1/26/12

When is a Bookstore Not a Bookstore?

On a whim, I decided to pop on in to my old Barnes and Noble in Reno, NV. A place where I worked for 3 years right out of college. Where I did just about every job imaginable. And where I discovered the wonders of genre fiction.

This is the place that had over 200,000 books on the shelves during inventory. Two glorious stories of bay after bay of books.

That store is gone. Wiped away to make room for a Nook ereader showroom and a toy store. No, it's still Barnes and Noble. But the space devoted to books is easily half of what it was back in 2003. Or even 2007. Genre fiction is now squished in with fiction and literature. The space that used to house mystery, romance and sci fi is now filled with other topics.

And the history section. Oh the history section made me weep. It really did make me tear up. And it was after snapping this picture that my husband made me leave the store. Because that sadness was quickly changing to anger, and I was going to say something unkind to a store employee soon.



Here is where the history section was. Archaeology, World War II, biographies...all were housed in this part of the upper story. Now, it's nothing but toys from the escalator to the elevator. Fully 1/4 of the upstairs is nothing but toys.

I get having to diversify. I do understand the declining sales problem and narrow profit margins. But this feels like a violation. When books are no longer granted shelf space, why go into a bookstore? The serendipity of discovering a new book to try isn't going to happen if there's a toy section where those books used to be.

One more reason not to go into a brick and mortar store. Stick a fork in me. I'm done.
***
UPDATE:

Seems as if this is part of B&N's CEO William Lynch's master plan to "save" the chain. There was a lovely, adoring article from the New York Times over the weekend all about how "visionary" he is. Blergh. My favorite part of the article is this: BEFORE Mr. Lynch joined Barnes & Noble in 2009, he had never sold a book in his life. Color me unsurprised. B&N has a long tradition of hiring executives with zero bookselling experience. This move to turn the store into ToysRUS seems to be evidence of that. I don't think it's going to work when you're alienating the book buying public.

11 comments:

  1. It's very sad, isn't it. The only thing I appreciate about my local indie bookstores (since most are not genre-fiction friendly) is that I can take my child there to shop for books rather than toys.

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    1. I couldn't believe it :( It's not like they didn't have toys in the children's section, but this was in addition to that whole section. Try to get a kid to buy a book with that distraction.

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  2. Cripes, that is depressing. When I get to work this morning I think I'll go hug the shelves in the biography section.....

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    1. Give them a big hug for me. That was the coolest part of the store. Also cut were a lot of cookbooks. It's probably 1/3 the size of the section it had before.

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  3. Oh, that's really sad. I don't mind the Nook area so much, but toys? Really?

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  4. I can relate. I luv luv luuuuvvvv History. History books for Kindles are ridiculously priced and I can only afford to hit the "sample" button.

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  5. @Jennifer,

    The Nook area is only annoying to me because they've hidden the customer service area off to the side and killed the regional book section to make room. I don't mind the Nooks themselves. But the toys...*growl*

    @Chandragay,

    I love ebooks for fiction, but I'm still a print girl for nonfiction. Especially history. All of those maps, diagrams, pictures, and I think subconsciously the heft of the book just makes print a better option for me. Barnes and Noble was already one of the few places with a decent selection. Guess it's interlibrary loan for me.

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  6. The worst for me was the shrine to Twilight movie merchandise....

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    1. At least the merchandise is tied, somewhat tenuously, to a book. These toys are just...toys.

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  7. Just don't forget about you friendly, neighborhood used book stores! We are suffering because of the Kindles and the Nooks and we still have history books! ;-)

    I have to admit I haven't been in a B&N in years.. but I have heard how depressing it is to go in one.

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    1. Oh, I still visit used bookstores, but am not going to step foot into BN ever again. Ever. I'll order online.

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