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Will Anybody Buy Barnes & Noble?

September 2, 2018

(image via wikimedia)

This seems to be a bad time for the book store Barnes & Noble.  Its CEO got fired a couple months ago and is counter-suing for severance pay (read more here) .  Barnes & Noble’s stock keeps struggling.  A secret potential buyer just pulled out of a deal after looking over all B&N’s financial records (read more here).  If you’re a book buyer, you might want to save some extra money for a giant clearance sale in the near future.

Or you can use that money to buy Barnes & Noble.

Supposedly, Barnes & Noble needs a lot of cash.  This is no surprise.  Everybody needs a lot of money.  Even Barnes & Noble’s competitor Amazon needs a lot of cash.  Amazon spends more money than it brings in, but its shareholders don’t care because they’re confident in Amazon’s future.  They might even believe that Jeff Bezos is going to use Amazon to take over the world and that they will, as shareholders, be major influencers in his decision making.

Nobody believes that Barnes & Noble will take over the world.  Twenty years ago, Barnes & Noble took over the book world, crushing almost all of its smaller competition.  Now it’s on the verge of being crushed, and this internal squabble probably doesn’t help its reputation.

I’d love to buy a Barnes & Noble book store.  I’d buy one store, not the whole franchise.  As much as I love brick and mortar bookstores, though, I’d make some changes.

If I owned a book store, I’d hire really talkative extroverts who knew nothing about books.  Book readers tend to be introverts who have awkward conversations.  It’s okay for me to say that because I’m an introvert who has awkward conversations.  If the book buyer is an introvert and the store employee is an introvert, then every conversation is going to be awkward.  It takes introverts a long time to get comfortable with others, even with other introverts, and my book store has product to move.  Extroverts get along with introverts because introverts need to get pushed a little bit in conversation and extroverts need listeners.

This doesn’t mean that I’d hire only extroverts.  That would be stupid.  I’d need some introverts to do the actual book work and the organizing and the math.  I’d make it comfortable for the introverts.  They’d be instructed not to speak to customers unless they wanted to.  They wouldn’t have to do any unnecessary greeting.  Customers usually don’t like the unnecessary greeting anyway, especially if it’s from an awkward introvert.

If the talkative extroverts are really attractive too, that would be a bonus.  Customers like attractive employees, but I don’t want to be in a position to get sued.  I’m not going to turn my book store into a literary version of Hooters or Twin Peaks, where guys elbow each other and say stuff like, “I’d like to read what’s on the back of THAT book cover.”

I’d probably move the James Patterson books to the back of the store, just out of spite.  I think James Patterson is running a literary scam, but I’d still sell his books.  I’m not vindictive enough to hurt my own business.  I’d just put them in the back, in their own section with giant letters that proclaim JAMES PATTERSON and arrows leading straight to them.  I’d make James Patterson fans walk through the entire store to get to the James Patterson books, but I’d make it a positive experience for the readers.

Instead of classical music, I’d play an audio book over the store speakers.  That’d be a little risky, I know.  I probably wouldn’t want to play a novel because customers who walk in during the middle of the book might not know what’s going on.  Maybe I’d play a bunch of short stories or humorous essays that customers could follow along to as they browse.  Nothing political, though.  I don’t want any political arguments in my book store.  I’m for free speech, but politics is poison for businesses, so I’ll do everything I can to stay out of that crap.

Audio books could cause some problems.  Introverts might get annoyed at the constant talking.  Extroverts might get mad that they have to compete with somebody else’s voice over the store sound system.  I don’t know.  I’d rather hear an audio essay than get a stupid song stuck in my head for the whole day.

That’s what I’d do if I bought my own Barnes & Noble.   I probably can’t afford my own book store, though.  I guess I’ll just have to save my money for the upcoming clearance sales.  Sigh!


But enough about me!  What do you think?  If you owned one Barnes & Noble store, what changes would you make?

  1. As B&N employee I know what you’re talking about. I love the bookstore, but there are major problems; which I hope will be resolved sooner rather than never.

    At my store I think most of us are introverts, book lovers, teachers, writers, etc. and I see very few awkward conversations. Most of those awkward conversations come when there’s an introvert/extrovert interaction. Because you know extroverts exhaust introverts pretty quickly.

    I have a love/hate relationship with audiobooks. The reader has to have the right tone or white noise sounding voice for me to listen. Otherwise it becomes annoying, grating.

    If I could own a bookstore, which I have seriously been thinking about, it would be similar to a few of my favorites Politics & Prose and Krammer Books & Afterwards both in DC and Tattered Cover in Denver, CO. All Indie. And I would definitely pay a living wage and health insurance.

    • I really hope the powers-that-be at Barnes & Noble get their act together. Where I live, Barnes & Noble is pretty much it, except for some smaller specialty book stores.

  2. Barnes & Noble is failing because malls are failing. The secret to a successful bookstore is low, very low, cost per square foot. Give people a place to browse and buy and you will always have customers.

    • I know of a bookstore where the family runs it out of their house.

      I don’t know how profitable it is, but there’s always somebody buying something (hopefully, they’re not all family members), and I bet the rent is pretty low.

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