Posts Tagged ‘barnes and noble’

Why can’t I pick it up at the store?

October 22, 2014

So, one of my kids is having a birthday and my mom wanted me to order a book she could give him – the Complete Calvin & Hobbes. My mom lives in the middle of nowhere, so we agreed that it would probably be easiest, and best, for me to buy it, wrap it, and give it to my son for her, rather than her try to find it and then give it to him whenever we get back in her general direction (though that’s happening next week).  If you don’t know, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes is a box set of either trade paperbacks or hardcovers.  Since I don’t really want to give Amazon my book buying business, I went to Barnes and Noble’s website and was thrilled to see it was about 40% off.  I noticed a button that said, “pick up in store.” Clicking this gave me a list of local B&N’s, and suggested I call them for pricing and availability.

wait, pricing? But I just got a price off of your website. Why would I have to call a store to see what their price is when you just told me your price?

Because the brick and mortar stores charge whatever the hell they please, that’s why. Instead of being 40% off, it was 0% off.  Contrast this to my buying experience at that company on the leading edge of online retail, Menards. I was able to buy a trashcan, a handcart, and a broom, click on an option to “pick up in store,” pay for it, and then magically pick it up at a service desk at the store. Memards can manage to figure out how to make this work for trash cans and push brooms, why can’t Barnes & Noble figure out how to make it work for books?

Needless to say, I saved myself forty bucks, ordered the book off their website, and had it shipped to my mom’s house at this point. Because, well, why wouldn’t I? I saved myself a good chunk of money, saved myself the drive to the store, and I didn’t find myself tempted to buy some stuff I didn’t need like I did at Menards when I got there and then shelled out for a back of Brach’s candies and some on-sale sanding disks. I guess the Barnes and Noble store I didn’t go to didn’t have to sell something at a lower than retail price, but then they didn’t get to sell anything at all. It’s still sitting on their shelf. On top of that, my order qualified for free shipping from B&N, shipping that has to cost them more in the long run than just chucking one extra box set of comic books onto a truck that would have been going to one of their stores regardless.

I get not wanting to take money out of the mouths of their stores, but they did that today when I couldn’t just buy my book and pick it up at one of their stores. It was silly, it was stupid, and it gives people no reason not to just go to Amazon, because they’ll mail the thing to your door just as well. Get in the game, B&N, and use your natural shipping/distribution hubs -your stores –  more to your advantage.

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Barnes and Noble has a new Nook

August 25, 2014

This morning Barnes and Noble debuted their new Nook, which is apparently just a Samsung Galaxy Tab4 with a custom interface. The tech isn’t something that really interests me. How powerful does a tablet need to be to read text? I can’t believe it’s too hardware intensive. Instead, I like that B&N is just pairing up with a company and ditching making their own readers/tablets. I think it’s a losing proposition that dumps money into something that has too many players, and in the case of e-readers a sole function device that is going to go the way of the ipod.

Instead of focusing on hardware, this puts the focus on what Barnes and Noble needs to be focused on- their experience of buying and reading a book. On consuming media.

Which makes a ton of sense. It’s really the purest way of transferring the experience of their store to the digital world because when any of us go to Barnes and Noble we do not walk to something, grab it, and head directly for counter. Instead, we browse. We leaf through some magazines over by the wracks, we dawdle through the clearance racks, we read a handful of pages from a handful of books, as we make our way through the store and eventually into the cafe where we have an overpriced coffee and overly caloric piece of carrot cake.

If Barnes and Noble will agree to occasionally ship me complimentary pieces of cake with my orders, I will be getting in line for my galaxy tab.

The Loss of Book Culture

June 14, 2014

I was showering this morning when I started thinking about a coupon I’d just gotten from Barnes and Noble in my email for 15%  off a purchase, and how I probably wouldn’t get to one of their stores regardless. I used to live in Borders. I loved Borders. Their stores made sense to me, and I would make sure I went at least one a week just to browse. That doesn’t happen any more. Part of it is the lack of proximity. I now have to drive at least a half hour on the expressway to get to either a Barnes and Noble or a Books-a-Million, the latter of which is really more of a reincarnation of Media Play than a bookstore. Now, a half hour isn’t a ton of time. It’s not so far out of my way that it would preclude me from doing something I really wanted to do.

Which is part of the problem now. Going to a book store isn’t something I really want to do. And it hasn’t been since Borders shut their doors. This isn’t a knock on the remaining book stores. All of them have their positives, and can be very nice places. I just have no interest in going.

