselves sell any of their own books that B&N chose to have on their table. For indie authors print copies are a nice source of revenue at cons, can cover most of the expense of attending, sometimes considerably more. And the sale of a print book through a bookstore returns less than a quarter of what a direct sale does. Still, getting an indie volume into a real bookstore is even these days a bid deal.
    One of the authors I support agreed to honor the restriction, checked the B&N table and then removed any books they displayed from her own table. And graciously agreed to autograph any of the books they sold at the con at no charge.
    It is difficult to impossible to dig out actual numbers, publishing business being what it is, but we estimate that they ordered 20 copies each of three volumes and sold 45 either at the con or through their store later. And a sale is a sale even a reduced profit one.
    But then of course B&N did their year end inventory for tax purposes and chose to return the remaining copies to the POD supplier. Under our agreement with them we had to not only return our compensation for those returns but also cover the production costs. Our January statement actually showed a negative number.
    Now you do have the option to specify no returns in your POD sales agreement, but we have seen from past experience that should you choose to do so no book store will touch your books. So, needless to say I have mixed feelings about dear old B&N.

    February 14, 2018
    • Yep, been there and done that with BN when we’ve hosted author events at the library. Borders was always willing to work with us and always gave a donation to the library afterwards. They also didn’t get bent out of shape if an author wanted to sell his own books at the event.

      BTW, Uncle, Lar, there’s a surprise for you in Light Magic when it comes out. VBEG

      February 14, 2018
    • Yep – been burned by B&N ordering my books, and then returning the remainder unsold at the end of the year, and getting slammed by the print and return fee. You have to give a %40 discount and make the books returnable for them to even stock your books to begin with, but if they don’t sell, you are screwed. I used to specify return, and then re-sell those returns at events. But when they started returning 28 or 30 copies?
      I changed the preferences for my unsold copies to -destroy. I’ll still get stuck for the print fees, though.

      February 15, 2018
  17. mrsizer #

    Wait. What? It’s Print On Demand. Why would there be more than a trivial number of extras?

    And the author paying for the printer’s bad estimates? This sounds like a very bad deal. How much do these machines cost? Espresso does not post that on their web-site or brochure. But, if you’ve got one in your local store, print one day’s estimate and if you sell out, just print more overnight for the next day.

    February 14, 2018
    • mrsizer #

      I found this, which is old (2011) and vague:
      While its nearly $100,000 price tag is reasonable — I mean, the thing prints books! In minutes! — and its $600 monthly “support and maintenance” fee is… semi-reasonable, what’s less reasonable is that for every book it prints, the Book Machine kicks back to its owners, OnDemandBooks, $1.50 a book or 10% of the cover price, “whichever is greater.”

      February 14, 2018
    • Uncle Lar #

      Our POD is Ingram Spark. B&N ordered a number of print copies of three of our books to sell at the con. What they returned to IS was what they did not sell at the con or in their store the rest of the year. We got paid our pittance of the purchase when they ordered the books, so when they were returned we had to forfeit that amount and also cover the production cost, as IS refunded B&N their full purchase price.
      Typical of most POD arrangements, you can set it up to do this way and run the risk of eating the returns, do a similar deal but have the returns shipped to you, or simply not allow returns. We chose option one. Under option two we’d have the returned books, but felt that in good conscience we could not then sell them as new, they having passed through multiple hands before winding up with us, so any returns of ours are shredded. And as I said, under option three no book store will order any of your product. Such is the convoluted way that publishing operates.

      February 14, 2018
      • I’ve gotten returned books – and in no worse condition than they would have been if they were sent to me directly from Ingram. In fact – I doubt that the last lot of returns I got were even unpacked and shelved.

        February 15, 2018
  18. Andrew #

    Why do I have the Kevin Bacon scene at the end of Animal House going thru my head?

    “REMAIN CALM! ALL IS WELL!”

    February 14, 2018
  19. Draven #

    before even reading this, i will answer the title with what popped into my head immediately:

    “Mediocrity”

    February 14, 2018
    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

      And will fail to reach that level. 👿

      February 14, 2018
      • Once again the Peter Principle of Management is alive and well. 😦

        February 14, 2018
  20. Oz #

    The very second that management starts talking about new labour models, its time for employees to trigger their exit strategy. Get off at the next Port rather waiting for the lifeboat scramble a few months down the line.

