Friday, February 3, 2012

Get a Poncho. Barnes and Noble's Brains are Splashing.

Sell your Barnes & Noble stock! Seriously. Cash in your chips. Barnes and Noble is going to die. If you don't think it's possible, remember that we lost Borders in the not too distant past. 

In my opinion, Barnes & Noble is next on the chopping block. I may be wrong, and I hope I am. But gosh darn it, there are just too many red flags flying for me to think otherwise. 

In B&N's recent announcement, chief merchandising officer, Jaime Carey said, "Their [Amazon's] actions have undermined the industry as a whole and have prevented millions of customers from having access to content," Carey said. "It’s clear to us that Amazon has proven they would not be a good publishing partner to Barnes & Noble as they continue to pull content off the market for their own self interest. We don’t get many requests for Amazon titles, but if customers wish to buy Amazon titles from us, we will make them available only online at” 

STOP RIGHT THERE. Barnes & Noble has just announced that they are dying. Here's why:

B&N's shot in the left foot.
"Their actions have undermined the industry as a whole and have prevented millions of customers from having access to content,"

Really? If B&N is upset that Amazon has "prevented millions of customers from having access to content", then why would they refuse to sell books that Amazon publishes? Isn't that preventing "customers" from accessing content as well? I'm not sure if Jaime wrote that press release, but that is a serious contradiction. Does B&N really want to make all books available? Do they really care about availability? Answer: No, they do not. They just don't want to be put out of business and made to be fools by smarter Ivy League grads. 

The truth is, Barnes & Noble isn't the least bit concerned about freedom of content. In fact, they have continued to squeeze books out of their inventories over the last few years, and have been closed off to providing "customers" with content in their stores. Ask any bestselling independent author who has been refused into their closed-off club of select publishers. I hate to tell you this B&N, but what goes around comes around.

B&N's shot in the right foot.
"It’s clear to us that Amazon has proven they would not be a good publishing partner to Barnes & Noble as they continue to pull content off the market for their own self interest."

Wow! That is just laughable. Do the leaders at B&N actually think that Amazon and other book retailers are teaming up as a world-wide endowment of literature? No, they are not. They are in business to make money. Period. That's all they care about. That is their sole purpose. And duh, of course Amazon is in it "for their own self interest." What executive in his right mind would think otherwise. They sure as heck aren't in business for Barnes & Noble's interests. If that's the way the leadership at B&N thinks, their business is in serious trouble. Big business is not team work! It's about money and it's about trumping your competitor. 

B&N's shot in the heart.
"We don’t get many requests for Amazon titles, but if customers wish to buy Amazon titles from us, we will make them available only online at"

The bigger question is, is pulling the titles that Amazon  publishes from their stores a good business decision? Answer: NO, it is not. Just think about that declaration for a moment and let that sink in. Amazon is selling plenty of big name authors in their stores like King, Koontz, and Collins and titles like Steve Jobs  biography. The Hunger Games is Amazon's #1, #2, and #3 top selling books at this moment. And those titles are in's top six. King and Steve Jobs are in B&N's and Amazon's top twenty. The point is, the demand for books is mirrored in both stores. So if B&N chooses not to sell self-help author Tim Ferriss' books because he is published by an Amazon imprint, I 'd wager that readers will go somewhere else to buy it. This will not help B&N's bottom line. In fact, B&N will only exclude themselves from profiting from Amazon published titles. And that's their fix?

Let me get this straight. Amazon pushes for exclusivity, and B&N's response is to further exclude themselves from available and popular books? Is that a good business decision? No.

B&N's shot in the head.
"Their actions have undermined the industry as a whole…"

In my opinion, Barnes and Noble is committing suicide because Amazon is winning, and they're using a frickin' B-52 bomber. They are crying and pouting like little babies, when what they should be doing is figuring out what they are doing wrong, or perhaps use Amazon as a template for good business. They should look at Amazon's utilization of product cross promotion, author promotion, and customer buying patterns, and figure out how to implement those tactics in their own selling algorithms, not because they want to be like Amazon, but because it is working for Amazon. 

Businesses do this all the time; it's called benchmarking. It's called improving by looking at a standard, a point of reference. It's called getting off your rumpus, stop crying, and start reprogramming your stupid website! 

