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Martin Wagner • 6 years ago

A world without bookstores would be a bleak, miserable wasteland I would not want to live in.

Ron Brown • 6 years ago

Agreed. I love the feel of a great book store, and I think there is a lot of value in stumbling across something new and interesting instead of just buying what's promoted in your news feed or selected for you based on what you've bought before.

UrbanRedneck2 • 6 years ago

Well I'm sorry to say, that is part of the problem. Bookstores arent free libraries where one should just go into, take a book off the shelf, sit and read it for an hour, then put it back on the shelf and walk out (frankly part of B&N problem is they have too many cozy places to sit and read). A store is about moving product and every square foot of store floor space has to turn X-amount of revenue to stay open. This is what happened to second hand record stores - people want to go in, spend hours going thru the bins, and maybe buy $10 worth of product. No business can stay open with that model. That's why when you go into a comic book store they have "No Reading" signs and will kick you out if you stand there reading comics. One also cant just go up to a big city newstand, take a magazine off the self, and read it can they?

So if you want the bookstore to stay open - buy something. Dont just walk around looking.

govols • 6 years ago

Of course, if you do that while spending $4 a trip on coffee etc., and do that frequently, that works for them too. I suspect they make higher margins on the cafe than the books.

Guest • 6 years ago

I work in the business. They make far more on the cafe than the books.

Guest • 6 years ago

But is it a Barnes & Noble cafe or is it Starbucks in there?

Tim_Sims • 6 years ago

It's a Barnes and Noble employee inside a Barnes and Noble store, with Barnes and Noble comforming to Starbucks brand standards, selling Starbucks products purchased from Starbucks at prices much better than retail but much worse than cost. Essentially it's a Starbucks franchise owned by Barnes and Noble.

I managed a Borders store that transitioned to "Seattle's Best," essentially the same arrangement that B&N has (SB is part of Starbuck's).

For us, it was ridiculous. Even though the cafe products had a much higher margin than books, they were also much more labor intensive, so we ended up putting something ridiculous like 20% of our labor budget into a segment of the store that generated at best 10% of revenue.

The product was great, but expensive, and I don't know how many people if any it actually brought in the door to buy books vs just diverted money from books to coffee.

Sophlady • 6 years ago

I suspect the appeal of bookstore coffee shops suffered the same fate as is occurring with libraries - they became gathering places for the down and out, particularly the homeless. I can testify to that regarding Portland's former downtown Borders. As more and more homeless people camp out in a place it becomes less what it is supposed to be. The site begins to smell bad and the books and magazines handled by transients become grubby. The last straw for me was seeing a rat, probably from a homeless person's bags, run across the floor in Borders.

Note that the suburban stores, such as Beaverton's, had fewer problems.

For what it is worth, I still have unread new books from Borders on my shelves, as do millions of customers, so the chain's legacy will be with us for a while.

Tim_Sims • 6 years ago

The store I was at was in the far suburbs of Chicago, so we had few if any issues with vagrants. For us, the problems that did us in were multiple:

1) Poor management decisions to invest in high margin brands like Seattle's Best and Paper Chase and a culture of "up selling" instead of total customer satisfaction. Huge emphasis on direct marketing via "Borders Rewards" and promotional emails, while compromising on the ability to actually help people find books they'd love, face to face (which, IMO, is really what Borders was always best at). At one point it seemed like senior management was mostly interested in attractive a buyout offer from B&N rather than beating them.

2) Lack of brand focus. So much overpriced music and movies which were available for half the price across the street, and a shrinking selection of actual books. Rather than feeling like a toy store for intelligent people, we turned into expensive Target with more books. As time went on, the store become less identifiable as the place to find any particular thing and more of a grab bag.

3) Total lack of awareness about technology and the internet. When I left the store, Amazon was already a behemoth, and Borders still had a completely unsophisticated and hard to use web portal for ordering or searching books online, and nothing innovative in the e-reader realm. By the time corporate rushed out their brand specific e-reader, it was too little, too late.

4) The economy. At the best of times, Borders was a gigantic boutique, depending on customers with disposable income to drop on luxuries like hardcover and eclectic books. When people started getting worried about the economy, they stopped buying books they didn't need, the store had to cut back on payroll and keep a much leaner selection, and that in turn made it a less attractive place to shop, which spiraled into worse sales and more cutbacks.

