Recently the news exploded with the announcement that Barnes and Noble laid off almost every single full-time employee. Worse than that, they gave no notice – employees came in on a Monday to start their week, and were told to go home.
Hearing this news, the very first thought I had was “They’re following Wal-Mart’s employment change from years ago: only hire part-time so that you don’t have to give them benefits or insurance.” I almost wouldn’t even blame them if that was the case, given how terrible things have become in the United States for medical insurance.
But to let everyone go with no notice, pitiful if any severance, and ‘a chance to apply in a couple months as a part-time, minimum wage employee.’ If that isn’t a slap in the face to those who worked it as a career, I don’t know what is.
However, it gets worse. Many seem to think that this is another sign of the coming end of Barnes and Noble. This article is just one of many I’ve found that posits this inevitable future. The going thought is that Barnes and Noble are trying to liquidate as much money as they can as quickly as they can prior to closing down.
If that’s true, if Barnes and Noble is about to die…what does that mean for writers? Especially self-published writers? What does that mean for readers?
Is this the end of print books? I don’t think so, I still believe that the balance that seems to have been found between print and eBook will remain relatively stable. Especially with the fact that Amazon is opening physical book stores.
But then…where do we go to get books? In many larger cities as well as small touristy towns, there are independent book stores, but their offerings rarely match what Barnes and Noble used to have, or what Waldenbook/Borders used to have before they died.
Which kind of leaves it all on Amazon. Possibly the best place for authors to sell from, and the best place for readers to buy from.
…which gives Amazon an incredible power. They can single-handedly shape the future of reading and writing, if they choose to. There has already been anti-competetive controversies surrounding Amazon (there’s even a dedicated wikipedia page about those practices!)
Granted there are a lot of other choices out there for eBook selling besides B&N and Amazon, but then Amazon doesn’t want you to go to them, so they offer benefits of remaining exclusive to them for eBook sales, on top of the fact that they have a greater reach than most, if not all other venues.
I’ve heard it many times from other Self-published authors, they despise some of Amazon’s practices, but publish through them because they feel it is the only realistic way to get their product out to the most people. Whether or not that is actually accurate is up for debate, I know at least one of my friends who is really good with spreadsheets and numbers has experimented a lot with exclusivity vs. casting as wide a net as possible.
But the fact remains that if B&N dies, which seems likely, it will give Amazon greater power over both print books and eBooks.
I honestly don’t know at this point if that is good news or bad news for writers and readers…
What do you think?