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The Rise And Fall Of Barnes & Noble


BOOKS! Today, books are on our iPads, Nooks
and Kindles or streaming right into our ears. But before the internet transform
them, books looked like this. Only this. And buying a book, meant going to a book
store. And bookstores? Well, for many years, and many Americans, bookstores meant one
place, Barnes &Noble. Today though, Barnes & Noble is
struggling. Where it used to run other booksellers out of business, Barnes &
Noble has shuttered dozens of its own stores in the last ten years and could
soon have a new owner. So what happened? Book selling businessman, William Barnes
and Gilbert Clifford Noble, join forces in 1917, renaming Nobles existing
educational bookstore business in New York as Barnes & Noble. Their flagship
location opened on Fifth Avenue in 1932 and focused on selling textbooks, medical
books and other academic novels. The groundwork for the Barnes & Noble that we knew today was forged in middle decades of the 20th century. 1940s, 1950s, especially with GI’s returning from the
Second World War. During World War II, American soldiers became accustomed to
carrying lightweight paperback books, a relatively new invention. Barnes & Noble
captured that market when veterans returned to American shores. And that’s
about all there is to say about the book stores namesakes. William Barnes’s son,
John, died in 1964 and the conglomerate, Amtel, bought the book stores in 1969.
Then came Leonard Riggio a.k.a Barnes & Nobles modern day founder. Riggio got
his start in books as a part-time clerk at New York University’s bookstore in
the early 1960s. He thought he could run the store better, so he opened the
competing Student Book Exchange. It was a success so he opened five more. And then,
in 1971, he borrowed capital to buy Barnes & Noble from Amtel for 1.2
million dollars. Under his leadership, the bookstore chain became an American
mainstay. By 1974, the store offered a 150,00 books and earned the title world’s largest bookstore from the Guinness Book of World Records. That same year, it ran the first ever
television commercial from the bookseller. Do you have any books for early readers? Sorry, have you tried Barnes & Noble?
Barnes & Noble! Of Course, of coruse! It expanded across New York and Boston toying with smaller discount stores. But
it soon shifted investments from those into what became its staple, mega stores,
featuring hundreds of thousands of books, reading areas and cafes. Suddenly, it was
a destination, where customers could spend hours reading in comfy armchairs,
sipping coffee from the in-store Starbucks cafes. The idea was: Yeah! Come. Stay.
Buy a cup of coffee. Read our books the for free if you want.” And I think that really is the thing that distinguished them though. We were the first retailer and bookseller to rule
out cafes in all of our stores in America. We actually opened up Starbucks
cafes in cities that Starbucks hadn’t been in. Its biggest move though came in 1987,
when it bought the chain of B. Dalton bookstores. It acquired nearly 800
locations, making it the second biggest chain bookstore behind Waldenbooks at
the time. This period could be called the Golden Age of Barnes & Noble.
Suddenly, the business was everywhere. It gained a reputation for running smaller
bookstores out of business. You know I’m just looking to do as much
as I can, to see this company be successful. So it’s, kind of, you know, huge
responsibility considering I’ve been doing this for over 50 years. Barnes & Noble went public in 1993 and opened its online store, BN.com, in 1997. Right around the time another entrepreneur founded his online book selling business, out of his garage, in a suburb of Seattle. Yep, you know the one, Jeff Bezos. Even though Amazon quickly expanded
beyond books, Barnes Noble took Bezos to court when he claimed that his store was
the world’s largest bookstore. The suit was eventually settled out of court but
this heralded the beginning of a downward spiral for Barnes & Noble. As
it struggled to keep up with the Internet’s retail disruption. First
Amazon teamed up with Barnes & Nobles rival, Borders, in 2001 to sell more books
online. When borders folded in 2011, Amazon
grabbed a huge share of Borders customers, due to its prior relationship
with a store. By the first half of 2018, Amazon accounted for nearly half of
total new book sales, including at its new physical bookstores. Then Barnes &
Noble tried to expand into selling music and movies, right as streaming services
like Spotify and Netflix entered the scene. It tried launching its own E-Reader,
Nook, in 2009. Two years after Amazon introduced the Kindle and one year
before Apple launched its first iPad. All the while, foot traffic to the company’s
B. Dalton stores started falling in the mid-1990s. In 1995, it decided to step up
closing mall stores until all B. Dalton bookstores were dark by 2010. The idea
was to focus on its own Barnes & Noble super stores instead. But it’s even had
to close those locations over the years. Meanwhile the independent bookstores set Barnes & Noble once-shuttered, are making a comeback. Today, Barnes & Noble is
debating its future. Sales have fallen every year since 2012 and the company
has gone through four CEOs since 2013. It currently doesn’t have one.
The constant shake ups frustrate not only analysts and investors, but the
whole publishing industry, which still relies on the retailer as a key outlet.
Currently, the company is reviewing bids to sell itself and go private. Including
one from its founder Riggio, who still owns roughly 19 percent of the company
and serves as executive chairman. We did come up empty with the last couple of
CEOs and had we not, I think this, you know, I’d enjoyed
a three-year-old grandson a lot more. Than the question of, you know, at this
stage of the game, you know, how much horsepower do I have? But you know I’m
not trying to run and hide from the responsibilities. So well this for my book juggernaut recover? or go the way of Borders? That part of the Barnes & Noble
story has yet to be written.