Probably, Borders was doomed no matter what, as B & N is probably doomed, at least as a big box physical retailer, but there are some apparent reasons why B&N has lasted longer.

Ron Brown • 6 years ago

I agree about 1 and 2 especially. I remember getting a book at borders and getting into their system for rewards and just getting bombarded with confusing offers. Really strange. I think Barnes and Noble still has a big problem with number 2. A walk through their music and movies section feels straight out of 2000. You can spend $30 easily on a dvd and music often creeps up towards $20. That's just not realistic anymore, when, like you said, you can get it elsewhere (legally) for much, much less.

Powerlurker • 6 years ago

For a while, Border's actually contracted out their online operations to Amazon until they realized what a huge mistake that was.

Kaitlin Steven • 6 years ago

I loved just hanging out at bookstores and seeing what was offered. It will be a very sad, sad day when they are all gone. ... http://www.makesupto67dolla...

Guest • 6 years ago

you mean you run the cash register? lol. nice euphemism

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Ron Brown • 6 years ago

I mentioned below that I don't buy books often, but when I do buy new books it's often at B&N. In fact, the desire for a new book is really the only time when I do go there. The thing is, the wandering, and the feel of the store, and the sense of place it has is the only thing that's value-added about the experience. If I were to simply walk right in and walk right out--if the only point was buying a book--than it's just a less efficient way to get that book than buying online. That's why I'd be sad to see it go. Otherwise, I'd just get the book instantly on my Nook at home and be done. The same is true of record stores. The picking and exploring is the only reason people go. That's what people enjoy (at least what I enjoy) and that's what's lost when these stores go. (And what's lost about the experience when you can just instantly, digitally have whatever you want; it's ruins the fun of finding something obscure somewhere random.) What happens to places like second hand record stores is that people realize they can get the same music (and more of it), without having to look for it, without having to drive/walk/bike to the store, and without having to feel like their an unwelcome guest by buying it or pirating it online. If the experience outweighs those things, than great, I'm happy to shop there. That's why I shop there. If browsing is unwelcome, well, I'll just go somewhere else.

Spotted Hyena • 2 years ago

Second and Charles is set up in a way that encourages browsing and they seem to be doing well. If you're looking for something specific, it could take a while to find it, but the staff are friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable and the atmosphere is great! It's not a replacement for Barnes and Noble but if you want to browse you could check it out.

orogomai • 6 years ago

I used to feel the same as you until I noticed that all the kiddos in the manga section reading "for free" were slurping on 15 cents worth of sugar water that cost 4 dollars.

Mark Jackson • 6 years ago

"So if you want the bookstore to stay open - buy something. Dont just walk around looking."

I always carry my Kindle with me, and I generally buy at least 3-4 books every time I'm in a bookstore.

Guest • 6 years ago

you spend a lot of time in comic book stores? sad really

UrbanRedneck2 • 6 years ago

Nope, too old and too poor. But back in the day...

ducky_1374 • 6 years ago

Yes, even if it's Barnes and Noble, which for many people is the only decent bookstore in the area. And independent bookstores, whilst I love you all very much for my poetry and literature needs, they have a far better selection of science fiction and fantasy and probably and at least one person who isn't going to be snooty about it.

Archimedes • 4 years ago

We still miss Borders in our household. Our local Borders closed on my daughter's birthday--she was so upset.

therantguy • 6 years ago

Well prepare for it...'cause it's coming.

The reality is simple. You have to come up with a reason to convince me, the consumer, that there is value in paying $30 for something that I can get for $18 on Amazon. The bookstore is a romantic notion that, quite honestly, make no real sense. You need to try on clothes, you don't really need a bookstore.

I had an amazing fight with an independent bookstore over Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje. He was having a "tax free" sale and the book was $35 in hardcover. I whispered to my friend that is was like $21 on amazon and the guy comes around and starts yelling at me like I am Satan...I stood my ground and asked him what value was I getting for my $14 extra I'd have to spend. His answers was that I benefited from the taxes he paid, the salaries he paid his employees etc...etc... which is not a bad argument, but I am not spending $14 extra so he can have a job.

I bought it on amazon.

American Misfit (she/her) • 6 years ago

If I had it, I'd spend the $14 extra because once Amazon drives your local independent bookstore out of business, it will no longer have an incentive to undercut local independent bookstores with low prices. Then you will have the same $35 price without a local store to browse.

