We love to blame Amazon for everything wrong with our business. Remember how, twenty years ago, we used to love to blame the chain stores, prominent among them Barnes & Noble. We’ve switched the foot on which we wear the boot and now like to hold Amazon responsible for good old reliable B&N’s current ills.

Mike Shatzkin, weighs in at The Shatzkin Files, with a piece exonerating Amazon from the charge of Barnes-and-Noble-icide. B&N’s situation is of course a result of moves they themselves made (and didn’t make) in response to changes in the marketplace. Maybe the Department of Justice did have some role in this when they blocked B&N’s attempt to acquire Ingram, but who can know how that’d have turned out anyway. Back in the last century we all vaguely saw, with very little clarity and certainty, that selling books on-line was something we needed to do something about, or Amazon or something Amazon like would drown us. When you look back on the map of where you’ve come from you can always see those forks in the road where you took one turning rather than another. The assumption should not be made however that, had we taken the road less travelled, everything would be now coming up roses. To any business model, as to every thing, there is a season. When that time’s over, something else comes along. It looks like the something else in book retailing is now going to be an Amazon surrounded by a cloud of small, quick-witted independent bookstores. This is a situation easier to live with than to struggle against. Different isn’t necessarily worse.

The Passive Voice picks up a piece from Business Insider, telling of their visit to B&N’s Union Square store (it’s a big one). Their captioned picture gallery is pretty devastating. Now of course we know you can pick a moment that’ll make your point in a photo, but these images have an ominous familiarity. The long and short of it is surely that hardly anybody now goes into a bookstore intending to buy a specific book. Unless it’s a recent bestseller we can all more or less assume it won’t be there, so why bother? I think an on-line in-stock list by each bricks-and-mortar bookstore (as I suggested in my recent post Robot booksellers?) might help recover some of this trade, but things can’t go on like this.