Saturday, February 25, 2012

Boycotting Barnes and Noble

Earlier this week I spent the last money I will ever give to Barnes and Noble.

In a way, this is somewhat painful. I have so many good memories of Barnes and Noble. For a long time my little area of Upstate New York had only small bookstores. A Walden's in the mall, a few independent bookstores. But mostly I just got my books from the library. Then a nice, big Barnes and Noble came to our area right around the time I hit my teenage years and started to have more spending money. My friend and I used to spend hours there, browsing, enjoying the atmosphere, and usually left with a bag or two. It was one of our favorite places to spend time.

I always just loved the feeling of being surrounded by wall to wall books. And I've always enjoyed the feel and the smell and the look of books. Barnes and Noble was like a paradise.

A few years back, I came to a place in my life where I just didn't have the luxury of buying books anymore. We've been very poor for a long time and so going to Barnes and Noble became an exercise in futility. I just stopped going altogether for the most part. But this Christmas we got our usual $50 worth of Barnes and Noble gift cards from my grandmother, always one of my favorite gifts in times past. My husband and I ventured to B&N one night to find something to spend them on. We ended up leaving the store empty handed.

You see, it wasn't my Barnes and Noble anymore.

The place was filled with toys and games and gimmicky books and gift items. It didn't feel like a bookstore anymore. It felt like a vaguely book related gift shop. The smell of the books wasn't there anymore. The first thing that your eyes saw upon entering was a giant Nook display. I don't begrudge them their Nook kiosk. Ebooks are totally the future and I LOVE my Kindle Fire, but man, when I walk into a bookstore I want to see books.

In addition to all that, we legitimately couldn't find anything we wanted to buy. Granted, we didn't have a ton of time to browse, we were wasting time before a movie. But who does anymore? How many people can afford to spend an hour in a bookstore so that they can find just the right thing to buy? Oh sure, I had that time to spare when I was a teenager. But I'm a busy mom of four now. My opportunities to get out alone with my husband are so few and far between that we certainly can't devote a whole evening to book shopping.

I decided to just find something online later on. Later on, I tried browsing their site for books. Wow. What a pain. Has anyone here tried to browse the B&N website? It's got to be one of the most poorly designed shopping experiences from a major retailer I've ever seen. I finally filled my shopping cart by just typing "Miyazaki" into the search engine. Knowing what you were looking for seems to be the only efficient way of navigating their website. My order went a little over the $50 on the gift cards I had. And as I pushed the button to submit my order I thought to myself, "That's the last money I give to them."

All that was before I saw this little news item:

Bookseller Barnes & Noble volleyed another shot at rival  by announcing that the chain will stop selling books in its stores published by the Internet retail giant.

Jaime Carey, chief merchandising officer at Barnes & Noble, said in a statement Tuesday that Amazon had “undermined” the book industry by pushing for exclusive deals with authors, agents and publishers.
. . . .

“Their actions have undermined the industry as a whole and have prevented millions of customers from having access to content,” Carey said. “It’s clear to us that Amazon has proven they would not be a good publishing partner to Barnes & Noble as they continue to pull content off the market for their own self interest. We don’t get many requests for Amazon titles, but if customers wish to buy Amazon titles from us, we will make them available only online at”


 You think Amazon is "undermining the industry" by preventing customers from having access to content and so you're going to respond to this by... preventing your customers from having access to Amazon's books by highly popular authors. 

 I'm sorry, Barnes and Noble, but now you're going too far. You see, unlike you, Amazon has given me an absolutely fantastic shopping experience. I ordered a new camera before Christmas and the estimated delivery date was between Dec. 27-30. You know when it came? DECEMBER 22. My husband ordered a packet of fountain pens and when it came found that it only contained 9 of the 12 pens it was supposed to have. He looked into it a bit, and decided it would just be too much trouble to try to contact them to get the missing pens. Several days later we received a package in the mail containing 3 fountain pens. And their website is one of the easiest websites I've ever used. Shopping there is a JOY.

So, Barnes and Noble, you had your chance, I know you've been trying to adapt to this new digital world. But you're doing a terrible job. You're screwing over your customers in an effort to get back at Amazon for doing everything better than you. So that's it. Amazon is getting all my business now.

