Barnes & Noble up for sale

Barnes & Noble up for sale

barnes-and-noble2When I moved to St. Charles, Illinois, in 1997, one of the things that drew me to the town was the abundance of used bookstores. There were roughly a half-dozen in easy driving distance, and two in walking distance. I spent a lot of happy hours picking through the vintage science fiction and fantasy paperbacks, until Alice finally pulled me away to go look at stoneware or baby clothes.

Those bookstores are now gone. Several factors conspired to destroy the viability of the small-town bookstore in the 1990s, but one of the chief culprits was the arrival of the suburban megabookstores erected by Borders and Barnes & Noble.

Scarcely a decade later, Borders USA narrowly avoided bankruptcy with a round of debt refinancing in 2009 (Borders in the UK was neither so swift nor so lucky, and went belly up last year). And now comes the news that America’s largest chain of high-end bookshops, Barnes & Noble, has put itself up for sale in the latest sign of the turbulent changes in US book retailing in the new age of the iPad and the Kindle.

B&N owns some 720 bookstores across the US.  The announcement comes after a 45% slump in share price over the last year, and a nearly 5% decline in year-over-year sales from its store operations, to $4.3 billion.

It’s hard to drum up too much sympathy for the corporation partly responsible for the death of all those local bookshops, and part of me sees a healthy dose of poetic justice here.  But at the same time, B&N built some of the finest, most attractive, and most well-stocked bookstores I’ve ever seen, and it put one right on my streetcorner. If they vanish, they’ll be dearly missed.

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C.S.E. Cooney

Also, the chances of those little bookstores ever making a comeback? Slim to none.

No more musty old paperbacks for you, John. (Alice Dances!)

You’ll just have to take your chances with the used books merchants online. When perusing, I’d go for “Acceptable” condition-rated books, if I were you. That is, if you want the really battered, water-stained variety with questionable mold specks growing on (tanned) inner covers.

You’ll want to avoid any rating described as “Very Good,” “Near Fine,” or “Like New.”

Or you could just go to Top Shelf Books in Palatine and shop there!



We are under assault (in the USA, but also most of the world) by tons of “False Economies” and they are coming full circle.

In America:

1. Exporting jobs overseas. Somehow it’s “Fair Competition” to replace an American in a factory with a barefoot 6 year old girl in a ramshackle “Factory” that could burn down any week. Often it costs more to do this, fuel, bribes, piracy, and such but then they get “Tax Breaks and Subsidies” to pay for this, ensuring unfair competition.

2. Importing illegal immigrants. This drives down wages. There are more illegals than “Unemployed” right now.

3. Control of government and media. The big companies use this to help them escape laws and propagandize that nothing is wrong.

The reason “Small town bookstores” and coffee shops were taken over by these giant companies then the giant companies are choking is the same. An “Unregulated” but “Unfairly supported” big business market.

B&N, Borders, Wal-Mart, etc. should have been stopped by “Monopoly” laws. Barring that, the competitors should have teamed up to hamstring them, but due to lots of backroom deals, neither happened.

The reason the giant companies expanded is that they dodged laws that would have kept them in check.

The reason they are now choking is that they got too good and people don’t have as much money since it’s all tied up in lost wages, bank accounts of the rich, etc.

Now, sorry for that light of “Reality” into our little “Fantasy” world here, but the reason for the steady decline, every bit as much as internet, stagnation and changing times has been that the amount of money people had to spend has been going down and down and down over the decades.

However, I’m not panicking or despairing. We just need to start ringing the bells. I actually worked for one of these giant companies (not literature related and I’m keeping Mum about where) and I talked with the #2. Right now they are “Drawing the Wagons” because they fear a sudden, berserk “Backlash” from Americans demanding super-isolationism and trade/labor protection in a manner that will make any “New Deal” era look like child’s play. That was in 06, before the bloated bubble burst. As someone some people peg as “leftist” (though I say left/right is a controller lie to divide and conquer) I gotta love the “Rich Elite” these last couple years, they’ve done more than decades of progressive arguments! Now, when I point out that there are more “Illegals” than “Unemployed” people do clamor for enforcement of laws. Right now, they could in a second shift things back to America, using the same “Tax breaks/subsidies” to ensure a profit, but it’d collapse a much bigger “House of Cards”. That #2 guy told me the big corporation that does that, the others will gang up on to do anything they can to hurt them, frame their top guys, even have them and their family killed or worse. Since most operate outside laws not enforced, take quite illegal tax deals, hide money offshore or use ‘loopholes’ that’d get you or I jailed overnight, much could be done with a single lobbyist or a dozen.

We are in a new, “Pulp” era, essentially. A world of chaos, fear, deprivation, and thus one where those that sell ‘escape’ can find a market. We should also devote some of our writings to call for a ‘Fixing’ of America and outright revenge (just shy of open incitement to murder) of the “Elites” and worse, their “Toadies” those that supported them without drawing a salary from them. And we should write with our hearts and build/support/promote “Alternative” markets to take up the remains as we work to kill the big guys choking on their debt, stagnation and greed.

