From Publishing Perspectives:
‘There can never be too many bookstores in America,’ Barnes & Noble chief Len Riggio tells an appreciative crowd at the bookseller-oriented 2018 BookExpo in New York.
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And as if that grass doesn’t always seem greener than publishing’s, another departure awaited Wednesday’s industry BookExpo-goers who gathered to hear Barnes & Noble’s Len Riggio speak: he was introduced, and graciously, by Oren Teicher, the CEO of the American Booksellers Association (ABA).
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In case the irony isn’t apparent, Barnes & Noble has at times in its history been bitterly criticized for closing the essential mom-and-pop bookstores of the association’s rank and file with its big-box clout. In fact, before Amazon had become retail’s most profitable nightmare, Barnes & Noble was the enemy in the eyes of many independent booksellers.
Teicher did his part to try to bolster Reed’s “reimagined BookExpo” effort by saying that “It’s hardly a secret that lots of industry trade shows in a whole range of industries have had some challenges of late.” He congratulated Several and his team for this year’s emphasis, which is on booksellers and their relationship with publishers—”reimagined,” purposefully, with the bookshop keeper in mind.
And to his credit, Teicher didn’t try to duck the fact that “My standing here, doing what I’m about to do”—introduce Barnes & Noble’s chairman—”would have been impossible to imagine several years ago.”
We all need, however, he said, “to recognize that things change. … The simple fact is that our business is stronger and American readers benefit when there is a vibrant and healthy network of brick-and-mortar bookshops all across the country.”
It’s a good bet that Amazon Books, those brick-and-mortar stores being rolled out by Seattle, aren’t the storefronts Teicher had in mind as he spoke, but he did concede that “In 2018, the Internet has its place,” without going so far as to add that online retail may be, in Cader’s phrase, the place that’s “driving half of book sales or more” in the States.
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While Barnes & Noble in its long life has sold more than 6.8 billion books, Riggio told us, David Leonhardt at The New York Times wrote on May 6 what everyone in publishing and finance has known for years while watching the bookstore chain try various error-prone “reimaginings” of its own: “Barnes & Noble is in trouble … And you really see the problems if you dig into the company’s financial statements.”
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Such lines as “a single book can change a person’s life,” however true, are the province of motivational speakers and retreat directors. Riggio offered that reassurance, as well as some handsome phrasing: “We are the showrooms for the publishing industry”—a fine concept until you remember that “showrooming” today can mean finding a book in a physical store and immediately ordering it from Amazon on one’s smartphone at a better price than that store can afford to offer.
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The one plea he made was cordially couched but aimed at publishers and their pricing. “The problem remains,” he said, “that today the average paperback costs two and half times the minimum wage, as compared to one and a half of the minimum wage when I got started. How sustainable can this be, when Google promises all the world’s information for free? … My dear publishers, serving the mass market is of critical importance to the performance of our industry, precisely because we need to attract more citizens, particularly young people.”
Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives
Reading between the lines of the report on Riggio’s speech, PG sees “Please don’t sell any more Barnes & Noble stock.”