23 July 2011

Buh Bye Borders

You know where I'm going this weekend right? To Borders to scoop up some discount books! Actually that probably won't happen because I'm traveling super light these days and try to cart around only three books at once -- that's my new rule. I'm looking hard into the Kindle versus Nook option and until I choose, I won't be buying any books yet.

With Borders closing down, the question turns to how Barnes & Noble is faring. This article talks about how Barnes & Noble has managed to survive by jumping into the eReader market and diversifying their in-store offerings to music, games, DVDs, and other non-book related items. Just the other day I was trying to find a chess set and thought immediately of B&N! Of course their chess set collection was limited and overpriced but hey, I tried.

Did you know that B&N was on the sellers' block last year, and that the only offer was for a measly billion dollars? They turned that down but the article cautions that with a loss of sixty million dollars during the third quarter, B&N might be wise to sell soon. Keep in mind Groupon is looking for a valuation of fifteen to thirty billion when they IPO. And Zynga is looking to be worth around twenty billion. Are Farmville and Mafia Wars really worth twenty times more than Barnes & Noble? The hoi polloi has voted, "yes!"

This all made me think if being charged to go into a bookstore would deter me. Most of the time I wander into a mega bookstore, it's to meet someone, browse, pick up a magazine, or read a few graphic novels. I rarely buy anything because it's simply cheaper online -- and my book budget and food budget come from the same low-yield honey pot. With so much real estate dedicated to stock that barely moves, how can these stores possibly stay afloat? In a related article, a reporter observed the number of people going in and out of a Tribeca B&N and tallied twenty four sales over one hour. A hundred and fifty people went in and only twenty five people bought something. Ouch.

How many people would have gone in if there was a five dollar cover, or a five dollar coupon that you had to spend on something? Currently, going to the bookstore is a free experience but this mirrors the entrenched attitude of reading articles online. Once a paywall goes up, how many people would actually subscribe? If, by presenting a monetary barrier to entry, the bookstore loses traffic but increases sales, that would seem like a viable option right? If only twenty five percent of customers actually buy a book at your store, does it matter if the other three quarters come in or not?

I love me some free bookstore time but if there was suddenly a fee to go inside, or a requirement to buy something, it wouldn't necessarily put me off. Heck, I've gone to way too many crappy things that require a two drink minimum, and that costs what, twenty bucks?