Is Barnes and Noble Going The Way of Borders…as in Bankrupt?

I don’t know about you, WG2E-Land Peeps, but I don’t have a good gut feeling about the future of Barnes and Noble brick and mortar stores. They could end up with the same fate as Borders.

Following an article in the Wall Street Journal (which is subscription only…ugh!) early last week, things ain’t lookin’ too good.

Digital Book World (DBW) is doing a great job covering it and analyzing it. So, here are the links you’ll want to check out:

The Barnes & Noble Elephant in the Room at DBW 2013

Barnes & Noble Worries Spread (read all of the extra articles attached to this too, a few of which I’ve linked to below)

Barnes & Noble’s Massive Tablet Failure

Barnes & Noble Overly Optimistic About Its Dark Future?

And, it’s not just their brick and mortar stores that are in trouble. Their Nook division, even with Microsoft’s money, isn’t doing great either. Sales of their new Nook tablet didn’t meet expectations during the holiday season.

Me personally, my Nook sales are waaaayyy down from what they were last year at this point. For example, I did around $8,000 (4400 units) there last December (2011) compared to $800 (835 units) this year. That said, I’m still making between $30 and $50 per day on Nook right now which still makes it a decent market. ***Note: I did have a B&N Top 10 product last year at this time though, with my first Ebook Boxed Set, when Ebook Boxed Sets were brand new. That wasn’t the case this year.

So, what does all of this mean for Indie Epublished Authors? Does Discoverability via a brick and mortar store even matter for us? Some studies suggest it does, although there are just as many examples saying it doesn’t matter at all, especially if you’re Epublished-Only, not both Print (with distribution to B&N) and Epublished.

Here’s one take on it, recorded at DBW 2013:

What is perhaps going to change regardless of how you’re published is the overall reading experience and how readers find us. In other words, how will readers find/discover books and authors in the very near future, with and/or without any major brick and mortar chain like Barnes & Noble?

I just don’t think brick and mortar stores are in our future at all. Even with highly-illustrated books as in the travel and childrens’ genres, with tablets, there’s simply no need for glossy paper.

My gut tells me the future for authors will be found in two places – Ereaders/Tablets and The Library. (Yep, I’m betting if you want the paper/print book experience, you’ll go to your local public library for that.)

What do y’all think?

The Best of Discoverability Wishes — D. D. Scott

P.S. I also did a post on this today on our sister site, The RG2E (The Reader’s Guide to Epublishing), so head on over and see what readers have to say about this too.

D. D. Scott is an Amazon and Barnes and Noble Top 100 Bestselling Romantic Comedy and Humorous Mystery Author. She’s also a Writer’s Go-To-Gal for Muse Therapy and Indie Epublishing, the Co-Founder of The WG2E- The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing, and the Founder of The RG2E – The Reader’s Guide to E-publishing.  You can get all the scoop on her, her books, her Online Classes and Live Workshops, plus juicy tidbits too from her new cyber home…D. D. Scott-ville.

EasyFreeAds Blog News Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati Digg Google Yahoo Buzz StumbleUpon


  1. Hi DD,

    I guess it’s no surprise to hear that one of the last brick/mortar stores is beginning to crumble. It’s a sad thing for all the Nook owners out there, and for all of us who enjoy browing books stores. B&N is the only store left in my area and I admit to visiting/buying there much less frequently then in years past due to the economy impacting my income.

    We lost Borders two years ago, much to our dismay, and it was located in our only shopping mall and was always busy – it was a shock to see it go.

    Personally, I love ordering stuff off Amazon, but there are times when an author’s latest book comes out and I don’t want to wait for it to ship. I tried that once, with Lee Child’s newest thriller–I pre-purchased it on Amazon, but they didn’t ship it until the day it was released in book stores, so that left me waiting 5 days longer than I would have had to, and I paid just as much via Amazon as it was at B&N. So, there are disadvantages to not having a book store in town. Boo hoo.

    • D.D. Scott says:

      I hear ya, Alex.

