It was announced yesterday that bookseller Barnes & Nobles is considering putting itself on the market. The reason is sagging profits and a changing marketplace.
Barnes & Nobles put thousands of small booksellers out of business over the last couple of decades by offering the best selection, pricing and atmosphere. But many of these same elements – pricing and selection in particular – have been matched by an entirely new entity – the Internet. Add in convenience and the emerging e-book market, plus cheap alternative sellers such as Walmart and Costco – and it’s an unsettling world for the world’s biggest book retailer.
So what is Barnes & Nobles future? The immediate word is that Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle – already a major stakeholder in the company – would be interested in a takeover. Another option is company founder, Leonard Riggio.
The company may do nothing – instead trimming fat by closing stores, and improving its Nook e-reader to better compete with Amazon.com and the iPad.
One interesting idea floated is selling to Apple. The idea sounds absurd at first, but the iPhone maker is flush with cash, and the B&N retail locations could be adapted to have their own Apple stores.
Another option would be Internet retailer Amazon.com. The Internet bookseller could then kill the Nook and set itself up as the main player in the e-book business. But don’t bet on this happening. Amazon has resisted the urge to establish retail locations – and marginalizing the Nook is probably a better strategy.
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.