Pioneering Barnes & Noble Leader to Step Down

27 April 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

Book retailer Leonard Riggio said in an interview Tuesday that he will step down as executive chairman of Barnes & Noble Inc., following the company’s annual meeting scheduled for September.

“I’m no longer going to be in charge,” Mr. Riggio said. “I’m done with that. I’m done with being top banana.”

Mr. Riggio, who built Barnes & Noble into the nation’s largest bookstore chain, said he played an active role last fall in the hiring of the company’s current chief executive,Ronald Boire.

The 75-year-old Mr. Riggio began to pull back in January. “I found peace with my decision,” he said. “The whole identity crisis comes in. ‘Who am I? How do I leave here?’ All that stuff comes into your head after you spend so many years in one place.”

Mr. Riggio is the company’s largest individual shareholder with a 17.5% stake. He says he has no plans to sell or add to his stockholdings. Mr. Riggio, who resigned as the company’s CEO in 2002, will remain on the board after stepping down as executive chairman.

. . . .

Barnes & Noble, however, never duplicated its success with its online bookstore or its offering of Nook digital devices and e-books. Instead, rival Inc. today dominates the sale of physical books online as well as the sale of digital e-books.

. . . .

As Amazon’s share of the book business increased, Barnes & Noble’s store count decreased to 640 today from a peak of 726 for the fiscal year ended January 2009.

Sales at the retail segment, which includes the consumer stores and, have fallen 20% to $4.11 billion for the fiscal year ended May 2015 compared with the fiscal year ended January 2009, in part because of the impact of digital books.

Barnes & Noble’s big bet that it could compete as a high-powered technology company head-to-head with Amazon and Apple Inc. also proved a disappointment. Through the first nine months ended Jan. 31, Nook revenue fell 29% to $150 million.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to C. for the tip.

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Beyond Bookmarks: How Publishers Can Help Authors and Booksellers

26 April 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

Oh, publishers, you do love your promotional doodads. And we sometimes love them, too, but much of the time, they honestly don’t help us promote and sell your books. You might play to your strengths by helping where we need it most. Publishers have entire departments devoted to creating marketing and promotional materials, whereas we stores often have small staffs with varying levels of artistic ability. Instead of sending us 200 bookmarks that only 12 customers will end up taking, or shipping us those books-nestled-in-Easter-grass-in-a-special-fitted-box – which too often arrive looking sad, squished, and decrepit from their postal journey – consider sending us instead:

. . . .

Sample Facebook Event Page Copy —Promotional writing is a special kind of writing, and not everyone is good at it. Not only that, but the person responsible for creating promotional materials at a bookstore is not always the person who has scheduled the event and knows the book. It can be a challenge to make a reading sound brand new, to capture the essence of a book in a few sentences, and to present an author’s personality and appeal to customers who may not be familiar with his or her work.

“But don’t independent bookstores want to be unique?” you ask. Of course we do, and of course we are. But we are also overworked and always, always short of enough time to make things as perfect as we’d like. So it could be extremely helpful to have some snappy text to use as a jumping-off point.

. . . .

How About Some Promo for the Midlist?
We know that a few books get the lion’s share of marketing dollars, and the rest need to make their way in a Darwinian world. But what if a few of those big-budget-book dollars made their way toward shelftalkers for the quieter titles that need help to find their readers? Small shelftalkers, with an eye-catching graphic and maybe one review pull-quote. Not too many words, just enough to catch the attention of a bookstore browser.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

What Amazon and Libraries Have in Store for 2016

25 April 2016

From BookWorks:

Isn’t it an oxymoron to think of Amazon as a brick and mortar store?  Founder, Jeff Bezos was considered the disrupter when he turned the publishing paradigm on its head with Kindle, some twenty years ago.  Transitioning from the real world of hardbound books, bookstores and libraries to the virtual world of bits, bytes and pixels was a major leap in putting self-publishers in the driver’s seat.  It was a time for the legacy publishing world to take pause.

Today, we will explore how a return to getting physical with the printed word in the real world is making a comeback.

. . . .

Yet, are books in and of themselves the raison d’être for Amazon to open [its own physical bookstores]?  Tech analyst Rob Enderle doesn’t seem to think so.  In his estimation“the books are just window dressing”.

He senses Amazon is simply using them to create a more welcoming space for customers to investigate what this commercial enterprise really wants to sell—namely its electronic products.

In addition to their eReaders and tablets such as Kindle Fire, Amazon wants their customers to get up close and personal with their new products such as Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Echo, its popular voice-activated personal digital assistant and the firm’s first entrée into the world of the Internet of Things [IoT].