Glenn Chapman

100 Comments

  1. There's used to be a thrift bookstore and a mini library in our town but when smartphones became popular they went extinct in 2013. I miss those lazy afternoon spending my time at that library.

  2. I love physical bookstores. So easy to.discover authors and series I had not previously known. But I buy digital because I cannot store books in the quantities that I read. Barnes and Noble has failed on the digital book front. I would love to purchase and download while I am in the store but when I get home, I cannot read the book I just purchased! I switched to Amazon. Pity.

  3. I went to B&N the other day with a list of books to purchase. The prices were ridiculously high. I walked out and purchased my books online from WALMART for literally half the cost!!

  4. This is why I never ordered online for anything.. I love shopping in stores to have the experience and drink coffee

  5. I have 2 Barnes and Nobles stores close to me and I love going there, but c'mon you cannot charge so much for a book nowadays 🤦🏻‍♀️

  6. More physical books means more trees are gonna pay and more trees are to be cut down… Digital books are the solution for this .

  7. With Digital books, the seller can stop selling them for whatever reason (like rights expiring). Physical books don't have that issue due to resellers .

    Also you can sell and loan physical books

  8. it's a two names company. try one name only. A barn & a noble, what is this, middle age tale ? send marketers ask people, you'll see.

  9. These aren’t the only issues. B&N booksellers are supercilious liberals who do not bother to cater to anyone other than those who share their views. The stores are cluttered and overcrowded and chaotic and do not invite a pleasant shopping experience…especially if all you want is an O’Reilly book and you can’t find it for all the copies of books by Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama and Comey. Independent booksellers are the only ones providing a true nonpartisan book buying experience these days.

  10. I go barnes and noble often, I always see people geting coffee, snacks and read the books and magazines for free then they leave dont buy anything.
    Not good for theie book selling business.

  11. WS Analysts in 1998: "Barnes and Noble will crush Amazon like a bug!"

    WS Analysts in 2008: "Netflix has awoken a sleeping giant in Blockbuster"

    WS Analysts in 2018: "When German automakers like BMW get serious, Tesla will be finished"

    Let' wait and see!

  12. I LOVE reading. But I bought a YA book for $10.39 when it was $5.89 on Amazon. Never going back 🤧🤧

  13. I understand their book sales are probably down with all the online competition. But where I live, people love Barnes & Noble. Even if not for buying the books, we definitely buy the drinks and food whilst relaxing. I personally love reading the business and home design magazines(which I occasionally purchase as well).

