Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
The future of brick-and-mortar stores is a topic that is on the minds of pretty much everyone in the publishing industry. We all heaved a deep sigh when Borders closed its doors, although let’s face it, it was hardly a shock. Due to poor management, Borders had been on the verge of collapse for awhile, but what did it mean for Barnes & Noble and other bookstores around the country? Was it a sign that ebooks and technology were finally taking over our neighborhood bookstores for good?
Many people think that is a possibility. Analysts are predicting that the end is in sight for Barnes & Noble. Paper books are going extinct, so naturally Barnes & Noble will go out of business within a few years. Maybe I’m an optimist. Or maybe I’m just naive. But I like to think that Barnes & Noble will stick around for awhile. Let me explain.
For one, Barnes & Noble is not afraid of the “digital age” of books. Far from it. In fact, it jumped on the ebook bandwagon with enthusiasm. They have shown over the years that they are willing to experiment with ereaders, launching the very successful Nook line and very recently, the new Nook Tablet. This Nook Tablet is clearly going up against Amazon’s Kindle Fire, and we’ll see this holiday season which tablet is preferred by customers. But with the Nooks available in every Barnes & Noble store across the country, customers have a chance to play with each model, a luxury that is not available for Amazon customers. Having an actual store to showcase their latest digital products is a great asset for Barnes & Noble; customers who come into the store to look at the Nooks will often buy several books or magazines before they leave. Cha-ching.
Plus, the atmosphere at Barnes & Noble is cheerful and calming. You know the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s where Audrey Hepburn says that Tiffany’s is the kind of place where nothing bad can happen? Bookstores like Barnes & Noble are my version of Tiffany’s. I go there to relax with a delicious cup of Starbuck’s coffee and to browse through the aisles of books. I think that kind of unique book shopping experience is still desired in society. It’s just not the same placing books in your online shopping cart at Amazon.
Yes, I do believe that paper books will eventually phase out. They’ll become collector’s items, something we show off to our grandchildren (who probably won’t care). But I don’t think it will happen anytime soon. Barnes & Noble has enough time on its side to experiment with their stores, and to come up with a business plan that works for them. So far, I think they’ve played their cards right. They’ve positioned themselves as contenders in the ereader game, while still providing paper books for the baby boomers and old-fashioned readers like myself. If they continue to make smart decisions, I see no reason why Barnes & Noble won’t survive.