The bookstore in the digital age

Marketplace Staff Nov 7, 2011

The bookstore in the digital age

Marketplace Staff Nov 7, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: Well Barnes and Noble is making what it’s calling a very special announcement this morning. Analysts expect the company will launch a new version of its Nook e-reader to compete with the Kindle Fire
and, of course, the iPad. It’s Barnes and Noble’s latest attempt to avoid the fate of its ex-rival Borders.

For an independent take on this, we’re joined now
by Nancy Bass Wyden. She owns the Strand bookstore
here in New York, which is one of the world’s largest used bookstores. Good morning.

Nancy Bass Wyden: Good morning.

Hobson: Well I want to start by asking you to be a representative of the book industry and tell me a question that I’ve been wondering about for a while: Why has Barnes & Noble survived, and Borders gone out of business?

Bass Wyden: I think a lot of it has to do with management. We’ve hired a lot of employees and so I’ve gotten a lot of inside information on that. Barnes & Noble came in very aggressively with the e-books and developing the Nook and devoting space to the Nook; they put it right in the front of the stores, they’ve increased the floor plan from 1,000 square feet and recently up to 2,000 square feet.

Hobson: Well you haven’t gone the e-reader route, right?

Bass Wyden: We have not. There’s really not opportunity for independent bookstores to aggressively go the e-reader Nook. I think Amazon and Barnes & Noble just really have all of the market; anything that’s left for us through Google Books seems to be crumbs. But that’s not really our gig.

Hobson: How’s business for you?

Bass Wyden: Business for us is doing great. In store is up 8 percent. I really believe that people don’t want to be tethered to their devices at home, and they’ll always seek a place or shopping experience with the community of book lovers.

Hobson: Quick lightning round: Do you have a Kindle, an iPad or a Nook?

Bass Wyden: I have an iPad.

Hobson: OK. Do you read books on it, or is it too hard with the backlighting?

Bass Wyden: I don’t like it.

Hobson: Favorite book of the year?

Bass Wyden: I love Mark Twain’s autobiography.

Hobson: What would your advice be to Barnes & Noble to stay afloat?

Bass Wyden: [Pause]

Hobson: No?

Bass Wyden: I’ve never been asked that question! I mean, I think that they have all these stores, they have the Nook. I would say that they should go after recommendations. That’s what we’re doing — at the Strand, you walk in the store and we have such educated book lovers, almost everybody’s majored in literature at the Strand. I want Barnes & Noble to stay afloat, because I want more people to read books, whether they’re buying them from the Strand or from anywhere. That would make me happy.

Hobson: Nancy Bass Wyden is owner of the Strand Book Store in New York. Thanks so much.

Bass Wyden: Thank you.

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