So I wonder how many more out there are like me. Former book people, maybe even current book people (the library now stands in for my book browsing fix), who just do not feel the same pull to go into a bookstore and just browse. With the collapse of Borders, among others, how many of us were turned into the cold and ended up finding other fires to warm ourselves by? I miss Borders. A lot.  The world of books hasn’t been the same since, no, not even with little indie bookstores that all us feel bad for not supporting better.

And then there is the elephant in the room, Amazon, which has been in the news lately for trying to badger Hachette into a poor deal for the publisher. If we’re going to think about book culture, going to the stores, wandering around, flipping through pages, Amazon is the antithesis of this. Yeah, you can sometimes browse a few digital pages, but you don’t have the other people wandering the aisles, you don’t have the clerks willing to offer advice and suggestions, you don’t have the communal coffee shop-ish area, you don’t have any real interaction. You have point. You have click.  You have no community that exists in any real tangible sense.

Maybe society is changing away from the sort of experience I have noticed myself dropping away from. This could be just a single story in a larger movement.  I miss my Borders, though.

Barnes and Noble Holiday Sales

January 15, 2014

Barnes and Noble’s holiday sales were a mixed bag. The sales at their actual stores were pretty similar to last year (fell .2%), but nook devices fell through the floor. This isn’t surprising since they’ve quit putting out new Nooks. Given the choice between an old Nook or a new whatever, it’s not surprising that people took the whatevers. I thought the meat of the article was the last paragraph, where Huseby (CEO of B&N) made a comment that digital content was the “lifeblood of digital business” and that the company was busy making progress in linking their content through other devices – in other words, apps.  the first quote is obvious, your print content isn’t going to be the lifeblood of digital business, but it seems important that he didn’t say it was the lifeblood of Barnes and Noble. It also seems as if B&N is committing to the push away from the hardware side and pushing harder into the software end. they realized that they don’t need a device of their own, if people with ipads, surfaces, notes, etc. can and do click on their apps to buy their books through their store.

Also, I have to think it’s a helluva lot cheaper to make a really good app and then plough extra money into the company. Also, as I’ve linked to before on here, digital sales of stagnated a bit. They roared up for a few years, eating up a chunk of book purchases, but it hasn’t continued its rapid ascent this year. Is this temporary or is there just that much of a desire for printed copy that we’ll see this hold for several years? I don’t know, but it means B&N can probably do very well if they work on maximizing their profits at their brick and mortar stores, while laying a better infrastructure for a strong digital presence in the future. I think B&N has this distinct advantage over Amazon. There have been countless articles about people wandering through bookstores, browsing at the books, only to leave and buy it cheaper from Amazon once they’ve read a few pages and know they like it. there is no reason this couldn’t work to B&N’s advantage. Make it easy to walk through a store, find a book you like, then purchase the digital edition. People could do it now through their phones or whatever without leaving the store.  Find a way to encourage this and make it easier.

So, the sales numbers were a bit of a mixed bag, depending on how you look at them. While the Nook devices took a beating, in a world where I can go and grab a $50 tablet from Meijer, I think getting out of the hardware side where profit margins are shrinking and competition is growing is a good idea. Put your limited funds to better use elsewhere.

Book (and other) links 8-20-13

August 22, 2013

I have a couple of Barnes and Noble links that are somewhat related. Over at Mashable, there’s this article about Nook devices and how it was probably a mistake by B&N to get involved in tablets, their devices are still really good and you should buy them before they are gone because they are cheap. Then, over at Publishing Perspectives, they have an article about Barnes and Noble having a healthy business in their brick-and-mortar stores, and their college bookstores.  At the same time, there is a great post up at Roughtype about the flattening of ebook sales. I’m sort of stuck in the middle of all of this. I don’t read ebooks. I just don’t.  I don’t have an ereader, and I like having physical books.  At the same time, I think a move towards digital media is an eventual reality.   Digital is too cost effective, too convenient, and too versatile.

The Inquisitor has an article naming 15 novels it sees being destined to become classics.  I’m less bullish on the majority of them. The only one of the list that I would enthusiastically endorse is McCarthy’s The Road. Franzen’s novel was arguably not the best novel its year of publication, while numbers 5,7, 8,and 9 just don’t belong (and I’m a big fan of Shadows of the Wind). I think Rowling’s place in YA lit is safe, but I’m not sure it’s a classic.  In the end, what becomes a “classic” seems to be more of a whim of changing enthusiasms and ease of publication than anything.