“A lot of people are intimidated by electronics, but they feel comfortable hanging out in a bookstore,” Enderle said. “If they go into a Best Buy they worry they’ll be set upon by salespeople, but in a bookstore they feel safe.”

. . . .

As far as their pricing model, the Amazon stores have a few unique features.  Every book has a shelf tag that includes a capsule review from the website, a star rating, and a barcode.  There are no prices listed on the books themselves.  To get the price, you need to scan the code with the camera of your smartphone and the Amazon app.  If you don’t have a smartphone or the app installed, an associate can assist you.  While pricing is the same as their online store, customers obviously don’t have to pay for shipping.

At this juncture, here’s where Amazon differs markedly from other retail stores.  If you are signed into the app with your account, Amazon is immediately able to associate its online customer records with you.  It knows your preferences, your buying history and your status as an Amazon Prime and/or Amazon credit card member.  Armed with that data, it can feed you recommendations, offer coupons and incentives, and prompt you straight through to the close of the sale, as you hold the book you are considering purchasing.  Pretty cool, eh?

Link to the rest at BookWorks

Did Barnes & Noble College just dump the Nook?

25 April 2016

From Chris Meadows via TeleRead:

I happened to cruise by my local Barnes & Noble College bookstore today at IUPUI, about a half hour before closing time to look around. I had it in mind to take another in-person peek at the Nook devices they had on display there, but to my surprise, the display was nowhere to be found. The only Nook accessories I saw were some cases in the 50%-off clearance bin.

When I asked the clerk at the counter about this, he told me that the display had been removed two or three weeks ago, because the Nooks belonged to the branch of the business that ran the stores in the malls and they were really better suited to those stores—among other things, those stores had Internet access, and the campus Barnes & Noble didn’t. As far as he knew, they wouldn’t be available even by special order.

. . . .

I came back home and ran a quick Google, but I wasn’t able to find any news articles anywhere suggesting that Nooks were being removed from Barnes & Noble College stores. I don’t even have any way of knowing if they actually are being removed from all campus stores or just this one—I wanted to call some other stores and spot check them, but in a quick survey of a number of listings on the web site wasn’t able to locate any other stores that have Sunday hours. (Though when I entered “Nook” as a search term on the web stores of several of them, it came up with no results.)

. . . .

It seems a little odd that Barnes & Noble never tried harder to provide a college textbook solution for its own Nooks, given that it operated a chain of hundreds of college bookstores and at the very least could have licensed the Nook to them for that purpose—but perhaps it’s just another symptom of B&N’s waning support for the Nook in the interest of throwing as little good money after bad as possible.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

An open letter to Barnes and Noble

25 April 2016

From author Cambria Hebert:

An open letter to Barnes & Noble and the CEO Mr. Ronald Boire:

Four years ago when I first started in the publishing industry I sent a submission to the small press department for my first novel. With it I sent reviews, newspaper articles, marketing, book specs and a beautiful hardback edition of the book.

I was with a small publisher, met all the requirements and I was hoping to be considered for shelf placement.

I was turned down with a form response that basically came down to “we don’t do self-pub”. While I was disappointed that it was clear no one really took the time to read the submission because it stated clearly my book was not self-published, I took it in stride.

I knew I had to earn my “stripes” in the industry. I had to work my way up and expecting anything such as shelf placement in BN stores for a first novel was basically just a hope.

Five years later, with nearly thirty novels under my belt, I sent another submission.

This submission was for #Nerd, the first book in my popular contemporary romance Hashtag Series. I’ll be frank, my ultimate dream when I first started in this business was to see my books on your shelves. I still remember the feeling of walking through your aisles, gazing at all the beautiful books with a coffee in my hand and being awed at all the possibilities.

Having worked in this business for about five years now I admit, this dream became chipped away at. I’ve seen, quite frankly, the snobbery that comes from your large corporate world. I told myself it was fine if I never made it to your shelves because my books were popular and doing very well.

Then something happened. I was tagged in a picture on social media. #Nerd was sitting on the shelves at a BN on an end cap along with several other popular Independently published books. This came courtesy of some really awesome managers at one of your stores. It was awesome. The original dream of seeing something like that came back to me, and in some regard I remembered why I started in this business to begin with.

I took a chance, a long shot and put together another package. Inside I slipped detailed information of my book including the type of binding, shelf life, wholesaler discount and distributor.

I’d like to note that when I began publishing on my own many years (after leaving the small press) ago I went to the extra hassle and expense of getting an account approved via Ingram (Lightning Source) so that my books were in your catalogues and viable for ordering on the chance someone might want them for your stores.

