Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


Barnes & Noble’s Company Value is $719 million & Amazon’s Value is $88 billion — But …

William J. Lynch Jr., CEO of Barnes & Noble, with a wall full of e-readers at its site in Silicon Valley, where 300 employees are building the company's digital side.

It’s ironic that Barnes & Noble, the bookstore chain that put a lot of indie bookstores out of business (and pissed off many), just may be the new savior of bookstores as we know them from complete annihilation at the hands of the new takeover bully on the block, Amazon!

Read this intrigue by Julie Bosman in The New York Times:

The Bookstore’s Last Stand

IN March 2009, an eternity ago in Silicon Valley, a small team of engineers here was in a big hurry to rethink the future of books. Not the paper-and-ink books that have been around since the days of Gutenberg, the ones that the doomsayers proclaim — with glee or dread — will go the way of vinyl records.

No, the engineers were instead fixated on the forces that are upending the way books are published, sold, bought and read: e-books and e-readers. Working in secret, behind an unmarked door in a former bread bakery, they rushed to build a device that might capture the imagination of readers and maybe even save the book industry.

They had six months to do it.

Running this sprint was, of all companies, Barnes & Noble, the giant that helped put so many independent booksellers out of business and that now finds itself locked in the fight of its life. What its engineers dreamed up was the Nook, a relative e-reader latecomer that has nonetheless become the great e-hope of Barnes & Noble and, in fact, of many in the book business.

Several iterations later, the Nook and, by extension, Barnes & Noble, at times seem the only things standing between traditional book publishers and oblivion.

Inside the great publishing houses — grand names like Macmillan, Penguin and Random House — there is a sense of unease about the long-term fate of Barnes & Noble, the last major bookstore chain standing. First, the megastores squeezed out the small players. (Think of Tom Hanks’s Fox & Sons Books to Meg Ryan’s Shop Around the Corner in the 1998 comedy, “You’ve Got Mail”.) Then the chains themselves were gobbled up or driven under, as consumers turned to the Web. B. Dalton Bookseller and Crown Books are long gone. Borders collapsed last year.

No one expects Barnes & Noble to disappear overnight. The worry is that it might slowly wither as more readers embrace e-books. What if all those store shelves vanished, and Barnes & Noble became little more than a cafe and a digital connection point? Such fears came to the fore in early January, when the company projected that it would lose even more money this year than Wall Street had expected. Its share price promptly tumbled 17 percent that day.

Lurking behind all of this is, the dominant force in books online and the company that sets teeth on edge in publishing. From their perches in Midtown Manhattan, many publishing executives, editors and publicists view Amazon as the enemy — an adversary that, if unchecked, could threaten their industry and their livelihoods.

Like many struggling businesses, book publishers are cutting costs and trimming work forces. Yes, electronic books are booming, sometimes profitably, but not many publishers want e-books to dominate print books. Amazon’s chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, wants to cut out the middleman — that is, traditional publishers — by publishing e-books directly.

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Barnes and Noble’s Financial Fiasco – Inside the Telltale Numbers

B&N shedding Nook E-Reader and Publishing Arm?

More intrigue in the publishing industry 🙂

Barnes and Noble had great strength. And they had great insight in being one of the first, if not the first, in recognizing the importance and  impending impact of the e-book … BUT, they did not follow through and let others such as Amazon and Apple capture market share and establish first brands! 

Here, then, are the revealing financial numbers inside B&N as reported by JEFFREY A. TRACHTENBERG And MARTIN PEERS in The Wall Street Journal :

Barnes & Noble Seeks Next Chapter

Barnes & Noble Inc. is the latest old-school company to discover how costly it can be to try to reinvent itself for a digital future.

The nation’s largest bookstore chain warned Thursday it would lose twice as much money this fiscal year as it previously expected, and said it is weighing splitting off its growing Nook digital-book business from its aging bookstores.

Over the past 15 years, rapid technological change has transformed the company from a dominant retailing force that left smaller booksellers quaking in fear to a struggling giant grasping for a plan to ensure its long-term relevance to the publishing industry.

Barnes & Noble realized early on that e-books could appeal to consumers, but allowed Inc. to get an early leg up. Now it is locked in a battle with Amazon and another deep-pocketed rival, Apple Inc., to sell both electronic books and the high-tech devices consumers use to read them.