Elton John is just too damn scary for Russia.  Their loss. I’ll keep my Rocket Man, though.

Okay, this is a couple of days late, but better late than never.

Book Links 7-15-13

July 15, 2013

And then there were five.  I’m not a huge fan of consolidation, though I also get that it could all work out. I routinely hate on the consolidation of newspapers, radio,  and all things telecom. It destroys the variety of our windows unto the world, but things like the publishing industry can be different. The different houses coming under ever larger umbrellas can still maintain an identity, which is really how the different imprints  should be defining their necessity. In an ideal world an imprint would justify its existence by being known for something, and consistently delivering it. Whether that will actually happen or not is anybody’s guess. They might also become homogenized, neutered of their individuality to become just a rubber stamp on a cover, promoting some larger vanilla image. For now, though, I have cautious faith.

David Carr has a nice article up about the necessity of Barnes and Noble. It begins promisingly, building a case for the necessity of a physical bookstore as a foundational place of gathering for a community. People go, they look, they talk. It’s healthy and good. He briefly hits on the need for multiple sources of distribution needed for the health of the publishing industry and how Amazon is arguably more of a monopolist and price fixer than Apple could yet dream of being. However,  for me much of the article boils down to the physical bookstore being a necessity because people need to go and browse to discover writers to buy from cheaper online market places.  This ties back into the whole “multiple paths are necessary” thing because ebook sales fell after Borders was shuttered.  I know it’s not the point Carr wanted to drive home, but it’s the one that hung in the air when I was done, and I have to admit it’s at least partly true. While it would be another article entirely, someone other than Nick Harkaway needs to get on a platform and start arguing that the publishing industry needs to do more to take back their industry. Of course, that’s kind of hard when the government then immediately takes them to court to shift business back into Amazon’s hands… .

In case you missed it, JK Rowling released a book under a pen name. I haven’t read the book, I don’t know if I ever will, but I don’t see what the big deal is. And I don’t like the fact that someone cowardly outed her. It wasn’t hurting anyone, and if it gives her the freedom to crank out books that are good, all the power to her.  Now, every “Galbraith” novel she might write will be looked at as a “Rowling” book and carry that baggage with it.

And yet another NYT article about Barnes and Noble and their failing Nook division. I like the Nook tablet, I’ve been considering getting one since they’ve slashed prices, and I think it’s horrible that it’s dying in such a manner. From what I’ve toyed around with, I enjoy it, and I think it’s a quality little piece of hardware. I still support publishing just having a general, all-platform format for ebooks to level the digital playing field a bit, but if you have to support one ecosystem over another, there is no way I could stomach siding with Amazon. Unfortunately, it appears too many people could stomach that particular meal.

Alright, there’s my links for the day. It’s been awhile, but I’ve been busy and I haven’t really been able to find a lot of news I really cared about. But the Apple trial and the health of B&N are two biggies for me and they’ve been in the spotlight recently. Hopefully this is the beginning of getting back on the blogging track.

Book Links 5-9-13

May 9, 2013

Stuck in an elevator with Rushdie (and a host of of other interesting people)

Barnes & Noble is considering selling Nook to Microsoft. I think this is B&N getting ahead of the curve here, actually.  It’d be nice if they could keep getting some sort of share of sales of ereaders, but I don’t think there is a huge future in them. With tablets becoming more ubiquitous and more powerful, and the screens getting better, needing a dedicated reading device is going to become more and more unnecessary. At that point, does B&N have the infrastructure to be a player on the global tablet market against the likes of Apples, the various PC tablet makers, and Amazon? I don’t think so, and I’m guessing they are seeing that writing on the wall. They have been able to use Nook to keep afloat, to weather the storm of the initial push into the digital age, and now they need to find a way to establish themselves as booksellers in this market rather than technology sellers.

It’s at this point that finding some sort of partnership with MS makes a lot of sense. MS is big enough to run with the hardware end, and the software end comes naturally.  Also, B&N can become a bit of  a gateway to content for MS, depending on where B&N wants to take itself I’m a bit under the weather and my head is still pretty cloudy from lack of sleep, sickness, overmedication, and coffee, so it is a bit difficult to get my thoughts organized about this. However, it seems MS wants the next xbox to be even more of a media hub. Part of that is print – books, magazines, whatever. B&N seems to be a natural gateway for that. If they can find a way to scratch eachother’s needs, it could be hugely beneficial to them.