Sophlady • 6 years ago

Not to mention Amazon refusing to pay its fair share of property taxes and collect use taxes for years. Those missing millions hurt consumers in every state Amazon stiffed.

I still shop Amazon sometimes, but I don't have any illusions about its intentions.

Occasional Reader • 6 years ago

"... but I don't have any illusions about its intentions."

Its intentions are to... make money. The same is true of every for-profit business (and, really, for quite a lot of putative "non-profits"). There's nothing wrong with that.

epobirs • 6 years ago

Property taxes? For what property? If Amazon doesn't own a piece of land in a particular state, why in the world would they be obligated to pay property taxes? They are neither using nor benefiting from those thing property taxes are intended to provide.

Perhaps you mean sales tax, which is an entirely different category. The state of California screwed itself out of a substantial sum by forcing Amazon to shut down its affiliates program. All that money paid to affiliates was taxable income that went poof in the attempt to do a shakedown on Amazon instead of getting the state's absurd spending under control.

grifty • 6 years ago

Don't you think that as the market moves online, that the independents will simply sell ebooks?

ladyc • 6 years ago

Independents won't get the rights to distribute fully, sort of like public libraries can't distribute many popular titles like they could in print either. It's just a license.

American Misfit (she/her) • 6 years ago

Maybe, but more will just close, because without foot traffic and the impulse purchase, will they be able to make it economically?

grifty • 6 years ago

I impulse buy on the kindle all the time. When I replace it, I will be moving to an android tablet so I won't HAVE to go to the amazon marketplace.

Outlaw_Blues • 6 years ago

You're over simplifying. Even with the rise of mp3's we have actually seen a rise in the sale of vinyls.

Bookstores will change. Do they really need two giant floors of space? Probably not. The experience can also be updated. I think part of the problem is B&N hasn't really cut back on the things Amazon does better and doubled down on things they can't.

gelfling545 • 6 years ago

I often spend the extra because: it is a book I will probably read once & then donate which can't be done with a file, it's a book of an author I admire & will want to keep around and lend to multiple people, or it is a book that doesn't feel "right" in electronic form (cookbooks are in that last category for me, also poetry)

Martin Wagner • 6 years ago

So what if it's a romantic notion? Book lovers love an environment full of books, and the browsing experience in a bookstore is something that thumbing your way through a menu of titles on a touch screen just cannot duplicate. At least 70% of people who go into a bookstore "just to browse" actually end up leaving with a purchase.

I have taken advantage of Amazon discounts as well, but that doesn't devalue the experience of being surrounded by books in a physical space devoted to the pleasure of reading. Of course, you have to be a real book LOVER to get that, and the impression I get is that books are, to you, no more interesting or special than any other consumer product. (After all, you've taken one disagreeable experience in a single bookstore and decided that wholly devalues all bookstores as a concept, which is, to put it politely, poor logic.) That's fine for you, but some of us go deeper.

grifty • 6 years ago

I will always choose local..up to about a $5 difference in price. Past that..sorry.

Ron Brown • 6 years ago

I agree. I had a post here that must have never posted, but I feel the same way. I try to go local when it's reasonable, but I can't justify paying 50% more on a big item because it's local. I can't afford it. If the price is close, I'm happy to do it.
Sometimes I feel stores hide behind the "local" label instead of getting better, like I owe them my business no matter what because they're local. I'm happy to pay a little more for local, but don't gouge me and don't be lazy. Offer some value for that extra money--you higher local kids, you are conveniently located, you have great advice, you stand behind your stuff, your cashier is friendly. I pay more at the gas station that's nearer my house, even when it's more convenient and cheaper to stop at the big gas station on the way home, because I want that place to be there if I need it. It's not unconditional love. You're a business, not a family member.

Guest • 6 years ago

you sound like a real jerk.

Tron • 6 years ago

Let us not forget the horse and buggy. We cannot bear to lose you either and live in a bleak, miserable wasteland in which people post online instead of sending letters by post.

grifty • 6 years ago

Hmm..I disagree. I read. A LOT.My kids read. A LOT. We live in a small place. The ebook technology has been AWESOME for us. Gone are the days of 1/3 of a room taken up with books that we may not ever read again. Gone is the wasted time walking around the bookstore.

