As a writer who once fancied that it would be nice to see my books on a Barnes & Noble bookshelf, I think that fantasy will always remain a "fiction." I say that not because I don't feel I have the talent to get into one of those stores as a published author. I say that because their company is in SERIOUS trouble. As an amateur investor in stock, I'd have to say I wouldn't give them a penny. It's the "should I catch a falling knife?" syndrome. For those of you who don't invest, the analogy is pretty obvious. If someone throws a knife from a two story window, do you want to be the one that tries to catch it? Not me. I'm gonna let it hit the pavement and get destroyed. That's just the way things are sometimes; that's capitalism.
There are many problems that have plagued Barnes & Noble. For one, they decided to try and get into the ebook game to repeat Amazon's success. The only problem is that this particular strategy runs against their business model. They own brick and mortar stores that feature books, calendars, magazines, a cafe, some wi-fi for a person to use their laptop on, a dvd section, etc. But by selling the Nook, they were telling their customers: stay home and download books. And that's what they did (I live across the street from a Barnes & Noble and in five years, I've probably been inside maybe ten times). That's kind of sad. Without people like me going in, they lost the chance to pitch books from tables, to collect side sales like cookies and lattes from their cafe, and countless other things that I might have bought because the packaging caught my eye.
However, I suppose that the biggest problem is that not enough people want to buy books in retail outlets anymore. That's just a fact. Now, just to be clear, the brick and mortar portion of Barnes & Noble is still profitable by a tiny margin. Analysts on Wall Street believe that it should remain so for the next few years. But it's questionable if the company can survive the absolute hemorrhaging of money that's occurred thus far in 2013. Here's a rundown of the B&N holocaust.
On June 25th of this year, B&N (with regard to its brick and mortar stores) reported a 7.4% drop in revenues and a $122 million dollar loss for the fourth quarter of its fiscal year. For the full year, B&N earned a mere $10 million, compared to $177 million just one year prior.
It gets worse. The Nook division is an unmitigated disaster. It saw a stunning 17% drop in Nook revenues and a staggering $475 million loss thus far this year. Can you imagine losing almost $500 million?
So yeah, I think if you're a writer who wanted their books in a Barnes & Noble, or if you are one of those people that thought, "Man...those naysayers will be eating crow when my book is on the shelf at the local B&N, and I'm signing books to adoring fans" you should probably go and take a picture of your B&N because that business is in its death throes.
I wish it weren't true. But it's possible that the only place you will see paper books anymore is through independents or on that aisle in the grocery store. It makes me wonder how the Big Five publishers will deal with the mom & pop stores. So if B&N is tanking, what company is raking it in? The answer is obvious: Amazon.
Here's food for thought: In just ten years, Amazon's stock has surged 2000%. If you had invested a thousand dollars in them in Y2K you'd have 2 million dollars in the bank. Interesting, eh? Amazon will probably get so big within ten more years that it will just buy out Random House, Penguin, Knopf, and all the others with pocket change.
So what do you think? Will Barnes & Noble survive for another ten years? Do you think they can salvage their operation? Can big-style agented New York publishing survive without Barnes & Noble? And finally, how will you be affected if Barnes & Noble closes its doors? I think it would suck to go through all the trouble to get an agent, get your book sold to a publisher, then see B&N implode and shutter all its stores, resulting in you being told that your book is now slated for digital only and then thrown on kindle with all the millions of self-pubs because they have no way to market the paperback version of your book. I wonder how some egotistical writers will react when the "glitz" of a Barnes & Noble is gone, leaving behind a slew of used bookstores filled with cobwebs, yellowing pages, and hippies smokin' weed behind a stack of books propped up on end tables surrounding a flea ridden couch.
I can hear the conversation in my head. "Sue Grafton...over here. What's up my woman? You write some serious mystery." Puts cigarette out in ashtray. "We had five customers yesterday, but with you in da house we prolly get seven or eight. Saweeet!"
It may be a tad bit early but I'm gonna say it anyway. R.I.P. B&N. May the future prove me wrong.