James Surowiecki explains why it’s not all doom and gloom for Barnes & Noble and physical books:
There are plenty of things B. & N. could do better, of course. Its Web site could be sportier. Its stores, publishing people gripe, are too cluttered, often with non-book merchandise, and don’t do a good enough job of showcasing its key product. (The demise of the Nook should help in this regard, since those giant Nook display booths took up a lot of floor space.) It might also be time for the firm to embrace more innovative ways of pricing and selling books; Peter Olson, the former C.E.O. of Random House, has suggested that B. & N. could bundle e-books and print copies, or offer volume discounts. Motivated, personalized customer service would also make a difference. The obvious model here is the experience at Apple’s retail stores. But B. & N. could also look closer to home. Independent bookstores are now thriving, thanks in large part to their close ties to both publishers and customers. “Stores that can help you not just find what you’re looking for but also help you discover books you haven’t heard of are still very valuable to readers,” says Daniel Raff, a management professor at Wharton who’s written an in-depth study of Borders and B. & N. This suggests that, instead of succumbing to the temptation to reinvent itself, B. & N. should focus on something truly radical: being a bookstore.
It’s weird to be rooting for a huge company and treating them like the underdog.