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Drunk Take: Amazon Should Buy B&N

About five or six years ago there was a popular drunk take that Walmart should buy Barnes & Noble as a bulwark against Amazon.

I call it a drunk take because you would have to be drunk to think Walmart should buy a struggling company that was weak in two areas Amazon was strong (online sales and book sales) and expect Walmart could use the struggling company to compete against Amazon.

Now there’s a new drunk take on Barnes & Noble, one that makes as little sense as before.

It is now the consensus of the penny-a-pundit crowd that Amazon should buy Barnes & Noble.

None of the clickbait could offer a good reason why Amazon should buy B&N; the justifications included real estate, good will, Amazon could sell B&N’s existing stock through its website, and because Amazon has $20 billion in cash while B&N would only cost half a billion.

These pieces also neglected to even mention the antitrust complication, although the Seeking Alpha piece did remind us why B&N is in a precarious state:

I think Barnes & Noble will run out of cash this holiday season because it reported just $11.19 million in cash and equivalents on October 27, 2018.

If B&N has a bad holiday season, they will find borrowing more money next to impossible (who would want to throw good money after bad?). And I (and a lot of B&N employees) expect B&N to have a worse than usual holiday season, resulting in a crisis in early January.

The thing is, B&N’s sales are down because their stores are stocked with a bland selection and staffed by employees who have lost hope.

It will be up to B&N’s creditors to decide if they want to save the company. These are mostly the same book publishers who decided Borders wasn’t worth saving in 2011, and the only thing that has changed in the past 8 years is that the publishers need B&N even less now than they needed Borders then.

Right now a buyer is B&N’s best shot at survival, but who is going to want to buy them?

Certainly not Amazon.

image by davidwilson1949 via Flickr

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Brandon Hall November 30, 2018 um 5:37 am

Amazon might be more open to the notion of buying B&N during its after-Christmas sell-off. Why buy for half a Bil when you can wait and buy for half a Mil?

Disgusting Dude November 30, 2018 um 6:16 am

Anybody buying B&N "for their stock" is a singularly stupid idea because B&N book stock doesn’t belong to B&N. Books are effectively sold on consignment and belong to the publisher. They only count as B&N assets *after* they hit bankruptcy court.

Nate Hoffelder November 30, 2018 um 6:37 am

I know! I tried really hard not to be sarcastic when I mentioned that (I was laughing my ass off). Did I succeed?

Andrei Kelner November 30, 2018 um 9:45 am

Ready to bet my used Kobo Reader that Chapter-Indigo will make a pass and will buy B&N.
Any taker?

Nate Hoffelder November 30, 2018 um 9:54 am

That’s just too big of a purchase for Indigo.

My bet is that they have a wishlist of 20 or so B&N locations that they want to buy if there are bankruptcy proceedings.

DaveMich November 30, 2018 um 3:17 pm

I see this a lot even with tiny bookstores that are going out of business. They’re sad pandas because nobody wants to buy them. Often there are multiple "interested parties" who don’t pull the trigger for unspecified reasons. Why do these people assume that there is some good reason to buy a business that is losing money? I blame financial illiteracy.

Speaking of that, I’m wondering why this grouping of opinions has suddenly appeared. Is it just a temporary nexus of stupid, or are other forces at work. I disbelieve the latter, because really, how much stupid can the universe even hold?

DaveMich November 30, 2018 um 5:43 pm

BTW, Nate:

Nate Hoffelder November 30, 2018 um 6:12 pm


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