Saturday, December 6, 2014

No NOOKie?

Barnes & Noble has announced a severing of its partnership with Microsoft for its NOOK e-reader. [ ] NOOK has had problems trying to compete or simply catch up to Amazon's Kindle from day one, and while Microsoft had invested more funds into NOOK's technology in recent years, the device has not matched expectations of the market. 

Why should authors or readers care? Barnes & Noble are not dropping NOOK, they supposedly are negotiating with potential partners to take over for Microsoft. Will the tech ever catch up with Kindle, which is now more like a full functioning tablet? Likely not. NOOK owners love them as they are. The problem with NOOK is it is merely a symptom of B&N's overall illness: slow-thinking Corporate Mentality. 

Back in the heyday of The Big Box Bookstore, B&N was a vibrant company which allowed its store managers leeway to interact with their local communities. Here in Tucson for example, one B&N store held a Local Author Night every month, inviting even independently published authors to participate. For a time, despite Amazon's growth into the behemoth that now dominates the market, stores which maintained their local ties remained at least somewhat viable. But when Corporate stripped individual managers of their flexibility to "save money," Author Night and other community involvement programs bit the dust, eliminating reasons for locals to go to B&N. Many never returned. 
 Barnes & Noble has also sought to inject excitement into its stores to combat the tepid store traffic that has plagued much of the retail industry. The retailer has gotten more creative with how it organizes its titles, added new displays and toys, and introduced big-ticket gifts like a $100 Crosley turntable ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season.

Hey B&N, here's a suggestion: Try involving the book-loving community again. New displays are not enough reason to step into a store. Neither are toys when people can get them at every other retailer in town. Have you ever heard someone say, "Ooh, I heard B&N has reorganized its titles and displays! Let's check it out!" 

Give the managers free rein to organize writing nights or Local Night or any decent reason to actually invite the book-loving public into their stores and you may find sales will crawl upward again. It may not save NOOK from its descent into the Betamax dust bin, but you may be able to earn customer loyalty back, at least a little. 

Happy writing, 


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Very interesting. I agree wholeheartedly with your take on better innovations to get people into the store.

As to their online store, it's convoluted and frustrating.

KMTolan said...

B&N has long since stepped away from merely selling books. Leastwise here in Texas, roughly half the floor space has nothing to do with novels. Pity, because the last thing I want to see is Amazon becoming the only shop in town.

Liz Fountain said...

I'm in a small town that B&N probably would never consider as big enough for a store. As a result, we have four (four!) terrific independent bookstores here; two focus on new books, and two are used bookstores - those wonderful-smelling places where you can find forgotten treasures. Both of the new-book shops offer lots of opportunities for local author nights. One also offers gifts, and the other has a large offering of office supplies and text books. I hope all four will thrive in their niches, by maintaining strong community ties.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Liz your town is blessed. Don't tell anyone where your live!

Olga Godim said...

True, all true. I miss bookstores. Amazon can't compete for the pleasure of browsing in a bookstore, but... I buy most of my books on Amazon these days. The stores can't compete with Amazon's selection. Their book inventories are shrinking by the hour, it seems, as they only sell bestsellers. The rest of the floor space: toys, blankets, expensive stationary, you name it. It's disgusting.

Anonymous said...

I agree JJ. One of my first signing events was with B&N and they brought in 94 customers to listen to me talk and sign my books. I was overwhelmed with all the faces tuned to my words. Best I ever had. Now that was smart management.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Unknown said...

Too sadly true. Back in the day, my poetry group used to do readings once a month at Barnes and Noble. I was in the store at least once a week just to peruse the titles. Now, the place looks more like a combination of a big box electronics store and a card and gift store, with gagets and gift items front and center and books relegated to the back. I haven't been to the store in ages.

Jude Johnson said...

The good news is that independents are definitely making a comeback. We have two good ones here in town and I've worked with one in particular on our All-Zona Book Fest. B&N is just not a player to be reckoned with any more.