Goodbye, Barnes and Noble, from the bottom of my heart, goodbye.

Update 3/5/2012: So I ordered three movies from Barnes and Noble online around 22nd or 23 of February. As of today, we still haven't received them. The latest info we can get from online tracking is that they arrived in Philadelphia recently. (We're about 4 hours north of Philly.) They sat in Kentucky for several days before that. Really, Barnes and Noble, really? It's been well over a week now? I order something from Amazon and I know I'll get it in 2 days. Sometimes sooner. This is ridiculous. Never, never again.


  1. It's so sad to see two of the biggest booksellers bickering like this. There was once a time where retailers reveled in the challenge of another retailers. Now they act like spoiled brats and the rest of us suffer for it. Such a shame!

  2. I like Barnes and Noble better than I did Borders. Still, if I can manage it, I'll go to my independent bookstore. Their shop is so cozy and inviting. I feel like I'm browsing someone's living room bookshelf. And I've got nothing against Amazon really. I buy from them all the time when I can't find what I'm looking for locally. And that's the key for me, I usually go to a bookstore with a certain book in mind. I get overwhelmed trying to decide what I want to buy just by looking at what's available. There's too much!!

  3. Heather, the book industry is acting exactly like one of my toddlers having a fit because I won't give them what they want. Personally, I haven't seen that kind of behavior from Amazon as yet so at the moment they have my support.

    LG, unfortunately, most indie bookstores seem to have declared war on Amazon as well (not stocking their books) and I just can't support such childish behavior.

  4. How said to walk into a bookstore to find it not a bookstore in the true sense.

  5. The last time (okay, the last several times) I went to B&N to get something, books by big name authors like Jim Butcher, they didn't have it in stock. Excuse me, how could you not have -that- in stock? Seriously. Of course, they said I could order it. That would take a couple of weeks to get there, though, and I would have had to make a 2nd trip. However, I went home and ordered them from Amazon where I got them cheaper, quicker, and right to my door. Well, my mail box, but close enough to my door to count.

    Also, B&N does not support local authors. At all. You have to a best seller from a mahor publisher for them to be willing to do anything for you. That is sad.
    Amazon is more supportive of new authors than anyone else, and, for that alone, Amazon gets my support.

  6. It's a shame seeing the bookstore industry falling apart like this. While Borders was still around, it had this huge, two-story store with a decent selection of manga, probably more than the comic book store my Dad goes too. Barnes and Nobles is my second choice, although it doesn't have as good as a selection.

    Fortunately, there's a small bookstore within walking distance. I wonder if they give away gift cards--and if they'll support me once I get published.

  7. The only book store I go into these days is Half-Price Books. They're the only true book store in my area. It's sad that the big corporations are battling it out and we're suffering for it.

  8. It seems that B&N is pushing themselves into the way of Borders, only slower. :( But I don't go to B&N much anymore-- they're too far away & I take public transportation-- so my read of the landscape may be totally wrong. But I agree on the local bookshops; the ones in Austin rock!

  9. Nice to meet you. Good luck with A-Z. I look forward to your posts.

  10. I know people at B&N. They are "proud" to add so many games, and expand the toy section for the kids, as it brings in more people. They are trying to survive, but...they are also not a very well trained group, overall. Sigh..used to love going there myself.

  11. I'm all about the books. I like B&N but I don't go there for the games and gimmicks I go for the books, and if they don't shame on them. I'll go to Amazon because I can always find what I want. ALWAYS.

  12. I completely see your point, Sarah, and I think it's one of the biggest reasons why the big bookstores are dying. At some point it started being about all the other 'stuff' and books as opposed to books and all the other 'stuff'.

    My wife and I both have nooks. I think the Kindles are great too, but I had one big reason for going with the nook: it supported a physical book retailer, and I just didn't (don't) want them to go away. I too love Amazon and think they just 'get it' when it comes to desires and wants of customers. (And that goes way back to before they sold electronic books.) It's fast. It's easy.