  14. I go on the website, the book I want is $12.00 go to the store to physically see it the price is $22.50, they wont even price match their own website. That tells me they are on the way out and care nothing for the people who's jobs they supply…Next step Amazon for $9.99

  15. I've got hundreds of books – none of which are electronic. I've been avoiding amazon for almost a year, as it appears they are hellbent on being the sole source of supply for almost everything in the world. There are many used book sources online, e.g., Thrift Books. I've got seven on order, right now!

  16. I have a problem with barnes and noble how come they dont price match the book on their website ? Every other store does that. It is really frustrating that you want a book and you walk into barnes & noble and the price of the book online vs at the physical store is different.
    I also like physical copy of the book vs digital.

  17. I don’t think it’s just online book that’s an issue, it’s that you can buy a book online through amazon

  18. Remember Crown Books from the 80s? Their tag line was, "If you paid full price for books, you didn't buy them at Crown Books!"

  19. Gen Z here. We have a lot of nerds who love to read physical books and collect them, like me. It’s not technology we have to blame, it’s the prices. Half Priced Books is a great place for cheaper books as well as just local second hand book stores.

  20. As a foreigner, I only heard about barns and nobels because they sell pokemon cards. But everyone around me knows amazon.

  21. Love Barnes and Noble, but their prices have been too high for years! The stationery, the books, the games and collectible… all way overpriced!

  22. I miss Borders book store. Barnes & Nobles never had comfortable chairs as long as I could remember. It's why I never liked them. Their prices were always too high as well and I prefer Seattle's best over Starbucks.

  23. I love Barnes and Noble. I almost never buy books from them but I love to go their events and I like to sit in the cafe and read my borrowed books on my kindle.

  24. I miss the great international magazine stands at Barnes and Borders and their bargain remainders. Otherwise, online book prices are much better. Unless they price-match with Amazon, they're history.

    Rotten Dalton's destroyed all of the fabulous independent book stores.

  25. Part of it is price of books. In the late 1990s you could get a good business book for $9-19. Now it is $30. Sorry, you priced yourself out. I found this neat thing called a library since then.

  26. i really hate buying books online though. even though everyone says its cheaper, alot of times you never get what you pay for anyway. heres how it goes down. you order a book, thinking oh great! its like 10 dollars cheaper on amazon/ebay or whatever than at barnes and noble! fine but sometimes you have to pay shipping anyway so it defeats the purpose, or sometimes shipping is free, but there is pretty long wait time, like a week or more. and let's say you get it quickly like in day or two through fast shipping options, even then! you are still screwed over due to either a) your books never arriving in the mail due to loss in transit or being stolen b) your books do arrive but they are in much worse condition than was described by the seller, so now you have to spend time and money and wasted effort returning the books to seller in order to get a refund either by dropping off at a location or printing labels and all that crap c) sometimes its not the sellers fault at all but the carriers who are careless with your paid merchandise and they just toss your stuff or get it wet and don't care! the seller may have sent a brand new mint condition book but the carriers can't seem to get it to you without creasing the book, tearing a cover, etc. its ridiculous! ANYWAY i just have to say without barnes and noble i would never be able to get mint condition books that I can see with my own two eyes before purchasing and paying for them! Im sorry but buying books online is an annoying gamble that is honestly not worth 5 or ten bucks you might save on a book. HOWEVER i will add that i dont mind buying online used textbooks for school since I will likely never use them again after classes end, and often I buy used textbooks because they are cheaper so i don't care about their condition to begin with. I am STRICTLY talking brand new books here! Manga and novels I love to purchase and collect, those things I refuse to pay for online because there is no guarantee I will be getting what I already paid for! With Barnes and Noble in store you know what you are getting! Long live bookstores <3

  27. Sorry, but for me "BOOK" is on paper, so I can take notes on it, smell the paper and fell every page I read.
    I love tech, but nothing compares to the joy of really having a book!

  28. I love brick and mortar bookstores, but B&N are typically built in places only accessible with cars. Sometimes you want to just walk down a city sidewalk to one.

