From The Bookseller:
In every great epic, there is the last stand: a waning of hope, a dutiful last charge, and a hopeful moment of deus ex machina.
It’s all too tempting to imagine American publishers in a boardroom today using similar literary tropes in a dramatic analogy involving besieged Barnes & Noble locations and a fight to the last man against Amazonian invaders. Our analogy isn’t far off. Right now, B&N faces death but bravely holds fast to stave off private takeovers and Amazon at the gates a little bit longer.
The death of the last major American bookstore chain is significant. It leaves publishers with few major bookselling channels outside of Amazon, hundreds of American communities reliant on e-commerce for books, and a beloved brand and store experience only a distant memory for readers.
. . . .
Financially, B&N is in dire straits. The stock is trading a hair above $5, less than a fifth of their 2006 price before ebooks and Amazon consumed the market. Since then, stores have seen 11 years of declining sales and dozens of closures. After Feb. 12 lay-offs of 1,800 full-time positions, many stores now have no full-time employees.
B&N’s online sales have been steadily declining more than 25% in the last two years, despite occasional odd attempts at building unique online experiences. Meanwhile, Amazon currently sells one out of every two books in the U.S., according to digital publishing consultants Mike Shatzkin and Hugh Howey. While the overall book market grows a healthy 3% a year, it “is solely due to Amazon’s fast-growing online print sales,” says Howey. Last year, “all other channels shrunk.”
Link to the rest at The Bookseller
PG says the death of the last American bookstore chain is primarily self-inflicted.
Ditto for the big publishers on life support, down-sizing their way to a brighter future.
Nowhere was it cast in stone that Amazon would dominate bookselling. Barnes & Noble was a household name when Amazon shipped its first book. And its thousandth book. So was Borders.
Each of the two big book chains (plus some other smaller chains) was ideally positioned in the minds of consumers to dominate online book sales. Who do you trust? Barnes & Noble, where you have purchased books for years or that Amazon web thing operating out of some guy’s kitchen in Seattle that’s liable to take your money, go bankrupt and blame UPS when your book gets lost?
With their unerring ability to locate a sinking ship, publishers jumped on board the SS Queen of the Livre Papier. Apple always sold its computers and other stuff at list price, so publishers created an illegal conspiracy with Steve Jobs’ encouragement that had one principal objective – Sell at List Price – and a motto, Discounting is the Devil’s Playground! (except when Barnes & Noble does it)
Ebooks were an ideal product for publishers – no printing costs, no waiting for ships full of books from China, no warehousing charges, no slice of the pie for Ingram. Send some electrons to any online bookstore that wanted to sell them and watch the money roll in.
But no, that would be wrong because Paper!
Shakespeare used paper. So did Mark Twain. And Jane! Jane Austen never allowed a computer in Pemberley. Everybody knows they were geniuses so who are we to question their ways?