This article in Publishers Weekly seems to think so. According to PW, all the signs are there that Barnes & Noble is gearing down for a “crash landing,” and author Jason Illian has plenty of advice for the book behemoth. Unfortunately, it’s all along the lines of what every last-minute restructuring consultant says, essentially: be different than your competition (somehow); fire the majority of your workforce, then “empower” your “A-listers” to come up with a better business plan; and be more innovative. How easy is that?
Putting aside Illian’s asinine advice, I do agree that things aren’t looking good for the last brick-&-mortar mega-bookseller. However, I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. B&N, along with its former rivals Borders, B. Dalton and Books-A-Million, essentially crushed many smaller, independent bookstores all across the nation. Having eaten their smaller rivals, they turned on each other. Now, the one left standing is too heavy to support its own weight. Karmic justice?
I think that the fall of B&N will, in the end, be a good thing. I think that eventually, the void it leaves will be filled with smaller, local bookstores – the kind that were crushed beneath it for so long. There probably isn’t the market for real, physical books that there once was, now that more and more people are using e-readers. C’est la vie. But there will still be a niche market of people like me who do enjoy real books, and who enjoy going to my funky local shop to peruse and buy them. And maybe a latte and a pastry on the side.