The Digital Reader brings us an escape from the box. Guest writer Matt Blind, in a piece originally published at Rocket Bomber in 2012 and now updated, suggests that as it stands, Barnes & Noble (whose outlook continues bad to dire) has both too much and too little: too many stores, too few books. He suggests their best way forward is not their plan to open smaller, cuter stores. Salvation he suggests is to be found in consolidation. With 10 massive stores located in Orlando, Atlanta, Chapel Hill, Philadelphia, Boston, Columbus, Chicago, San Diego, San Jose, and Portland they would be able to serve a large proportion of the US population. In this context massive means massive. Practically every book anyone might want would be there in each mega-store, and, if customers don’t want to go there and pick up the book after phoning in to check availability, 220,000,000 of them would be within 1-day delivery range of these 10 store/distribution centers.

This may sound like Amazon opening up the front doors of their distribution centers and allowing individual customers to drop by and pick up and pay for the book they want. Of course Amazon didn’t chose the locations of their distribution centers with any such plan in mind, so they are not exactly in ideal retail locations*. However that Mr Blind’s plan is a good idea may be confirmed by Amazon’s opening of more bricks-and-mortar stores. I do think that the only way to get a piece of the business of one-day-delivery book sales is to give it a try. B & N can just quietly fade away, or they can give it the good old college try and attempt to get a bit of the big-box-book business.

Independent bookstores are another kettle of fish: more boutique than H & M or Zara’s. The difference between Amazon and the independent bookstores might be seen as analogous to the difference between big trade publishing, and small independent publishers. You can’t do both well. Barnes & Noble needs to jump one way or the other: going back to being a small independent bookstore on 4th Avenue isn’t an option.

I pause to wonder who it is who’d get to fund the massive inventory cost these massive Barnes & Noble stores would incur. My pause isn’t long though: the answer is obviously the publishers. As we all know publishers are not interested in money, and in any case have tons of it. The charitable opportunity to fill up 10 giant warehouses around the country is just the cash drain any publisher will welcome with open arms! Despite my sarcasm, I have no doubt that something can be worked out.

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* Later: here comes news via The Passive Voice, that Amazon has looked into taking over bankrupt Toys R Us locations.