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Friday, October 21, 2011

Barnes & Noble To Be The Next Amazon?

Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest bookstore chain, and the only thing standing between Amazon and the creation of an e-book-only nation, has decided to compete with Amazon, but not over books.

They are now selling non-book stuff on bn.com, I don’t blame them.  However Barnes and Noble can bring in revenue is fine by me, just as long as its doors remain open so a physical bookstore with paper books and where people can still assemble and have a book community.

Selling other items won’t hurt BN’s bottom line but I just hope that it doesn’t hurt their in-store operation.  Is it possible that shelf space dedicated to books may soon go to sell diapers?  Will we be able to distinguish BN from Wal-Mart?  Another concern is: Will the lure of one-stop shopping online lead more consumers to purchase paper books on line or e-books, simply because they can order non-book items at the same time?

BN wasted no time offering a diverse variety of goods online.  More than one million new products from 20 retailers are not available on the site, according to the New York Daily News (Oct. 21). We’ll soon see if this strategy is both lucrative and supportive of the book world.

Print Books Account for 4 in 5 Sales
Don’t declare print books dead just yet. A  Publishers Weekly article showing a study by R.R. Bowker reveals that 79.6% of all books purchased (not including alternate sales outlets such as organizational buys, author Web sites, etc) through traditional means are printed on paper.  E-books account for 13.7% of all units sold.  Audio books take 1.6% of the market.  But 5.1% are books sold via some other method, though I’m not sure what a book would look like if it’s not paper, audio, or electronic. But there was a big jump from last year’s second quarter, to this year, for e-books. Where as they accounted for 3.2% of the market in early 2010, they jumped 400% to take 13.7% of the market in 2011.  That number will continue to jump as more people buy e-readers.  But it is interesting to note that printed books still dominate the marketplace even though everyone talks of e-books as if that’s all people are reading.

E-commerce Sells 1 in 3 Books
A bigger concern is the proportion of sales leaving book stores.  In 2010, Q2, 27.6% of books sold were via e-commerce.  That ballooned to 37% just a year later.  This means, aside from e-books, many printed books are purchased online.

Book Clubs Fall Sharply
Another segment that took a big hit was book clubs.  Last year, they accounted for 5.6% of the market.  Their share got halved to 2.8% in 2011, though no clear reason was given for this.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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