B&N’s bad news

Jane at Dear Author included B&N’s disappointing holiday sales news in her Friday News post last week, along with one industry observer’s speculation about the underlying problem: the Nook, its success, and the resources devoted to it.  In the DA comment thread, the posters share their general discontent with B&N’s sales and customer service with respect to the Nook.

I still have a B&N membership, renewed in November.  Although half the coupons I get are for Nook devices or books, I still get coupons and discounts for paper books, which I use.  (Last month I bought The Complete Calvin & Hobbes — the price ended up being $57 rather than $100 after discounts.)  The emphasis on Nook in marketing is irritating: I’m a Kindle-user and buy from various outlets but B&N is not one of them for ebooks.  (I’m not thrilled with their handling of the eBookwise and Fictionwise library.)

For me, B&N is still a purveyor of paper books, although the company seems less interested in paper these days.  When I walk into the store, I don’t love that the Nook displays now take space that used to be devoted to new releases.  I don’t love the volume of non-book material that takes space formerly occupied by books:  puzzles, games, toys, totebags, etc.  There are never seats in the cafe for customers who bought a drink or food — they are all occupied by people using the free WiFi or reading magazines without buying or using unpurchased books as reference tools as if B&N were a library.  The mystery section keeps shrinking, diminished in order to make space for YA and YA paranormal, the largest individual fiction sections in the store.  Romance has been shoved into the far corner and is dominated by trade paperbacks, which are something I seldom purchase lately.  SF/F is being squeezed by manga and graphic novels; the section is usually hard to negotiate because there are kids sitting in the aisles, thumbing through manga.

I like the hold service…unfortunately, it only really works with popular books.  For non-NYT best sellers or lesser-known names, Amazon is still faster than B&N’s in-house ordering.

I go to B&N on off hours, usually with a specific book in mind and a coupon in hand.  It’s still worth it to me, based on sales/discount, to keep my membership.  But I can imagine the time coming in the future when the membership won’t be worth the cost, when they stock so few non-NYT/BigName/NextBigThing books that I won’t be bothered to go there but will instead default to online purchasing.

Random thought:  B&N’s forward-looking statements language is…interesting. It mentions that the expected sales lift after the closure of Borders may not occur, which makes me wonder:  it’s been more than a year since Borders closed for good, if there was going to be a bounce, it should have happened already.  Why is that language still in the risk disclosure?

Unrelated random thought:  Audible.com is a sponsor of the SavageLove cast, or was for the 1/1/13 edition in which an author was interviewed.  Another reason to appreciate the service.


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