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Liberty Media bids for Barnes & Noble

A sign for Barnes & Noble Booksellers store in Coral Gables, Fla.

UPDATED REPORT

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The nation's biggest bookstore retailer could get a new owner soon. Barnes & Noble has been struggling to find its place in the electronic landscape. But Liberty Media has offered slightly more than $1 billion to buy the chain.

Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reports.


MITCHELL HARTMAN: The bricks-and-mortar part of the bookstore business -- actual stores selling actual books -- has been on the rocks. Blame the recession and fierce competition from downloadable e-books. Borders went belly-up recently, and Barnes & Noble's been looking for a buyer.

Enter Liberty Media. It has a hand in everything from the QVC home shopping network to eCommerce sites like Expedia. What it doesn't have is stores, or books, says Staci Kramer of PaidContent.

STACI KRAMER: Where I see the connection is between eCommerce and media-having a combination of bricks and mortar that brings in traffic on a daily basis, and eCommerce and digital entertainment that can be delivered without a storefront.

Barnes and Noble's gotten good at delivering books without storefronts -- with its Nook e-reader, running on Android. It'll ultimately deliver everything from games to video to ads. Rupert Goodwins is editor of ZDNet.

RUPERT GOODWINS: Books are joining the rest of the electronic publishing world, and they'll be just another way to take content and present it. The idea of it being a separate ivory tower on the hill where you have to go through publishers and printers is disappearing quite quickly.

The question is -- will bookstores-Barnes and Noble has nearly 1,500 of them -- go the way of the dodo in this digital evolution?

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.


ORIGINAL REPORT

JEREMY HOBSON: The nation's biggest bookstore chain may have a new owner soon. Barnes & Noble has an offer on the table from Liberty Media.

Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman joins us live to talk about it. Hi, Mitchell.

MITCHELL HARTMAN: Good morning Jeremy.

HOBSON: Well tell us about this offer.

HARTMAN: This is a friendly offer. It's worth a bit more than $1 billion, and would leave in charge Barnes & Noble's legendary founder -- that's Leonard Riggio. Barnes and Noble has 2,000 stores nationwide. And it's outlived its No. 2 rival, which was Borders. They went belly-up earlier this year. In fact, Barnes & Noble's been looking for a buyer since last summer, and up 'til now it didn't have any takers.

HOBSON: And Borders went belly-up as you say in no small part thanks to the rise of e-books like the Kindle. Why would Liberty be interested in a big brick and mortar chain like Barnes and Noble?

HARTMAN: Well, the key is probably the not brick and mortar part which is the Nook. That's Barnes and Noble's electronic book-reader, and it's actually doing very well. Amazon's Kindle is still ahead. Apple's iPad is also coming up fast behind. But e-book sales are booming -- they're up 400 percent just in the last two years.

Now, where this fits in maybe for Liberty is that it owns the home-shopping network QVC, plus eCommerce sites like Expedia, Gifts.com. So maybe there's a synergy here: Barnes & Noble brings in shoppers to its stores for books and then they can look at cool travel stuff and gifts. And then the Nook delivers Liberty's ads and media, along with books -- in this case, paperless books.

HOBSON: Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman. Thanks Mitchell.

HARTMAN: You're welcome.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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