Haruki Murakami translated The Great Gatsby into Japanese, and here is something he wrote about it. I’m a Murakami fan and a Gatsby fan, so this was pretty much up my alley. A good read.

Okay, I don’t have as much to talk about as I thought, so I think I’m ending it here.

 

Book Links 2/7/13

February 7, 2013

Alright, I’m trying to get back on the horse and start posting again. I have three or four reviews partially written, and I’ve been accumulating links in my bookmarks. The past week or so has just been a mess for me, though. Partly it’s an actual, physical mess.  The apartment is a random jumble of papers and detritus. We’re in the midst of a hopeful soon move, trying to buy a house on a short sale and waiting for a couple of banks to sort their stuff out. So an impending possible move just sort of looms in the background, along with an assortment of partially filled plastic totes and milk crates.  I’ve also had maintenance lounging about my bathroom for the past few days, tearing out about a two foot square section of bathroom wall to fix some plumbing and then trying to put the wall back together again. They need some more knights and men to help them, though. Just took a look at the job after the maintenance guy went on lunch, and it’s a lot of grout held together with some porcelain.  I think the guy is trying really hard to make it look decent, though. I get the feeling he doesn’t have a lot of experience with tiling. Anyway, some links…

Barnes & Noble has been getting some attention this week. Atlantic has up what is essentially a love letter and plea not to leave. Please evolve with the times but also keep all of your brick and mortar stores open! Yeah, I hope they can, despite not enjoying their stores as much as I enjoyed Borders, but I think it’s unrealistic. I think our hope has to be that B&N can keep a fair amount of stores open in the majority of urban areas, but not be a ubiquitous presence. At the same time, Forbes is playing the role of guy with a placard beside the road foretelling the end is nigh. They close with the oft repeated, “innovate or die.” It’s true, it’s necessary, but I really just don’t want to read doom and gloom pieces for awhile. It’s probably my own version of the confidence fairy, but I worry that our prognostications will have a bad habit of making themselves come true. In the meantime, go and shop at brick and mortar stores. It’s worth it. I just bought a collection of Jules Verne stories the other day, and it’s a pretty book and my kid likes it. It’s just far more enjoyable to pick these things out in person than to order it and have it show up in the mail.

The LA Times has a google hangout video with George Saunders up. I’m not a huge Saunders fan, though it’s changing a bit with his latest collection (more on that later this week)(hopefully), but this interview is enjoyable. If you’re fan, or if you’re not, give it a look.

Finally, flavorwire has 11 of the coolest museum libraries. In my dreams, my house would have all of them contained within its walls. My house would be a museum library.

Amazon, Apple, The Big Five (or is it Six?) and the Government

April 12, 2012

I’m sure everyone who cares has already noticed, but the Department of Justice (DoJ) has filed suit against Apple and major publishers for price fixing. Okay, not a big surprise. It’s something that’s been rumored for months, while some other folks are already hitting them with a civil suit because they just can’t buy their ebooks cheap enough.  What this will boil down to, as TPM wraps it up, is that the agency pricing model will likely go out the window, or be much more difficult to do. Media Decoder, over at the NYT,  has a nice article up detailing the case being made by the government.

What’s not getting talk about, though, is that Amazon is just as bad for the book business, and has been operating just as ruthlessly. The LA Times article just linked has gobs of additional links inside of it, including this one to a series done by the Seattle Times about Amazon. Did you really think Amazon was making any money selling eBooks for $10 a pop when no one else was able to sell them for less than $13? They weren’t, and they weren’t caring. Their goal was, and likely still is, to push as many other companies out of the eBook business as possible, corner the market, and charge what they want in the end, both to you, the consumer, and from the publisher – if they still exist.

It’s something I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with supporting. I’ve never been a big Amazon fan (I always bough more books through ebay, if I bought online, but I buy the majority of my books through brick and mortar stores).  I love second hand shops, and any price I could get on Amazon could usually be matched, once shipping and handling was included, by a local shop. Even if it couldn’t, there was the added effect of getting the book right then and there, having something tangible in my hands. ebooks are a bit of a different creature, though.