Also, in that packet I included reviews, average rating, marketing details, and every single format my book was available in. My book is professionally edited, award winning and has a standout cover designed by a designer who already has covers sitting on your shelves. I also included the information that #Nerd has a professionally produced live action book trailer with over fifteen thousand views and a lot of buzz.

I outlined the many signings I attend to promote myself and noted my social media accounts including my sizable Facebook page with almost seventy thousand likes.

With that I included a paperback of my novel and a print out of the photo of it sitting on one of your end caps.

Honestly, I never expected to be accepted. I never thought I would be considered but I hoped. I saw that image of my book on the end cap of a large BN and it felt good.

I got a form letter in the mail today. A rejection. I will say, it was a much friendlier rejection than the one I received four years ago.

But it was no less condescending.

. . . .

When will the stigma of independent books ever fade with your company? When will it stop becoming an exclusive club and allow for good books to be recognized?

Frankly, I’m offended and angry on behalf of not only myself but all independent authors.

Yes, there are millions of books published every year. Not all of them are good. The easy use and accessibility of publishing online today makes lots of people think they can write a book.

However. There are a lot of independent authors out there who are damn good at what they do. There are professionals. There are people that work and work hard for their name and career.

What is it about us that makes you look away?

Are you afraid you’ll make the big six with all their money angry if you clear off even one shelf for some independent books?Are you certain that your exclusive choice of titles in your stores are the absolute cream of the crop?

. . . .

I would wager some of my books probably outsell some of the ones you stock on your shelves. That doesn’t mean by any means those books don’t deserve to be where they are, they do.

But mine do too.

. . . .

No, my books aren’t screened through agents and publishers.

You know who screens my books? You know who deems them worthy? YOUR customers, the readers. I have average ratings, sales and demand to back it up.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a reader ask me why they can’t get my book on your shelves. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard readers say they wished they could pick up their favorite indie authors book off your shelves.

Link to the rest at Cambria Hebert and thanks to Patrice for the tip.

Here’s a link to Cambria Hebert’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Have Amazon’s book competitors lost the next generation?

24 April 2016

From TeleRead:

A new e-commerce research report, “Taking Stock with Teens – Spring 2016,” from Piper Jaffray,  presents some alarming news for Amazon’s competitors in online book sales, whether Barnes & Noble or otherwise. . . . 41 percent of teens in the survey do their online shopping on Amazon. The next place branded websites even to register on Piper Jaffray’s metrics, Nike and Forever 21, barely manage to attract 5 percent of the teen audience apiece.

And Amazon’s share of the teen audience is growing, fast. . . . Amazon has seen a 10 percent rise in its teen mindshare in just two years, up from 31 percent in spring 2014 and 35 percent in spring 2015. Amazon’s customer lock-in with Amazon Prime also seems to be growing. . . .  Amazon Prime adoption has increased across all income brackets in each of the past five surveys with this survey indicating Amazon Prime exists in 51% of households of the teens in our survey.

. . . .

Now, if I was a Barnes & Noble shareholder, I would be very worried by those statistics. Where else are the upcoming generation of e-shoppers going to go to buy their books but Amazon?

Link to the rest at TeleRead

New Model for Independent Bookstores

20 April 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

Soon after Dane Neller bought Manhattan bookseller Shakespeare & Co. last May, he shut the doors and built the bookstore where he wanted to shop.

“The old ways have to be reinvented,” says Mr. Neller, the retailer’s major investor, declining to disclose the purchase price. “People want to hang out, they want to talk, they want intimacy. But the store has to be productive.”

. . . .

Mr. Neller, for example, is also chief executive of a company that makes a desk-sized device called the Espresso Book Machine, which prints new paperbacks in five minutes or less. An $85,000 unit is featured prominently at Shakespeare & Co.

. . . .

“It’s the secret sauce,” says Mr. Neller. “The machine enables a bookstore to have a much smaller footprint.”

These are heady days for independent booksellers, whose ranks have grown to 1,712 bookstores operating in 2,227 locations in 2015, compared with 1,410 bookstores in 1,660 locations in 2010, according to the American Booksellers Association.

. . . .

Independent bookstores’ big rivals have fared less well. Barnes & Noble Inc. has shrunk to 640 stores today from 726 at the close of its January 2009 fiscal year. Borders Group Inc., once the country’s second largest publicly traded bookstore chain, closed its doors in 2011. Books-A-Million Inc. went private last December at $3.25 a share.

