Barnes & Noble Is OUT of the Book-Selling Business

Barnes & Noble is creating a place where people go to comfortably read and think.  Isn’t this what the local library was originally created to be?  Some public libraries have morphed into being dry, dull storehouses of archived information.  Only those libraries that have gotten out of this concept have prospered.  Taking it one step further, B&N believes that if they create a different environment, people will buy the experience by taking the product home as they go through the cash register.  And they’ve proven the concept right.

About once a month, our family likes to spend a quiet evening reading and finding new resources.  Our favorite place to go is B&N.  We like the atmosphere and the ambience.   But we like going there for more than just a bookstore.  Have you ever noticed what they have?  Barnes & Noble is more than just a bookstore.   They are a coffee and snack shop.   They are a magazine store.   They are a music and DVD store.   They are a gathering place with comfy chairs.   They are a children’s place.   They are a library.  You can sit and read all you want. 

I remember when I was about 10 years old going to a local drugstore and looking at the Superman and Batman comic books.  You had to sneak a peak at them because if the manager caught you, he would always say in a gruff voice, “Hey kid!  Buy it or put it back!!”  Has anyone ever said that to you in a Barnes and Noble?  Of course not.  They let you read the books with the anticipation that you will like them and buy them. 

Yes, Barnes and Noble is more than just a book store. Every industry leader does things that aren’t nature to the industry.  This is why they are the leader.  When B&N employees and management attend the bookseller’s convention (rarely) you know how they are treated – either with a lot of respect or a lot of resentment.  No wonder they rarely attend these meetings.   The ones who want to emulate them try to copy them.   The ones who detest them do so because they can’t replicate the B&N experience.  Barnes & Noble is leading their industry because they are MORE than just a bookstore.  They are all I listed above and more.

What are you doing that is OUT of your industry?  You will never lead it, until you get outside of it.

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1 Response to “Barnes & Noble Is OUT of the Book-Selling Business”


  1. 1 Gina Carr July 31, 2010 at 6:02 am

    Excellent points Jim. When I was growing my real estate business several years ago, I looked at industry leaders like the Ritz Carlton, Disney, and even Domino’s Pizza to get ideas about how to “re-invent” the real estate experience.

    Your article also reminds me of the story about why the railroads failed. Their leaders maintained that they were in the “railroad business” versus understanding that they were in the “transportation business.”

    Thanks for thinking and helping us do the same.

    Gina Carr
    ginacarr.com


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