    February 14, 2018
    • Yep, especially when it includes the laying off of those employees who know what the heck they’re doing.

      February 14, 2018
  21. g2-cdb27520fb49967abcc1c55ca90a2fef #

    Laying off your experienced full time employees and replacing them with part time minimum wage workers, is it? Gee, where have I seen this before with a large chain? Oh yeah, Circuit City! Bye, B&N.

    February 14, 2018
    • They do seem to keep making really bad business decisions, don’t they? And they certainly don’t learn from the examples others set for them — good or bad.

      February 15, 2018
  22. I started to doubt B&N’s viability once I got a few indie titles out there on both Kindle and Nook. I sold 15-20 books on Kindle for every one I sold on Nook. (And that was before KU!) I don’t like exclusives, but I figured I was losing almost nothing by shutting down my Nook presence and putting everything on KU as well.

    What I didn’t see anybody talking about here is what will happen to Manhattan tradpub once B&N shuts down its last store. BAM, the only other substantial book chain, has only 200-some stores, and I have to guess that they’re facing the same competitive pressure from Amazon and (perhaps) Wal-Mart. There won’t be enough shelf-feet in the retail channel to sustain the Big 5 in their current form. Expect mergers and bankruptcies and shuttered imprints. Certainly expect a lot fewer tradpub books to come out per year.

    This may mean some opportunities for indies, with the caution that a lot of people have yet to try reading ebooks, and some probably never will. That said, once a monster publisher stops breathing, it can no longer suck all the oxygen out of the room. Now that I’m finally retired, I can hope to grab a few of all those suddenly homeless reader dollars that will soon have nowhere to go but online.

    February 14, 2018
    • This.

      February 14, 2018
    • BobtheRegisterredFool #

      I can tell you I was thinking something like that.

      Presuming Obamacare, or failure to repeal same, shutters B&N, it’ll screw over traditional publishing, which is closely allied to the Obamacare effort. Evil oft doth evil mar.

      But a fair amount of speculation there, and I’m confident much of my political forecasting is no good right now anyway.

      February 14, 2018
      • C’mon, much as I hate OCare, it has little, if anything, to do with the situation BN is in now and let’s not make MGC the place to debate that piece of executive order idiocy.

        February 15, 2018
        • BobtheRegisterredFool #

          There’s a reason I left that thought out of my original comment. BN shows many of the signs of being able to drive themselves to bankruptcy no matter what. For most practical purposes, speculation about the role of the PPACA or local minimum wage laws is a castle in the clouds.

          February 15, 2018
    • This is why I left BN, and the other non-Amazon stores years ago. I tried an experiment last year to see about viability of returning to them and, so far, it’s not panning out. I don’t regret making the decision but it’s not worth the time and effort to do more with them.

      February 15, 2018
  23. I will do an update tomorrow, but I’m seeing reports they are also laying off store receiving managers. You know, the ones who unbox, fill the bookshelves, deal with returns. I am also seeing that corporate told folks three months or so ago that positions would be eliminated, but it would be by attrition. Those folks were blindsided wh3n they walked in and were greeted with pink slips and final paychecks. There is also at least one report of one of the laid off employees being in the hospital for treatment of a heart condition when they learned they’d been laid off.

    February 14, 2018
  24. Max #

    So, my buddy had a suggestion upon my noting that this was effectively the same ploy Circuit City made before they died:

    B&N may be bowing out. The board may be making this move because they already know that they’re hosed, and this is a gentle way to bow out before shutting down entirely.

    Given who they seem to be firing, I’d say it’s not a bad estimate.

    February 15, 2018
    • Possible but, jaded as I am, I doubt it. They have made so many bad mistakes over the years, I see this as yet another one. In fact, I keep waiting for them to announce — yet again — that Len Riggio is taking over. That seems to be the default position when something else goes wrong for the company.

      February 15, 2018
  25. George Crichton #

    One of the things I have noticed in the last year is that the local B & N no longer has a new release section for Science Fiction. This might be a time/space saving measure but it does not make sense.

    February 15, 2018
    • I’ll admit, I haven’t been in a BN in probably a year, but I’ve heard others say the same. No, it doesn’t make sense. But then, little the company has done of late does, imo.

      February 15, 2018
      • Apparently it was a national thing. They got rid of all the “new in genre” sections, then stopped tagging “new book here” on the shelves and the “employee likes” books as well. I heard one of the assistant managers apologizing to someone about it last year.

