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.
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.