Both much and nothing have been made about B&N being for sale. They say their stocks are undervalued. They also have a legal showdown at center stage as some of their largest shareholders have lawyers drawn and blood in their eye.

I’m not a market genius, but I do know enough about human nature to tell you if you keep repeating the same thing over and over again people will stop listening. When the same types of books and mostly the same dozen writers get prime shelf space what’s the point of going to the store? If I know I’m going to see the latest Dan Brown, Steven King and Twilight novels touted as "the best of fiction" when a) I have read them 2) I don’t like them at all d) I’ve got no interest in those particular cookie cutter books, I’m unlikely as all hell to pay any attention to the marketing. When dozens, and dozens of new books in whatever area’s i do read come out and I still see a "best seller" from four months ago listed as a "New Release" and nine of them on the shelves but can’t find a copy of a book due out now or even last month by someone not in the anointed roll, what is my incentive to shop in a store when there are a dozen and a half websites I can name where I can find those books?

Further while I understand that micromanaging a chain of thousands of stores would be all but impossible, having the exact same selection in Denver, CO and Portsmouth, NH might work for big box department chains, entertainment items are not approached by the buying public the same way underwear, baby formula, and name brand motor oil are. Demographics dictate consumption. Again Demographics dictate consumption. A state like Massachusetts with a very high number of college degrees is going to have numbers different in some categories than a state with a very low high school graduation rate. Alaska, is probably going to sell a higher percentage of products aimed at men, Florida and Arizona will almost certainly sell more books aimed at older people than states which are on average younger. And even within states you’re going to see differences. College towns will have different trends and sell more textbooks than farm towns and bedroom communities.

Of course you’d never know this to walk into a B&N store. I’ve been to several up and down the east coast, and points further west. The music stores have the same ratio of Sheyrl Crow to the J Giles Band and Coleman Hawkins in Saugus Ma and Richmond Va, Eminem and Enya get the same space in Portsmouth NH and San Diego CA, and numerous authors who visit conventions in Ryebrook NY, Boston Ma, or Chattanooga TN, are left entirely off the shelves because there’s no checkbox on the order forms for "hey the author was here it might just possibly have left some residual interest". Also for the few stores that have readers groups, there’s no shelf space or signage for "local readers like" and an automatic order of those books, sequels and other books by the same authors.

So the short answer is: try harder.

  • You left out the pushy promotion of their memberships. I did patronize B&N a bit more intensely when their teacher discount club was much less onerous (essentially, cards available in the teacher lounge). Then they wanted a detailed sign-up form. I decided it wasn't worth it.
    But then, I live in PDX, and have good access to Powell's (though I wish a bigger Powell's branch was closer to my house). I also have access to a lovely little indie bookstore on the Mountain that regularly discounts books by 15%, sells the tea I like (on occasion), sells artwork (and I may try to place some of my jewelry there), has comfortable and unique couches to sit on while browsing or surfing the Net, has cute cats, has a mailing service, and just an overall cool atmosphere (Wy'East Bookstore on Mt. Hood–well worth a stop for those in the Portland area either to or from Hood!). And they'll order just about any book in print, with that discount. Very nice little bookstore; my favorite small indie bookstore ever.

    • Also, have no idea why I should sign up for their membership for $25 a year when Borders gives theirs away (and constant, weekly coupons, to boot) for free.
      (drive-by comment courtesy of <lj user="yendi">-linkage!)

    • the ones at the 2 I shop at down here don't talk to me about the membership except to ask if I have it with me and to remind me when it's about to expire. you want to talk about pushy? my reviews and part of the reason I was fired from Waldenbooks after those fucking retards at Border's bought them, was because I wasn't selling enough and wasn't asking every single customer all the time if they had it, would they be willing to buy it etc. Why didn't I? Uhmmm because I knew the bulk of the customers by sight, if not by name and I KNEW when they were up for renewal, knew that I didn't really have to remind them etc. Also the regulars that didn't want cards got pissed about constantly being asked so *I* refused to ask them. Since I knew them and didn't want their money going to another store because upper management was like a hooker who couldn't manage to clean up a case of the crabs!

  • There may be some slight differences. My friend from the Mid-West claims that hers has more shelves of books on dogs than of Manga. That's definitely not true here.
    But, for the most part, you're spot on.

  • Good post, Mike. I imagine the system worked well for them before the internet came along, but once folks realize they're being force-fed something, they usually stop wanting it.

  • You sir are wax poetic in this epitaph for a bloated and obnoxious creature beached on the shorts of INTERNET diversity! Ok I shall stop now before I owe you more booze.
    Barnes and igNoble make my skin crawl just driving past. They are a brick and mortar that should mortared shut.
    Shorter answer: DIAF sale

  • Excellent post. Thanks.

  • Astute observation.

  • Oh I agree with you know that..after all you know I worked for their competition[who are even dumber] for many years. Frankly for me..B&N is the better of the two. The borders down here does what you described and then some. The B&N less so. I can also generally find a better selection at my B&N than at the nearby Borders. The only reason I still occasionally shop at Borders at all is because the store is *literally* 5 minutes from my door. Where the B&N is a 20min drive. Despite that 20mins most of my *book* money goes to Barnes and Noble. Because for me..the service is better, and so is the selection. [not to mention the people who work at the B&N seem to have functioning brains in their skulls..instead of an emptiness with a sing on it that says "empty space for rent"]
    however you are right ..that same batch of fucking authors always being in the front and NONE of the other authors [particularly Baen authors] NEVER being up front is a source of constant annoyance for me.

  • Alaska Men, and regional book concentrations
    So, two things. You'd think Alaskans would by more books about men, but that's assuming that the Alaskan consumer reads. The frontier scholar is a rare breed here, I'm afraid. In fact, when a furniture guy was midway through building my library shelves, he allowed as how he'd never built this big of a collection of book-shelves.
    UAA has more female than male students overall, and women in almost all of the disciplines. Men apparently build stuff and hunt, neither of which requires an advanced degree.
    Next thing: I was all happy that somebody in B&N had managed to buy some of my favorite authors, Hoyt, Freer, and Spoor. I had actually become convinced that there was somebody from the bar working there. I asked, and was told that the F&SF shelves are stocked by corporate headquarters. We do have a relatively large regional section, and I've seen a very few non-regional fiction titles by local authors over there.

  • Sounds like the US and UK have similar problems.
    For the last couple of years I've been walking into bookstores and coming out with empty hands, other than the much-lamented UK Borders. The books on the SF shelves are
    – books I already own
    – books by authors I've tried and which are on my 'to order' list anyway
    – books by authors I've tried and disliked
    – books of a type I've tried and do not enjoy (another first-person UF/paranormal Romance)
    – books that fail as entertainment (someone, inevitably female, gets raped, on screen, by page fifty. Sometimes by page twenty.)
    What isn't there are new books by relatively unknown authors in subgenres I enjoy, books that make me wish *I* could have thought of that setting, that situation, that challenge to the character.
    The last bookshop find was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel – and that's a while ago. I can no longer visit bookstores to be inspired, and instead of coming out with a pile of books I would not have thought of trying, I leave empty-handed… so I don't go.

  • I'm guessing you live in Portsmouth, since you mentioned it twice! I was just there for the Richard Thompson concert in Prescott Park on Friday. I live up in Gardiner, Maine!

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