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Will Barnes and Noble sell itself?


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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This would be an absolute travisty if Barnes and Noble closed down. I love being able to just search for a good book, and usually end up buying one I've never heard of or seen on the website. I think it would be very difficult if the stores all closed down and hope that it doesn't come to that.

I'm sure, as you point out, there are those who would say "what goes around comes around". For more than a decade Barnes & Noble helped put a countless number of independent booksellers out of business and now technology may do the very same thing to Barnes & Noble.

As the number of e-book devices such as Amazon's Kindle and iPad began to proliferate the marketplace and I saw how enjoyable they were to read from I couldn't help but think that Barnes & Noble had to explore alternative business models. If they don't then much the way Netflix destroyed Blockbuster, Amazon and Apple will destroy Barnes & Noble.

That purchasing e-books through these new devices is as simple as pressing a button means Barnes & Noble will have their work cut out for them.

The loss of any bookseller is bad news.

I hope this won't mean the closing of any of the stores. We're supposed to be getting a new one the next town over from me, as both a public and a college bookstore for the town's university.

I attend a writer's group in one of the NJ Barnes and Nobles, plus one of my favorite ways to unwind on a night off is to lounge in one of their overstuffed chairs with a book and a hot chocolate. (There are nights I've finished a whole book there. Busman's holiday--I'm a librarian.)

Plus, it's a nice place to meet new people and socialize.


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