After Mr. Neller got done tinkering with Shakespeare & Co., the store, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, had a distinctly different look. Space inside the store dedicated to books has been cut by nearly 40% to 1,200 square feet. Titles on the shelves, however, are turning more rapidly. As a result, Mr. Neller says book sales from September through the end of March are up 10% compared with the same period when the store was under different ownership.

. . . .

“It’s early days, but you don’t have to lay out as much money for inventory, and you can operate a much smaller store more efficiently” with the machine, Mr. Neller says. “Too many books are sent back because of over-ordering.”

Bookstores of the future may well feature other cool technology that makes book shopping easier while expanding choices, such as that found in the 4,300-square-foot Foyles bookstore operated by W&G Foyle Ltd. in Birmingham, England.

The store, which opened last fall with a modest 15,000 titles, is tapping the Internet to satisfy requests for books that aren’t on its shelves.

. . . .

At Shakespeare & Co., Mr. Neller leaned on his retail and technology background when he redesigned the store. The former chief executive of food retailer Dean & DeLuca Inc., Mr. Neller put a café at the front of his bookstore complete with a splash of small tables.

“Amazon isn’t my problem,” he says. “My customer is here because they care about more than price. They want to be greeted, they want a sense of community, and they have a craving for culture.”

. . . .

The [Expresso Book] machine also can access and print more than 7 million previously published titles. . Many are out of copyright; the rest are primarily older titles from traditional publishers.

There are surprises, including Mark Twain’s “Is Shakespeare Dead?” and Nikolai Gogol’s “Dead Souls,” two of the out-of-copyright books that Mr. Neller sells for $5.99 each. The books were originally scanned by Google Books. Mr. Neller struck a deal with Google to pay what he described as a small fee, and the scanned copies he produces, though easy to read, may have handwritten notes in the margins from previous owners.

“I believe in having the right books, but I don’t need 10 to 12 copies. I need one or two, with the exception of best-sellers,” says Mr. Neller.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to Ruth for the tip.

PG notes that the space devoted to selling printed books has been reduced by 40% and the café is up front, in keeping with a trend to make physical bookstores less about books and more about lifestylish stuff. (The minuscule number of children living on New York’s Upper East Side probably won’t support toys and games in this store.)

The only remaining unique value proposition of traditional publishers – “We can get your book into bookstores” – becomes less valuable as savvy retailers devote less space and effort to selling physical books. Are there more people selling croissants, muffins and lattes than selling books?

For PG, a restaurant with a few books in the back doesn’t sound like an optimum discovery environment for serious readers.

“For Love OR Money” Cannot Be the Question

13 April 2016

From bookseller P.J. Grath on Books in Northport:

“I’d do this even if I didn’t get paid for it,” said best-selling author Stephen King. Anyone who loves to write can identify with that statement. But what works for work (e.g., writing) does not work for businesses (e.g., a bookstore).

No one pays me to write blog posts, and it’s anyone’s guess how many people care at all that I take time to put an idea or observation into words, let it percolate a few days, go back to rewrite and polish, and finally hit that magic ‘Publish’ button. Granted, a blog post is not a novel or a poem. And how many deserving novels and poems, memoirs and histories, books and articles on economics, politics, philosophy, and what-have-you are already out there in the world, looking for an audience? The mind not only boggles — it reels, stumbles and falls, blinking wide-eyed. Everyone has something to say! No wonder so many writers have to work other jobs!

Writing is work, for anyone who tries to do it well, even for those who can’t live without it. It just happens to be work we love. We would also love, as Stephen King manages, to be paid for our time and effort, but we don’t expect that to happen often.

. . . .

Bookselling, on the other hand, as in selling books out of one’s own bricks-and-mortar, public shop, is another matter entirely. I am moved to write about the difference because, over and over, I read pieces by well-meaning people — often writers with books to sell, which really drives me nuts! — going on and on about how booksellers “aren’t in it for the money.” Well, guess what. We are.

Yet another in the long line of booksellers-don’t-care-about-money pieces was quoted in and linked to this week in “Shelf Awareness.” The writer admits that he buys online “when I want something” and goes to physical bookstores for discovery. I like the discovery part — the other part, not so much. Booksellers need patronage both from customers who “know what they want” and those willing and eager to explore and be surprised. To stay in business, we actually need to sell books.

. . . .

We’ve chosen relatively low-paying but, for us, spiritually rewarding work over a variety of possible high-paying but, to us, soul-destroying careers with great benefits. Think of paid vacations, paid sick leave, paid health insurance, and pensions. Nope, not for us. But we’ve chosen not to postpone life until retirement, either.

. . . .

