Supergiantmassive bookstores

CTRandall

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I was back in the US a couple of weeks ago, had some time to kill before going to the airport on my way home and wandered into a huge Barnes and Noble in the suburbs of Minneapolis. It was massive, like giantmassive, like supergiantmassive. And full of books (as you might expect). And there was no university anywhere nearby. It was just a stripmall off the interstate.

What gives? How can such a huge bookstore survive in such an unlikely spot? Where I live in northern England, there is a good-sized Waterstones in Newcastle city centre, but that is in easy walking distance of two universities, a college and a city of a couple of hundred thousand. Other than that, the biggest book store is a hole-in-the-wall in a shopping mall. Even the university bookstores in Newcastle and Durham are pretty dinky.

So how does a Barnes and Noble survive in the middle of nowhere? There was almost no one in it, maybe half-a-dozen customers. Given that, how does Barnes and Noble stay afloat? Are they laundering Columbian drug money or Russian oligarch bribes? Or do vast herds of Americans flock to these stores like wildebeests migrating across the savanahs of East Africa, searching out freshly printed books upon which to graze?
 

Overread

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It might be a warehouse based store - so basically some kind of stocking/depo for them for the region/nation and they've just bolted a big store onto the side of it because it basically costs them nothing ontop of what they are already paying for the site.
There's a camera store (WEX - Warehouse Express) outside of Norwich which is pretty big and holds stock of many of the big supertelephoto lenses and other high end very high priced items. It's not on the highstreet at all and whilst its on the ringroad and not fully out in the sticks, its not exactly a high commerce area. But it works because its basically a corner of their warehouse operation that ships nationally and internationally. So basically they are holding most of that stuff at that location anyway for online trade; so it doesn't cost them as much to simply put a bolt-on store on the side.

So it is likely that there are vast hoards of shoppers, they are just all online.
 

olive

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I always had a great dislike and prejudice against Barnes and Noble. It looked like a chain supermarket pretending to be a book store to me even before and after they have added a 'beauty concept', now it feels like they just started to come clean. What's next? Vitamins and supplements, accessorize corners?

But besides all that, I think they keep building giant stores to provide an impression to the certain kind of readers, the kind that knows reading is not a hobby. These people will get in anywhere/any time that has books to check, hell, they will roll in the mud, climb walls, jump through flaming hoops, if necessary. Esp. somewhere with a lot of books, because reading material is an accumulation for them, something alive.

However, what they don't get or actually care is, these people also instantly see through stores like Barnes and Noble for what they are. So they often avoid them if they can.

I don't know what Americans feel, I'm saying all this as a tourist. Why would I go to Barnes and Noble when I can go to Powell's Books in Portland, for example. Or to the book shops in Brooklyn in NYC.

Somewhere that actually looks, feels, smells and most importantly serves as a book store. Somewhere they sell books before their names. Somewhere that the money is not poured into the interior decoration or the best seller stands, but somewhere I can roll over in dust on the floor in peace. Does anyone feel at ease, comfortable in a store like Barnes and Noble? Maybe it is just me. Not a starbucks or a cafe. Somewhere I can talk to people without getting a blank face when I ask 'could you please show me where the entomology books' and point more than a 'biology' section. Somewhere I can buy low quality used books. Second, third hand books. A book with a torn and fixed cover. I'm not collecting books for covers you know?

I didn't know anything about Powell's Books when I first went in there. But the fact that it said 'Used and New Books' on its sign is precious. That struck me first. Because that's it, used AND new. And don't give me the that's because of where you live blah blah.

Sorry. Rant over. Coffee hasn't kicked in yet. Good morning.
 

Elckerlyc

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And good morning to you too!
While my coffee-machine is doing it's morning exercises (it rather than me), I'll keep my comment short. I'm impressed by this rant BEFORE coffee!
Every summer we have several used book fairs in several places. The largest consist of over 800 stalls. It's mile after mile of books on all sorts of topics, subjects, genres and what have you. It's bliss, strolling from stand to stall on a summer's day and browsing the books.
It's the only place nowadays where I actually by deadwood books.
 

CTRandall

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The comparison with Powell's is telling. I've been fortunate to visit a couple of times and the contrast is night and day. Despite the huge size of the Barnes and Noble, I had a hard time finding things that really interested me. The history, current events and science/technology sections were stocked solely with big-name authors and titles. Powell's, on the other hand, offers both the big names alongside niche subjects and authors. Great stuff!

Having said that, I did walk out of Barnes and Nobles with a book.
 

