Friday, September 16, 2011

Barnes & Noble ---A toy store? What are they thinking?

 On a rainy day, not so long ago
I stopped in to my favorite place
Had a cup of coffee, found a book to buy
Saw many a familiar face
Now, I mourn as I walk past;
I do not enter the store
I do not choose to step over the chaos of toys that fill the floor.

Barnes and Noble recently began making change to their stores in Middle Tennessee that remove all seating areas from the retail spaces.  This is part of a nationwide change to use all square footage as retail sales space. 
Now, you may think this is not a significant change, but you would be wrong!
Part of the focus in B&N stores has been the community outreach and support, serving as meeting places for many book groups, writer’s groups, special events, etc.  B&N has a long standing history of becoming part of the community where its stores are located, and becoming a “go-to” place for events and meetings, especially those related to books or literature. 
Of course, both B&N and the community benefitted from this arrangement, as the stores offer a well lit, safe and comfortable option for meeting. And, persons attending the meetings generally purchased drinks, food and books during their visit. 
But, No more! With the only seating now available in the café areas, B&N cannot serve as an effective meeting place for the book groups, etc.  These types of meeting require a space away from the high traffic, open communication, and music associated with the café operations. 
And, are these retail spaces (where the seating areas were) being filled with more book selections? 

NO! They are being filled largely with toys, games and puzzles. I wish this were only for the coming holiday season, and we could see a return to the community bookstore approach of the B&N we loved, but this is not to be.  As they fight for their survival, B&N is making decisions that are not too different from their recently bankrupted competition, Borders, who replaced seating areas with toys a few years ago.
I wish B&N had used their community connections to ask their customers for feedback and ideas, instead of taking a traditional retail stock-the-aisles-full-to sell-more approach.  I would have told them to expand the community outreach, because it was a unique core strength and it allowed customers to see the stores as a part of the community.  As a local author, I was a member of a writers group that met at our local B&N for four years, and came to know several of the local B&N employees as friends. These employees took the time to know their customers, and their community.  And, I made B&N my go-to place for books, magazines, and interactions with other bookaphiles.
I recently did a newspaper interview with another author, who told me that the local B&N store did a better job with her book signings and events, than most of the other bookstores she frequented, including the specialty stores for her genre. The reason for this?  The openness and comfort of the store and the knowledge of its employees.  One can only wonder what authors will think of the B&N stores now.  Since all floor space is now to be used for stock, how will B&N host author events?  And if they do host these events, will they see the traffic reduced, as everyone is forced to stand or sit in cramped spaces on folding chairs?
Many will say B&N is being forced into this position as Ebooks replace paper book sales. I don’t believe that is the cause. I own a B&N Nook reader, and I do purchase Ebooks, but I have made it a practice to buy from the B&N website to support all they do for the community and for authors. 
Perhaps a better use for some of the retail space would have been to set up an Ebook display like the ones in the music areas for CD’s.  This would encourage more familiarity with Ebooks, specifically with the Nook, and make trial and purchase more convenient.  Surely, there were more options available to an innovative bookseller like B&N.
I am so disappointed in the actions that have been taken and the overlooked impact of these action on B&N’s loyal customers, who can no longer depend on B&N to be the go-to place to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon (walking out with purchased books in hand) or a place to meet other readers or writers.
To other retailers, let me say this “ I am not going to be drawn into your store because you put in more merchandise. I will be drawn in because you have something no one else has, whether that is a specific item I’m searching for or a comfortable environment in which to search.  The corporate mentality of making all stores identical does not work for me, and actually causes me to buy more online. 
If you want my money, then you have to win my interest or my loyalty, and this move by B&N (so similar to moves by other retailers) only drives me away. I don’t believe that my viewpoint is unique. Instead of listening to numbers, try listening to your customers! 
B&N, please do not follow Borders. Make your own path forward.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

99 cent millionaire booksellers!

click here for the full article link

Hemingway -Chick lit?

Is PRINT dead?

 Bowker, the global leader in bibliographic information, released its annual report on U.S. print book publishing, compiled from its Books In Print® database. Based on preliminary figures from U.S. publishers, Bowker is projecting that despite the popularity of e-books, traditional U.S. print title output in 2010 increased 5%. Output of new titles and editions increased from 302,410 in 2009 to a projected 316,480 in 2010. The 5% increase comes on the heels of a 4% increase the previous year based on the final 2008-2009 figures.
The non-traditional sector continues its explosive growth, increasing 169% from 1,033,065 in 2009 to an amazing 2,776,260 in 2010. These books, marketed almost exclusively on the web, are largely on-demand titles produced by reprint houses specializing in public domain works and by presses catering to self-publishers and ”micro-niche” publications.
“These publication figures from both traditional and non-traditional publishers confirm that print production is alive and well, and can still be supported in this highly dynamic marketplace,” said Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publishing services for Bowker. “Especially on the non-traditional side, we’re seeing the reprint business’ internet-driven business model expand dramatically. It will be interesting to see in the coming years how well it succeeds in the long-term.”Click here to read the full Bowker article