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Posts tagged ‘Barnes & Noble’

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. Read more

Why should we look at the entire industry?

This question came up recently in comments – why should we, on MGC, report on what The Big 5 (4?) are doing, or on B&N?

1. There’s scope and scale. What business are we in? We’re in the entertainment business. We’re competing with every other entertainer out there for Joe Sixpack’s beer money – and for Jane Doe’s attention span when she wants something to take her mind off the fact that she’s in a waiting room. Read more

B&N’s latest debacle – an update

I promised this the other day and got sidetracked. This is my first chance to get back to it.

By now, everyone’s read  or heard about the latest round of layoffs Barnes & Noble is instituting. Following the “how to slit your own business throat in one easy lesson” plan, it is laying off head cashiers, digital leads and others in their stores who are 1) full-time employees and 2) have the experience and knowledge that helps a store run smoothly. The company says it will save them tens of millions of dollars a year. Which it might, on a protected profit and loss sheet. What those projections don’t show are the number of customers and individual transactions that will be lost because customers can’t get help when needed, can’t get their questions answered and can’t find the books they want because they haven’t been unloaded from their boxes yet. Read more

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. Read more

Loss of Focus or Re-Inventing Themselves?

I had this morning’s post all planned and then I read the business section for the Dallas Morning News. There, on the front page, was an article that had to be addressed. Barnes & Noble is opening a new store in Plano, TX (north of Dallas). That wouldn’t normally be news except for the type of store it is. This is one of their new Barnes & Noble Kitchen stores. Yes, you read that right — B&N “Kitchen”.

Here’s the basic premise. It is still a bookstore. Kind of. This 10,000 square foot store will still sell books. However, it will be stocking 17,000 titles as opposed to the 35,000 – 50,000 titles in its other stores. There will be no music in the new “kitchen” although you will still be able to buy art supplies and journals. (There is nothing in the story about whether you will find all the other non-book items you find at most B&N stores). The big change, however, is in the “kitchen” part of this store. There will be seating for 178 diners inside and on a patio. It will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and they are considering doing a Sunday brunch as well. Let’s not forget the bar either. You will be able to order wine or locally brewed beer, among others.

All that sounds like a company in search of an identity. According to the DMN, this version of the “kitchen” is smaller than the three others B&N have opened. They are still trying to figure out the market, etc. This doesn’t fill me with a great deal of hope because B&N has been trying to figure out the market — and failing to — for the last decade or more. Since 2010, the company has closed 114 stores. It has opened 17 stores during that same time. If that isn’t telling enough, their sales % change has been on the positive sign only twice during that same time period and the highest positive change was 1.4%.

Now they think they have found the right way to move forward. However, their own comments about the new store show they still don’t have a clue. This new store will open less than 2 miles from a “traditional” B&N. Carl Hauch, vice president of stores, sees no problem having two stores that close together because he thinks they will be serving different demographics. Yet, just above that comment, it is clear they are stocking the store based on demand from the traditional bookstore down the road. Is this an instance of the right hand saying one thing while the left hand believes something else or is this yet more of B&N not understanding what’s happening in the industry?

If you haven’t already, click on the link in the first paragraph and visit the Kitchen site. The first thing you see is food with a quote from Tolkien. If you keep reading you will finally see books mentioned but nothing else, other than the B&N name, would lead a casual browser of the site to know books are available.

What amazes me is how the company is relying on the new store, with its wine and beer, to be a draw for customers and yet is brags about its large manga selection in the YA section. B&N, and Borders before it, used to be a destination for families. Parents felt safe bringing their children and letting them browse the kids section while the parents looked for a book or had a cup of coffee. How many parents will feel the same now, knowing that someone can have been in the “kitchen” drinking and now, wine or beer in hand, is wandering the store? Plano is the belt buckle of the Bible Belt. This can blow up big time in B&N’s face if they aren’t careful.

As an author, the decrease in the footprint available for books is also worrisome. I welcome the news they will have more focus on local authors but they’ve said that before and it’s never really appeared. It is also another nail in the proverbial coffin for the store when it comes to indie and small press authors. It is already almost impossible to get our books on the shelves of B&N, not to mention having author events there. This means we need to let go of any hope they will work with us.

So here’s the question I have for B&N management — do you still consider yourself a bookseller or are you going to continue this transition to a restaurant that happens to also sell books? Or let’s make it easier. What do you see yourself as? I have a feeling that’s a question upper management hasn’t had a good answer to for years.

Halloween Tricks and Treats

This Halloween brings with it the usual tricks and treats in the industry. AAP and traditional publishing is touting a fairly small increase in sales as a huge gain. In the same breath, they crow about the continued slowing of e-book sales (without admitting that slow down is only in trad sales and mainly due to high purchase price). Depending on your point of view, those bits of news can be tricks or treats. Two other news items are definite tricks or, as I like to put it, “What the [expletive deleted] were you thinking?” moments. Fortunately, there are some treats out there.

Let’s look at the “tricks” first.

