What will become of Barnes&Noble?
So in the news today I read that Barnes&Noble will stop manufacturing the Nook because of difficulties competing in the e-reader/tablet market. This has me concerned, not so much from an investor point of view (because I don’t own the stock), but from a consumer standpoint.
For some time now Barnes&Noble has been the strongest of a dying breed of B&M bookstores. I miss wandering off into the bookstore at my local mall as it closed its doors long ago. I also miss hanging out at Borders which was in my city a few years ago and had to close shop. It seems if I want to go browse a good selection of books in person my only options are Barnes&Noble or the library. The library has its uses and a good number of the same titles but for some reason I don’t leave it feeling quite as uplifted as when I leave a store that sells new books. I understand my last sentence will sound detestable to many people but personally, the difference in my experience between a visit to the library and a bookstore is remarkable.
Suggestions have been thrown around about how Barnes&Noble can stay relevant in an age of show rooming and Amazon.com purchases. One idea was for book stores of its kind to charge a small admission fee to the store. A similar idea was the fee could be refunded upon making a purchase in the store. If everyone were me, this small admission fee would work wonderfully because I wouldn’t mind paying two or three dollars to read at Barnes&Noble for a couple of hours. A visit to the book store certainly entertains and improves me more than many movies for which I pay twelve dollars in some cases! However, I am uncertain if the pay to stay model could have any success.
Personally, I would like to see Barnes&Noble evolve in a more extreme way into a place that people would want to go to loiter among books, food, drink, conversation, and various forms of edutainment. It took a baby step in this direction with the Starbucks partnership but I feel as is the company will not survive without evolving in a major way. My heart longs for Barnes&Noble to go bigger, perhaps superstore big. Take your typical store and increase its square footage and book selection ten-fold. Have multiple coffee shops, a few delis, and maybe even a bar inside the store. Get lavish with the surroundings. Original artwork, stimulating architecture, and stylish but comfy seating would be a start. A couple of meeting/conference rooms and gaming areas would be a nice addition. Throw in a small movie theater. Go for a Guiness Book of World Records sort of bigger and better. Each of these stores would become not just a book store but an event, perhaps even a tourist attraction. Perhaps only a few cities could really support such a thing but they would be a Mecca for those of a curious mind. People would travel from all over the country to visit one of these stores if it were big enough and unique enough. When I think of all the lame tourist attractions people pay ten or twenty dollars for I could see people paying five dollars for something like this.
Sadly, my own fondness of an idea doesn’t make it a money maker. If everyone thought like me such an idea would be a tremendous success but I have found people have vastly different likes than I do. Will anyone else be as sad as I will when the B&M bookstores go the way of the dinosaur?