Barnes and Noble and Think Geek: The closing restructuring of two giants.

There have been two big corporate type announcements that popped up on my personal radar recently. The first is the buy-out of Barnes and Noble by Elliot Management. This appeared in my news feed, on all of my social media feeds, and on numerous financial reports. The second was the closing of the Think Geek website, which I found out about from an e-mail I received from the company.

This may seem counter-intuitive to many people reading this, but of the two, I’m much less affected by the B&N shake up. This may seem odd for an author, editor, publisher, and avid reader to say, so allow me to explain.

With regards to the first three, we don’t do much in the way of sale through Barnes and Noble.
Dragon’s Roost Press titles are available through their website and are available for the Nook, but the number of sales we do through these channels is negligible. Plus, with regards to the business perspective, the new overlords of the book store company have a good history, of note turning around British book giant Waterstones.

“So, what about as a reader?” I hear my hypothetical readership ask. “Surely the potential demise of a bookstore chain would be devastating to you.” Yeah, not so much.

A Brief History of My Interaction with Bookstores

Despite the fact that my first actual job was working for Waldenbooks2, my heart has always belonged to Borders.4 When I was younger, there were no Borders bookstores in my area. The closest one was the mother store in Ann Arbor. Both of my parents graduated from U of M, so the trip to the Mecca of Michigan was done at least annually. This usually involved getting school supplies from Ulrich's and a couple hours (if I was lucky) wandering the bookstore.

I won’t turn this into too long a trip down memory lane.
5 What I am trying to point out here is that historically, my book buying choices were Borders, Waldens or B. Daltons if I was in a mall, or one of the great independent book stores in the area like the Book Beat. Barnes and Noble wasn’t even on my map.

For the past couple of years, my reading material purchases have been rather dominated by books purchased at conventions, from small presses online, and from small bookstores in the area. The B&N shopping experience is not one that I enjoyed. IMHO, the store was less a bookstore and more a multi-media, game, and toy store which just happened to have a large book section. I know that this is an unfair assessment, but I feel like way too much real estate is devoted to stuff that does not fall into the category of “reading material” for me to consider it a dedicated bookstore.

The Loss of Think Geek

What is really bothering me is the loss of one of my favorite websites: Think Geek. I have been shopping there, for both myself and others8, for years. Their carefully curated collection of amazing goods is outstanding. I can almost always find something tempting there.

A few months ago, Think Geek became part of the
GameStop family. I’ve been in GameStop a handful of times, just to browse for used horror games. I suspect that they will not maintain the volume of choices currently available on the Think Geek site. I fear that we will be limited to an array of Funko figures and tee shirts.9 No more Tauntaun sleeping bags, Yoshi pjs, and Deadpool watches. Worse still, no more fantastic April Fool’s Day listings.

This makes me terribly sad.

1 No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

2 In Northland Mall. When I started their in the late 80s there was the Walden’s (absorbed by Borders), a B. Dalton’s (absorbed by Barnes and Noble), an independent bookstore, and a book department in Hudsons (also defunct). By the time the Waldenbooks closed, in 1991 because it was not profitable due to the rising cost of the lease, among other reasons, we were the only book selling entity in the mall.

3 Of the entities named in that last footnote, Northland Mall closed years ago, Waldenbooks become part of the Borders Book Group, ditto B. Dalton’s except with Barnes and Noble, and Hudsons was bought out by Marshall Fields which in turn was eaten by Macy’s.

4 A brief moment of silence for the demise of Borders.

5 We’ll save that for a later post.

6 For a digital example, compare the landing pages of Barnes and Noble with Waterstones.
7 Note that each has a main banner section. As of the day of this posting they were dedicated to Father’s Day ideas and Summer Reading. After that you can scroll down. Waterstones has nine rows, each dedicated to its own category -- fiction, non-fiction, young adult, etc. The final three are Stationary and Gifts, Upcoming Events (which are all book related), and the store’s blog (about authors). Compare this to the grid formation of the B&N website with 12 or so sections. Five of these, including the one located top center, are dedicated to something other than books -- games, toys, collectibles, movies, music...

7 Which look really similar.

8 Let’s be honest, mostly for me.

9 Not that there’s anything wrong with Funko figures and tee shirts.