Oh my God, you guys. So my local Barnes & Noble here in NYC is actually the beautiful Union Square Barnes & Noble which, I believe, is considered the company's flagship store. It's huge--really, just massive.
I love ducking in there to scope out the children's section since it used to make up the majority of the second floor.
That's right--USED TO.
Don't get me wrong, there's still that pretty section with the picture books, early readers, chapter books and middle grade/tween books--you know, with the read aloud section and the cut-outs of famous characters. But the teen section? We're down to this:
While the old teen section wasn't exactly huge, it felt much, much, much bigger than this. I'm sure if you want to get down to technicalities, the new section only has slightly less shelf room than the old one. Still, it's been shunted off into this weird nook (no, not THAT Nook) of the store, hidden until you come around the corner.
And the old section?
TOYS. ALL. TOYS.
LEGOS!!! WHY ARE THERE LEGOS IN MY BOOKSTORE?!?!?!?!
THE GAME OF LIFE! HOW ABOUT THE GAME OF WTF IS ALL THIS CRAP?!
I knew Borders was going to start upping its toy and games offerings, but I didn't realize that B&N was also going to give in. I seriously almost had a temper tantrum in the middle of the freaking store.
My parents, by chance, were also in their local B&N tonight (this is what we Brackens do for fun on the weekends, you see), and my mom called to ask me about it. (Dad, naturally, was distracted by the shiny toys, but that's Dad for you.) Apparently this is happening all over the place and I was just too tuned out to really notice.
This is bad, guys. Way, way, way bad. Losing shelf space to crap like this? It makes me wonder what bookstores will ultimately look like in five, ten years. I mean, this is the FLAGSHIP STORE. It gets thousands of visitors every single day, and even it has to be tainted by this bullshit?
I had an interesting conversation with someone who works on the marketing side of the business, who put forth the argument that B&N and Borders would both eventually merge and become miniature Targets/Costcos, with a focus on home decor, furniture, and books in order to save the companies. I wonder if we'll start seeing more and more small Indies pop back up, or if this is really just an indication that the final nail in their coffin is fast approaching, too.
Is everything just going to happen online from this point on? Are we going to lose the tangible browsing experience, which allows us to go pick up books, feel them, smell them, read a few pages, and then decide to purchase all because Amazon has a "Look Inside!" feature on their listings. Should publishers be focusing not on ebooks, but on finding ways to drive more foot traffic to these stores?
Barnes & Noble AND Borders are in deep financial doo-doo, and that's not good for ANY of us--publishers, readers, and writers alike.