      For me, last year was the first time I haven’t renewed my B&N Membership in more than a decade. The closest store is over 25 miles away (one-way), and I’d much rather just one-click-buy on Amazon for my Kindle while in my jammies and enjoying a glass of wine.

      And you’re right, it is an economic decision as well as a convenience decision. In my case, I’m saving a ton of money using The Zon, not to mention the gas money to get to a store. And a one-click-buy versus a two-hour outing at a minimum just doesn’t compare.

  2. Patrice says:

    It’s a sad day to see these beautiful book stores disappear, as readers we all love to browse and look at covers, but yes, the future will not see many more of them. Perhaps small, indy stores?
    Want to start one DD? It sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

    • D.D. Scott says:

      I’ll admit, Patrice, I used to love to browse in the stores for exactly what you said…just to see the covers. I’m a total sucker for a great cover! :-)

      But I can do that beautifully on my Kindle or iPad, and with all of the covers face out. There are fewer and fewer covers face out now in B&N stores, because shelf space is disappearing. And it’s generally covers by the same top authors over and over and over.

      I do hope the Indie Stores survive. They’re going to have to specialize…say in travel, or childrens’ books, etc. to thrive though. And, make a trip there more of an adventure than just a browsing experience.

  3. B&N always had an arrogance about it that I never liked … even back before I considered writing my own books … and I have never liked the atmosphere there. Too big … too impersonal … too McMegaChain.

    I tried to go into our sole B&N bookseller to offer the manager a complimentary review copy of my book and was told they wouldn’t even speak to indies. In this day an age when so many of their core customers are also authors, I think such arrogance is a blunder. I, for one, have refused to step foot in the store ever since, and I spend a good $3,000 per year on other people’s books.

    I say what goes around, comes around…

    In -MY- perfect future, there will be lots of local quirky indie coffee shop/gift/bookstores where local authors will leave review copies of their books for casual sippers to browse with a Q-code to instantly download it if they like it and want to finish it at home. I’ll have a large french vanilla coffee with two Splenda, please, dark cream, and a tall-dark-and-handsome hero with a sword … all for $6.78 including tax.

    Goodbye, Barnes & Noble. It’s been so long since I stepped foot in one of your stores that I won’t even miss you, and your DRM on my Nook has so ticked me off that I bought all 3 of our older children Google Nexus 7′s for Christmas and gave them gift accounts with Smashwords!

    • D.D. Scott says:

      I luv the vision of your perfect world, Anna!

      I had a very similar experience as you at a B&N in 2012. It wasn’t pleasant to put it mildly. Here’s the scoop:

      I also haven’t set foot in a store since. I have a ton of Nook readers however who’ve been very very good to me so I do still promote Nook and their online store which is a totally different company basically than its brick and mortar division.

      • Sibel Hodge says:

        Thanks for the linkys, DD!

        Anna, I’m loving your world: “In -MY- perfect future, there will be lots of local quirky indie coffee shop/gift/bookstores where local authors will leave review copies of their books for casual sippers to browse with a Q-code to instantly download it if they like it and want to finish it at home. I’ll have a large french vanilla coffee with two Splenda, please, dark cream, and a tall-dark-and-handsome hero with a sword … all for $6.78 including tax.”

        That sounds fab! :)

      • CC MacKenzie says:

        I’ve been handing out piles of business cards to my local coffee stores with my freebie on them. They’ve been really happy to let buyers take the cards and I’ve watched a couple of girls download the book on their devices.

        I hope B&N survive in some form and I hope their Ebook store fixes their glitches. What I’ve found is that Nook readers are a very loyal bunch, and like Dee Dee, they’ve been very good to me.

        It’s important readers have a choice and it’s on the shoulders of distributors to make sure their reader EStore experience is up to speed or even better than Amazon.

        • D.D. Scott says:

          I luuuvvv watching peeps take my cards too, CC, both at our local coffee shops, including Starbucks (you can hang your cards on their bulletin boards there), and I also have them at our most popular breakfast spots. I’ve had several readers contact me from our local area after finding my cards there. :-)

          I hope Nook makes it too! Everyone I know who has their devices love the device but complain about the ease of using their online store.

