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It’s a Sad, Sad Story for Barnes and Noble

Posted on 2013-Dec-24

by BB eBooks Staff

Trouble Within


In the not-so-distant past a few blogs mentioned Barnes & Noble had positive signals sent from Microsoft looking forward to expanding the eReading tablet’s multi-language support software-wise and holiday sales. However, today’s repeated lament from authors, booksellers, alleged currently employed staff, and former employees all paint the gloomy picture of how B&N would profitably operate their business next year. The anonymity of miserable comments floods a LiveJournal forum whose user, “luvagoodbook,” names his topic simple and plain as “Season So Far” with the subtitle that says “How's it looking for Holiday 2013? Making plan? Beating LY?”

Anonymous Reports of Hours Cut, Unsettling Operations, and Underwhelming Pay


While Christmas may be a much anticipated season for many businesses to make extra profits, B&N’s internal time bomb is seemingly about to explode when multiple voices of anger and letdown define what the inside chaos looks like. To say that most of the staff are upset would be an understatement because some of them decided to leave the company for good and pursue a higher wage. Information about the shortage of staff, thefts, wages cut, etc. fly around the comment space as if they were uncontrollable internal bleeding. One former staff, reported by several blogs, allegedly complained about the work hours that were cut . Despite the schedule that had been posted, the hours cut severely affected his earning as he/she would not earn enough for his/her children’s gifts. Fortunately, this anonymous user posted the latest update survival plan to be offered a job at the McDonalds; earning $1 more than B&N pay and 40 hours guaranteed.

Trouble with Indie Authors


On the original website that first spotted this comment thread, commenters with identifiable names and online presence gave their critical thoughts how the bleak situation had been written all over the wall. In the previous paragraphs, booksellers had their say about their struggle to run their troubling operation (more upsetting comments on the LiveJournal thread) while the authors shared their sentiment. Initial comments echoed the unimpressive payment issue. Paul Draker’s disappointment as an indie author publishing on Nook is straightforward yet alarming. Given the success he had achieved, selling 500-600 copies per day and reaching #8-9 Overall Bestseller and #1 in several subgenre charts, B&N rejected his book for “national-level orders.” Although the reason for rejection could vary due to a corporate decision, the quote extracted from their response reveals it all: “In our experience, books that sell well have a blurb from a well-known author on the cover and lots of reviews in the trade pubs.” Towards the bottom of the page, Lydia initiates a critical observation sensing the erratic hours cut prior to holiday seasons.

Specialty Retail Mentality


Looking at B&N from a business perspective, the comparison between indie bookstores and B&N brings up what ‘retail’ means in terms of bookselling. Matt Blind, former manager, stated that books are not retail since there are multiple connections between bookstores and social aspects such as community, demographics, sociology, psychology. With brief reference to Borders’ failed attempt to sell books, Matt concludes that “bookselling is not retail.” William Ockham sensibly argues in the comment section that bookselling is specialty retail rather than general retail. While the latter focuses on price competition, the former has other elements to offer: staff expertise, user experience, exclusive selection. Again, the user “puzzled” reiterates how hours cut can add more problems to the customer’s shopping experience since they have to wait longer for checking out. The worse an experience they encounter, the higher motivation they will be led to explore other possible alternatives that offer a similar (if not better) experience.

The Priceless Value of Word of Mouth Referrals


One might argue the state of Banes and Noble’s business operation that appears to be on the verge of collapsing considering staff’s frustration and customer’s dissatisfaction. Considering the number of complaints that keep growing, reduction of work hours during the holiday season not only adds mental stress to the operational staff responsible for keeping the customers happy and presenting the everlasting impression to have them come back. Bad relationships with indie authors will not make good publicity because they might have overlooked indies’ word-of-mouth impression. If there are lessons to be learned, B&N should review the feedback from the bottom up and flexibly adjust their retail operation that their longtime booksellers and loyal customers once had fond memories of entering and spending quality time inside the bookstore. Customer feedback is also words of wisdom for them to listen, adapt, and make progress.

Label: eBook Industry News

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