B&N is for sale (or: If I were a rich man….)
by Pablo Defendini
If I were a rich man, I’d buy B&N, get rid of all the mass market shelf space, replace it with an Espresso Book Machine, start strong-arming publishers to print and bind really, really nice hardcovers at lower print runs and stock the hell out of those, and open up the B&N in-store ebook store to all devices and platforms (fuck it; even license mobi from Amazon if I can).
What to do with all that extra big box retail space once I’ve coldly slit the throat of the mass market and trade paperback retail supply chain and replaced it with a POD machine? Simple:
1) Expand the café to include actual meals from a relatively gourmet kitchen with table service (featuring produce from a rooftop or back-of-house organic garden, where possible).
2) Create a lounge area for leisurely reading
3) Create a cloistered co-working space for freelancers
4) Expand the children’s area (with short-term day care)
5) Hire a badass events coordinator for each store to bring in local artists, musicians and theatre troupes for performances, as well as authors, for nighttime events
6) Apply for a liquor license for those nighttime events
Boom: Instant community centers that promote book (and other) culture where before stood a big, cold piece of consumer monoculture. And better yet: four of the above points should bring in some relatively decent revenue. Who’s with me?
EDIT: Bob Stein sent me a link to a post of his where he proposes a similar approach to brick & mortar bookselling, but with an interesting dimension: instead of focusing on an existing brick & mortar store like B&N, he posits that perhaps publishers should jump into the retail game. He makes the excellent point that, after all, many publishers actually started as printers and booksellers.