  29. My problem with Barnes and Nobles is that they never have the books I want in stock.

    So what's the point in ordering it in the store if I can just order it from Amazon? (Yes, I know Barnes and Nobles has a website for shopping. Unfortunately, it's selection isn't as extensive as Amazon's.)

    That said, any e-book I buy will never come from Amazon, as it has a proprietary format. Rakuten/Kobo e-books or from the publisher is the way to go.

  30. Barnes & Nobel have a beautiful collection of leatherbound classics and it is a shame that their books are so hard to get where I live and it is a shame that they are running out of business

  31. I hated the Nook. I had both a Kindle and a Nook e-reader and I learned first-hand that the Nook is no competition for the Kindle.

  32. Can everyone calm down pls? Physical books aren’t going anywhere, you can still get them EVERYWHERE.

  33. If Barnes and Noble closes in my town I will literally have nowhere to go during my free time. RIP Hastings

  34. I really like Barnes and Nobles but it's really expensive. If I want a paper book cheap then I can get it online or at Half Priced Books

  35. I stopped shopping there because their prices are way too high. I can get the same book cheaper on Amazon right to my door. Why would I waste money at Barnes and noble?

  36. Just another company that got big but then became complacent, thinking they were untouchable. Then their smaller competitors got bigger than them, and they were left behind and blaming everybody but themselves for their problems. The same thing happened to Sears.

  37. books are too expensive! If you read 1 book a week you going to spend almost 100 dollars a month on books… It's just not logical. If books were cheaper people would buy more spontaneously and more often. It would pay off in the long run!

  38. After having to spend thousands of dollars on books for college, it left a bad taste in my mouth. Have not bought a book since.

  39. 1. My old parenst don't want to read on phones or ipads.
    2. I don't want to ruin my eyes.
    3. Paper books will never stop being a thing.
    4. I like Barnes and Nobles.

  40. I still have a Barnes and Noble near me which is very successful so I really hope Barnes and Noble doesn’t pull a Toys-R-Us…

  41. I have been on CNBC's page and have been watching tons of these "Rise & Fall" videos. And literally Amazon is mentioned in every single video. You would think Amazon was a hitman for the mob with all these killings.

  42. I literally started working for Barnes and Noble cuz I wanted a discount on my books cuz I thought they had gotten so expensive. But not everyone understands that printing physical books is expensive and that's why they are the price that they are. Sure buying them digitally is cheaper, and I wouldn't need to lug a physical book around, but idk, reading on my tablets has just never felt right for me. I love being able to actually flip pages through my book, and to be able to put it on my shelf when I'm done reading it is so satisfying to me.

  43. I love reading from REAL books. E-books won’t be the same. I don’t want them to go out of business. :/ 🙁

  44. Barnes and Nobles wanted people to pay $20/month to save like $10-20 I believe

  45. Without the seating, there's no coziness to a huge place like Barnes & Noble. It's not welcoming. Browsing the shelves at Barnes & Noble is just overwhelming and intimidating. I'd rather go to the library or a small bookstore.

  46. Before this behemoth bookstores there were all sorts of little book stores. Many of them had cafes and reading nooks. They sold new and used books. It’s time for the little bookstores to return. They were wonderful. Used books from Amazon have to go somewhere.

  47. People👏aren’t👏shopping👏there👏cause👏it👏is👏WAY👏TOO👏EXPENSIVE👏

  48. I love Barnes and Noble, but it takes a big chunk of my wallet. It's tempting to buy online when the price is only a fraction of the cost that I would've paid at B&N. Although, the atmosphere is homely and gives me a warm feeling. I go there to read their books while I'm in the store, but I find myself spending less money. I wish they had cheaper prices. I hate reading books online. My phone overheats, I have to charge it, and it irritates me when I'm staring at a screen for too long. I love the feeling of the physical copy of a book as well as the sweet swell that hits my nose when I open it.

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