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Whether it will ever be great again or not, Barnes & Noble seems to be trying to survive by imitating Amazon. An article on Time explains that B&N is adding more shopping categories to its bn.com website, including Home and Gift, Consumer Electronics, Arts and Crafts, Toys and Games, and Baby. The items in these new categories will mostly be provided by third-party vendors, with B&N taking a sales commission on each item it sells.

This seems to be an example of playing to one’s strengths—thanks to Nook e-book sales, the bn.com website seems to be one of few bright spots in Barnes & Noble’s portfolios. Sales at its brick and mortar stores have been declining over the last few years.

Time points out the irony that, at the time chain stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders were founded, they were expected to drive smaller independent stores out of business—but in an era of big box bookstores’ decline and failure, the independent stores that have survived are mostly doing well, because they know and can cater to their marketing niches.

As for Barnes & Noble’s website expansion:

[Bill Kavaler, senior analyst at Oscar Gruss & Son] says that the move is necessary. ”Just books ain’t enough,” he says. And he’s mildly optimistic it can work: “[Barnes & Noble] isn’t doing anything particularly stupid,” Kavaler says. “And that’s all you can ask.”

That’s certainly damning with faint praise if I ever heard it. Isn’t it a heck of a thing when “all you can ask” of a company is that it not do something stupid?

 
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