Now..we get books from the library or the store instantly. Without storage or transport costs. We can read a sample before buying, just like in the store. In a world where the bookstore is in my hand, I find I'm reading a bit more than the past. It's easier to impulse buy books now too (this isn't always a good thing).

The biggest problem I see is that we buy mostly from Amazon, a fact that I do not like (but we own a kindle..looking into more multipurpose tablets now).

LordMike • 6 years ago

"Gone is the wasted time walking around the bookstore."

You may have found that to have been time wasted. I've always thought it to be enriching. I loved just hanging out at bookstores and seeing what was offered. It will be a very sad, sad day when they are all gone.

grifty • 6 years ago

I get the same experience from shopping online.

Ruby • 6 years ago

Your legs don't. But more to the point, I personally find that browsing online involves far fewer "happy accidents" than browsing in person. Online you consult the reviews, look through the promotional materials provided, and try to make reasoned decisions. But it's not the same as walking past a book, defiantly judging it by its cover, and deciding to take a chance on it, come what may.

grifty • 6 years ago

Well, I run about 20 miles a week so I think my legs can miss a bit of shopping...but there's no way you'd know that!

As for the shopping thing...with the way the ebook markets are set up, you can still cover browse. Its still organized by genre and alphabetical organization isn't that important to me, since unless I've read several books by an author, I usually don't remember the name. I guess I just like making reasoned decisions.

Ruby • 6 years ago

This is getting way off-topic but latest research suggests that the less time sitting the better, even IF you run or exercise vigorously. (I too run, and generally exercise like a maniac, but I still must admit I spend way too much time every day sitting in front of a computer) But I'm not casting any aspersions on you! It just seems clear that yet another accompanying disadvantage of online shopping in general is that you are replacing an active event with a sitting event.

As for happy accidents of internet shopping . . . perhaps, but I can only speak to my experience in this. I no longer shop at bookstores because the three that were near to me all closed in the last year or so. I shop for books almost entirely online now and while I've chosen many excellent books I have not bought anything that took me by surprise. I would say previously I bought about 20 books a year that I'd never heard of, read about or had any input on before something about the book jumped out at me in a bookstore. (And this is something that helps authors, too, I should add, especially those who haven't made a name yet.) Maybe there is a way to simulate that online, but I'm still looking! At any rate, happy reading to you . . . .

grifty • 6 years ago

Haha. I was just listening to a podcast where they were saying that (about sitting). I'm actually on my feet a lot too..I'm a very active person, even at work. Right now I'm squatting at my desk with the chair pushed back.

The good news is that I think things will actually get much better. As I've said somewhere else in this thread, the ebook industry is young, only a few years into being a mainstream thing. I think that the way we shop and the way companies present ebooks to us will change for the better very rapidly.

Guest • 6 years ago

"Gone is the wasted time walking around the bookstore."

One of the saddest and most ignorant things I've read.

grifty • 6 years ago

So I think your comment about it being ignorant is really rude. Its different than what you like. Thats fine. Its not ignorant. You're just stuck in the past.

I feel this way about almost all brick and mortar stores. I can't think of a single way where I get as good of an experience shopping for books in person as I do shopping online. I find books I never would have considered, I sample books before buying. The main difference: I do this while cooking dinner or waiting for my wife to get ready. I don't have to make special time to look for new books, I carve out little nooks of time throughout the day.
I LOVE to read. I have my whole life. I love having it all available immediately .I mean what do you do when you finish a book faster than expected? I start a new one. I don't have to wait for a trip to the store or anything.

The last flight I took, I ended up loving my book and reading the entire flight (9 hours). When I got to where my business trip was actually located (I was there for 3 days), I was jet lagged and bookless. Enter the kindle. I had about a dozen to choose from because I spend a lot of time looking about, bought one and started reading. I didn't have to figure out where a bookstore was, or spend any extra time getting to it or back. I didn't have to talk to someone who isn't interested in books (as is usually the case in the chain stores). I got what I wanted, when I wanted it without fuss.

Imagine the alternative if I had no kindle.

Also..having book reviews immediately available is awesome.

Vanda Hamilton • 6 years ago

I always find these comments about how amazing online bookstores are a tad bemusing.

It may be different buying in Australia, but mostly what I find on Amazon to put on kindle is total crap. I have downloaded all the classics which are very cheap and which I may get around to reading again someday, and I guess that's good, although I also retain them in hard copy.

