Barnes & Noble’s Death Would Be Great For Indie Authors

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The New York Times yesterday came out with an article on how necessary it is to save Barnes & Noble, the original local bookstore killer. Remember, this is the company that made your local bookstore go out of business in the 90s. The company launched a number of failed initiatives to compete with Amazon over the last decade, and have pushed their bookstore out of its primary business to try to focus on toys, games, and the like but providing a more upscale environment than another failing chain, Toys R Us.

As such, their book space shrank, and also became homogenized. You won’t see much variation from one B&N to the next. It’s faking giving that nostalgic bookstore experience you used to have when you went with your parents as a kid, discovered new authors, found out about random SF/F authors because of the stealth preferences of some of the employees there and what they stocked. No, you’ll get the same Scalzi book, the same five copies of Ender’s Game, the same full shelf of Lord Of The Rings when you go to a Barnes and Noble.

So what is there to save? It’s providing books more expensively than amazon, with a worse selection. In fact, it’s the only thing keeping traditional publishing from completely caving. The book buying/selling system that is outdated and hasn’t changed since the 1930s is all B&N is promoting. You must get an agent who takes a percentage, who goes to a publisher who then takes a majority of a percentage, who marks up to a distributor who takes a percentage, who then is at the whim of a book buyer who only buys select books and cuts out most of the midlist without some arm twisting.

This system is the only thing holding indie back from being 100% dominant in the field. We can produce faster, we can produce better, we can produce less expensively. Once B&N is down, Amazon equalizes all of us, and we don’t have to compete with the shelf displays from the bloated system. It means we’ll be completely free, the market will decide. And you can bet that the $10.99 ebooks from big publishers are going to lose to $3.99 indie books every time because price point matters. The publishing industry can’t sustain itself without the big margins because of the middlemen. It will destroy gatekeeping completely and books will once again become the realm of ideas.

The New York Times fears this because it is the system. Their bestseller list is about manipulating this system for big publishing. They’re tied in with other New York publishers. They are representing them in their columns and promotions. They’re not looking out for author’s best interests. ‘

Good riddance, Barnes & Noble. You are the last vestige of a dead system and it’s time to embrace change.

If you are interested in indie books at reasonable prices, check out my new space opera, The Stars Entwined. It’s on Kindle Unlimited and $4.99, great value compared to its traditional published peers and a better story too. Check it out here.


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6 thoughts on “Barnes & Noble’s Death Would Be Great For Indie Authors

  1. What would be better for indie authors would be if B&N would actually adapt to serve their and their readers’ needs. I don’t want Amazon to be the only game in town, because once they are, they can do anything they want to us, and then where will we go? I mean, look at the disappearing reviews, the suspension of accounts for “suspicious” activity, the ever-changing KU “reads” standards–they’re already doing incredibly author-unfriendly crap, and we just have to bend over and take it and tread softly lest we offend them in some obscure way.

    I would far rather see B&N adapt and thrive and give Amazon a run for their money. In the long run, it would be better for everyone if they did. Competition drives innovation.

    They won’t, of course. It’s a shame.

    • The indy author group that I was active in during 08-10 or so tried to throw a lot of our activity to B&N for a while back then. Amazon tried to pressure a number of small POD/Indy presses to use their own imprint for printing/fulfillment by taking out the “Buy now” function from individual author pages. (A great ruckus arose, including a class action lawsuit brought by one of the small POD publishers, which they won.) So we gave it the good old college try, but B&N was just impossible to work with: the author pages weren’t as responsive, one could never get assistance from their management, the website was awkward to navigate in comparison to Amazon, and to top it all off, local stores (unless they had a savvy manager) generally treated indy authors as if they smelled bad.

  2. I have a little local indie book store that’s been thriving since Borders went under. The store can’t compete with Amazon on price, but they are wonderful about customer service. They’re a mystery bookstore, but they also stock stuff they like (like Harry Dresden and Terry Pratchett). They all love the books, they know about them, they can recommend books to you based on what you like. They have regular author signings (yes, both Jim Butcher and Terry Pratchett have been there). It’s worth it to me to give them a visit every so often, and pay full price, because they’re recommended some great books that I might not have found.

  3. Amazon needs competition. Amazon w/out competition would be a terrible thing for indie authors. Competition was what forced Amazon to provide reasonable royalty rates a few years back.

    B&N could be that competition *if* they got their act together. However, they are part of the legacy industry, they are deeply tangled with legacy publishers that have no interest in changing, and so in many ways, they can’t. Amazon didn’t have that problem, and thus is reshaping the business.

    So… we really want something new to come and start giving Amazon a run for its money.

  4. I may be wrong (correct me if I am), but I attribute the death of scifi (I’m barely exaggerating) to Barnes & Noble and the late Borders chains. Some genius quite some time ago decided to _merge_ the scifi aisle with the fantasy aisle. Since then, with it all mixed together, the scifi selection has gotten smaller and smaller as it’s been crowded out by vampires and magic and, lately, more and more romance novels with only a sufficient “scifi” component to justify a rocket or alien planet on the cover.

    ( _does_ need competition, as pointed out in other comments. Barnes & Noble isn’t it. The Bellevue WA Barnes & Noble – a large space in an affluent book-reading area – is effectively dead. Parking lot always empty. Few people ever in the store. The bookstore in the nearby Bellevue Mall is always full of people (though it is a smaller space).)

    • BTW – I was talking about the death of traditionally-published scifi. Indie is wonderful. I believe that today Larry Correia is the only currently writing traditional sci-fi author I routinely buy. All the rest are indie authors via Kindle (not Kindle Unlimited though – I just pay for the volumes I want rather than via subscription – just a personal preference).

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