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If you’ve been seeing the chatter on Twitter about Barnes & Noble not stocking debut hardcovers, you’re not alone. Writers recently sounded the alarm after hearing from various sources (other writers, B&N reps, former B&N employees, other industry professionals, etc.) that the chain’s stores would only be stocking hardcovers that had proven sales records. When I saw this conversation take off, it pinged the former-bookseller part of my brain that has been tracking bricks-and-mortar news, because B&N has made quite a few changes to their stores in the past two years, and they’re worth looking at.
Before we dive in, let me give you my credentials. I’m by no means an expert, nor do I (or have I ever) work for a publisher or for Barnes & Noble. I got my start in bookselling; I was hired by Borders in 2004 (RIP, Borders!), worked for independent bookstores from 2005 to 2015, and have been working for Book Riot since then. I’m also the co-editor of two anthologies, Sword Stone Table with Swapna Krishna and (coming in 2023!) Fit for the Gods with S. Zainab Williams, neither of which will ever be published in hardcover (because anthologies). So while this conversation doesn’t affect me directly, as a publishing auntie and citizen reader it’s something I take seriously.
Let’s take the newest news first: While much of this is anecdotal, it’s not likely that Barnes & Noble would go on the record about this kind of policy and there are enough supporting responses on Bethany Baptiste’s tweet on August 17th to make it clear that many authors with hardcover releases, particularly in Kids and Middle-Grade, are not being stocked even in their local B&N stores. This isn’t limited to debut authors, either; Kelly Yang, the award-winning author of the Front Desk series, posted a video in which she announced she had been specifically told that B&N would not be stocking the newest book in the series. Scroll through the responses to Baptiste’s tweet, and you’ll see many others with the same story. Independent publisher Disruption Books weighed in to note that this holds true with their own experience.
B&N is a key piece of the in-person bookselling world. Despite Amazon controlling the lion’s share of book sales in the US, everyone in publishing (including indie bookstores) seems united in agreeing that without B&N as even a small counterweight to the e-commerce behemoth, bookselling as we know it would be doomed. As Ellen Adler, publisher of New Press, told the New York Times, “It’s funny how the industry has evolved so that they are now a good guy… I would say their rehabilitation has been total.” And while highly selective buying practices are par for the course – it’s impossible for any store to carry every book published, and any store has to be able to select for what they believe they can sell – with stores across the country, B&N fills an important role in the ability of readers to discover new authors. This, above all other things, is one of the reasons that buyers bringing in fewer hardcovers is such a scary thought for so many authors.
We’ll get into discovery and the potential impact of this later, but first I want to talk about some pieces of “what’s actually happening” and “why now.” There are a few factors to consider here, and we’ll start with B&N’s recent sale and leadership revamp. In 2018, the board fired its chief executive; a summer later, hedge fund Elliott Advisors purchased the chain and put James Daunt in charge. Daunt was responsible for taking the UK chain Waterstones from bankruptcy to profitability, and he has gained some ground for B&N since 2019. Despite the pandemic decimating foot traffic to many branches, sales were up 3% in 2021 over pre-pandemic numbers in 2019. Daunt’s strategy includes:
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- Down-sizing the central office formerly responsible for ordering for all stores, limiting them to a minimal order, and allowing store managers greater discretion in what to bring in based on local sales
- Eliminating co-op displays (or “pay to display”, to put it in more practical language), in which publishers could purchase premium placement for specific titles
“Other priorities include further narrowing the mix to books, educational games, puzzles and workbooks; store refurbishments that include an emphasis on smaller tables and wider aisles; expanding online (only 10 percent of sales); and reducing out-of-stocks,” notes RetailWire.
Smaller tables, you say? That means less room for those stacks of new hardcovers. Stores also have more discretion over what they promote, and if you don’t already know that retailers are dedicating those spaces to sell titles that are, say, hot on BookTok, you do now. It’s smart business, there’s no doubt! Customers, especially teenagers whose dollars retailers are hungry to acquire, are now just as likely (if not more) to come in looking for a book they saw blowing up on social media as an older customer might be to look for a book that they saw reviewed in the New York Times or heard about on NPR. And those books that are blowing up on BookTok? Not necessarily debuts, or hardcovers for that matter! Many of them are books that have been out for years, that new readers are only just discovering thanks to the magic of algorithms.
