Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Digital Age is Ruining EVERYTHING.

Today, I decided to visit the local Barnes & Noble. Now, before anyone comments, I do own a digital reading device or Nook.  A very nice Nook that is a few generations old, but it is in color and is rather nice.  I used it extensively when I purchased it a few years ago and I still use it from time to time when I am out of town on a trip.  However, like all avid readers will attest to, sometimes you just have to hold a book and turn each page.  I know, it's nuts, but I really do enjoy reading from a book rather than a digital representation of a book.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way.  So, I visited the local B&N looking for a few specific books.  Nothing too crazy.  One was "The Everything Store" by Jeff Bezos, which is a book about Amazon.  I was interested in it after listening to a story on Radio Lab and thought it might be an interesting read.  So, I checked in several areas of the store and couldn't find it.  I tried biographies, computers and I even tried the section marked Essays, but no go.  So, instead of asking a person, which in the past has been a mistake every single time I've done so at this local B&N, including the time I was looking to purchase my Nook (A story that also needs its own post), I decided to use my smart phone and see if the store had it listed as available via their website.  The only store that had that book in stock was about 20 min down the road, so I figured, well, I will just look for the second book I was interested in.

The second book on my list happened to be "The Measure of All Things" by Ken Alder.  What can I say, I'm trying to broaden my mind a little.  Reading comics, scifi and fantasy books are great, but I need to expand my horizons as people tend to say.  So I thought, hey, this might be a pretty interesting book, why not see if they have it in stock?  This time, I chose not to consult the smart phone.  I decided that I would be an average customer and scan all the sections and try and ferret out this book.  Alas, after spending a good 30 mins hunting, I came up with nothing.  Sadly, I have this problem a lot at this particular B&N.  My wife hates going there because she usually has a list of books she is looking for and every single time, they don't have it.  If she asks an employee to help her, they always say, "it's currently not in" would you like us to order it for you and have it shipped to the store?  We always decline because, if I'm going to go through the trouble of ordering a book online, then why not just do it from the comfort of my own home and have it shipped to my front door.

Is it really their fault they don't have books in their store?  That's the question I guess I have to truly ask.  Due to the digital age, people just download or order books directly online, skipping the brick and mortar stores.  If the stores don't get the right kind of traffic, then why clutter up the shelves with books that only a few people might be interested in rather than books that your database says people are more prone to walk in off the street and buy.  Of course, that doesn't excuse why they have books on mythology in the essay section or why they have more books on horror romance and Manga than books on US and World history.  Don't they know young people would be more inclined to buy online than older people?  Still, is it the digital age that's killing the book store or is it just poor management and poor stocking?  I would go in the store more if I felt they would have items in stock that would be of interest to me.  Even when I go looking for a graphic novel, they don't seem to be consistent about what items they keep in stock. They have issues 1 - 4 and then it skips to 7, 9 and 10.  Why not just get 1 - 7 at the very least, so the customer can get a more complete section of a series, rather than piece mealing it.  I just don't understand how businesses can expect to keep customers when they don't even seem to be making an effort.  It's like they are throwing in the towel and letting the digital age whip their ass.

I honestly don't think Barnes & Noble will be around much longer once they spin off their Nook division.  Once they do that, it's pretty much "game over".  Waldens and Borders already bit the dust and I believe that if it wasn't for Christmas and Starbucks, B&N would have closed their doors long ago.  I'm not saying that the digital age is evil, but it has ruined a lot of really good things.  People don't talk anymore face to face, they just text.  They don't have any real physical interaction, it's all virtual.  You don't have playgrounds, you have virtual worlds where you do all your running and jumping.   It's ruining EVERYTHING.


  1. I don't think they're going anywhere any time soon. You couldn't find two books: one about how great a competitor is, and one that's probably niche anyway (which, according to Amazon, is available through them as a reprint, and was originally published in 2003).

    I suspect their strategy is to cleave closely to the trends. Most people aren't coming in expecting to find absolutely everything they want, every time, and if they do, they're not being realistic. A lot of books are published each week. A lot of those books have a "shelf life" where they're getting mentioned, showing up on lists, and people come in at those times looking for them. B&N needs to stock those books, and they need to focus on the most popular of those books because A) they are more expensive, and B) they are probably what people are coming in to look for. You want the latest James Patterson doorstop? I bet they have it.

    Waldens and Borders and B&N versus Amazon...there wasn't enough room for ALL of those physical players, but with B&N being the only dedicated physical bookstore left, I think the world would be poorer for losing them. We lost Blockbuster because their format was inferior to instant streaming, but there are so many people who claim they need to molest paper. You can go to a B&N to molest that paper, even without buying, which you can't do via Amazon.

  2. I get that not "Every" book will be in stock, but we've gone looking for books that were on best seller list albeit a few years prior to us wanting to buy them and still they didn't have them in stock. I just think they prioritize the books they stock based on who they think will come in their store. The B&N that is 20min away had a much larger section of World History books and other items and they had different sections altogether that the other store didn't have. I suspect that their date base tells them that they would do best to have certain books in stock so they do. Sadly, they too did not have any of the books I wanted in stock. lol Still, its sad that the digital age is removing stock from store selves. Best Buy is another example of how the digital age has pretty much killed its CD and Movie stock.

    I use to be able to go into a Best Buy and find all kinds of music, but thanks to iTunes and other digital outlets, their stock has dwindled into almost none existence. They only keep a few discs, mostly greatest hits or chart toppers. They never carry any out of the norm stuff anymore so you have to either get that online or find some college style CD store that carries that sort of stuff. The same is true for movies. If its not a new release, good luck finding it in the stores. The digital age is killing tons of stuff. BlockBuster has closed up shop and if you want any physical movie disc, you have to run by Red Box now which is limited by what they have in their.. well.. red box. I could go on and on, but the truth is, a lot of things we use to be able to have physical contact with are .. well.. gone and that's all thanks to the digital age.

    I might do a blog on the benefits of the digital age.. the few that do exist, but that might be a while.