This time, much as in the last time, the “Media” is largely owned by those that wrecked the system so it’s full of false facades, smoke and mirrors, etc. But there’s no “Soul” in mainstream stuff. It’s all “Politically Correct”. Thus any “Small, direct” act has an “Edge” a big company can not and does not have. Unlike the past era, the “Means of Production” are much much cheaper and the means of payment far more reaching.

Personally, I’m working on a “Retro but modern” PULP, inspired by my rantings on the possible demise of “Realms of Fantasy” here: I’m not plugging it right yet, the first issue is nearly done, but this topic made it necessary and appropriate.

We who like “The Story”, have a right and a duty to take back what is ours. We need to beat the drums in RL to get people to take back their country. I liken my 3 issue thing (Illegals, Exporting, Media/Govt) thing to a fire. It needs fuel, air and heat to keep going. Remove one, the whole thing collapses, two it’s shut out so hard it’d be hard to re-light. Well, some fires like a grease fire carry their fuel and heat so “Air” is the best attack. In the modern “Conspiracy” it’s the “Media/Government” thing they spend the most $ and effort on. Their weakest links are illegal immigration and then exporting of jobs. They’ve taken for granted they won the first battle and are strong on the second. So, first press for “Arizona” (real, not media hype) where we don’t need a fence or profiling, we just make sure (threat of jury nullification on other crimes) the police “Check the books” on employers randomly and frequently and the prosecutor fully charges any who’ve hired illegals. People won’t do “Those” jobs, alright, at 1/4 minimum wage under horrible conditions. But there are more illegals than unemployed. “Supply and Demand” wages will skyrocket.

Then go after “Exporting of Jobs”, beat the drums for that. The “Rich Elite” will be crushed. Yeah, they’ll take a lot with them, but without being able to “Control/block” markets we’ll have a lot better recovery.

My firm belief is that the “Fantasy/Sci-Fi” market has been hamstrung and murdered by “Political Correctness” that was shoved down our throats starting in the 70s. If we have a true “Open” market where people can publish and put in the bookstores, major retail outlets, “Independent” exchanges, the REAL market will be much, MUCH different than it is now. The same with TV shows, comic books, the music industry. A truly free market can tell much by what is selling and even the weirdest voice can have a ‘niche’ at least…

Anyways, apologies again for a long rant. This is something I’m really passionate about. The first issue, inspired by THIS magazine/blog is close to completion with plenty of plans for other ones. I’d be ever so grateful if you gave me a blog page when I upload it, for like my earlier rant I made it what I missed/wished for that some said had no place in today’s market. (yeah, the first issue DOES have a “Jungle with Cannibals” story!)


I’ve only been to one Barnes and Noble, and it seemed too snooty for my tastes. I do a lot of shopping at both Borders and wherever I can find used books, and am grateful for both.

I was a bit offended to read GreenGestalt’s tirade against Wal-Mart and Borders. Wal-Mart employs the highest number of people in America and those jobs are much needed. Not to mention their low prices help people in tough times. Calling Wal-Mart and Borders monopolies sound more as though you resent them. In most areas where a Wal-Mart, or Super Stop ‘n’ Shop is built, that local economy flourishes. People are attracted to start new businesses nearby, selling different products and services. When a Wal-Mart Super Center was built in a new industrial park in my town there came several other businesses and, despite a crippling tax burden, people are able to save more money.
I have to admit, though, I am looking forward to your magazine. 🙂

And as for Borders, maybe I do like it because I’ve not had the luxury of a used bookstore to visit other than a thrift shop. But it is an affordable place to buy new books for me and gifts for my friends.


Not altogether certain what offshore outsourcing, “importing of illegal immigrants (really? That’s why Arizona is trying to close its borders, to protect bookshops) or the rest of the ranting has to do with the decline of bookstores. Uh, see the Internet. The problem with most conspiracy theories is that simpler and obvious answers are usually the correct ones.

I still buy books and physical music (including vinyl, again, which is the one growing market niche in the music industry, and not just one for old geezers such as myself). Then again, when my kid tells me she’s read something in the NY Times, I know she’s talking about the online edition. And I’m not necessarily sure that’s a bad thing.

Books may become the “vinyl” of the digital age, i.e., a physical entity appreciated for reasons besides content that appeals to a niche. That’s because of technology and marketing. Is it a bad thing. Not necessarily. It just is what it is.

I, too, miss thumbing through stacks of CDs or records to stumble across some new discovery as my local independent record store is on the verge of consolidation to the point of nonexistence. Then again, roaming about Amazon and, yes, the Barnes and Noble website, still yields those discoveries. Though, maybe not as much fun.

