Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books – The Hingham, Mass., location of the Barnes & Noble chain, whose book sales last year were 14 percent higher than before the pandemic.Credit… Cody O’Loughlin for The New York Times

After years on the decline, Barnes & Noble’s sales are up, costs are down — and the same people who saw the supermarket chain as a supervillain for decades are celebrating its success.

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

In the past, the bookselling empire, with 600 outposts in all 50 states, was seen by many readers, writers and book lovers as publishers who strong-armed independent stores in their quest for market share.

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Today, virtually the entire publishing industry is rooting for Barnes & Noble—including most independent booksellers. Its unique role in the book ecosystem, where it helps readers discover new titles and publishers stay invested in physical stores, makes it an essential anchor in a world upended by online sales and a much bigger player: Amazon .

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

“It would be a disaster if they went out of business,” said Jane Dystel, a literary agent with clients including Colleen Hoover, who has four books on this week’s New York Times bestseller list. “There is a real fear that without this book chain, the printing business would be far gone.”

The pandemic threw substantial roadblocks in Barnes & Noble’s way. For almost two years, there were no readings or author signings in most of their stores. The cafe business is even less. And in December, just as the Christmas shopping season arrived, Omicron rolled in. Many of the chain’s downtown stores in urban areas are still underperforming due to a lack of tourists and office workers.

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

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Despite all this, sales at Barnes & Noble stores last year were up 3 percent over their pre-pandemic performance in 2019. Growth came the old-fashioned way, said James Daunt, the company’s chief executive: by selling books, which were up 14 percent. .

“I never would have predicted it at the start of the year,” Mr Daunt said, “but it’s been amazing.”

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

For many years, hostility toward Barnes & Noble from independent bookstores was so powerful, it even made Tom Hanks a believable, if charming, villain.

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The feeling was captured in the film “You’ve Got Mail” from 1998. Co-written and directed by Nora Ephron, the film centered on the owner of a large bookstore chain, played by Mr. Hanks, who put Meg Ryan’s character, a beloved independent bookstore in Manhattan, out of business. (Also, they were both adorable and fell in love.)

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

Back in the world of nonfiction, the American Booksellers Association, which represents independent stores, filed an antitrust suit against Barnes & Noble in the 1990s. A few years before that, the group sued several publishers, saying they had unfairly charged large chains lower prices.

“There was a period when the competition was pretty ugly,” said Oren J. Teicher, a former chief executive of the American Booksellers Association. “Barnes & Noble was considered not only the enemy, but everything about corporate bookselling that was wrong.”

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

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Barnes & Noble grew from a single bookstore in Manhattan in 1917 to become a dominant player by offering deep discounts on bestsellers to attract customers. Once in a store, readers were presented with a huge selection, sometimes more than 100,000 titles, most of which were sold at full price.

When Amazon came along, it took Barnes & Noble’s game and played it better, with deeper discounts and a seemingly infinite selection of books.

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

Today, despite the rise of other formats, the industry still relies on physical books – in 2021 they brought in 76 percent of publishers’ sales revenue, according to the Association of American Publishers. And more than half of the physical books in the United States are sold by Amazon.

Books On Table, On Display At Bookstore Stock Photo

The aisles are wider, with “rooms” instead of rows, and there are single-title tables that customers walk into. Credit… Cody O’Loughlin for The New York Times

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

Buying a book you are looking for online is easy. You search. You click. You buy. What gets lost in that process are the chance finds, the book you pick up in a store because of its cover, a paperback you see on a walk through the thriller section.

No one has quite figured out how to replicate that kind of accidental discovery online. It makes bookstores hugely important not only to readers, but also to all but the greatest writers, as well as to agents and publishers of all sizes.

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

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Independent stores play an important role in that kind of discovery, but because Barnes & Noble stores are so large, they can usually keep more titles on hand. And in many parts of the country, there are no independents: Barnes & Noble is the only bookstore in town.

“Discovery is so, so important,” said Daniel Simon, founder of Seven Stories Press, an independent publisher. “The more Amazon’s market share grows, the less discovery there is in general and the less new voices will be heard.”

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

For well-known authors, Barnes & Noble is important for another reason – the size. An important stop on any major book tour, the chain’s 600 stores can place huge orders and move many copies.

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“It’s funny how the industry has evolved so they’re a good guy now,” said Ellen Adler, the publisher of the independent New Press. “I would say her rehabilitation has been total.”

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

The chain also keeps publishers invested in distributing physical books around the country, said Kristen McLean, executive director of business development at NPD Books, which tracks the market.

Michael Barnard, the owner and manager of Rakestraw Books in Danville, Calif., said that about 20 years ago, Barnes & Noble opened a superstore about five miles from his store. A Super Crown bookstore, a Borders and a Costco with a large book section were also nearby—and all this just as Amazon was on the rise.

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

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But Rakestraw hung on, and even thrived. Last year was the best year his shop has ever had, Mr Barnard said.

“They’ve been extremely competitive at times and hard to get along with,” he said. But at the same time “they’re the other big part of the industry that’s committed to printing and personal bookselling, and I think they share some of our challenges.”

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

“That said,” he added, “I’d rather not have one on my road.”

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In 2018, the company’s board fired its chief executive, the fourth in five years. People in the sector were worried that the largest bookstore chain in the country would collapse.

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

The following summer, Elliott Advisors, a hedge fund, bought the chain for $638 million and put Mr. Daunt in charge.

A highly regarded bookseller who opened his first Daunt Books store in London in 1990, Mr Daunt had been brought in to solve a similar problem at Waterstones, Britain’s biggest bookshop chain. The company was on the verge of bankruptcy when he took it over in 2011. His theory was that chain stores should act less like chain stores and more like independent stores, with similar freedom to adapt their offerings to local tastes. It worked, and he returned Waterstones to profitability.

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

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He repeated that approach at Barnes & Noble. While orders for locations around the country used to be placed through a central office in New York, today a scaled-down central office simply places a minimum order for new books, freeing store managers to choose whether to bring in more copies based on local sales.

“I get all the glory, but in fact what I do is to get out of people’s way and let them have decent bookshops,” Mr Daunt said. “All the work continues on the shop floor.”

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

Barnes & Noble has given its stores more control over their inventory. Rachel Igo was back on the shelves in Hingham. Credit … Cody O’Loughlin for The New York Times

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Barnes & Noble has also concentrated on selling books, rather than the vast assortment of items it once carried that were only tangentially—if at all—related to reading.

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

“We sold a lot of fairly irrelevant stuff to a bookshop,” Mr Daunt said. “No one thinks, ‘I need a Duracell battery — I’m going down to my bookstore.’

The chain has beefed up its selection of manga, ensuring it has the inventory to feed an explosion of demand over the past few years, said Shannon DeVito, director of books at the company. It has also paid close attention to books that have gone on TikTok, where viral clips of readers crying about books they love have pushed many titles onto the bestseller list.

Barnes And Noble Coffee Table Books

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Barnes & Noble has also stopped taking fees from publishers to place certain books in highly visible places, such as at the entrance or in the window. It seemed like free money, Mr. Daunt said, but it created a cascade of problems: books no one wanted to buy were prominently displayed, and large orders that didn’t sell had to be sent back. (One quirk of the book business is that unsold books can be returned to publishers for full credit, a practice that dates back to the Depression. The shipping

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