I hate to sound cynical about all of this, because I'm a very positive person, and I really want book stores to survive and thrive. I just hate cry babies. Is it really Amazon's fault that B&N is failing? Is it Amazon's fault that B&N's online book shop is not as attractive to authors? Is it Amazon's fault that B&N can't seem to make good business decisions. No. It is not. Amazon has made smarter decisions than Barnes & Noble, simple as that. 

All to say, I'm buying a poncho from Amazon for two reasons:
#1. Barnes & Nobles doesn't sell them.
#2. There's going to be a serious blood bath when B&N pulls the trigger.

What do you think? I could be wrong. Maybe you can convince me otherwise.
Jeff Bennington is the author of Twisted Vengeance, Reunion, Creepy and The Indie Authors Guide to the Universe. Please buy one of these; sort of like a tip. they are mostly 99¢!

Follow by email to get my weekly posts, and then check out The Kindle Book Review, my sister site. Then come back… The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe is coming soon and you won't want to miss it.


  1. is that a real poncho...i mean, is that a Mexican poncho or is that a Sears poncho? (Zappa at 2am, that's me)---
    Funny that you posted this, I've seen a few opinion pieces today, and actually came to your blog earlier to see if you had said anything about it. Because, of course, I value your opinion.
    I'm watching this closely, as I am sure most writers are, and have to say I agree with you, in that B&N should look at what works now if they want to succeed. Times change, consumers change and successful businesses find a way to change with them.

  2. B&N is in serious trouble, methinks.

  3. Spinning the Nook division out makes a lot of sense - weren't they doing this at one point?

  4. Great post - thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Retweeting!

  5. B&N is definitely in trouble, and it makes me sad that book stores are dying. Not because I think that paperbacks are better than ebooks, but because I'm a tutor and I teach elementary school children how to read. What do you think is going to happen to the literacy level when you can no longer buy books for your children to read? How many of the poor are really going to be able to afford e-readers (and why would you want to give a small child such an expensive electronic anyway?). I know there will still be libraries and that you will still be able to buy print books online, but I can't help but think our newest generation is going to suffer for this. The literacy level is already plummeting as it is because of our awful public education system.

  6. I agree B&N is in trouble. What's funny to me is that so many authors feel like they should hold out from KDP Select or the like because they don't want Amazon to dominate the market. Which I really don't either, but the point is: what is each company doing for your book? Amazon seems to do quite a bit, helping you and themselves at the same time. But B&N does very little as far as I can see, and it's up to them, not us, to change that.

  7. B&N is in serious trouble, but Amazon is a monopoly. Amazon continues it's expansion into overseas markets while B&N continue to close its eyes and hopes it goes away. Poor business practices over all. It will be sad to see yet another book dealer go out of business.

  8. B&N is in big trouble but it's because of poor management decisions and lack of direction. Blaming Amazon is not going to change that. Dairy Queen could have been McDonald's and B&N could have been Amazon - neither was willing to give customers what they wanted.
    Frankly, I'm not concerned about a monopoly that is guided by the question - How can we give the customer (and suppliers) more value?

  9. Thanks for sharing Jeff.

    When I first read this news issued by B&N itself I was stunned, surprised and wondering where their business advisers were! But then I thought why would it take someone with years of business experience and an MBA to see the folly here?

    Does B&N realize they are acting like the kid on the playground that figures everyone will side with him no matter how mean & stupid he acts?

    It doesn't sound like Amazon is creating a seems more like the its being handed to them.

  10. @Kelly ~ I knew that when I didn't get very many hits on my last post which is a HUGE help to authors in their marketing efforts, that it was probably because folks were surfing for articles regarding this issue. Glad you stopped by; I wrote it because it IS important to all writers and readers alike.

    @Amber ~ Sad itsn't it?

    @Brian ~ I don't know. Complaining and ignoring the more important issues will not fix their problems.

    @~ Thanks for visiting and retweeting

    @Jasmine ~ I so agree with you. It is sad. We homeschool our children because of the demise of our school system, but I realize that many parents do not have this luxury. In my opinion, the collapse of our public education system is an intentional attack on the US by the powers that be, but that's the conspiracist in me speaking. If that is not true, than the only other option is that we as a nation really don't care enough to force our leaderships hand at making drastic changes. We can't blame government, because we the people are the government. Okay…enough of my

    Rob ~exactly. It's a sad situation all around, for writers and readers.

    J.L. ~ When I was doing poorly, I changed. It's not hard.

