Books and Publishing in the Digital Age
The national retail chain Barnes & Noble recently closed down several stores in prominent locations in response to a dip in sales in the year 2012. Dallas, Washington D.C., Seattle, and New York were among the cities to see many stores shut down. Barnes & Noble announced that it will continue to shutter stores over the next ten years until there are between 450-500 locations left in the country.
In a stark contrast to what was predicted only a few years ago, the future of Barnes & Noble appears to be in trouble. The retail giant managed to grow quickly forcing out almost all of its competitors. Borders, its last major opponent, left Barnes & Noble as the sole chain retail bookstore in the country. When Borders filed for bankruptcy in 2011, many speculated that Barnes & Noble would gain the consumers of its fallen competitor. However, that has not turned out to be the case. As many consumers flock to online retail stores, brick-and-mortar bookstores face an uncertain future.
As the last remaining bookstore chain, Barnes & Noble has found itself in need of reinvention. CEO William J. Lynch, Jr. understands that Barnes & Noble faces the difficult challenge of adapting to a digital age while still providing quality content in physical stores. The shuttering of a few lower traffic stores might not mean the end for the chain as it focuses its efforts on the ereader market. Adjusting to a digital market while also reducing the number of stores could help Barnes & Noble avoid the fate that befell Borders.
A significant component to Barnes & Noble’s strategy for remaining relevant in an increasingly digital realm has been its entry in the ereader market: the Nook. The Nook ereader has allowed Barnes & Noble to enter a market dominated by Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad. While the Nook began with strong numbers and profits, it has seen the rise of a new crop of tablets that offer their own digital ebook apps. Recent news has suggested that the efforts of the Nook are not quite as successful as anticipated. After a $300 million investment from Microsoft last year, the Nook will likely continue to be a large part of the Barnes & Noble gameplan.
The creation of the Nook added sales and proved Barnes & Noble to be a real competitor against Amazon’s Kindle and Apple iPad. The ebooks and ereader market cannot be the only source of Barnes & Noble’s investments. In “The Bookstore’s Last Stand,” Julie Bosman observes that it must face the challenge of keeping customers interested in physical books if they do not want to lose customers to the ebooks market. The ability to browse the aisles and stands filled with books has a great impact on a customer’s willingness to buy those books, magazines, and periodicals. Displays allow for customers to view the products that they might not have had a chance to find on their own.
The real challenge for Barnes & Noble will be figuring out how to keep customers interested in their products while showcasing the value of continuing to purchase physical books.