Six impossible things before breakfast.

A library science student's perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Barnes & Noble and the Future of Books

This week The New York Times featured an interesting article detailing some of the history of Barnes & Noble and the company's path to the current crossroads between e-books and traditional print being faced by booksellers and publishers alike.

The article's stance, that Barnes & Noble is "the only thing standing between traditional book publishers and oblivion" seems a bit extreme, but it's still an interesting look at a huge company in the book business that today is undeniably floundering as it attempts to compete with the World Wide Web. Barnes & Noble has decided that e-books are their best (and maybe only) way forward, but at the same time their CEO, William Lynch, is confident that the print-based bookselling side of the store will not go away.

In light of Amazon's recent publishing unit unveiling, the article also discusses Barnes & Noble's important relationship with traditional publishers. Despite falling share prices, I think Barnes & Noble will still be around for some time to come. Their rapidly expanding Nook line and e-book selections show that they are listening to the current market. The writer's comment that "Barnes & Noble may have to adapt to new realities, or die trying" sounds just like what many people are saying of libraries in the digital age. This spring Barnes & Noble plans to release their fifth e-reader; if they can continue to develop their digital products while maintaining the key feature that helped build their company originally--a wide selection of books in one physical location--it's likely they can hold on to their business (and avoid "the post-apocalyptic world of publishing, with publishers pushing shopping carts down Broadway.")

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