Barnes & Noble: We’re ‘Not Competing’ With Independent Bookstores


Credit: Flickr / keone

Multiple sales channels — bricks-and-mortar bookstores, online bookstores and the stores built into e-readers — are critical for helping the most voracious readers maximize their purchasing power, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) VP e-books Jim Hilt said at Digital Book World this morning. “Having multiple channels for single customers to consume content, explore and browse is critical to helping that power book buyer,” he said. But how can Barnes & Noble discourage shoppers from using its stores merely to browse and then buying those books on Amazon?

“It’s a myth that individuals who buy e-readers or buy tablets suddenly stop buying print books all together,” said Hilt. He said B&N data shows that the first three months after a consumer purchases an e-reader, it’s a novelty “like any new device or toy. They experiment and buy a lot of content.” Then, he said, “You realize, ‘You know what? I still love to go to Barnes & Noble.'” (Or the book section of Target or the library, he added.)

With the e-reader honeymoon over, Hilt said, power buyers (those who buy four or more titles per month) go back to purchasing a “stabilized mix” of e-books and print books and books borrowed from the library. That contradicts research presented by Bowker in the previous panel, that seven to twelve months after buying their first e-book, 72 percent of power buyers switch over to e-books exclusively.

Hilt seemed to encourage the practice of browsing in bookstores and then buying anywhere, but he did not explicitly address how Barnes & Noble can discourage readers from browsing in B&N stores and then buying on Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) (nor did he acknowledge that that is a problem). He did say that Barnes & Noble is “not competing with the independent [bookstores]” and that the company might be willing to share data about book buyer behavior with the indies — though he did not explain how that process would work or whether Barnes & Noble is ready to start sharing the data anytime soon.

The Digital Book World conference is taking place in New York this week. See all our Digital Book World coverage here.

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