Why does Barnes & Noble need saving?

The bookstore chain is struggling, according to the New York Times.
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A trending topic across the U.S. is the future of Barnes & Noble, which was the subject of a widely-shared New York Times' op-ed on Sunday.

In his piece, "Save Barnes & Noble!" writer David Leonhardt expresses concern that B&N could be the next major retailer to go under, following the recent examples like Toys "R" Us and Herberger's.

He's basing this on recent financial statements from the company, which is currently in the midst of a turnaround plan, that suggests it could go the same way as Borders did earlier this decade.


– You can drink beer and eat at Barnes & Nobles' revamped Edina location.

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Leonhardt argues Barnes & Noble is a victim of a lack of government oversight of online retailers like Amazon, which have been allowed to become monopolies with little to no antitrust restrictions, undercutting bricks and mortar businesses by selling certain items (like books) at a loss along the way.

The reaction to Leonhardt's piece is mixed, given that B&N put countless independent book stores out of business on its rise to power – even serving as the inspiration for Tom Hanks' "evil book corporation" in 1998's "You've Got Mail."

Nonetheless it has sparked concern that the closure of 600 remaining B&N stores could contribute to declining literacy and reading in America, not to mention the loss of thousands of jobs.

The antitrust issue raised in the piece has also prompted agreement from, among others, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who says it shows the need for more oversight of companies like Amazon that compete in multiple sectors.

What it would mean for Minnesota

The focus on Barnes & Noble's struggles comes just over a year after it closed its prominent, two-story location in downtown Minneapolis.

It's been experimenting with other business strategies, one of which can be seen at its revamped store at the Galleria in Edina, which has a casual, full-service bar and restaurant.

Barnes & Noble has more than a dozen locations in Minnesota, the majority of which are in the Twin Cities metro, and their closures would be another loss for bricks and mortar retail in the state.

But while it would be a blow for the book-buying population, Minnesota is still home to a wide selection of successful and acclaimed independent bookstores, from Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis to Common Good Books in St. Paul.

Outside of the Twin Cities, you've got widely respected stores including Bev's Book Nook in Perham, Books Revisited in St. Cloud, the Bookstore at Fitger's in Duluth and Book Review in Rochester.

All of these stand to benefit, potentially flourish, in the event of Barnes & Noble's demise, as unwanted as that may be.

The NYT thinkpiece is also prompting call for more resources being pumped into America's library system, which are a vital lifeline not just for access to books, but also Internet and teaching resources.

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