Will 2014 Bring the End of Barnes & Noble and the Beginning of Physical Amazon Book Stores?

Downward pressure on e-reader sales, major losses in the Barnes & Noble Nook Division and the continuing benefits of brick and mortar retail may mean the end of B & N as well as the launch of Amazon book stores in 2014.

With e-reader sales leveling off in 2013 as well as other factors, many are wondering if 2014 will see the end of Barnes & Noble and the beginning of physical Amazon book stores. While a look at the real-world facts in the book marketing and sales universe lend credence to these possibilities, the only sure thing for 2014 is more change in the publishing world. Still, it’s worth a look at the facts on the ground.

Barnes & Noble was once thought of as a growing rival to Amazon in eBooks with their Nook e-reader, which commanded nearly 25 percent of the market in 2010-11. Unfortunately, the profits they had predicted for 2013 never quite materialized. On the contrary, sales of content and devices actually fell in 2013 with B & N Nook division revenues dropping more than $50 million. This has led many experts to predict that the only way out from under the mounting losses is to sell or close the business.

The Barnes & Noble situation is not a reflection on the strength of brick-and-mortar book stores, as they still provide major sales and constitute a key book marketing avenue for many publishers and book marketing companies. Since this is still a major income source for Barnes & Noble, they may be quite able to weather the storm once shedding themselves of the Nook division.

In fact, retail book stores are catching the interest of the biggest online seller on the block as Amazon has been testing the waters of physical retail over the last several years. The online book retailer tried opening a number of locations within other retail outlets like Staples and RadioShack that were meant to act as storage lockers where online customers can pick up their books. Since the retailers’ hopes of generating greater foot traffic never materialized, they stopped the arrangement with Amazon.

Amazon’s CEO has spoken often about his desire to have some type of brick and mortar presence for Kindle products as well as providing a place where shoppers could browse and touch selections from their vast online book catalog. Additionally, the outlets could be used for pickup of selections that were purchased online.

As the company delves into new technology such as 3D screens, physical stores may be the best venue to convince buyers of its virtues as opposed to online where it does not visually translate. The physical stores would potentially be a new avenue of book marketing for the online giant that can pump new life into e-reader sales as well as books including, but also beyond, its top sellers.