According to the always-interesting Ted Gioia, the recent turnaround of Barnes & Noble is to be attributed to the company’s new CEO and his love of books. Quite astonishingly James Daunt, who took the helm of B&N in late 2019, refused to take promotional money from publishers:
Daunt refused to play this game. He wanted to put the best books in the window. He wanted to display the most exciting books by the front door. Even more impressive, he let the people working in the stores make these decisions. This is James Daunt’s superpower: He loves books.
The whole piece is worth reading. Of all the libraries in my hometown, there’s only one (not a franchise) doing the same, and I genuinely enjoy walking up to their window to spot new titles. I appreciate that the owners take their time to pick worthy books and that I get to contemplate their opinionated selection. They also organize group readings and other activities seldom found in franchise libraries. Their only downside, valid for all small libraries, is that almost every time I need a particular title, it’ll have to be back-ordered, which sadly makes Amazon unbeatable.