I was in my not-so-local Barnes&Nobles this evening and it was all I could do not to cry (and we men are not supposed to cry).
This bookstore used to be wall-to-wall books. Now, most of the store is devoted to Kids’ stuff and games. All the books are squashed into a bare quarter of the space.
It’s like the purpose of the bookstore is now a place for people to bring kids to shop for stuff. Sorta Kids-Are-Us with some books thrown in.
To put it another way, it was an awful lot like Borders looked in the last three months or so before it went out of business.
Now I think that eBooks are a great idea and we’ll see a big migration toward them (and the next level that proceeds it) but I can’t browse in any useful way. And I find the notion of being blinker-directed in the “people who bought this book also bought” sort of way is limiting and ultimately will adversely affect sales. I don’t buy books because they’re just like all the others I have at home &mash; if I wanted to do that, I’d just re-read the ones I have &mdash I buy a book because it’s new in some way and grabs me.
Neither Barnes&Noble nor amazon.com provide the on-line experience similar to that one gets by being able to go into a bookstore and just browse. (That’s not to say that that isn’t fixable, by the way.)
But with this “new look,” Barnes&Noble is adopting the same failed strategy that killed Borders and it just makes my heart break. It seems like their way of doing things is to embrace a self-fulfilling prophecy.
What’s this going to mean to authors? And publishers? It means that, until there’s a replacement for that ability to go in and browse, sales are going to plummet.
What’s this mean for America? Well, let me ask another question that I think is related and even more critical — what’s this mean for literacy in our country?
I hope that the management in Barnes&Nobles changes their direction before it’s too late.