Elckerlyc

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Is that in the Netherlands? Which city has the large fair?
The largest is in Deventer, every first Sunday in August. But the fair in Dordrecht, every first Sunday in July, comes very close in size.
Both towns are historical cities, so the setting is pleasant as well.
 

CupofJoe

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There was a plan [from the guy that started Waterstone's?] to create a network of boutique small book shops across the UK. Each would specialise in a slightly different area [Travel, History, Biography, Crime fiction etc] but they would all be linked to the same uber-bookshop warehouse network that could get any book delivered to where you wanted it in a day or two. The idea was to let shopper get the warm glow of supporting a local shop on the high street but still have the convenience of Amazon for choice.
I don't think it ever got off the ground but I liked the aim...
 

-K2-

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No guessing needed (google is your friend).





Barnes and Noble has 627 similar stores across the U.S.. Those stores began popping up as malls began being built and ultimately, they were successful enough that most now are specifically designed, separate buildings near those malls, and dedicated units in newer strip-malls. Pre-internet they really grew replacing the small intimate bookstores, often mom & pops, that dotted the landscape. Now, B&N even produces and sells their own ebook reader called 'the Nook.'

Of late they've struggled and I've read where this week they're closing, next they are not.

Fact of the matter is, even the most diehard non-reader of books or online shopper is enticed by the cover images, diverse selection, books that contain just images, diagrams, whatever. There is something for everyone there, and it is interesting to prowl around and see so much that you would typically never look at... That is where they hit the mark.

Online shopping is overwhelming in one sense (the vast selection and the inability to see it all at a glance), yet, entirely unsatisfying. At such places, you can pick up any of the offerings, fan through the pages, and by virtue of being a book, often hardcover, tangible... you're immediately smacked that it is something of value.

The same holds especially true 'when it is a gift.' I bet every one of you can remember when you were given a hardcover book as a gift unexpectedly. Even a child (now-a-days) absorbed in their phones, computers, and games, will look at, linger over and read a book once in hand.

That's what they get right. Most of what they offer is the lighter side or most popular of the genre, so it's easy to find something, even oddities you might not have thought about that make you chuckle or fascinate you (like: 1,001 Ways to Pick your Nose... okay, maybe not that one). So they survive.

Today, the average person doesn't even consider walking into a library or bookstore. They make it flashy and easy enough that there is a significant amount of traffic.

K2
 

Robert Zwilling

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This is from June, there is a thread about it. Hedge fund Elliott Management Corp buys Barnes and Nobel for $475.8 million. It's the same group that bought Waterstones.

So far as I know all the B&Ns are big stores. Even if you go in a mall, you go into a B&N store and there is like 10 customers in it. You have to wonder how these places stay in business. Then again, it appears they didn't stay in business. The big box store allows a company to claim a building is a warehouse and not a store so it has a different tax liability. I know Martin is a big time author, but the display for his products is more like a shrine. The executive edition, the super edition, the whatever edition, seems like it takes up 5 or 6 shelves that could be showing books by other authors. Maybe at one time they were flying off the shelf, but the display seems pretty complete. I guess they could refill it empty spaces as soon as they appear. Its not the best place for looking for older books, they get dropped for new authors. Its fitting in a way, what happened to them. Once you are forced online to buy something, it then becomes I might as well see what the cheapest price is. When a mega store first appears in area it sucks the life out of all the small stores that had been around for a long time like some kind of economic black hole. And if you wait long enough now those black holes are getting the life sucked out of them by the web based giants. It might be that they are too big to fail right away.
 

tinkerdan

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For a while it was a regional thing.
Places like Minneapolis have severe winters and reading is in vogue.
Though when visiting relatives in Arkansas several years ago there was a Books a Million and other bookstores in the malls[However, now it seems all that is left is the Barnes and Noble out there].

Reading and card playing seem mostly regional--I remember the three years I spent out in California I had to resort to the library for good books and never did find any good Euker or Bridge players.

Last time I was in Arkansas I needed a more recent map and the only place I could find a decent one was in Barnes and Noble--so there is that.
 

-K2-

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Let me add this last bit... anything you can buy online, B&N will look up and order for you there in the store.

Keep in mind, however, here in America, we even have businesses starting where you can order your McDonalds Happy Meal online (or a gazillion other offerings), and that business delivers it to you. People are getting so lazy they won't even take time to go through the drive-thru. In the same vein, Amazon is paying warehouse employees a bonus to quit, whereupon Amazon will buy them a delivery truck and set them up in their own dedicated Amazon delivery business to shorten 'buy-to-in hand' time. That's the same company that was trying to make it so they could use drones to deliver goods... a few years ago.