What is there that is tangible to a digital file? Not a whole lot, that I’ve found.  Because of this lack of tangibility, I think it becomes all too easy to overlook the repercussions of our purchasing an item through this retailer instead of that retailer. We lose sight of how important our actions are.  The truth is, Amazon kills community bookstores. It kills community. It is the new Wal Mart. Do you sell something that could be sold online? well, you’re in the crosshairs. People will walk into you store, look at your merchandise, and then buy it for five cents cheaper from Amazon after using an app to check online prices. And when your store is out of business, they will wonder why, and where they are going to have to go now to preview the novel they aren’t sure about buying, or the television, or the couch or whatever else. You get the idea.

Amazon isn’t doing any  favors for your community bookstores (from the little independent to Barnes & Noble). How is Amazon hurting publishing, though? By pushing harder and harder deals on publishers to sell their books. the cost for printing a physical copy of a book isn’t the biggest money sink. You have to pay the author, the editor, proofreaders, marketing, tech people to run the growing digital side, etc. So, let’s take Amazon’s $10 price. Amazon wants to take 30% right off the top, so we’re down to seven bucks. The other gets around a buck of it (10%) so we’re down to $6. From that $6, a cut is taken out to pay for all of those things listed above, plus everything else (building maintenance, secretaries, security, taxes,…). In other words, the profit margin is pretty damn slim. At some point, the costs of doing business are going to eclipse the returns they get from sales, and Amazon’s pricing structure will go a long way towards expediting that.

I began writing this last night, and I’m not surprised that I woke up to find this in my newsfeed this morning. Amazon is already looking to slash prices again in an attempt to gain greater market share.

This isn’t to say that  publishers are faultless. This article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution talks about how publishers have made it very difficult for libraries to expand their ebook lending. Give how one of the problems with Amazon is their work to gain a monopoly on ebooks, making them more readily available from libraries would seem to be a solid way of fighting that – especially if they adopt an open format that isn’t tied to any one device, allowing consumers more latitude in selecting their ereaders. one of the better ideas I’ve seen (other than just not dealing with Amazon) is to give away a free digital edition with the purchase of a print edition. So, instead of paying $10 for a digital copy, pay $15 for a trade paperback and get a digital copy for free. You put a balance against the ebook market, while also pushing sales for the print version the publisher seems to want to move more.

Alright, somewhat rambly post is over. I know there are gobs of stuff that I haven’t touched on, but I have only so much space and time. The short of it is that I think we’re jumping from the pan and into the fire by going after Apple and the publishers, and shifting power towards Amazon. They’re not a cuddly gentle giant looking to do right by readers everywhere, they’ll looking to make just as much money and grab as much power as anyone else. They can’t be trusted, just as we know we can’t really trust Wal Mart, and the effects of shopping with them are larger than we may initially perceive. If things continue, I won’t be surprised to see more brick and mortar stores close, publishing houses fail, and the quality of products (literature) slip, while the Cult of Amazon grows.Personally, I find it to be a bit of an ugly future.

So, Borders is Liquidating.

July 19, 2011

Anyone who has followed this for the past year or so can’t be overly surprised. There was always doubt that they would be able to right the ship or get someone to ride in and rescue everything with a huge bag-o-cash. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit to some part of me hoping for just that.

Since Media Play shut its doors, Borders has been my official (non-used) book store. I’m a member. I use the coupons, I browse the shelves and I paw through the clearance racks. Over the years, the place has become a lot less cool. As hey continuously re-organized the stores, they also kept not bringing in any real assortment. If you had been in one Borders, you had been in them all, so there was never much of a point in going to the Borders in Ann Arbor if you had been to the one in Toledo the week before. If one place didn’t have what you were looking for, neither would the other, and it would take half a year and a pint of blood to get something you ordered from them.

But, honestly, the coupons kept me coming back. Which, apparently, is more than a lot of people can say. While the selection ceased to be the best, and they didn’t have a lot of places to sit down and browse through a book you were thinking of buying, it was still a comfortable place, if only because of its relative anonymity. Towards the end, it was as if Borders was flaunting the fact that they weren’t a great bookstore any more, and they were all the more likable for it.

But when Borders finally closes up, and I have picked through the bones of every store I come across (I can’t help it, I’m a whore for clearance sales of any sort and liquidation screams cheap), my days of bothering with bookstores, at least the kind that only sell new, crisp, fresh from the printer books, will likely be over. I’m sure I’ll still wander in the occasional Barnes and Noble, or even Books-A-Million, but they won’t be destinations on my shopping trips. Instead, I’ll probably now stick to the second hand stores.  And if there is something I just have to have, and can’t wait for, well, Amazon is a couple of keystrokes away.