        February 15, 2018
        • That is so wrong on so many levels. I wonder if Vegas has a line on how long before the company goes belly up.

          February 15, 2018
    • The latest thing my local BN removed was the customer computer kiosks. Now, apparently said kiosks were no longer supported and constantly having problems, which irritated customers and employees alike, but I used them all the time. While I have no problem asking for help in finding something, I do prefer to ask after I have tried on my own first. And given that the customer service desk at my local store is usually unmanned, going to the convenient kiosk saved a lot of time that would otherwise be spent 1) standing around or 2) trying to find an employee.

      February 16, 2018
      • Gah, yet another way to piss off customers and drive them away.

        February 16, 2018
  26. This seems to be SOP. Why, the utility Brand X had done that twice in the last few decades, as well as a state agency, and I suspect our company is attempting the same thing in an oblique manner. Maybe they teach this in business schools.

    Of course, that state agency had to hire some older heads back, and Brand X has twice had to do the same, except they called them consultants. That seems to be SOP for older heads MBAs let go – except where the MBAs run the company into the ground.

    SOP reveals a great deal of how MBAs view employees. Sort of like butterbars that never grew out of it.

    February 15, 2018
    • Or, as the head of one of the Big 5 said several years ago about authors, they are interchangeable widgets.

      February 15, 2018
  27. Susan Poirier #

    That is terrible, future kids will not know the fun of searching for hours to find just the right book to read. Sad commentary on people’s technical advances. There is nothing like holding a book in your hands.

    February 15, 2018
    • It’s not just technical advances, Susan. It is also — and to a very large part — mismanagement for years on the part of the BN upper management team. It is unfortunate but, as I said elsewhere, I do see hope. Not for BN but in the fact we are seeing a return of the locally owned bookstores.

      February 15, 2018
  28. TRX #

    Mega-sized stores, mega-sized overhead.

    It worked for a while, when it was a novelty. But now they’re selling the same “store mix” as anyone else, at the same prices, and they still have to meet the monthly megastore overhead. Meanwhile, fewer customers want to navigate to the premium “high traffic retail locations” the stores are at, just to buy a few books.

    If they split each Wal-Mart-sized store into three or four smaller, easier to get to locations, and got out from under the megastore overhead, they might make it. Independent bookstores manage, even without the deep purchasing discounts B&N can swing from its suppliers, so it *can* be done.

    But no, they’re so wrapped in mid-1990s megastore-think, it’s never going to happen.

    February 15, 2018
    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

      IMO “Megastores” worked when it was harder to know of new books coming out and before it became easy to order books on-line.

      I remember the “fun” of trying to find a copy of a book that I knew was available and having to check several large bookstores in the Denver area to find it.

      Amazon made it easy to order books and have them delivered to my home.

      Of course, there was the problem of the big-chains deciding “what books the public needed to purchase”.

      February 15, 2018
      • snelson134 #

        Right down to the sales clerk level. There were entire newsgroups of clerks boasting of how they hid “conservative books” and refused to recommend them.

        February 15, 2018
        • And then, having cut the company off from a major source of potential profit, they were startled when they were laid off as a cost-savings measure…

          February 16, 2018
  29. carlton mckenney #

    IF they really want to keep b&m bookstores open they need to return to the older tax structure where books are only inventoried for tax purposes the first year they are present. Older stock is not charged inventory tax. It was a PITA for the stores at inventory time but it meant that you could hold older books indefinitely subject only to floor costs.

    February 16, 2018
    • I’d agree if bookstores — ie, BN — kept stock that long but they don’t. Unless a book is basically a best seller across the country, it is lucky to be held in store for a month or two. Every week or so (I don’t remember exactly right now) stores get notice from corporate about what books should be pulled. Doesn’t matter how that book does in that particular store, from what I’ve been told.

      February 16, 2018
    • Even if the move helps their bottom line for this quarter, then lousy PR is going to hurt them.

      I just hope they don’t do something really stupid like quietly re-work the ToS for Nook authors (again) and try an IP grab.

      February 16, 2018
      • That is my concern as well — as is a slow down in payments, etc.

        February 17, 2018

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Busy morning - Nocturnal Lives
  2. Weekly Roundup for 2018-2-17 – One Thousand And One Parsecs
  3. B&N’s latest debacle – an update | Mad Genius Club

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: