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B&N bunts and then forgets to run to first

To support these efforts, we are focused on attracting, retaining and developing top talent throughout the organization.I hate to say it but the continuing saga of Barnes & Noble is starting to bear too many similarities to the last year or so of Borders. The upper management makes sweeping statements meant to reassure stockholders. Yet, a close look at those statements shows they contain holes big enough to drive a tank — or a fleet of them — through. New agendas are announced and new programs put into place. Yet nothing really changes. Why? Because the suits at the top simply refuse to understand the changes in the industry and admit they’ve screwed up and need a new playbook.

The first misstep is the announcement of the new “book club”. Now, book clubs in bookstores is nothing new. In fact, locally owned bookstores have had them from the beginning. I can remember times when book clubs met at our local B&N. But this one is “different”. How? First, it’s “seasonal”. (Whatever the hell that means because the first title doesn’t yell “summer” to me.) Second, every B&N across the nation will be  having the same book club/reading the same book at the same time. Oh, and you’ll get free coffee and a cookie. Whoopie — not.

Before I get into my questions about how these nationwide meetings will be held, let’s talk about something else B&N is doing. There will be “special editions” of the books being read. These will include a reading group guide and a special essay by the book’s author. For the moment, the pre-orders of the first book’s special edition are priced the same as the regular edition. But pardon me if I find myself wondering how much the markup will be if someone decides to buy the book in-store just before the meeting.

Oh, and the book they’ve selected as the first to be read? The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer. Here’s the description from the article:

Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion centers on Greer, a shy college student who becomes enamored with the fiery, feminist rhetoric of visiting speaker Faith Frank. Years later, Greer goes to work for Frank at the Loci Organization. But as other areas of her life begin to crumble in the dream job’s wake, Greer finds herself growing disillusioned with Frank and the Loci Organization, as she discovers that even her heroes are imperfect people.

Now, for the first ever book club meeting, why would a struggling company choose a book with a limited audience? I don’t know about you, but that’s not a book that’s going to have me giving up an evening to drive miles from home to sit around with folks I don’t know to take part in a discussion that will, in all likelihood, that will devolve into politics.

To me, this looks like too little effort on their part and effort taken too late. Oh, and one more question. Why wait until May for the first meeting? Couldn’t they have chosen a book already out and rolled this out sooner? Instead, they want to make sure everyone reads the book at the same time (even though it will have been out some weeks before the first meeting). Yeah, right. Anyone want to make bets these book club meetings are being underwritten by the publisher?

More proof B&N suits are either fooling themselves or think we, the buying public, are too dumb to see the writing on the wall comes in the CEO’s comments on last quarter’s finances. On March 1st, Demos Parneros did his best to make things look better than they seem to be from this side of the equation. To start, and to indicate the lack of interest in the call, there were only two financial analysts taking part. Two. If that doesn’t show a lack of faith in the company, I’m not sure what does.

Some basic facts to keep in mind, no matter what sort of spin Parneros tried to put on them. December sales were down at a time when the trend in retail was for greater sales. January sales were down 3.5% as well. third quarter comp sales were down 5.8%. Of that, book sales declined 4.1% while there was a double-digit decline in music, video and gifts. Toys and the cafe sales “somewhat offset” all that.

So, how does Parneros plan to stop the bleeding?

[W]e remain focused on executing initiatives to invest in, evolve and grow our core businesses while at the same time improving profitability by operating more efficiently. Our near-term initiatives are focused on reducing expenses and stabilizing profits to support our long-term goals of growing the business through new stores and expanding our omnichannel capabilities.

To position our business for growth, the foundation of our strategic plan is built on four pillars. One, strengthening the core. Two, improving profitability. Three, accelerating execution. And finally, number four, innovating for the future.

All that sounds good until you start looking at what he says and, of course, looking at BN’s history.

So what are they going to do?

  1. Launch the ship from store when you order online. The explanation for this is that it will improve shipping speed and cost delivery costs. Except, as we are seeing from employees themselves, this isn’t what really happens. The books aren’t necessarily being shipped from the nearest store to the customer. Worse, at least for the stores involved in the shipping, an employee is being taken off the floor to pull the book, prepare it for shipping and sending it out. Add to that the fact the stores apparently aren’t getting credit for that sale and, well, it is an accounting mess that can be boiled down to “Robbing Paul to pay Peter.”
  2. Later in the year, they’ll be launching a new variation of their order online and pick up in store. This time, supposedly, you’ll be able to pick the book up in an hour. Riiiight. I’ll be live that when I see it, especially since I can look online for a book, be told a store has it in stock and get to that store in an hour and they won’t know if they have the book or not. Unless and until BN improves its tech side and inventory system, this is going to be nothing but a big fail.
  3. They are going to push the membership program more (another complaint of those employees not caught up in the purge last month because they are supposed to focus on selling memberships as much, if not more, than they are to sell merchandise). Of course, to BN, the membership program is basically free money. We are paying them for discounts we can get from Amazon and elsewhere for free. Nope, not gonna fly.
  4. Improve profitability
    1. “recent action to transition to a new, more efficient store labor model that provides greater flexibility and better customer service by eliminating tasks and allowing booksellers to focus more on customers.” This action was to layoff full-time employees who either were cashiers, tech employees or backroom/receiving employees. In other words, people who took money and the people who put out books and took books off the shelves. Now you have part-time employees who see no reason to be loyal to the company based on how it treated loyal employees, part-time employees trying to fill more than the roles they were hired for. Right, that’s really going to give them more time to focus on customers.
    2. “our team is focused on doing a thorough review of all areas of the business, with a goal of reducing expenses in other areas such as logistics and direct procurement, to name a few.” Hmm, I seem to remember hearing something similar each quarter for how long? Perhaps instead of worrying about logistics and procurement, they need to look at things like stores that are too large and rents that go along with them. Or how about looking at the suits in the hallowed halls of corporate leadership? Of course, they won’t do the latter and the former they are tied into the terms of leases and such — because they were too focused on being big instead of watching retail trends like other companies.
  5. “The third pillar is to accelerate execution. To accomplish this, we need to be simpler, faster and more decisive. . . To support these efforts, we are focused on attracting, retaining and developing top talent throughout the organization.” Unfortunately for the rank and file, not to mention the buying public, he doesn’t mean where it counts — in the stores. Nor does he mean doing so in the upper levels with people who aren’t afraid to do real innovation and to make the difficult decisions. No, he means folks who will go along with the same ole, same ole, or at least that’s the way it seems to me.
  6. The fourth pillar is innovation, something BN has been less that stellar at in the past. “We are excited to announce that later this year we will open five new prototype stores that feature a smaller format and new design. This rightsized format will have a new look and merchandise focused on books and other categories that are more reflective of today’s business model.” Now, the CEO is remarkably silent on what this “rightsized format” will be and how it was determined. Nor does he say how these stores will differ in what they offer from the larger stores. All we know is that they will be “smaller” but by how much?

In the Q&A section, you can see how proficient the CEO is at avoiding real answers. It is all song and dance with little to inspire confidence, at least for me, in the company. Unfortunately, this reminds me all too well of those last two years of Borders. I spent a great deal of time during those months writing about the bookseller and how every move seemed to come too late and do too little. I’m afraid we’re seeing that with BN now.

Why is this important? Because there are still too few smaller bookstores out there. Borders, Barnes & Noble and others — and yes, to an extent Amazon — have seen to that. But before you jump on the hate Amazon wagon, the damage was done to the locally owned stores long before Amazon came onto the scene.

If BN goes under, it will cause a tsunami through traditional publishing because, even though Amazon is where the majority of their books are sold, they are still tied to the old mindset that they need bookstores. How they adapt now, not later, very well may indicate how well they will survive if BN does go under.

Publishing is changing and those who continue to fight the trend will soon see themselves facing the same issues BN does now.

Your thoughts?

89 Comments
  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

    Yep, I remember all the whines about B&N & Borders destroying the independent bookstores long before I heard about Amazon.com.

    March 6, 2018
    • Yep. Funny how so many folks seem to forget that little tidbit.

      March 7, 2018
  2. First thought was that re this nothing-sauce book chosen for their “book club” — this smells like a backroom deal with the publisher to create a best-seller.

    Second was to be reminded that some franchises aren’t really in the business of selling their nominal product; they’re actually in the real estate business. Their real investment lies in acquiring good locations on the cheap (or, why so many McDonalds are built on a site that was once a gas station) and holding them as investments. So what the “new design” sounded like to me was: Sell the big old location (make a killing on high-dollar square footage), reopen a smaller location (meanwhile amortizing your debt as new construction).

    Cynical? me??

    March 6, 2018
    • Zsuzsa #

      I had a similar thought on the “book club.” Not sure how that is going to work out for the publisher, but I doubt it will do much for B&N; I can’t see people who have previously stayed away from the bookstore suddenly come running through the doors for a chance to have a discussion about “The Female Persuasion.”

      Oh, and I guess they get the free cookie too, but I don’t know if that will be a major motivating factor unless their target demographic is six-year-olds.

      March 6, 2018
      • The publisher looks at it as push for the author involved. It is also a way of stroking BN’s ego by giving them something Amazon won’t have. However, it is like so much they are doing — idiotic in the grand scheme of things. It won’t sell more books and it won’t keep the stores open.

        March 7, 2018
    • Tprice #

      The real estate investment property angle doesn’t fly for B&N because they rent their locations, not own them. If I recall correctly they have a couple hundred leases expiring this coming fiscal year and people are wondering how many will get renewed…

      March 6, 2018
    • I felt the same way about the book club. As for the real estate, that’s true for some but not for BN. They lease their lcoations. I’m not sure they own a single storefront.

      March 7, 2018
  3. Alas, I couldn’t make it through the first paragraph of Parneros’ plan without calling “Bingo!” Too many buzz-words. That’s a very bad sign. I realize that in some ways that kind of statement has to include some of the common trade-phrases, but there’s way too much hand-wavium and “We’ll do everything harder and get different results, trust us.”

    March 6, 2018
    • Yep lots of buzzword management speak. As far as I can tell it is utterly meaningless and clearly a sign of a CEO with nothing to say. What, for example, does “accelerating execution” mean? I assume it doesn’t intend to mean firing ever increasing numbers of employees but I expect that’s what it will boil down to

      March 6, 2018
    • Christopher M. Chupik #

      Work harder, not smarter, in other words?

      March 6, 2018
  4. I don’t believe I’ve been in a B&N for at least 4 years now. I’m not actually sure when was the last time I was in one but I think it may have been 2013. I recall that last time deciding it was not worth ever visiting another one because this was the third time in a row they had absolutely no books of any interest to me.

    Something tells me I’m very far from alone in this.

    March 6, 2018
    • I still go into my local B&N quite regularly (in large part because it is less than a mile from my house), but those visits are almost *never* of the “let’s browse and see what I can find” variety. They have not been for years. Rather, I go in because I have already determined that a book I want is currently in stock on the shelves. Sure, I will browse around after I have found the book(s) I came in for, but those browsing sessions rarely seem to net anything of interest to me.

      The fact that all the customer computer kiosks were removed from the store recently continues to frustrate me. Stated reason was the software being used was no longer supported, but I do have to wonder if that really means “B&N is no longer willing/able to pay for this service”. The end result is customer dissatisfaction, at least in my case, since the Customer Service desk is almost never staffed.

      March 6, 2018
      • Customer service desk? I think that’s the place the disgusted patrons used to pile their books as they walked out the door? I don’t think I saw anyone there, or out on the floor, in years. They had the Nook helpers when the Nooks were first introduced, but everyone else I’ve seen was behind the registers up front.

        March 6, 2018
      • emily61 #

        This is why I shop Amazon.

        March 6, 2018
    • I was in one, about three years ago, to meet a client in the coffee shop. Afterwards, I wandered around – and saw nothing which tempted me into buying.

      I think the point above, about the real estate being the most important part of the company may be valid as well. A friend of mine who is in real estate explained to me why what was once one of the nicest and most popular malls in town abruptly closed and was demolished about fifteen years ago. (It’s now a hotel complex, with a bunch of free-standing stores and restaurants on the site.) The owner of it was never into mall management, he said – he was into the property itself – the mall was just an element to pay the taxes on it, until he could sell it at a huuuuge profit. It is the same with the La Quinta hotel chain, or so he says – a means to cover expenses on property which will increase in value.

      March 6, 2018
    • Matthew #

      I was in to get the Nightmare Before Christmas Cookbook with my wife. It’s a B&N exclusive, or we would have just gotten it from Amazon.

      March 6, 2018
  5. Last time I was in a big box book store was last year. Got a gift card for Christmas and needed to use it. Far as I am concerned they have failed to adapt and like all good evolutionary systems they will be going extinct. Might think about planning setting up a hybrid book store myself one of these days.

    March 6, 2018
    • I looked into it. Don’t use your own money.

      You’re going to have two problems in Ontario: rent, and staff. It costs ~$100,000 to set up a coffee shop kitchen, equipment only. Production cappuccino machine, ~$10k. High traffic area, you need two machines. Then you need ovens, fridge, garbage room, and on and on it goes. Rent for a high traffic area in the Golden Horseshoe is going to be ~$8k/month. That’s just the rent.

      A full-auto cappuccino machine is the same price as a fricking car. You want to go old-school with the manual machine, now you have to have a trained employee. They are a serious expense, and a pain. The employee, not the machine. $15 dollar minimum wage, don’t forget.

      The build-out and stocking/staffing for a new coffee house/bookstore would be ~$500K, back of the envelope calculation. That would be -cheap-. It would be much less risky with a better return on investment to take that money and buy a house with it. $500k used to flip some houses in Toronto will pay back probably triple the most you could get out of a -successful- hybrid coffee shop model.

      The third problem is more basic, the books are there to lure people in so that they buy coffee. The coffee is your true product. You’re a Starbucks with a spinner rack next to the checkout. Every square foot you devote to books -loses- money.

      The amount of work its going to take to become one of those quirky, funky, “Destination” businesses, where people drive downtown from the suburbs so that they can come to your bookstore because it is so awesome, that would be a life’s work. The ones that exist right now are dying off at an accelerating rate. All the quirky old joints that we remember, the funny little old places where the owner was half the reason to go there, they’re all f-ing dead now. The ones that are left own the buildings they are in, and the value of the business is the building itself. The business is lucky to break even after taxes. That’s why they’re disappearing.

      IMHO, as a glorified house painter who has been burned a few times in business, I do not think our present cultural/economic environment will support this business model. As B&N is amply demonstrating, right? Those guys are experts in the field, and they are failing.

      March 6, 2018
      • A.) NOT in the golden horseshoe, too much competition and too much costs as you pointed out.
        B.) Hybrid as in used/new/indie/trad
        C.) Not relying on just walk in customers, expand a bit into online presence as well with selling online.

        Yeah, it’s going to take work and it’s going to take time. Something to look into down the road.

        March 6, 2018
      • sam57l0 #

        Does anyone know how Powell’s (Portland, OR) is doing? Haven’t been there in years (longish drive), and Portland traffic.

        March 6, 2018
        • Fine last I heard. They’re a destination store and that helps. I do know that Smith’s Family Bookstore in Eugene seems to be doing just ducky (pun intended.)

          March 7, 2018
  6. I’m still amazed B&N is still in business given the last couple of years of driving customers away.

    March 6, 2018
  7. Book Club = “One of my pet managers made a deal with #BigPublisher, so we are running with it. Big Publisher buys the snacks from us at a discount, provides the special edition at a discount, everybody makes money, everybody is happy.”

    No word on how the book club thing is going to play out, now that they fired all their staff. I guess some part-timer can volunteer, right? Totally a set-up to win, right there.

    No move to address the massive structural deficiencies in their business model. Their biggest permanent problem is RENT. They can’t pay for the square footage they’re using. The reason they can’t pay is sales volume, but also profit margin. You have to move a -lot- of books when your margin is a buck fifty.

    I think they’re screwed, and it sounds like their CEO doesn’t care. Interesting, right?

    March 6, 2018
    • I have been saying basically the same thing about their business model for years — and about their rotating line-up of CEOs and CFOs and other suits in the ivory tower.

      March 7, 2018
  8. I shop at my Barnes & Noble because they’re the only bookstore in town, and because I enjoy the experience of bookstores. But they’ve not adapted well to the new age – their website is painful and the app is worse – and this does not bode well for them.

    March 6, 2018
  9. I’ve stopped going into bookstores because there are no longer bookstores within an hour’s one-way drive. Offhand, I don’t know if I’ve been in a B&N. My one known B&N purchase was online, and maybe over twenty years ago. Therefore, while the demise of B&N will no doubt cause problems in traditional publishing, this is all pretty much meaningless to me. No nearby bookstore? Already don’t have them. The business is already so far gone that the demise of B&N means about as much to me as a Mongolian haberdasher closing his shop.

    That in itself says something about the state of traditional publishing.

    March 6, 2018
    • I miss bookstores. Started out by going to Tower Books (yes, that Tower; their bookstore was quite nice and I never hung out at the Records.) Then the city got a B&N (which seemed a bit boring) and a Borders (which was nicer, but out of the way for me.) Then I went to a college with a wonderful new/used store in walking distance (about a mile, most of it bike trail. It’s still there.) And everywhere I moved had lovely local places. But when I moved back to my hometown, first Tower went down, then Borders, and now all that’s left is a handful of small used storefronts. (The B&N doesn’t count, IMO, which should tell you something.)

      March 7, 2018
  10. 1. If I order online… do they realize Amazon OWNS that space and they need to not merely match Amazon, but BEAT them on both price AND selection (even if ‘just’ with *books*.. those things that ever harder to find at a B&N)? In fact, the last time I was in a B&N and left disappointed (they could order, maybe ship to home. for a fee) I went to Amazon and the book was waiting for me when I got home. (Alright, I had been out of state, but still, I gave the B&N near me a chance, they FLUNKED OUT.)

    2. B&N *used* to have a customer/shopper accessible terminal that one could search. It would tell you if something was in stock locally AND where to look for it. That terminal went away… and so did the ability?! How do you fail to keep a SOLVED problem solved?!? Also, ‘local’ in-store pickup is an hour’s drive.. each way. So… an hour and it’s there, even if it actually WORKED, is nigh-meaningless.

    3. “Membership program” – Pay to Be Tracked. Fsck THAT sideways with a rusty chainsaw, and twice on Sundays. That hour (each way) drive means visits are rare unless I *KNOW* they will pay off (and BN has a history of FAILURE on that) and I generally need more reason to burn the fuel for that than BN and the MAYBE that it has. Or, more and more, the NOPE.

    4. Fix 1, 2, and 3, and 4 will take care of itself. Nothing worth buying – no sale. It’s THAT simple. Even ox figure that out!

    5. That takes employees (who are people and not robots… really) who GIVE. A. DAMN. And B&N just fired (almost?) all of those.

    6. If he’s said, “We need to carry more off-brand and ‘indie’ titles as the Big Names have for too long just forced utter dreck on us and nobody really wants to read that crap.” he’d be ahead. Utterly dead in Manhattan, but the stores are in places that are… NOT Manhattan. Right now I have a choice: I can drive an HOUR (each way) to a B&N, or try to order B&N stuff online, OR bye a bottle of rye, a bottle of vermouth, some bitters and make a Manhattan. B&N is losing to the cocktail. And really, right *now*, this very minute? They’ve lost to August Schell’s brewery: Schmaltz’s Alt.

    March 6, 2018
    • BUY, not bye the bottles. And I forgot the lemon or cheery for garnish. Terrible, just terrible. Oh, wait, I *AM* a monster… some terrible things are required now and again.

      March 6, 2018
    • sam57l0 #

      What’s the cost of gas for that two-hour drive there and back? Plus wear and tear on the car?

      March 6, 2018
      • The travel to & from, with some in-town stuff, would be about 3 gallons of gasoline.

        March 6, 2018
        • Here in the Demented Dominion, three gallons is about $14.00CDN. ($1.22/liter of diesel, thanks Mr. Trudeau!) That’s an expensive trip to the bookstore.

          March 7, 2018
          • 😲 I live in California, the most taxed gas in the nation, and we aren’t that high. (It’s pretty volatile in price, but the highest I remember was close to $4/gallon, and that was years back.)

            March 7, 2018
            • Matthew #

              Try living in BC – $1.39/L last week, for a $55 CAD fill up on my Hyundai Accent

              March 7, 2018
              • How much is that in real money? 😛

                March 7, 2018
                • Amsel, Matthew #

                  $42 USD as of today’s rates.

                  March 7, 2018
                • Robin Munn #

                  Did you know that Google can help you look up currency conversion rates? You need to know the three-letter abbreviation for the currency, but if you Google “55 CAD in USD” it will tell you that 55 Canadian dollars equals about 42.50 U.S. dollars. Works with any currency, too: if I’m watching an anime and I see a kid buy a snack for 100 yen, I can Google “100 JPY in USD” and find out that what he paid is about 94 cents in U.S. dollars. And so on.

                  March 7, 2018
            • Draven #

              My last year of college (2007), it got above $5/gal in L.A.

              March 7, 2018
    • Amazon has brains and they’re using them. When Carol and I were too sick to leave the house in early January, we discovered Amazon Prime Now, and didn’t starve. We ordered eggs and oranges and 1/2 & 1/2 and a bunch of other stuff, and a smiling young man delivered it to the house forty minutes later. If that doesn’t scare the you-know-what out of the entire B&M retail world, nothing will.

      March 6, 2018
      • snelson134 #

        Which is why you can get the same type service through Instacart from lots of local stores.

        March 6, 2018
      • In Texas our regional HEB chain does home delivery – and my daughter and I remarked that it must be a godsend to those who are home-bound for one reason or another. (We were in line behind the delivery specialist checking out bags of groceries for several clients.) We both have had friends, or neighbors who couldn’t cope with a trip to the grocery for one reason or another. Home delivery was the standard, a hundred years ago, though. Funny how great ideas keep coming around again…

        March 6, 2018
        • Evil Rob used it one time I was up with the kids at Grandma’s and his truck developed a problem. (Expensive problem, IIRC, but at least he could get it fixed before it ruined the engine.)

          March 7, 2018
      • I can think of at least three radio and TV spots that B&M grocers could use to needle Amazon on this, and one Amazon could use to counter, but there’s an edge B&M grocers have over ordering, one currently impossible for online sales to compete with.

        March 6, 2018
    • Tell us how you really feel, Ox. VBEG

      March 7, 2018
      • Disappointed, mainly. I won’t say I could keep BN flying, but it looks like a better glide slope is possible at the least.

        March 8, 2018
  11. Starting to look like Borders in its decline? Oh, they’ve been following that path for years. With the fall of Borders so well-documented, it’s easy to trace missteps as early signs.

    March 6, 2018
    • emily61 #

      why are they prolonging the agony? Just close the stores already.

      March 6, 2018
      • TRX #

        The people who control its finances – who aren;t necessarily the ones who own it – are sucking every last bit of juice out before discarding the empty shell.

        If they manage the bankruptcy properly, there’s even profit to be made there, too.

        March 6, 2018
    • The last time I entered a Borders was late October, 2003. It was the closest book store to my house (20 miles), and until that day, a regular destination. I didn’t find any books I wanted, but then I thought, “hey, one of my favorite movies came out on DVD last month; they don’t have a copy in stock, but I might as well order it while I’m here”.

      Nine days later, I received a post card that read (caps theirs): “The publisher reports that this title is currently OUT OF STOCK. Your order has been CANCELED. Please check back in a few months if you are still interested. Thank you”. I found several copies at Suncoast that night, or my next stop would have been Amazon. Now my first stop is Amazon.

      The last time I entered a B&N was just under two years ago. I drive by one every night on my way home from work, but there’s just no incentive to go in. They don’t even have good pens and notebooks any more.

      -j

      March 6, 2018
  12. I suspected all of this, and now have confirmation. The real story is what happens the day after B&N shuts down. Will it be all at once, or will they shutter stores one at a time over a period of years? The health of the Big Five is at stake here, and losing that many shelf-feet of retail space means that publishing will go into a contraction unlike any ever seen. Publishers build bestsellers by buying positioning, and you can’t buy end caps and window displays in stores that no longer exist. The current business model demands both big-box retail and purchasable positioning. The other question is what Amazon will do when it becomes an effective monopsony on print books.