I use kindle for travelling mostly. I am happy to buy read and toss books - crime mostly. But Amazon's crime selection is terrible. They have very few of the good authors that are available in hard copy. If they do happen to have a new release it's about the same price as a hard copy, which is a consideration as I like to lend crime books to others. Otherwise what they have is a whole lot of crap written for kindle books. They are terrible. They don't seem to have undergone any editing or proof reading process and they certainly haven't been selected for quality.

As for good contemporary literature - not on Amazon for kindle. If you do find it, once again it is about the same price as a hard copy. I couldn't even find Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time series, and that really is a modern classic.

Whilst I believe you think you are a reader, I don't believe you are a book lover and I don't believe you read widely. There are books which you simply will never, ever be able to get electronically. That is why browsing in a second hand bookshop is so important to a real reader.

Good children's books are also not suitable for reading on a kindle. And as for anything with footnotes - forget it.
I agree with an article I read recently - the market will shake out and people who are readers will use their electronic devices for disposable books, like crime and romance, and continue to buy books they want to keep and re-read or lend in hard copy. The sad thing about this for bricks and mortar retailers is that it was the fast turnover of genres like crime which was their bread and butter. I'm not sure how that's going to work out, but I do know that as long as there are real readers there will always be bookshops.

grifty • 6 years ago

I will agree that many kindle books have terrible editing, but I can live with that. Honestly, this industry is only a few years old. In the not very distant future I think it will correct itself. There is a definite quality difference between books that are on the kindle and books that were written for the kindle. Of course the books written for the kindle are dirt cheap and usually written by amateurs. Thats not automatically a bad thing.

The price...its not the issue for me, its the convenience. Even if the print version were cheaper, I'd still have to go to the store, stand in line and go home. And I live in a city. I remember when I lived in a really rural place..an hour each way to the bookstore. I've lived in foreign countries where the mail took forever..if you even got it (when I lived in the Bahamas I got my xmas present from my parents..in June)at all.

"Whilst I believe you think you are a reader"
As for being a book lover..no. I like reading. I don't really care about the format. I guess I don't know what makes up your definition of a "reader" or what would make someone a "reader" in your eyes. I think of someone as a reader who likes to read and spends a significant amount of time reading. I'm not going to judge the quality of what they like. I will literally read anything in front of me, including shampoo bottles in an emergency. Without question I have some preferences, but I read enough that I step outside of those preferences with regularity.

I also disagree with your statement that some books will "never, ever" be able to get electronically. Why WOULDN'T a manufacturer want to drop the cost of printing, shipping and storing? Why wouldn't an author want to streamline the process of getting their books to market? Again, I think in a pretty short time you'll find that the selections will increase drastically to things that you never would have expected to be available. Why not? The cost of transferring the book to the ereaders in minimal, especially compared to printing.

Children's books..why not? My kids seem to enjoy it quite well. I have 2 kids, one in the 1st grade and one about to start school. They also like print books. We've even read the Captain Underpants series (now THAT is high lit) which has flip-e-ramas..not perfect, but workable.

The market..it will do what its going to do. But think about this: millions of ereaders are sold each year. That excludes things like tablets, which you can also read on. Add to the fact that most of the newer devices can also do video, apps and other tasks..well, you do see many typewriters in offices these days do you?

Mark Jackson • 6 years ago

You are correct that there are books that will never be available electronically, and you are correct that most of what is available on Kindle is crap-- but that latter point is a subset of the fact that most books are crap.

I've found a lot of good things on Kindle. When Gary Shteyngart or Nassim Nicholas Taleb or Ian Bremmer or Philip Roth publish a new book, it's on Kindle.

On the other hand, when I want something that's not on Kindle, there's an above-even chance it's also not available at your local Barnes & Noble. For example, in recent months I bought a copy of John Darwin's *After Tamerlane*-- I had seen it at a bookstore while traveling in Kuala Lumpur, but failed to buy it; I've never since run across it in another bookstore. And when I wanted the revised edition of Steven Lukes's *Power: A Radical View*, I didn't see it in my local fairly large bookstore. So the kind of book that doesn't appear on Kindle is also fairly likely not to appear at the bookstore whose fate we're supposed to be mourning.

So that's why Book Depository exists.

(Update: although John Darwin's *After Tamerlane* wasn't available on Kindle when I wanted it, now it is-- I just checked).