Cut the eulogies; Barnes & Noble isn't going the way of Borders as long as readers are still buying print books, editor-in-chief Edward Nawotka writes today in Publishing Perspectives.
After a lengthy post-mortem on the failed digital strategy that has pundits ready to leave the whole company for dead, Nawotka writes:
"So now, the company is refocussing back on books. And it makes sense."
"Len Riggio, B&N’s founder and executive chairman, is at heart a bookseller. In contrast to Nook, the physical bookstores did respectably well in 2013. Though sales fell by 5.9% over the year, they still generated revenue of $4.6 billion — and, what’s most important — a profit of $374 million, up 16% from the year before."
"The company also has continued to expand its selection of more profitable non-book items, such as games and toys. And perhaps of most importance, it has been diligent about closing unprofitable locations — as many as 10 stores per year for the past several years. Today 95% of locations are generating profit."
Nawotka points to B&N's thriving textbook business as a reliable source of revenue to keep the company going as it makes its trade bookstore operation smaller and more profitable. He also emphasizes the industry's need for physical bookstores to help readers discover books (though he doesn't address the vexing issue of showrooming).
In his vision of the future, B&N is more than alive. It's transformed.
"As the company shrinks, expect them to opt for a more deluxe shopping experience, featuring better customer service and a more carefully edited selection of titles, possibly even something more akin to an independent bookstore."