From Forbes blogs:
No doubt big-box stores in any industry are disrupters. Walmart, Sam’s Club, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Costco and many others have disrupted the retail industry as we knew it. At one point, when Walmart stores would come into small towns, retail experts would conduct workshops for local competitors on how to stay in business alongside stores that focused on low prices and large selections.
The same thing happened in the book industry. Arthur Hinds & Company was founded in 1886 in New York City, and recent Harvard grad Gilbert Clifford Noble got a job there as a clerk. By 1894, Noble became a partner and the new store was called Hinds & Noble. In 1917, Noble bought out Hinds and formed a partnership with William Barnes, and the name of the business was changed to Barnes & Noble. At its peak in 2008, Barnes & Noble had 726 stores, as well as a chain of 674 college bookstores. In April 2017, a corporate report said the number of stores was at 632.
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But even with Amazon and Barnes & Noble gobbling up most of the market share, some independent bookstores have been able to survive, or even thrive, in the competitively-priced landscape of the industry by offering not only the latest books, but also hard-to-find older books, many of them used. Local authors play an important role in the success of independent bookstores. Now, some indie bookstores, such as Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, are as big, if not bigger, than some Barnes & Nobles, while others like Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Missouri, have a smaller footprint.
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[A] recent RetailWire article reported that Barnes & Noble, once an indie killer, is struggling to compete against some of the independent, Mom-and-Pop stores. I’m not sure that’s accurate.
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Was the recent shift to online retail in the book industry a surprise to Barnes & Noble? No, it figured out years ago that the retail landscape was changing. It recognized that its own Goliath was Amazon.
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While the headline in RetailWire said that Barnes & Noble was losing out to Mom-and-Pop retailers, I’m not sure I’m in agreement. Yes, the independents are doing well, but the entire retail book industry is evolving. The smaller stores that have survived and thrived are seeing the retail landscape favor them a bit.
Link to the rest at Forbes blogs and thanks to Dave for the tip.
Contra to the OP, PG suggests that Barnes & Noble did not understand that Amazon was a serious, even deadly, competitor until way, way too late to do anything about it.
BN’s online efforts were ridiculously bad, but it was a serious error in judgment not to move online far earlier when it would have been easier to compete toe-to-toe with Amazon.
Barnes & Noble also made a classic error in declining to be price-competitive with Amazon. Online, books are fungible commodities – the same no matter where you buy them – and Barnes & Noble never did anything effective to persuade readers it was a better place to shop than Amazon was.
PG also believes that Amazon’s early and continuing embrace of self-published books was and is a huge competitive advantage over Barnes & Noble and everybody else. With Amazon’s incentives to sell indie ebooks on an exclusive basis, it had an inventory advantage that no one else could match.
PG hasn’t seen any serious acknowledgment from traditional news and publishing sources that indie ebooks are one of Amazon’s most important competitive advantages over other online retailers. PG suggests it’s similar to a blind spot on the part of the same people with respect to the importance and value of romance titles.
The blindness to the advantage Amazon’s own publishing imprints gives the company is also inadequately acknowledged by the traditional industry and its hangers-on.
PG just checked and five of Amazon’s top ten fiction bestsellers (print plus ebook) were from Amazon’s house publishers.