From Melville House:
Maybe you’ve noticed that there seem to be a lot of Barnes & Noble superstores closing lately? Not just stores in remote locations (like, say, this one in rural upstate New York), but in some of the nation’s largest metropolitan shopping areas, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Seattle, Chicago, two stores in Dallas, another in Austin, and Manhattan. And that’s just in the last 30 days or so.
What had been a slow shrinkage as leases ran out — a store here, a store there — turned into an avalanche after Thanksgiving. Stores that should have been well-stocked for the holidays were instead out of inventory and passing time until the end of the year.
. . . .
If you include the company’s college stores, this is going to mean 1362 bookstores disappearing from the American landscape — less than two years after 686 Borders stores disappeared.
The big chains deserve opprobrium for their vicious tactics against America’s independent booksellers, certainly. Back in the last century, I wrote a column attacking B&N for putting indie booksellers in Melville House’s birthplace, Hoboken, New Jersey, out of business with under-pricing, as if selling books was like selling widgets. Can you guess the rest of that story? Having poisoned the well, the Hoboken B&N itself went out of business, leaving the town — a big Manhattan bedroom with lots of well-educated, well-off residents — without a bookshop, probably forever.
. . . .
Not only is B&N going to get out of its brick-and-mortar business — as I say, the process is clearly already underway — but the other shoe seemed to drop last week, when the company released its holiday sales report, revealing that its plan to become a digital bookseller is in shambles, and the whole enterprise is in jeopardy.
. . . .
But as I say, right or wrong, for this bookseller, it’s coming. (A highly placed Big Six exec I respect to no end told me to look for the death of B&N in two to three years. That was two years ago.) Publishers are on a crash course learning how to survive without any volume booksellers, and in an environment with one retailer (oh, guess) representing as much of its business as — well, who knows? Eighty percent? More? That alone is likely to make publishers give up on printing books — there’s no sense in printing books if your main outlet isn’t going to order any until they sell them — and join the digital “revolution.”
Link to the rest at Melville House and thanks to Keith for the tip.