Barnes & Noble bills itself as “the world’s largest bookseller and the nation’s highest rated bookselling brand.” Today, the company includes 775 retail bookstores and 636 campus bookstores serving more than 4 million students and 250,000 faculty members across the country.
According to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, 49% of all book purchases in 2000 were done online. In 2007 (the latest available data) this increased to 61%. Today’s bookselling powerhouses, BN, Borders, and Amazon, are each pursuing both online sales and ebooks.
Not to be left out of this mix is Google Editions, the long-promised venture with the American Booksellers Association (the trade group for U.S. independent bookstores), intended to make Google the primary source of finding and purchasing ebooks on the internet. Although the launch date for this collaboration has been moving, most expect the service to launch by early fall.
A longtime pioneer in the college bookselling industry, founder, and current chairman Leonard Riggio entered the bookselling industry by establishing Student Book Exchange in Greenwich Village in 1965. He purchased BN in 1971 and began building a chain that now has operations in both academe and storefronts in every state in the U.S. In 1998 BN dipped its toes into the digital marketplace with an investment in the Rocket eBook reader. This failure caused a refocusing of the corporation on superstores and other areas, leaving innovation in online bookselling to the upstart Amazon. Today, however, the company is clearly positioning itself to reclaim lost territory.