Barnes & Noble is about to go the Way of the Borders Bird.

But they wouldn’t hire me, because that’s how sanity works, you see. You hire résumé. Not ideas.

That’s not so hard to believe, I suppose. You want to know you’re hiring someone who’s succeeded in the past because it gives you confidence they’ll succeed in the future.

I won’t be hired to save Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble is about to be swallowed up by a bad decision to compete with Amazon, which they made years ago, and which is coming to its full destructive power in the shape of physical Amazon bookstores. Like, actual storefronts. It’s happening.

Barnes & Noble hasn’t got a prayer.

Except if they do this thing that I figured out, which I really hope they do, but they won’t, because the defining quality of our age is the death of joy.

Basically, nothing can compete with Amazon’s sheer ability to generate sales in bulk and keep prices low by selling in volume or their general monopolistic takeover of everything. Amazon’s goal is apparently to be the world’s primary retailer in literally everything, so keep an eye out on the internet for package deals on governments and fully outfitted boutique armies marketed to third world countries. It will happen. This is the world we live in.

Nobody can compete with Amazon, and nobody should compete with Amazon. Amazon is already too entrenched in their mission to be extricated. And besides, an awful lot of their services are actually pretty okay. So don’t try to compete with Amazon. You lose before you start. As Amazon has demonstrated a gazillion times.

So don’t do that. Barnes & Noble made a bad decision, I think, and tried it without fully understanding the nature of the beast they were trying to take on. You don’t want to be Barnes & Noble right now.

The question then becomes, should everything just get it out of the way now, you know? And close up shop right away and let Amazon roll over them.

The answer is easy. Because the answer is no. No they shouldn’t.

Because there’s one area that it simply doesn’t matter what Amazon wants to do. They can’t buy into this market.

Because no matter what Amazon does, they’re still Amazon. They’re still a huge business that’s known for what it is. It doesn’t matter how many companies Amazon buys in order to hide what they’re doing, they’re still Amazon. You might not always know you’re shopping on Amazon anymore, since Amazon keeps buying other companies to do things like sell groceries. But you still are.

In a big way, Amazon doing things like buying Whole Foods demonstrates the reality of the point I’m trying to make.

Because Amazon’s brand doesn’t have the community trust necessary to provide certain services.

Amazon has a brand. They’ve established a specific brand. That brand may be “sells literally everything more cheaply and convenient than literally everyone else,” but that’s still a brand that’s uniquely Amazon. Not even Walmart wants that brand. I mean, I can tell you from experience that it’s awfully hard to source blow at Walmart. Amazon makes it much easier.

Hypothetically, Amazon can buy other brand reputations. It bought Whole Foods, and now Amazon also has a brand reputation as a grocery retailer.

There are certain kinds of brand reputations that it would be difficult for Amazon to buy into, though. Unless they got really spiteful.

And that’s important for Barnes & Noble.

Here’s my idea.

There’s a coffee house in the neighborhood that you’ve never heard of. And you’ve never heard of it because of its brand reputation, because it’s brand reputation is, “that place nearby — what’s it called? The one where we always feel self-conscious about having loud conversations because everyone else there is studying it. Anyway, we should go there and talk about books or something.”

There’s another coffee shop a few blocks from where I went to school which you also haven’t heard of. It’s brand reputation was, “that place, oh, called something. It smelled like chocolate inside, because of all the chocolate. We should go there and have a conversation about chocolate and books or something.”

There’s a pattern emerging. It isn’t accidental.

My idea is simple.

Barnes & Noble’s brand used to be “the place you go to buy books.” Which they’re failing at doing, because they don’t have Amazon’s forward-thinking infrastructure.

Barnes & Noble is losing their brand as the place you go to buy books.

But they’re not losing their reputation as the place you go because of books.

See, my idea that could save Barnes & Noble derives from competing on a court where they have a better advantage than the one that they tried to enter, where they discovered exactly how outclassed they were. Oh how the tables have turned. They put hundreds of small booksellers out of business, damn their eyes.

I think, to save their business, Barnes & Noble should turn their dumb, monopolistic eyes back down towards the independent market again.

Instead of trying to outsell Amazon, which they’ll never do, Barnes & Noble should try to out-attract all us folks who like books.

Instead of trying to sell books, they should become a chain of huge hangout/coffee shops where you can also buy books.

Which sounds like a dumb idea. Except that it’s not, since Barnes & Noble already has an idea to do something like this.

Amazon played like they came down from a higher league.

They just rolled over Barnes & Noble who had no idea how to use technology or leverage a global market. Which they don’t. Barnes & Noble is a medieval company next to Amazon.

And they should be.

Barnes & Noble tried to fight to be the brand you identify as the place you buy books. It isn’t. Barnes & Noble lost that fight. We don’t buy books from Barnes & Noble.

Before they completely give up the ghost, I hope that Barnes & Noble can rescue the last thread of their brand. Because something has survived after Amazon whipped Barnes & Noble off the pedestal.

Barnes & Noble’s brand isn’t “the place where we buy books.”

Barnes & Noble’s brand is: “…Something to do with books? Not sure. Let’s go get a latte and smell the books. Love the smell of books. Not sure why they’re here, but it’s a cool environment. I wish there were more places to sit at Barnes & Noble…”




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Oliver “Shiny” Blakemore

Oliver “Shiny” Blakemore

The best part of being a mime is never having to say I’m sorry.

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