    @Bert ~ Thanks for dropping by. When Amazon actualy becomes a monopoly, they will be forced to break it up. Until then, they are free to excell. i wish B&N did the same. Competition is good, especially when all are improving to benefit the customer.

  11. Jeff,

    You hit the nail on the head with this post. I thought exactly the same things when I read the BN press release. They don't know how to run their business in the present publishing environment. And they can't find anyone to by it from them.

    I might have cared about the BN announcement if they would have shelved any of my titles in the first place. But as you mention, indies have NEVER been welcome at BN -- even when you offer to consign books for them to shelve at no cost to BN!

    I'd like to see some competition in the publishing and book sales world, but the only business doing anything right at this moment is Amazon. Kudos to them

    Thanks for this thorough post.


  12. Great post. I think it's sad if B&N is in trouble, but I wouldn't be surprised. For one thing, they seem to take longer to pay authors than Amazon, and if you have your books listed with them through Smashwords, it takes forever. There's almost a three-month lag time before my Smashwords account gets updated to reflect B&N sales (actually, that may be the fault of Smashwords). The other thing is that they're just not as author-friendly. I can't find my way around their site as easily as Amazon, and why don't they let you have an author page like Amazon? I actually have one ebook that sells better on B&N than Amazon, but I have no idea why. I don't like monopolies, and I think if Amazon gets one they'll exert their will on authors in a negative way, but it's frustrating how B&N is so out of step with this new publishing world.

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  14. VERY INTERESTING POST. I hope B&N wakes up. Strolling through Amazon is fun, BUT it's not the same as being in an actual store. Please, wake up Barnes and Noble.

    We hear it, read it, and know it to be true: To maintain a successful business, you must care about the Greater Good.

  15. @John McDonnell ~ Well said. S.L. Pierce wrote a great letter to Barnes and Noble ~> This letter points out many of B&N's faults regarding their website and lack of consideration to indie authors.

    @Jo ~ Hi. Thanks for coming back!

    @Patti ~ I do too. I hate the idea of losing them or any other book store.

  16. Good post, indeed! Thank you for sharing the info! It's sad such things happen to B&N, everyone deserve their place under the sun... I hope the future will be better for them too, hope they will change their business strategy, etc...
    As my water dragons' hunters would say - Let the wonderful noise of the sea always sounds in their ears!

  17. Great post. How about a little perspective from someone with 17 yrs of retail experience (7 yrs in the book industry) and now helps indie authors promote their books.

    * B&N will not be dead in 2 years. However, they will close their non-profitable locations. This will leave them with only their best stores and the ability to renegotiate some of their leases.
    * B&N overwelmingly had dominant retail locations compared to Borders. So much so that BAM only took 30 store locations out of 250+ stores.
    * The book industry (like many retailers) only make a true profit during the holiday quarter.
    * Their product mix (non-book & higher margin) continues to expand and in high volume stores will make a difference.
    * The frontlist and new release account for the vast majority of books sold in a bookstore.
    * You can stock 10 different titles of one topic (ex: dog training), but stocking the 3 bestsellers will get you 90% of the sales w/o the added carrying costs.
    * The B&N of tomorrow will look a lot different than it does today, but I may be totally wrong.

    Lastly. Do you what the retail book industry calls a book that sells 1 copy a week?
    A bestseller.

    Anthony Wessel

  18. I know not what to think. I will be sad. They love me. But I only sell epub.

  19. Wow, that's...incredibly short-sighted of them, and it's unlikely to end well for them at all. Amazon got where they are because they still think like a tiny start-up that has to react with extreme efficiency and nimbleness to every threat. B&N has an opportunity to do that, but instead they're pointing and whining. I've had terrible issues getting my book searchable on B&N, with no help whatsoever in resolving it from their end. So I've stopped wasting my time with them and started directing people who want the book in epub format to Smashwords. Big, bad Amazon had nothing to do with that.

  20. Hi Jeff, I thought this worth a Digg, so have done it. Alana Woods

  21. @Anthony ~ Thank you so much for that insight! I wish you'd come around here more often. We need that experience.

    @Virginia ~ I'd like to know how the ePub thing is working for ya, and why you are only selling ePub.

    @Mari ~ Yeah, I agree. Shame. Good luck!

    @Alan ~ Alana… What did you do? Buy a poncho?


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