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The CEO of Barnes & Noble No Longer Reads Physical Books


Because in 2012 Barnes & Noble was by far the largest chain of brick and mortar bookstores in the U.S. and probably also in the world, the statement by its CEO that he no longer read physical books—the mainstay of Barnes & Noble—was particularly significant in confirming the direction in which the format of the book was evolving: 

"It's not everyday that the CEO of a major American company say he doesn't use his company's most important product, at least in terms of how much money that product rakes in. Which is probably why it's worth two minutes of your time to listen to Barnes & Noble CEO William J. Lynch, Jr. tell Bloomberg News' Nicole Lapin precisely that in an interview on Friday.  

" 'I don't really read physical books anymore,' Lynch told Lapin while apparently standing in a Barnes & Noble lined with paper books. 'I like to read digitally. My wife is reading a lot of physical books.' 

"We get it: Barnes & Noble, the legacy book seller that introduced its line of NOOK ereaders in 2009, is and has been for some time a digital-first company. It knows that every year a growing portion of the public is reading books on tablets in lieu of physical copies. And for its survival, it wants those tablets to be NOOKs.  

"But it's still a curious thing for Lynch to say, since the majority of B&N's business is still selling pulp and ink. Last quarter, the company made $1.1 billion in revenue from selling books in stores and at NOOKs didn't fare as well. The tablet, along with all accessories and content sold on it, only made B&N $192 million, comparable to the same quarter the previous year ($191 million), around the time Amazon's Kindle started winning the hearts and minds of small-tablet buyers.  

"Whether it likes it or not, brick and mortars are still Barnes & Noble's bread and butter. In August, the company attributed that success to 'the liquidation of Borders’ bookstores in fiscal 2012 and strong sales of the Fifty Shades of Grey series,' paidContent's Laura Hazard Owen noted" (, accessed 11-22-2012).

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