Digital technology continues to roil all manner of once-dominant companies. Former giants such as Blockbuster Inc., Circuit City and Barnes & Noble’s main book-chain rival, Borders Group Inc., have struggled mightily—and in some cases, disappeared altogether—in the face of digital competitors including Netflix Inc. and Amazon. Wednesday’s news that Eastman Kodak Co. was contemplating seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection underscored the severity of the technology threat.

Barnes & Noble’s stock fell 17% on Thursday. The company now may be at its most critical juncture since Leonard Riggio, its chairman and largest shareholder, opened his first store in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1965.

As recently as the 1990s, Barnes & Noble was known as a carnivorous competitor with the power to wipe out independent bookstores with its steeply discounted books and sprawling stores where customers could sip coffee and read in plush chairs. In New York City, the emergence of a Barnes & Noble on the Upper West Side was partly responsible for the mid-1990s closing of the beloved neighborhood bookseller Shakespeare & Company—the kind of narrative arc that cropped up in the movie “You’ve Got Mail.”

Ironically, Barnes & Noble had been one of the first to recognize the potential of digital books. In 1998, it invested in NuvoMedia Inc., maker of the Rocket eBook reader, and the bookseller actively supported digital-book sales. But in 2003, it exited the still-nascent business, saying there wasn’t any profit in it.

It wasn’t until 2009 that Barnes & Noble re-entered the business, introducing its Nook e-reader. By then, Amazon had been selling its Kindle device for about two years, and was offering best sellers for $9.99, a fraction of what hardcover best sellers are priced at.

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Barnes & Noble Sidesteps Hostile Takeover Bid…Again!

Barnes & Noble has been fighting a hostile takeover bid mounted by Ron Burkle back around the end of 2009. I posted on this intrigue and it’s background twice before (Fight Still on to Control Barnes & Noble and Barnes & Noble’s Fight for Control Moves to Round Two).

Well, the poison pill defense (more details below) put forth by B&N to prevent the takeover was successful in the Delaware lower courts…Mr. Burkle then appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court…and this court has just come down on the side of B&N, also…

Poof! Looks like goodbye to the hostile takeover. I wonder if Ron Burkle has any options left to gain control of our largest ‘brick-and-mortar’ bookseller? 

Besides wanting to post on this seemingly final decision RE this matter, I also wanted to explain a bit of just what a “poison pill” defense is.  

This from Publishers Weekly:

Court Rejects Burkle Appeal 

The Delaware Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Ron Burkle in a lawsuit challenging a poison pill plan adopted by Barnes & Noble. Burkle filed the original suit this summer after B&N instituted the poison pill provision in response to Burkle significantly increasing his stake in the retailer. A judge last year upheld the provision, prompting Burkle’s appeal.
The court did not take long to rule for B&N in the appeal. After hearing arguments Wednesday, on Thursday the court affirmed the judge’s original decision. Friday morning there was no word on whether Burkle will continue to press the issue.
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Barnes & Noble’s Fight for Control Moves to Round Two

My 9 September 2010 post, Fight Still on to Control Barnes & Noble , introduced Mr. Ron Burkle, Chairman of the Yucaipa Investment Companies, and told of his attempt to have himself and two associates elected to B&N’s board of directors…against the desire of B&N’s company Chairman, Leonard Riggio, who fears for his control of the company.

Good stuff, eh?

Tonight we see this fight going into round two.

These details were reported by the Associated Press and carried in Crain’s New York Business:

ISS endorses Burkle slate in Barnes & Noble fight

Institutional Shareholders Services Inc. recommended shareholders vote for Mr. Burkle’s slate of three—including Mr. Burkle himself—to replace the three directors on the board.

A second proxy firm has weighed in on Barnes & Noble’s proxy fight with one of its largest shareholders, billionaire Ron Burkle, this time favoring Mr. Burkle’s slate of directors a week before shareholders meet and vote.

Institutional Shareholders Services Inc. said in a report Monday that shareholders should vote for Mr. Burkle’s slate of three—including Mr. Burkle himself—to replace the three directors up for election or re-election Sept. 28.

Last week, another proxy advisory firm, Glass Lewis & Co., recommended voting for Barnes & Noble’s slate of directors, which includes Chairman Leonard Riggio.

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