And the fact that it’s not anymore suggests (at least to me) that the franchise is dying.
Just last night, for example, I went into my nearby Barnes and Noble in northern Los Angeles County and had a look around. While doing so, I made a mental calculation of what the floor space was devoted to. Going counter-clockwise, here’s my estimate:
- Entry: electronic readers; magazines; best sellers. (5%)
- Looking right: Starbucks. (10%)
- Center right and perimeter right: books. (15%)
- Far back: music and movies. (10%)
- Center left: mostly an educational area devoted to kids games, but there is also a line of books on the way to the toilets. The science section is back there. (10%)
- Center: a teacher’s supplies section and a game section for adults. (10%)
- Left perimeter: the children’s section. (15%)
- Lower left: bargain books and reference. (15%)
- Bottom left: gift area and cashier. (10%)
If anything, I’m overestimating the space devoted to selling books to adults (perhaps 40%).
Yes, I bought some things: A DVD, a box game, a puzzle for one of my kids, and one $20 book (The Quotable Thoreau, if you’re curious).
And, last week, I took a group of students to the Getty Museum in Malibu. On the way home I thought I’d get off the freeway and have a look-see around the Barnes and Noble in Encino on Ventura Blvd.
It’s not there anymore. The space has been taken over by a pharmacy. Only the Starbucks remains. If you don’t know the Los Angeles area, Encino is a place where well off people live; it’s a natural habitat, you would think, for a Barnes and Noble. But Encino commercial rental property on Ventura Blvd. must simply be too high to support a Barnes and Noble anymore.
What does that tell you?
Oh, and an employee who works at a Barnes and Noble told me something interesting: every time the store sells one of its e-readers (the “Nook”) it expects to lose about 60 in-store book sales that year. I don’t know how accurate a statistic that is, but it sounds plausible, and tells you why its dead tree book biz is so obviously in trouble.
Were he alive, Charles Dickens might say of books that it’s the best of times; it’s the worst of times.