Years ago, I noticed something that still strikes me as odd: Often the same Americans who admire highly successful individuals for working hard, loving their work, and making lots of money seem to think that people who do not make a lot of money, as long as they love their work, should be willing to work for nothing. For this group of workers, loving what they do is supposed to be sufficient reward.

Link to the rest at Books in Northport

PG says that technology disruption is sometimes a messy process in which virtuous people who work hard under the-way-things-have-always-been-done regime find their financial and personal worlds turned upside-down.

PG has known and worked with some skilled and wonderful secretaries, travel agents and FORTRAN programmers whose work lives were turned upside down by personal computers and the internet. In a perfect world, perhaps you could have progress without change, sometimes painful change, but we’re a long way from perfection.

When customers stop buying books in bookstores, they’re not being malicious or careless about those who own and work in bookstores, they’re just doing what customers have always done from time immemorial – spending their money where they want to spend their money for whatever reason is important to them at the moment of purchase.

Should Independent Booksellers Go Omni-Channel?

13 April 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

Up to now, independent booksellers have been struggling to compete with online retailers by selling e-books through the American Booksellers Association’s partnership with Kobo. But given how much business big houses are doing with physical books online—last year 50% of Penguin Random House’s total revenue came from the combined online sales of physical and digital books—it could be time for independent booksellers to make a bigger push to sell physical books through their websites.

While moving a large chunk of their book sales online might not be a realistic goal for some independents, others have made the Web an important part of their business. Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Va., for example, manages online sales of autographed books by authors. McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Mich., has moved to 99¢ shipping for customers who order online, and Word in Brooklyn and Jersey City is selling books online as part of the ticket price for events with big-name authors.

“Omni-channel needs to be an aim, not a term of derision,” said Peter Makin, cofounder of Brilliant Books in Traverse City, Mich. “Frankly, the biggest hurdle to selling books online are the policies of the ABA board. They have conflated online shopping with Amazon, for which they have only blind hatred, which isn’t producing constructive results.”

Makin’s store, which is located in a summer resort community and brands itself as “Your long-distance local bookstore,” has seen Web sales increase 400% over the past two years. With a boost from the store’s email newsletter (which goes to 21,000 subscribers) and its Brilliant Books Monthly book program (which has 2,500 online subscribers), Brilliant now does 25% of its overall sales online. Online sales for the 3,000-sq.-ft. bookstore, Makin said, now exceed what the store was doing at its original location in Sutton’s Bay, which closed in 2013.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Amazon Books and the mythical wormhole

10 April 2016

From Luxury Daily:

We all woke up this year to our ecommerce hero marching into Seattle and opening up a real bricks-and-mortar store. The creaking wood floors and smell of pulp is live and well. Stroll down 2623 Northeast University Village and Amazon Books dominates the open-air plaza.

Amazon’s bookstore is full of comfy reading chairs. Step inside and you see a display of “Read Local” books, the first time that Amazon has had the ability to geo-profile without a privacy disclosure. After all the bookstores that Amazon has vanquished, it is now a humble tenant.

. . . .

I recall a conversation I had with the Barnes & Noble manager in New York’s Grand Central while writing the manuscript. We watched commuters read books in the aisle to kill time before the train. Hardly any left with a book in hand.

“Is it sustainable supporting ostensibly an entertainment destination?” I asked.

My answer came later that year when the store shuttered to the public.

. . . .

Unquestionably, cuddling up with a book and a coffee on a rainy Sunday seems the inalienable right of the global consumer.

This mixed-channel sale makes the book a value asset for any commerce broker.

Unlike music and video content, the book seems to be a traditionalist holdout. For this reason, the book could be the essential bridge from the shelf to the cloud – an omnichannel sale that will reward the successful shopper keeper. Amazon is vying for this role.

The Seattle store lives in neutral commerce territory.

Amazon Books’ bricks-and-mortar prices are guaranteed to match This store is perhaps a playground for the company to understand the book buyer’s journey outside of the online storefront and home delivery. Lessons that it perfects here could have profound implications.

. . . .

Starting with the book allows for warmth and intimacy. Books are Amazon’s gateway drug to its one-click commerce basket.

Books drive personalization and help profile the user. Our libraries reflect our interests and create an evergreen relationship with the seller.

We attribute more trust to our booksellers and their recommendations – a la Goodreads – than our electronic or appliance salesperson.

Books are the original omnichannel sin. Books ease the consumer into the commerce wormhole. And the retailer that commands the mythical wormhole from the store to the cloud and back owns the customer.

Link to the rest at Luxury Daily and thanks to Dave for the tip.

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