  4. Jim Guigli says:

    For many years, I shopped for books only in B&N. I had several B&N stores to visit in the SF Bay Area. But you could see they were more friendly to people who didn’t even buy books than they were to authors. Non-customers would hog the tables and couches for business meetings, even job interviews, while book-buying customers couldn’t find a place to sit. Their author events were non-existant or sucked.
    I’m still a member, but buy most everything from The Zon. I think good, niche indies can do well if they focus on their customers — many don’t. They think they deserve the business just because they are not Amazon.

    • D.D. Scott says:

      It is all about focusing on our customers, Jim! Bravo to that!

      And that’s also precisely where B&N has gone astray. They’re too focused on their shareholders and bottom line margins instead of investing in a fabulous experience for their customers which in turn would eventually save their bottom lines.

      Authors are their customers too, and they’ve never ever understood that!

  5. Laura Howard says:

    I’m curious about the “discoverability tools” Laura was talking about. Any ideas?

    • D.D. Scott says:

      Great question, Laura!

      Fabulous Discoverability Tools would be, for example, huge Ereader-centric sites like ENT (Ereader News Today) that has over 400,000 Facebook followers alone who are all avid readers looking to discover a new author each and every day! Just look at their Facebook page where 500+ peeps will “like” each day’s title.

      ***Note: I’ll be on there for the second time this coming Tuesday, 2/5. Yay!!! :-)

      Social Media in general, for example, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. Personal Blogs, Group Blogs/Grogs, Ereader-centric sites like our own sister site The RG2E (we’re growing slowly but surely with now over 355 peeps who visit every day and pass on the buzz about each author they’re introduced to). How ’bout the “Also Bought” streams on The Zon as well as their Top 100 Bestseller Lists in each genre and sub-genre?

      Does that help a bit?

      It’s all about WHERE readers are finding/discovering new authors to them and their books too. That’s Discoverability and some of the fabulous tools/places where those introductions are being made.

      • Laura Howard says:

        Awesome thanks! My favorite so far is book bloggers! Such an amazing resource!! I need to learn more about sites like Kindle Nation for when I publish…

  6. Alison Pensy says:

    I’m not surprised to hear about B&N bookstores, but from a very selfish standpoint I hope their Nook division doesn’t go the same way. For some unknown reason, I sell twice as many books on Nook than I do on Amazon so it would put a serious dent in my royalty income. I’ll keep my fingers crossed they hang in there :-)

  7. Angela Brown says:

    As much as I enjoy grabbing a hot tea to relax then browsing the covers and checking out blurbs while my Chipmunk enjoys the Children’s section – in tandem so I can be with her at all times – I don’t know if the future of B&N will be bright. They, unfortunately, do have the “McMegaChain” feel mentioned by Anna. I usually see college students hogging the seating for study instead of actual shoppers getting a good place to make book buying decisions.

    However, if Anna’s vision comes to fruition, I could really go for that :-)

  8. Stacy Green says:

    I am curious as to what B&N is doing with the money they received a year or less ago. Didn’t they have some kind of merger or bail out of sorts with Microsoft? Are am I completely imagining things?

    I know Nook sales aren’t nearly as they’d hoped, but I had hoped with that sort of money they would have something special up their sleeves.

    As for the bookstores, our Barnes and Noble is usually busy when I go in. But we also have a couple of fantastic indie bookstores I love and who are (right now) doing well. They are also great about supporting indie authors of all stages.

  9. LM Preston says:

    I really hope this isn’t the path foreseen. I enjoy going to the bookstore and maybe now I will make more of an effort to purchase from them on my weekly book purchase.

  10. Gordon Kessler says:

    I always found Borders a more comfortable, friendly store while B & N is a little flashier with a bit more of an elitist atmosphere. I felt I could have gone into Borders in my bathrobe and slippers (okay, I’d get arrested—but besides that), whereas I need to dress up to go to B & N.