Again, not a bad thing for books in general, or authors lucky enough to get a BookTok bump! But let’s add another piece to this puzzle. While the pandemic has been overall good for reading, with specific types of books getting huge sales increases (educational books for young readers, for example), it hasn’t necessarily been great for debuts or for hardcovers. Book sales are currently down across formats in Q1 2022 vs. Q1 2021, and while many expected it (nothing gold can stay), a 12.4% drop in hardcover sales is not something that bookstores, publishers, or authors are going to feel blasé about. It’s also not likely to get any better, considering that the US is staring down the barrel of a recession and continuing to deal with rising prices.
So let’s add that together for B&N: Central ordering has been down-sized, publishers can no longer pay for placement, stores have less display room, and hardcover sales are down. Add to that the anecdata about B&N buyers being even warier of bringing in newer authors, and you’ve got a recipe for panic.
Which brings us to impact. Discovery is the perennial Holy Grail of publishing: how do you get someone to see or hear about (and then hopefully buy) your new book? There’s no one right answer (and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something) but physical discovery, i.e. walking into a bookstore and seeing that book on a display table, has long been one of the key elements – which is why publishers have historically been willing to pay for those display spots. (Shout-out to indie bookstores, who do the hard work of supporting authors and discovery every damn day.) It’s what everyone who loves to go to any bookstore loves about being in a brick-and-mortar store: you can pick up a book, read a page or two, look at the synopsis, maybe see a shelf-talker by a staff member, maybe take it home, despite never having heard of it before. Online retailers have been trying to duplicate that experience with varying (mostly crappy) success for decades. So currently, the only places to get that experience are in physical bookstores. And while superstores like Costco, Target, and Wal-Mart do carry books as well, paperbacks are their bread and butter.
All of which adds up to, any shift by B&N to carry fewer hardcovers is a blow to discovery, and therefore to authors. If the only hardcovers you can find at your local branch are also the ones that are on the bestseller list, which are also the ones getting marketing dollars, which are also the ones that the algorithms are suggesting to you online, then the chances of, say, a debut author from a marginalized community getting their book in front of your face long enough for you to see it and consider buying it are lower than ever. And let’s be real here: decreases in discovery disproportionately affect authors from marginalized communities. As #PublishingPaidMe showed, Black authors (as well as other authors of color) are paid less for their work, even when they win awards and/or make the bestseller lists. (And while there are many initiatives, organizations, and individuals working towards greater diversity in publishing, we’ve got a long way to go in terms of publishing diversely.) Marketing budgets are often tied directly to advances – so the less a publisher pays for a book, the less money they are likely to spend promoting it. Sales of your first book often determine whether or not you get another book contract, and how much you’re paid for it.
There are no good answers here, and it’s true that none of this is necessarily new – it’s the next step in a continuing reduction of literal shelf space. The more people buy online, the harder it is for bricks-and-mortar stores to stay afloat (unless you are actually ordering from those stores, and most people are not). The fewer hardcovers people buy, the fewer hardcovers those stores will order. I have sympathy for buyers who, in efforts to keep their stores profitable, have to make hard choices about what they can successfully stock. But I have just as much sympathy (maybe even more) for the authors who see yet another door closed to them, who are told by fans or friends that their books aren’t in stock at the B&N around the corner, who just want readers to be able to find their book. How do you develop a proven sales record when your book isn’t in stock? Spoiler: you can’t.
While there are no good answers, there are good actions we all can take. Visit your local bookstores if you’ve got ’em. You can support a debut author by looking for their book in your store, and asking the store to stock it if they don’t already. You can and should also ask for it in your library! Libraries make up a chunk of the hardcover market, and it costs you, personally, zero dollars. Help spread the word about books however you like – tell a friend in person, talk about it on-line, write a review, put a copy in a Little Free Library. Seek out authors new to you, and give them a chance. The book eco-system can survive, and our choices can make a difference.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article referred to Bethany Baptiste by her joke Twitter name.
