It's no secret that brick and mortar bookstores have a bumpy road ahead of them. The future is not certain. Just recently, bookstore chain Borders filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. They closed 200 stores and put the business up for sale; but in this economy, it doesn't look like anyone's buying.
On the other hand, Barnes & Noble shows a much stronger business, attracting Liberty Media to offer to buy B&N outright for $1 billion. Unlike Borders, B&N has a very strong online and tablet marketplace. They hold 25% of the current e-reader market, second only to Amazon and the Kindle.
Barnes & Noble was flexible enough to change with the times when Amazon came along and created an online marketplace for books where there was none before. They shifted to compete, providing a quality online service. They also revamped their stores to make them more attractive to buyers. Customers are invited to spend time in the cafe, use free in-store wifi, and read ebooks for free on their Nook devices.
The writing is on the wall, however. Amazon recently reported that ebooks are now outselling paper print books. Print media, such as magazines and newspapers, have been on the decline for years with the advent of the internet.
There will always be a place for print, but the majority of reading material is very likely going to shift to the majority being published in digital format. It's really only a matter of time before the physical bookstore becomes unnecessary--there won't be enough physical books and periodicals to justify a physical store to sell them.
The outmoded bookstore paradigm needs to change. Barnes & Noble started heading in the right direction, but they're nearing a point where such large stores are no longer necessary.
Picture this: The Barnes & Noble NOOKCafe(tm). Current B&N stores already partner with Starbucks and have their own menu sandwiches and desserts. They could easily expand that into a full-blown bistro.
Imagine being able to sit in a booth, and shop for ebooks on a touchscreen display at your table. Slide your membership card, your registered credit card in the attached magnetic reader, or use Near-Field Communication payment and have your selections automatically downloaded to your e-reader.
Customers will still be able to browse the stacks; it will simply be virtual, rather than physical. The bistro atmosphere would make it more of a social destination rather than a solitary one.
There's no reason why it would have to be limited to just books and periodicals. You could purchase videos as well. Imagine a small theater room where a group of friends could rent a new DVD release for less than the price of a theater ticket, and watch it in a huge HDTV screen while being served dinner and drinks--and being able to pause the movie during interruptions.
There's a wide number of possibilities for a business that is flexible and willing to change with the times. Is Barnes & Noble that kind of company? Maybe with a being media corporation like Liberty behind them, they can be.