So, I suspect, B&N's days are numbered.

K2
 
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olive

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Let me add this last bit... anything you can buy online, B&N will look up and order for you there in the store.

Keep in mind, however, here in America, we even have businesses starting where you can order your McDonalds Happy Meal online (or a gazillion other offerings), and that business delivers it to you. People are getting so lazy they won't even take time to go through the drive-thru. So, I suspect, B&N's days are numbered.

K2
People have been that lazy for a long time, in my opinion, K2. We've had that meal order system for almost 20 years and I am writing this from the Middle East. It's not the States alone. By the way, I don't remember a store that I have been to in the States, be it about brewing beer, tobbacco, books, comic books, fossils, cheap stuff, Halloween... it has always been an experience more than shopping, I didn't even shop in most. I get it, it is business, of course, they will treat their customers good, esp. considering tourists are the legal crazy aliens, it goes the better way. But I believe it is about to know which stores to get in to. Because if you pick a 'Powell's' kind of shop -does not matter what the product is- highly likely, you end up in a good place.

I believe, it's not the 'variety' of the books, the huge size of the stock, or the visual factor concerning books. This is about the evolution of the culture of the reader(s) and the reading culture itself.

First of all, stores like Barnes and Noble do not have real variety. They are actually the ones that don't. Because as @CTRandall said, they only aim to have the big names, mainstream, commercial 'event' kind of books, best sellers. Anything with hype. It's their motive. It's paralleled with selling the name before the books mentality. The hype, the rush.

Online shopping is something else altogether. It's convenient in multiple levels. Period. It's a solid part of the book communities...etc. Would you believe it, if somebody told you that your online book shop will host literary reviews of the books they are selling that will actually be the dominating review about a book, 20 years ago? Probably less.

But that aside, as far as I know, Barnes and Noble couldn't get along with Amazon either. Though they are too big, I don't know how to take any news about it, considering it is impossible for me to guess any manipulation.
 

Parson

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Its not the best place for looking for older books, they get dropped for new authors. Its fitting in a way, what happened to them. Once you are forced online to buy something, it then becomes I might as well see what the cheapest price is.
The last few times I went to a Barnes and Nobles I actually thought the in the S.F. section pretty much all they sold was old books. --- Not used --- but books that had been out for years. It lines up with the "only selling big names" part. Almost none of the books I've been reading for the past 5+ years could never be found in a B&N. They would love to order something for you. If you knew what you wanted, but if not, well....

B&N is in big trouble. I don't believe for a minute that they "are too big to fail." You have to be GM or some investment firm with billions in assets to reach that level.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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There used to be a lot of those massive bookstores in our area, then several years ago Borders went out of business and soon after Barnes and Noble started cutting back, which unfortunately meant shutting down the branches nearest to where I live. I don't know of any large bookstores left within a reasonable driving distance, and it's not as though I live out in the boondocks. We're in a large and well-established suburban area, constantly building up to make room for more people. I don't even know what the inside of a chain bookstore looks like anymore.
 

Robert Zwilling

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The little stores had a lot of variety because the owners bought what they wanted to sell which could be anything, plus what was selling. They are the first to disappear. Then bigger stuff goes. All walking the same plank. Borders and Waldens got eaten alive by the changing market place and Barnes and Noble. And too big to fail right away, the words, right away, that means it is going to fail, but it will take some time to crash and burn.
 

-K2-

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Yeah, so, too big to fail... :cautious:

First off, 'personally' I hate that term. It's a bunk term frankly. Massive companies like automakers and investment firms (one with a lot of capital and employees, the other a lot of OTHER peoples money) have learned to work the system better than anyone. In fact, where their wealthy upper-management will gripe about the impoverished working the system, in reality, they rig the system through political control to bilk the masses and the government to their own ends.

The same amount of products will be needed (and people and businesses to make them), and as far as investment companies... deny them bankrupsy protection while their owners sneak off with trillions, and that fixes that.

B&N doesn't come anywhere close to meeting the TBtF nonsense criteria. In fact, I find it hard to imagine that any publisher, bookseller, printer, etc. would ever devastate an entire nation or the world's economy by their undoing. Amazon in its entirety could belly-up, all four paws skyward, and it's still not 'too big to fail.' Everyone would panic and then the world rolls on.

K2
 

Rodders

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There used to be a big Barnes and Noble near me in Lakeside. I loved it there, but I bet there was a lot of wastage. People are quite careless when they don’t actually own the book.
 
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