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Will Barnes and Noble sell itself?

August 3, 2010 |  3:09 pm
Barnesandnoble_sign

Barnes & Noble Booksellers may be putting itself up for sale, it was announced Tuesday. Markets had closed before the Wall Street Journal reported the news. The company's stock is down 32% this year, despite the company's innovations in the ebook arena; just last week, it announced it would place kiosks for its ebook reader, the Nook, in its brick-and-mortar stores.

On one hand, the possible sale seems to be all about business. Chairman Leonard Riggio, the Wall Street Journal reports, "will consider the possibility of putting together an investor group to acquire the company, which had a market value of slightly above $700 million." Meanwhile, investor Ron Burkle has been trying to gain a larger share of the company than his 19%; his efforts have been blocked by the current board. Is Burkle interested in gaining control over the company? Could the sale, if orchestrated by Riggio, give him what he wants? Or is Barnes & Noble simply in big trouble?

If Barnes & Noble is in trouble -- and the stock slide can't be good -- how much trouble is it in? This is the other hand, and there are only questions. Is the country's largest brick-and-mortar book retailer under threat? Is there any possibility that it would begin closing bookstores? Could the once invincible behemoth of bookstores be on shaky legs? Although independent booksellers might have once longed for the day when Barnes & Noble no longer came to town, could its loss be anything but bad news for book culture?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: The window of a Barnes & Noble in Brooklyn, NY. Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

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