Indie booksellers figured out 5 years, 8 years, or even a decade ago that the best way to compete with Amazon is do what it cannot: host events, and foster a local book community. There are even chains like Busboy & Poets that have made finding ways to be part of the community their raison d'etre.
The 17,400-square-foot Vernon Hills store features oak bookshelves and wood grain tile floors throughout. A distinctive feature is what the chain is calling two large “book theaters" located in the heart of the store where customers can explore new books in what the company is calling a new “360-degree experience.”
Tables and comfortable chains are situated throughout the store if customers want to relax and explore a book or mingle with a group of friends.
The cafe in the new Barnes & Noble outlet will offer Starbucks coffees and teas, baked goods, sandwiches, quiches and a soup of the day.
Staff at the new store will be equipped with tablets to be able to assist customers anywhere in the store. Self-serve kiosks throughout the store will enable customers to research and locate books throughout the store.
Additionally, a 700-square-foot flexible event space will be available for author events and book signings.
The thing that gets me about B&N opening 5 stores based on this concept is that not only did indie bookstores show the idea worked 5 years ago, but also that Amazon is using it. Several Amazon Books locations have an event space; the DC store, for example, has a small set of wooden bleachers where around 20 people could sit and listen to an author.
We know this idea works, and yet B&N is only going to try it with 5 stores.
These poor fools are killing their company through timidity, when only radical changes will save it.
What Barnes & Noble should be doing, if they had the courage, is just about anything else.
I'm sure you have good suggestions; what I would do would be to take the ten percent of B&N's lowest performing stores and convert all of them to the new plan. The first step would be to sell off most of the stock in a fire sale, and then remove about a third of the shelves and rearrange the rest so that there's multiple event spaces.
This would be an insanely risky gamble, yes, but at this point that is what Barnes & Noble needs to survive. Timidly trying ideas that are SOP with its competition isn't going to cut it; the only thing B&N that way is going to accomplish is to piss away the time it has left.
Plus, having multiple stores with multiple staffs banging away at a new concept can only increase the chance that B&N will end up with a viable business model.
Alas, Barnes & Noble isn't going to do that; in fact, I would go so far as to say they are unable to make the radical changes required.
And that inability to adapt, more than anything, is what is killing them.