B&N continues with their efforts to shoot themselves in the corporate foot. It’s no secret they have been behind Amazon when it comes to e-book readers. The Kindle came out Nov. 19, 2007. The Nook e-book reader was available for pre-order for the first time on Oct 20, 2009. That is a delay of almost two years before BN realized it needed to get into the game. It has played a game of catch-up since then and is now throwing in the towel. At least that’s the way it looks. The most recent victim, er indication, is the Nook Glowlight Plus. For those not familiar with the Glowlight Plus, it is BN’s alternative to the Kindle Paperwhite (in a side-by-side comparison, the Paperwhite, the Paperwhite came out on top. The only reason the Oasis didn’t was the price differential.) However, it now appears that BN is phasing out the Glowlight Plus. If you try to buy one, I hope you are willing to pay for a refurbished model because BN isn’t selling new ones. Nor does it appear there is a replacement reader or updated reader coming down the line to replace it. Is this the first tangible example of how BN is going to abandon at least the hardware side of e-books? If so, how will this impact their e-book platform, both for traditional publishers and for indies?

The second “trick” comes from Australia. Gould’s Book Arcade in Sydney has been around since the Vietnam War. Back then, it was a gathering place for antiwar protesters. From what I’ve been able to learn, it’s well-known for its used books as well as remaindered, rare and out-of-print books. But, like many bookstores around the world, it has been facing financial troubles for some time. Now it appears the store has three months before it either has to close its doors or move to a new location. None of this is new in the industry.

What makes this a “trick”, at least in my book, is the attitude of the store owner. Unfortunately, it is an attitude I see all too often in not only the publishing industry but in life in general. Claiming that she is a socialist and “I don’t understand capitalism,” Natalie Gould wants someone to swoop in and save the store. In fact, she would have no problem with local government buying the store, saying, ““If I was (Sydney lord mayor) Clover Moore I’d buy the building. They (the city council) have got plenty of money.”

I would lay good money on the fact Gould has changed little, if any, of the way the store operates over the six plus years she says she’s struggled to keep it open. Reading her comments, it is clear she sees the store more as a place of protest, a gathering place and piece of local culture rather than as a business. She wants to keep having her fun on someone else’s dollar. This failure to adapt to changing demands — or, or perhaps and, in this case the change in the neighborhood — she dug her heels in. Now she wants someone to come in a bail her out. Doesn’t this sound a lot like traditional publishing and it’s failure to adapt to changing consumer demands? Traditional publishing (the Big 5, especially) dearly wants things to go back to the way they were decades ago. Instead, readers are looking elsewhere for their reading enjoyment. They aren’t paying the high prices for e-books from the Big 5 and its ilk, instead turning to indie authors.

Now for the treats.

I’m a fan of a number of the old horror films. One of my favorites is The Haunting. This 1963 film stars Julie Harris, Claire Bloom and Russ Tamblyn, among others. It is based on the book, The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson. The movie airs tonight on 8:30 CST on Turner Classic Movies. This isn’t one of your heavy special effects movies or hack and slash movies. It is one, however, that scared the crap out of me when I was younger and still gives me the chills, especially when it comes to the performance by Julie Harris. I highly recommend it. I also recommend the book, as well as Ms. Jackson’s The Lottery.

Then there’s always Poltergeist. Who can forget Carol Anne saying, “They’re here”?

Finally, I have three titles on sale through today in honor of Halloween.

Witchfire Burning (Now on sale for $2.99)

Long before the Others made their existence known to the world, Mossy Creek was their haven. Being from the wrong side of the tracks meant you weren’t what the rest of the world considered “normal”.

Normal was all Quinn O’Donnell wanted from life. Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks”, she had been the only normal in the family. The moment she was old enough, she left and began life as far from her Texas hometown as possible. Now she has a job she enjoys and a daughter she loves more than life itself. Their life is normal, REALLY normal, until her daughter starts calling forth fire and wind.

Quinn knows they must go back so her mother can help five-year-old Ali learn how to control her new talents. But in Mossy Creek nothing is ever simple. Quinn’s mother has gone missing. Secrets from Quinn’s past start coming back to haunt her.

And the family home is more than a little sentient.

Can Quinn keep everyone — particularly Ali — safe? And will she ever get back her illusion of normalcy?

Skeletons in the Closet (Now on sale for $0.99)

Lexie Smithson’s family had never been what most folks would call “normal”. They had more than their fair share of oddballs and loners and even crazy cat ladies. Most families in Mossy Creek did, especially if they lived on the “wrong side of the tracks”. But things took a decidedly sharp turn to the left of weird the day Lexie’s sister came home from school, complaining about how Old Serena Duchamp had given her the evil eye. When her mother decided it would be a good thing to confront the town’s resident witch, Lexie knew life would never be the same. How could it when their loved ones began returning to the old homestead the day after their funerals. Lexie knew she should be happy none of her neighbors reported mutilated cattle or corpses with missing brains. But that can be hard to do when your loved ones have passed but not passed on.

Skeletons in the Closet is a novella set in the Eerie Side of the Tracks universe. It is the first of a series featuring Lexie, her family – both living and dead, not to mention furry – and their friends.

Nocturnal Haunts (Now on sale for $0.99)

Lt. Mackenzie Santos has seen just about everything in more than ten years as a cop. The last few months have certainly shown her more than she’d ever expected. She’s learned that real monsters don’t always hide under the bed or in the closet. They walk the streets and can exist in the best of families.

When she’s called out to a crime scene and has to face the possibility that there are even more monsters walking the Earth than she knew, she finds herself longing for the days before she started turning furry with the full moon.

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.


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.