Books’ big-box embrace
Once upon a time, Barnes & Noble was the nemesis of indie booksellers across America. Now, it’s important to their survival, The Times’s Elizabeth Harris reports.
Many book enthusiasts and writers used to see the chain as “strong-arming publishers and gobbling up independent stores,” Elizabeth writes. But in today’s book landscape, upended by online sales, Barnes & Noble helps readers discover new titles and publishers stay invested in distributing in physical stores, a boon for booksellers of all sizes.
“It would be a disaster if they went out of business,” a literary agent said. “There’s a real fear that without this book chain, the print business would be way off.”
Barnes & Noble’s success stemmed from offering big discounts on best sellers and an enormous variety of books. Amazon supersized that formula: Its discounts are steeper, it has a seemingly endless selection of books, and it now sells more than half the physical books in the U.S.
What’s lost in that process are the accidental finds — the books that readers pick up in a store. Such discovery in chain and indie bookstores is crucial for writers who aren’t established names. “The more Amazon’s market share grows, the less discovery there is overall, and the less new voices are going to be heard,” the founder of an independent publisher said.
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