What happened with Barnes and Noble? ›
Barnes & Noble has been acquired by the hedge fund Elliott Advisors for $638 million, a move that has momentarily calmed fears among publishers and agents that the largest bookstore chain in the United States might collapse after one of the most tumultuous periods in its history.Why are so many Barnes and Noble closing? ›
That future arrived; sales of physical books drastically decreased year-to-year. The pandemic then hit, and Barnes & Noble in turn hit a low point. As The New York Times article also stated: For nearly two years, there were no readings or author signings in most of its stores. Its cafe business is still way down.Is Barnes and Noble doing well? ›
While Barnes & Noble has recovered from its 2020 slump, trends have not returned to their pre-pandemic averages. It seems that shoppers are now less likely to spend their days strolling through the fiction aisles.” However, technology might not be to blame for the reduction in foot traffic.When did Barnes and Noble decline? ›
The bookstore has been on a downward slide for years. In 2013, its CEO resigned amid the company's Nook expansion failure. At the time, Idea Logical's Mike Shatzkin alleged that Barnes & Noble would not recover; it could only hope to “make the slide into oblivion more gradual.”Is Barnes and Noble going out of business 2022? ›
Barnes and Noble has been closing 15-20 bookstores all over the US for the last ten years. The vast majority of them are unprofitable due to sagging print sales and the rise of e-books.Is Barnes and Noble changing their name? ›
Taking a cue from Waterstones, the U.K. bookstore chain that dropped the apostrophe from its name for "practical" reasons two years ago, Barnes & Noble has officially changed its corporate name to Barnes & Nobles, adding the "s" primarily in reaction to "common usage" among the vast majority of its patrons.Is Barnes & Noble in trouble? ›
Barnes & Noble's sales have recovered as the chain orchestrates a turnaround focused on empowering store managers and capitalizes on a revival of interest in reading. Sales were up three percent in 2021 versus pre-pandemic 2019 levels, led by a 14 percent jump in book sales, according to The New York Times.Is Barnes and Noble getting rid of the Nook? ›
Because of advancements in our eReader technology, unfortunately we are unable to continue to support the NOOK 1st Edition.Is Barnes and Noble in debt? ›
Barnes & Noble Education Debt
Adjusting for $9.15 million in cash-equivalents, the company has a net debt of $251.15 million.
Barnes & Noble, which has struggled to compete with Amazon for the past decade, is going private. The company said Friday it is being bought by a fund run by private equity firm Elliott Management for $683 million.
Is Amazon Taking Barnes and Noble? ›
Bookseller Barnes & Noble, humbled by Amazon, has been sold to a hedge fund. New York — The onetime bookselling giant Barnes & Noble is being acquired by a hedge fund for $476 million. The national chain that many blamed for the demise of independent bookstores has been ravaged by Amazon.com and other online sellers.Who sells more books Amazon or Barnes & Noble? ›
Bezos declined. Flash forward: Today, Amazon has about half the market share for print books, and B&N only a fifth, according to Mike Shatzkin, an industry consultant. Amazon's share jumps to 84% for e-books. B&N has just 2%.Who competes with Barnes and Noble? ›
Barnes & Noble competitors include Chegg, Amazon, McGraw Hill and Mazedon. Barnes & Noble ranks 2nd in Product Quality Score on Comparably vs its competitors.Who is the target audience for Barnes and Noble? ›
B&N's target customer broadly encompasses all Americans and narrows down to mainly women with children and non-technology savvy shoppers for the Nook (Owen, 2011). Recent results show B&N claiming the majority of the book market, but currently there are disappointing trends in market share (MarketLine, 2015).Are bookstores going out of business? ›
Americans may still have access to a healthy number of bookstores, but that doesn't mean that there haven't been major closures over the past decade. Over a seven-year period, more than 1,000 bookstores closed down for good. Since 2007, hundreds more have closed, including more than 600 Borders stores.Why are bookstores declining? ›
The actual decline in used bookstores did indeed occur for economic reasons. But these reasons are related to the value or lack thereof in used books far more than to the obvious rises in rent. The fact is paperback books and discounted hardbacks have virtually eliminated a general interest in used books.Is Barnes and Noble going to start serving food? ›
Barnes & Noble announced Thursday that it planned to open four new concept stores this fiscal year that will have an expanded food menu -- and also serve beer and wine.Is Amazon putting bookstores out of business? ›
Amazon.com Inc. is closing its physical bookstores, “Amazon 4-Star” locations and mall pop-up kiosks as the world's largest online retailer narrows its brick-and-mortar push to the grocery sector.What does Barnes and Noble do with unsold books? ›
When sales slow down too much, the publisher will usually liquidate any unsold copies by massively reducing the price. If the books still don't sell, the remainders are usually destroyed through a process called 'pulping'.What bookstore did Amazon buy? ›
Amazon acquires social reading and book-review site GoodReads.