As for bookstores, I’m lucky to live in Charlottesville, whose historic downtown boasts no less than five used bookstores all within 100 yards walking distance of one another. And, yes, there’s a Barnes and Noble, too, though located in a mall, that is always packed with people, though, increasingly, plugged into their laptops at the coffee bar, no doubt downloading the New York Times.


I like how digital devices are more personal, being able to shuffle through book covers on an iPod, or see Wii channels blinking great games. But, Soyka hit the nail on the head comparing books to vinyl. Actual game carts please me more than discs, and seeing my personal library grow just. . . makes me happy!
Especially seeing my row of Black Gates lengthen. . . 🙂


To John,

First, a while back I actually had an employee look up some sales figures, till he was stopped by a manager. Those piles of “Right Wing” books by the front door…? They sell about diddly/squat. The “Christian” section they have to dust more than any other. And even the few “Independent” bookstores and newsstands have a much better selection of periodicals.

Well, my views will be explained more in my magazine.

It’ll be a synergy of classic sci-fi/fantasy “Pulps” and “Men’s Adventure” magazines. The first issue will be a free PDF the others sold with pages/samples for open reading. I’d love a paper version but for now I feel it’d be “Kept out” of the bookstores even if I sell 10 million PDFs, as well as off the news. It’ll kind of be like “What if those things were written today”? Kind of, like I said earlier “Death, death DEATH to Political Correctness!!!”

For instance, an image I’m working on for it is a blonde tied to a lab table and a menacing needle from a mechanized arm is approaching her and there’s a “Fu-Manchu” sinister oriental holding the lever and the caption reads “The Filst won es Flee!” Also, there’s a rather excessive story being finished right now called “Death on the M’Kunga River” by “Max Feral” (a pen name to hide the author) that’s pure filed teeth cannibalism fun;-)

Now, “Anti-PC” doesn’t translate in my book to “Openly Racist”. For instance, though there will be lots of awful stereotypes I won’t have heroized “Lynching” stories. Blatant filed teeth cannibals are just so embarrassingly dated they are funny but say some Southerner submits “How we done hung—” even if it’s a “True” (gah! I’ll call the police…) story I’ll pass, though I’ll warn not to. The only ‘failing’ is that it will be a bit ‘sexist’ and ‘macho’ for it is about MEN and how we’ve been put down. “Fight Club” is a big inspiration, not to stupidly get a broken nose but to “Shock” oneself out of “The Controllers grip”.

The stories will entertain and attract with controversy, the articles will inform. We’ll be “Sub professional” the first year, but then start paying based on sales or sooner if the idea takes off. (NOT a call for submissions, or I’d not dare post here, I figure we’ll keep the core groups for the first movement and then check after the first issue for submissions)

The ETA is within the month for the release. First issue is free, then I’ll charge for non DRM downloads (hidden serial #s) and use some of the money for more advertising, try to attract advertising and see how it goes. It’ll be a quarterly for now.

-Black Gate gets a free plug, since they inspired this:-) And I don’t want a penny from them!

Speaking of ads, I’m personally working on some “Fake” ads for the ad section as kind of a joke, inspired by the rather questionable/creepy ones in the “Men’s Adventure” and other period magazines, though I’m trying to attract not scare/insult away;-) In the same tradition I’ll take ads from about anyone (one of my beefs with the media is how selective they are) with a “Buyer beware” responsibility border on the Ad pages.

For instance: “Ahoy Landlubbers come aboard Capn’ Crab’s Gentleman’s Oriental fun cruises. Our ships carry yer genitals from port to port, our men yer inebriated body from bar to brothel!!!”

Take note, we are all familiar with “Pulp” writing and the genres, but I’m not so sure about “Men’s Adventure”; There’s also a neat Taschen print of covers of the mags in Barnes and Noble.

I used to read stuff like this as a munchkin, notably a bunch my Grandpa had and the last gasps of it at the news stands. You can find copies online scanned of a few issues, but since they tended to be trashed and were ‘pulp’ they can command a scalper’s price to buy for real.

Anyways, I’ll be pretty quiet after this. Time spent talking about it is time away from making it. But when I do make this, please let me plug it here:-)

C.S.E. Cooney

Dear John,

Maybe the little stores’ll make a come-back. Sort of slow and sly-like, in the wake of the Big Books Apocalypse. Perhaps the little guys’ll be mutated; perhaps we’ll start having to carry Hallmark Cards with singing computer chips in ’em, but maybe we’ll limp back all the same. Speculation, as we writers of it know, CAN occasionally have Cheshire grin of optimism…

– C.S.E. Cooney

[…] up on John’s post (and subsequent discussion) concerning the predicament of Barnes and Noble, which seems to be getting a taste of its own […]

[…] up on John’s post (and subsequent discussion) concerning the predicament of Barnes and Noble, which seems to be getting a taste of its own […]

[…] follows the news that Barnes & Noble put itself up for sale last August, following a 45% slump in share price and a nearly 5% decline in year-over-year sales […]

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