What Will Barnes and Noble Look Like In The Future?

Published on June 24, 2019

After the massive bookseller Barnes & Noble was acquired by the hedge fund Elliott Management recently, changes for the company are imminent as it strives to compete with the e-commerce market. The hedge fund that purchased the company also recently purchased Waterstones, the UK equivalent of Barnes & Noble. Sales for both companies have dwindled in recent years as the online bookselling industry flourishes. The logical next step for Barnes & Noble or Waterstones would be to cash in on the online market, having the advantage of an established name and rapport already behind it.

However, Elliott Management has different plans for the companies, which will shift toward a new business plan in the upcoming months to make consumers feel more at home with their neighborhood bookseller. Plans to make the stores feel more like a local bookstore have been underway for quite some time now. Barnes & Noble stores around the country have been busy curating events, readings, and workshops specific to each location. However, the stores have also migrated away from e-commerce. This has worried some experts. Many suggest that the companies would be well-off to shift their focus toward e-commerce expansion in addition to their local efforts.

Barnes & Noble’s Future Looks Like The Past It Destroyed

Back when Barnes & Noble was first starting out it garnered a lot of negative attention over the fact that it was single handedly killing off local bookstores around the country. The retail giant moved in, expanding to hundreds of locations throughout the United States. Eventually local book shops just couldn’t compete with the convenience and selection offered at Barnes & Noble. Now, as e-commerce has moved in on the book market, Barnes & Noble is facing the same fate of the local bookstores it killed off back in the 1990’s (how’s that for karmic retribution?).

Amazon first appeared on the retail front as a viable threat to the book industry back in the early 2000’s. The online retailer started by Jeff Bezos got its start selling and reselling books online. Other used and new booksellers began popping up over the next couple of decades. Now, handfuls of online bookstores compete for the lowest prices in the industry, ruining any chance that brick and mortar shops have at being able to survive—unless you’re the type that just loves the experience of being in a bookstore. If Barnes & Noble hopes to survive in the future, it’s going to have to succumb to the online sphere.

Other Book Giants Weigh In

“Barnes & Noble is doomed if they go down this road,” says Mike Ward, the CEO of ThriftBooks, in a statement. “They have never known how to operate online. And it sounds like the plan going forward for them is to even further differentiate themselves from online/digital. Rather than embrace it and learn how to do well at it, ‘online’ becomes their enemy, and they double-down on making brick-and-mortar work by ‘doing booksellery things,'” he said. Ward is wary that the new model of increasing local events and community outreach is enough to save a dwindling industry.

Regardless of how it will turn out, consumers can expect to see Barnes & Noble offer more events and programs to give back to communities in the coming months.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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