This editorial by Michael Levin originally appeared on The Contra Costa Times News on 5/2/14.
If anyone gives you a Barnes & Noble gift card, be sure to cash it in by the end of the year.
This may be the last year that Barnes & Noble bookstores remain open.
It’s bad news for people who love books. It’s worse news for the next generation of readers, who may never experience buying a book in a bookstore.
B&N has been closing about 20 stores per year since 2012 and has said it will continue to do so for the next several years. But its financial position is bleak.
This follows a decades-long period of expansion, moving into neighborhoods where privately-owned bookstores thrived, destroying those stores with cut-price best-sellers, and all but owning the book business.
Borders collapsed because of poor choices — weak locations, an overemphasis on music, and, worst of all, selling off its online bookstore to Amazon for $20 million in the 1990s. Chump change, by today’s standards.
So why is B&N on the ropes, if it has virtually no competition today from chains or privately owned bookstores?