The end can’t be too far away for the world’s largest coffee, toy, and women’s magazine shop. Vox Day is right, as usual, about what this means to big publishers, book lovers, and B&N.
It’s just about all over for the major publishers now that Barnes & Noble has been acquired by a hedge fund:
Barnes & Noble Inc said on Friday it would be bought by hedge fund Elliott Management Corp for $475.8 million, marking the end of the once-dominant U.S. book retailer as a public company after years of falling sales.
Shares in the largest U.S. bookstore chain rose 11%, after ending up 30% on Thursday when reports of a potential deal surfaced.
Listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 1993, Barnes & Noble has struggled to grow its business since the arrival of Amazon.com Inc turned the book sales market on its head. Even the company’s recent efforts to pull in a more tech-savvy audience with its Nook e-book reader failed to compete with Amazon’s Kindle and other tablets.
Elliot’s offer of $6.50 per share, represented a premium of about 42% to Wednesday’s close, the day before media reports of a potential transaction first surfaced. Barnes & Noble has been exploring options for a buyout since at least last October, with multiple parties showing interest including founder-chairman Leonard Riggio. Riggio acquired the flagship Barnes & Noble trade name in 1970s, nearly a century after Charles Barnes started the business in his Illinois home. Riggio grew the business, adding several retail stores across the country, but could not sustain the growth in a retail landscape dominated by Amazon.
In 2014, Barnes & Noble closed its New York Fifth Avenue store – once the world’s largest bookstore – and has faced declining sales for at least the last three years. As of this January, it ran 627 retail stores.
I very much doubt that Elliott Management has any interest whatsoever in building up a bookselling business. Instead, it’s going to methodically extract the most valuable pieces of the business, sell them off, and profit from the dismantling of the business. This means that the Big Five publishers will probably merge and reduce themselves to a Big Three, with at least two attempts to set up their own competitor to Amazon, both of which will fail, like Macmillan’s attempt to establish Pronoun, due to their structural inability to ignore the legacy requirements that inhibit their decision-making.
And, the book market is going to shrink further anyway. We’re now working on the second generation of complete illiterates, soon to move from “don’t read” to “can’t read.” Dark Ages 2.0.