    No matter, I had my best book-signing ever at a B & N just before Christmas in 2001. I’ll miss it if it goes by the wayside.

    My crystal ball tells me there will still be brick and mortar B & N stores in our future, however, a lot fewer. To replace 95% of the big stores of all types will be window-shoppers’ touch-and-feel-stores showcasing each business’s bestselling items, hot new products, etc. With the POD Espresso Book Machine becoming more sophisticated, enabling the elimination of thousands of square feet of high-dollar real estate, it only makes sense that bookstores will be able to display their hottest bookdumps, throw in a couple of EBMs and put a much more cost-effective, small floor-space store in a mall of any size.

    Oops, I just dropped my crystal ball. Not to worry, I’ll order another one from Amazon and have it tomorrow!

  11. Although I stopped doing booksignings in 2009, when I was still being traditionally published, because things were changing even then…and although I now strictly ePublish without print, I would hate to see B&N close. Book browsing is fun! I’ll cross my fingers and hope for the best. We have just one store in this entire far north Chicago suburbs/southeast tip of Wisconsin area, a B&N in Racine. I truly would hate to see it go.

  12. Hope Barrett says:

    DD, just this past week Best Buy pulled the stunning corporate manoeuvre of closing all of its big box stores on Vancouver Island so that employees found themselves coming to work to learn they were suddenly unemployed. That this move may have been based on pure whimsy is confirmed by the fact that the biweekly circular for homes in the area includes pages of advertising from Best Buy…

    B&N by comparison have given notice to the business world, and everyone else in general, they are closing some doors.

    Best Buy’s move was triggered by the fact that people were using their stores to browse, but not to buy. Rather, the report goes: people were buying online after browsing. Books are in danger of going the same route, but the biggest problem in the long term picture of not having a bricks and mortar place to find books is that the classics will disappear and illiteracy will become rampant. For the reality in the US and slowly worldwide is that bricks and mortar places such as libraries are also being closed. Municipalities feel they can no longer afford the service. Governments are not supporting literacy.

    As an author AND reader, I do not care about the snobbery of B&N’s management but that books continue to be in plain sight so that reading does not become a lost art. On an iPad — Kindle, Kobo, and iBooks are just apps. They have as much or as little value as an app that provides a board game or one of those shoot-em and cumulate points games. I hate to see paper being wasted on print books that will be just disposed of, because a multitude of trees died to create them. The print industry needs to change, but not to the point where we lose complete visual sight of a physical book. And I will wager that not-so-many years down the road, a report will come out about the damage ereaders are doing to the long term health of eyes. Rather, we need to see less waste and the promotion of both print and digital as indispensable to one another.

  13. My local B&Ns were busy during the holiday season, but I find that the only time I’m there anymore is to buy a specific gift (rarely books), or if one of my kids needs a literary read for school. It’s a little sad, but it is what it is. I certainly hope their Nook products improve in market share. I don’t love the notion of Amazon being the only big player.

  14. Elizabeth Monnet says:

    This is a truly great website and I am recommending this to ALL my author friends.

    Our local indie bookstore offers inexpensive writing classes and readings by local authors after they complete a class. They recently started selling a self-published printed book of 9 short stories by local authors. This is one business model for the future.

    Since Barnes & Noble did it’s best to put indies like our local bookstore out of business, I will only be sad for the authors if they go down.

  15. JamieSalisbury (@JamieRSalisbury) says:

    I’ve never had a lot of sales on B&N. . .no matter what I do to turn it around. I kept thinking with the Microsoft $ they would improve. Not the case. . .

  16. David Slegg says:

    It’s interesting that you say the library might end up playing a bigger role in the future along with e-readers. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.

  17. Gordon says:

    In Australia, Angus & Robertson (a large chain store) went out of business here a couple of years ago, there has been other book stores that have closed down too, but I can’t remember who now. There’s less and less bookstores now. My local library have just sent me a report on the “future of the library” after asking about the future of the library, so I will be interested to see what the report recommends for the future.