Can you read books at Barnes and Noble without buying? ›
Read In Store allows you to browse and sample the complete contents of many eBooks for free in our stores for up to one hour per day, per title. To use Read in Store, visit your favorite Barnes & Noble retail store with your device.Why cant I purchase on Barnes and Noble app? ›
Barnes and Noble has announced that they will be disabling in-app purchases within the Nook app for Android on April 2nd, 2022. This means, that users will no longer be able to buy books through the app. Barnes and Noble will release a new version of their app, which will enable Consumption Only mode.What should I do with my old Nook? ›
- The Importance of Responsibly Recycling E-Waste. ...
- Contact Your Local Waste Provider. ...
- The Manufacturer May Recycle The Ereader For You. ...
- Some Stores and Retailers Accept Electronic Recyclables. ...
- If the Ereader is in Good Condition, Consider Making a Donation. ...
- Notes About E-Waste Recycling.
NOOK devices eligible for trade-in include NOOK 1st Edition®, NOOK Color®, NOOK Tablet®, NOOK Simple Touch®, NOOK Simple Touch® with GlowLight®, NOOK® HD, NOOK® HD+ and NOOK GlowLight®. NOOK devices not eligible for trade-in include NOOK GlowLight Plus™ and any NOOK by Samsung device. Terms and conditions apply.What is a good replacement for a Nook? ›
The best alternative is Amazon Kindle, which is free. Other great apps like NOOK are FBReader, Moon+ Reader, Google Play Books and ReadEra. NOOK alternatives are mainly Ebook Readers but may also be Ebook Libraries or PDF Readers.How much do Barnes and Noble employees get off? ›
40% off of cafe items and books. 30% off not to bad. Discount is 40% on books and the cafe, lower on other product types. Great for buying gifts during the holidays!What percent off do Barnes and Noble members get? ›
10% off in Store
Everything you love at B&N will ring up at 10% off 2 the lowest price, including magazines and Café items.
Because it is a brick and mortar store where you can spend a lot of time browsing before you buy books, whereas Amazon is an online store, which lacks the physical touch. Probably this is the reason why people go to Barnes and Noble.Is Barnes and Noble being sold? ›
(NYSE:BKS, “Barnes & Noble”) announces today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by funds advised by Elliott Advisors (UK) Limited (“Elliott”) for $6.50 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $683 million, including the assumption of debt.
Can I return a book I bought on Amazon to Barnes and Noble? ›
Barnes & Noble and Smashwords do not allow any e-books to be returned. E-books are also the only digital products Amazon allows customers to return.Are Barnes and Noble prices the same in store as online? ›
No, Barnes & Noble stores will not match prices from BarnesandNoble.com.Why are Amazon stores closing? ›
Amazon said by email it closed these stores so it could focus on its other physical retail and tech offerings, and preserve its ability to innovate and scale its business for the long run.What is the number 1 selling book of all time? ›
According to Guinness World Records as of 1995, the Bible is the best-selling book of all time with an estimated 5 billion copies sold and distributed.What is the number 1 most sold book? ›
The Bible. The Bible is the best-selling book of all time, having sold around 5 billion copies to date. The book had several authors and can be roughly divided into two parts: The Old Testament and the New Testament.What are the top 5 most sold books of all time? ›
- #1 – Don Quixote (500 million copies sold) ...
- #2 – A Tale of Two Cities (200 million copies sold) ...
- #3 – The Lord of the Rings (150 million copies sold) ...
- #4 – The Little Prince (142 million copies sold) ...
- #5 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (107 million copies sold)
Answer: Barnes and Noble competes for market share in the retail book industry. The company's main competitor is Amazon Books. Amazon Books is a subsidiary of Amazon.com and operates online and physical retail stores. Other Barnes and Noble competitors include Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, and Powell's Book Store.What big bookstore went out of business? ›
The Barnes & Noble College Book publishers' facility on Fifth Avenue in New York City was included in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest bookshop based on square footage, despite keeping the name.What happened to Barnes and Noble Marketplace? ›
Barnes & Noble Is Closing Its Third Party Seller Marketplace. Covering auctions, collectibles and marketplace selling. The AuctionBytes Blog has been giving a voice to online merchants since its launch in 2005.
