I went in to my local Barnes & Noble the other day and found that things had changed considerably. The first thing I noticed when I walked in the front door was a huge display for their Nook book reader. It was a large exhibit which blocked your entrance to the rest of the store. The Nook’s were available with different options and a huge array of covers and accessories.
As I walked past the display, the rest of the store came into focus. Instead of books, I was greeted with all sorts of games, kits, and flashy marketing. I felt like I was in a toy store. The visual stimulation was almost overwhelming. It was like a blog post in ALL CAPS… Everything was shouting at me.
I went to the business book section and found it had been ignored. Most of the books were in the shelf so you could only see the titles on the spine. Only a handful of books were displayed where you could see the covers. The two books that I had come to see were not to be found at all. I was frustrated…
Something was wrong with this whole picture. There was more flash than ever, but less substance. I actually started to feel depressed. As an author, I realized that my book would never be seen in a place like this.
I left the store without buying anything, and went home and ordered the two books I wanted from Amazon.com. Buying from Amazon was a much better experience. I could read reviews of the books I was interested in and see video from the author. I wasn’t subjected to visual overload. It was fast, easy, and a positive experience.
Personally I don’t think the current setup at Barnes and Noble will last very long. They are not a toy store and they seem to be neglecting their primary customers. I realize the book market is changing, but this reminded me of the last days of Circuit City… Taking on a different business model to try and survive.
If B & N goes out of business, I can certainly see a new kind of book store emerging. Smaller, more focused, and geared for a reader not a game player.
Many of us will buy books electronically, but there still is a place for a regular book store. One where you can pick up the paper book, look at the unique cover and devour the contents.
The two books that I bought were not good candidates for an electronic version. They had vivid pictures, great illustrations, and vivid graphics. They needed to be experienced in paper format.