    I would love to see B&N get back to a grassroots 'readers are the people we cater to' mentality, but I'm not sure they can and survive financially. I don't blame Amazon for that, I blame B&N, because they lost sight of it years ago.


  13. First, I agree with the above commenter who said they only shop at Half Price Books. I'm fortunate enough to have one near me but I have to weigh that against buying books that I feel don't financially reward/support the author.

    Second, as someone on a budget, I feel I have no choice but to go to Amazon. I purchased 4 new books for my nephews this past holiday season. I winced at the $60 purchase, but I felt pleased to be supporting a "bricks and mortar" store.

    On a whim, I checked out the prices on Amazon when I got home. I ordered the books online and didn't have to pay shipping, then returned the books to B&N the next day. My total savings? $32. At that point, I am throwing money out the window to shop in the store.

    I will be sad when the day comes, but I don't see B&N surviving another 4-6 years. Not when the gifts, games, stationary, and coffee shop sections are larger than the book sections.

  14. Dang: I posted a comment, and Blogger crashed, and it disappeared. Let me try again....

    Hear hear!

    Never feel sorry for B&N. They were the ones who set out to destroy independent bookstores and, yes, they intentionally destroyed the midlist too, because it was inconvenient for their distribution system.

    They were never on the side of the reader/customer. Or on the side of the publisher. They were only on their own side.

    15-20 years ago, the Publishing Industry was screaming and crying about how evil B&N was, and asking for a White Knight to come and save them. Amazon did what was requested... except they did it for the customer, not the publisher. They built a system where the whole point was letting the customer find exactly what he or she wanted, even if that customer was the only person in the world who wanted that particular item.

    They also partnered with independent booksellers, to allow the sale of used books. Big Publishers hated that, and recruited authors against it -- however, authors soon began to realize that these small time used book sellers were keeping their careers alive. (While B&N pressured the publishers into dropping the authors, or forced the authors to change pennames to stay alive.)

    Ironically, I think that B&N is actually more likely to survive if they drip the pretense, and become a gift shop and coffee shop rather than a book store. They simply cannot do what is required of bookselling these days.

  15. You've said it so well. I loved my Borders and miss them. I have a gift card for B&N also and will probably use it to buy coffee.

  16. Hi Sarah, I'm visiting from the A to Z Challenge sign up list to get a head start on finding some great new blogs. Nice to meet you! I love your blog! Insightful post about B & N and believe me when I say they are going down. The only thing keeping them in business is their Nook, and as you can see the Nook "boutique" is the major money draw of their so-called "bookstore". But guess what, the Kindle is going to KILL the Nook for more reasons than I can mention in this little comment that already is too long.

    New follower!


  17. Hi Sarah!
    Wow. I had not heard about this little deal of B&N. Granted, I don't shop there much any more because there isn't one nearby, but that's very sad that they would prohibit their customers from buying the books they want. Hmmm...doesn't sound like a very sound business decision to me.

    Very interesting post. Thanks!

  18. I had my own problem with Barnes & Noble a few years ago. I too spent many happy hours there, and lived near one of the biggest in the country- complete with a used and collectibles department.
    In late '09 I self published a fantasy novel through iUniverse. I was a little uncertain about the idea at first, but I'd read an article in TIME expounding upon the success other authors had enjoyed going this route.
    One of the attractive features of the package I paid for is that they would display the book in a local B&N for month. Great, I though. That'll get it some early notice. Especially in that nice, big branch right near me. Sign me up for that!
    After the book was printed, I delved further into this. I should have investigated first, before paying! I called B&N, only to be told "Oh, we stopped doing that last year." I never got a satisfactory explanation from iUniverse as to why they didn't know this, and continued to promote the arrangement.
    Sure, you can order the book through B&N, but you won't find it on the shelves.
    Some of my author friends who used to be on the shelves there are no longer. Biggest book chain in the nation, but they still have to keep it down to the sure fire sellers, I guess.

  19. I feel the same way about B&N. It makes me equal parts sad and frustrated. I know I'll miss them dearly when they're gone, but I don't need a bookstore that's mostly toys. Their selection has been so, so limited lately.

    P.S. Kudos on the Farscape pic! :)


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