How can Barnes and Noble compete with Amazon? ›
B&N can challenge Amazon not by being a better e-retailer but by undermining the very idea of third-party retail. The key for B&N is to enable (and profit from) the creation of more and more places where people can buy books, all of them chipping away at Amazon's lead.What age does Barnes and Noble higher? ›
Note: You must be at least 16 years old to work at Barnes & Noble.Do people still buy books 2022? ›
It's not been a steady progression – book sales across the world took a dip between 2010 and 2015, but have been coming back stronger each year ever since- but what's truly striking about these sales figures is that even in 2022, print books are still dominating the purchasing landscape when it comes to reader's ...Are book stores coming back? ›
Some Surprising Good News: Bookstores Are Booming and Becoming More Diverse. More than 300 bookstores have opened in the past couple of years — a revival that is meeting a demand for “real recommendations from real people.”Who sells the most books in America? ›
Amazon is the largest book retailer in the world with a catalog that includes more than 33 million titles, and they will ship them just about anywhere.
Barnes & Noble's banned book list features many of these books, including “The 1619 Project” by Nikole Hannah-Jones, along with books banned recently as a result of complaints from liberal voices, including “Hop on Pop” by Dr.Did Barnes and Noble sue Amazon? ›
'' The two mammoths of book-selling have a colorful history of feuding that includes both threatened and actual litigation. In 1997, Barnes & Noble Inc., the parent company of barnesandnoble.com, filed suit against Amazon claiming that its slogan, World's Largest Bookstore, was false advertising.Why are my purchases not working? ›
Restart the device
Tap Power off or Restart (depending on your device this text may be different). If needed, hold down the power button again to turn the device back on. Wait for the device to start back up. Re-open the app or game and check if the in-app purchase has been delivered.
Barnes & Noble's sales have recovered as the chain orchestrates a turnaround focused on empowering store managers and capitalizes on a revival of interest in reading. Sales were up three percent in 2021 versus pre-pandemic 2019 levels, led by a 14 percent jump in book sales, according to The New York Times.Why does my in-app purchase keep failing? ›
- Make sure your card information is up to date in Google Payments. Expired credit cards or old billing addresses are a common reason for payments not to work properly. - Try a different payment method.
Is Barnes and Noble being sued? ›
Two Virginia lawsuits that are seeking to restrict young people's access to books with sexual content will move forward with a hearing this Tuesday, August 30, raising the possibility that Barnes and Noble could require parental consent to sell such books to minors—or that the books could be pulled from bookstores in ...Why is Barnes and Noble banned books? ›
In response to recent controversy surrounding texts deemed “inappropriate” and containing “obscene material” being banned from school districts and public libraries, Barnes & Noble will be implementing a “banned book” section in some of their stores.Who is banning books in the US? ›
Organizations and groups involved in pushing for book bans have sprung up rapidly at the local and national levels, particularly since 2021. These range from local Facebook groups to the nonprofit organization Moms for Liberty, a national-level organization that now has over 200 chapters.Who sells more books Barnes and Noble or Amazon? ›
Flash forward: Today, Amazon has about half the market share for print books, and B&N only a fifth, according to Mike Shatzkin, an industry consultant. Amazon's share jumps to 84% for e-books. B&N has just 2%.Why is Amazon closing their bookstores? ›
“We've decided to close our Amazon 4-star, Books, and Pop Up stores, and focus more on our Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market, Amazon Go, and Amazon Style stores and our Just Walk Out technology,” the statement read. “We remain committed to building great, long-term physical retail experiences and technologies.”What did Amazon do Barnes and Noble? ›
Bookseller Barnes & Noble, humbled by Amazon, has been sold to a hedge fund. New York — The onetime bookselling giant Barnes & Noble is being acquired by a hedge fund for $476 million. The national chain that many blamed for the demise of independent bookstores has been ravaged by Amazon.com and other online sellers.How has Amazon affected Barnes and Noble? ›
Barnes & Noble's efforts to keep up with Amazon have mostly been in vain. The company said online sales actually fell 22% in its most recent quarter after it launched a new website that had some notable glitches. And the company's Nook e-reader -- a competitor to Amazon's Kindle -- has been a huge flop.