    Damn, I’m glad I got out of print book publishing when I did.

    March 6, 2018
    • We will see what happens if/when B&N shutters and Big 5 ( or less? ) crosses the Virtue-Signalling Event Horizon. Watch out for synchrotron radiation from the upper dreckosphere of the suckularity.

      March 6, 2018
      • I’ll just drag out my steampunk Geiger Counter and aim it at NYC, having put range ear protection on first.

        March 6, 2018
        • Yeah, I’d not want to be close enough to use a clod, er, cloud chamber.

          March 6, 2018
        • emily61 #

          come to Dallas for the readings? I’ll take you out for a meal afterwards.

          March 6, 2018
          • There may also be dangers from stray schadenfreude flux, and occasional bursts of mesons, peons, morons, and boöns. For safety’s sake (since you’re closer to Manhattan than we are) I’d suggest your coming out to AZ and we’ll roast something red and juicy.

            March 7, 2018
            • emily61 #

              Do you have anything bland or at least not spicy? I have GERD.

              March 7, 2018
      • “…synchrotron radiation from the upper dreckosphere of the suckularity.”

        I am SO stealing that!

        March 6, 2018
        • Christopher M. Chupik #

          The Suckularity seems more likely than the Singularity, that’s for sure.

          March 6, 2018
        • Send me a copy when you deploy it, would you?
          Or at least let me know where I can throw money at you to get it.

          March 6, 2018
          • I’ll try to work it into Luna City #6 – there is at least one bona-fide geek, and a couple of mouthy teenagers, so it should fall trippingly from the tongue of at least one of them.

            March 6, 2018
            • emily61 #

              Just wanted to say that I enjoy your Luna City books.

              March 8, 2018
              • Thanks, Emily – they’re fun to write, too!

                March 8, 2018
    • Cameron #

      Howdy, Jeff. I’m inclined to think that B&N will try desperately to sell to someone so nobody currently in charge there wants to actually pull the trigger on the “We’re done, sorry” phase, just before they become a remaindered dumping ground like what happened to Crown. Or maybe they’ll actually sack up and shutter all the stores. DOOM is writ large and if you pay attention to the workers, you’ll see nobody is smiling, and they haven’t been for years.

      I was there to watch the switch from the fat’n’heavy payroll-to-burn days to the beginning of the payroll squeeze and Great Book Shrinkening. Community reps went first, and those cuts were brutal – no warning for them. They showed up for work and were told they were fired and then escorted out. DVD/CD managers went next – that was inevitable, and was what saw me choose to take severance and bail on the company. And now they cut the warehouse managers – absolutely ridiculous, because that is a metric ton of work getting all that stuff in sorting it every day.

      I’m guessing merch managers will be next. Just before the end finally comes it will be only three managers and a horde of stressed out part-timers for literally everything else. Good luck finding store-level managers to talk to – they’re already doing the shelving, shipping, receiving, and other grunt work that can’t be done because B&N won’t allow the managers to shell out for a few more hours from the part-time help.

      Above store level, you’ve got district and regional guys doing everything they can to justify their paychecks, which means laying down insane and silly directives to the stores so they can email their superiors with bullet point lists of how they’re working their asses off and if sales don’t improve it must be someone else’s fault.

      Everyone is afraid to give a superior bad news, as you can imagine, and this goes all the way up the chain, which doesn’t help anyone. I’m imagining there are a lot of numbers being analyzed but with insufficient floor level context, which they kinda need of they’re trying to actually save stores from closing.

      It’s a mess. I still use my NOOK, though. [thumps chest] I’m a loyal sorta guy.

      March 6, 2018
      • Robin Munn #

        I still use my NOOK, though. [thumps chest] I’m a loyal sorta guy.

        Given that you can see the writing on the wall and expect B&N to close at some point in the near future, I assume you’re doing something to back up your Nook books before the B&N servers go away and you can’t get them any longer. What are you using for that backup? Calibre? Something else?

