Barnes and Noble founder, Leonard Riggio, took all the best element
s of independent bookstore
s (coffee shop
s, comfy chair
s, and a generally pleasant environment
) and combined it with really cheap book
s. He believed that if people came to the store to get 40% off NYT
bestsellers, they would still make money
on the regular priced books that weren't best seller
s. Based on the spread of Barnes and Noble stores, I would guess his business strategy
works very well.
Independent bookstores have a very difficult time competing with Barnes and Noble. Because Barnes and Noble is a huge chain, they can afford to lose lots of money in one store, while the independent bookstore that is competing with the superstore, cannot afford to lose any money. Once the independent competition is forced to close, Barnes and Noble is the only game in town. It's the same strategy that has worked so well for WalMart. In order to compete, independent bookstores specialize in local literature, try to recruit better staff, and become involved in the community.
In 1999, Barnes and Noble attempted to merge with Ingram, the leading distribution company for independent bookstores. Independent bookstores were worried that Barnes and Noble would gain unfair insight into their businesses and would be able to ascertain what books were selling in what region. Barnes and Noble claimed that they wanted to purchase Ingram to improve their internet ordering. The National Writers Union came out against the merger because they feared that it would damage the independent bookstores, "which are crucial to authors' careers and livelihood". The NWU maintains that independent bookstores introduce new authors to the reading community, where as Barnes and Noble is only interested in selling the newest Stephen King. The FTC agreed and the merger was stopped.
My aunt wants to have her ashes scattered in a Barnes and Noble. My aunt owns an independent bookstore.