        March 7, 2018
      • I’d be tempted to agree with you about the sale except they have turned down offers for years. It makes no sense. But then, little about how they run the business makes sense these days.

        March 7, 2018
    • The’ve been letting leases lapse and closing the stores, so I suspect that will accelerate, and then a large wave of closings. Entire markets may be shut down in one go, but others will drag on for a few months to a year, depending on contracts. But that’s just my guess.

      March 6, 2018
      • Yep. We’ve seen this the last few years and it is accelerating.

        March 7, 2018
    • What happens when B&N shuts down is you look for a truck if you like their shelves. (Their shelves are not as nice as Borders’ were, but they’re still going to be nicer than 90% of what’s for sale regularly. For one thing, they’re sturdier because the designers knew they’d need to hold books.)

      March 7, 2018
  13. Matthew #

    Without the big chains, what happens to the push model?

    March 6, 2018
    • Gone, gone, gone.

      March 6, 2018
      • Zsuzsa #

        Eh, I don’t know. They might try to work through other stores. When I was in Target this morning, there were a whole bunch of video ads for various YA books. It was enough to make me avoid the book aisles entirely, but no question, they’re still trying to push.

        March 7, 2018
  14. mrsizer #

    We have one of those quirky local bookstores (Mutiny Now) just a few blocks away. I used to go there frequently (mostly for used books). The Kindle and Kindle Unlimited changed that.

    There are still two Tattered Cover stores in Denver. I’ve been in one of them a couple of times. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything, though. It’s all new books and they have local authors, but for my reading tastes, there’s nothing there I want – or at least little enough that it is not worth spending hours going “not that, not that, not that, not that, maybe this one, not that, not that”

    March 6, 2018
    • Last time I was in Denver (a few years back) I picked up a couple interesting non-fiction titles from the Tattered Cover location in Denver Union Station.

      March 7, 2018
  15. adventuresfantastic #

    C4C

    March 6, 2018
  16. Joe in PNG #

    Having your sales staff pushing memberships or asking for address is personally a big turnoff for me. No, I don’t want a free subscription to your selection of lame magazines, and I really don’t want to give out my address just to buy some batteries. It’s a good thing Radioshack is dead.

    March 6, 2018
    • The last time I was in BN, it was to meet someone in the cafe. When I paid for my coffee, they tried to sell me a membership. Got a little pushy about it and all the “benefits” it would give me. I haven’t been back since.

      March 7, 2018
      • They’re desperate. The number of memberships the employees sell is part of what their job is judged on. They might not be able to advance without a certain percentage of memberships.

        March 7, 2018
        • Yep. And how’s that working out for the company? More importantly, how is that supposed to make them more customer-friendly?

          March 7, 2018
  17. Draven #

    I still haven’t been in a B&N in 1 1/2 years. and it was probably 4 years before that… that’s my thoughts

    March 6, 2018
    • Tprice #

      I’m in a B&N about once or twice a year, but that is a mall anchor store that happens to be the most convenient entrance by the theater we meet friends at.

      If you mean to purchase something… About 2 years ago for an emergency gift for my niece.

      Last purchase for myself at a B&N, over 5 years and I think that was to use a gift card.

      March 6, 2018
  18. Confutus #

    For really, bold, original thinking, they should try stocking product that doesn’t induce vomiting in the majority of their potential customers.

    March 6, 2018
    • Clearly, that is true. But where are they going to go to find such product? ~:D

      March 7, 2018
      • Amazon. 😛

        March 7, 2018
        • AesopFan #

          I wonder if Amazon is going to start buying local store-fronts to encourage more ordering on-line (physical samples of the product, as it were)?

          March 9, 2018
  19. Bean, young man, Baen. And createspace and the like…though someone would have to read all those titles to find the good ones.

    March 7, 2018
  20. Curtis #

    I’m afraid they lost me when they did away with all the ‘new book’ sections for sci fi, general fiction etc. I would go to the store to see what was new and perhaps buy it but there is so little point in browsing the entire store to see if I can find what slipped in since my last visit.

    March 12, 2018

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