Technology Helps Barnes & Noble Survive ... and Thrive
As it watched small, independent bookstores going out of business across the country as well as its biggest competitor file for bankruptcy and cease operating, Barnes & Noble knew that a change to its business model was necessary for its survival. Specifically, that change meant shifting its focus to becoming a digital book seller. In his keynote address at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago yesterday, William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble, detailed how the bookstore chain has used the web to redefine and grow its business.
Barnes & Noble wanted to remain true to its core value of as a company — the love of reading — but present it in a new way for its customers. The first step in its transformation was to develop its own e-reader, the NOOK. To accomplish this it needed engineers, something the company of 40,000 employees lacked. New York City-based Barnes & Noble opened its first West Coast office in the Silicon Valley (Palo Alto, to be exact) and started recruiting engineers. Lynch's recruiting pitch: You have the chance to change the future of reading, and do it by competing against the likes of Apple, Amazon.com and Google. Recruiting engineers isn't for the faint of heart and weak of checkbook, Lynch jokingly recalled. Barnes & Noble had an ace up its sleeve, however. It honed in on engineers that had a love of reading and education.
With its new engineering team in place, Barnes & Noble was able to create its original e-reader, the NOOK, followed by updated and improved versions including the NOOK Tablet and NOOK Simple Touch. The retailer's latest iteration is the NOOK Simple Touch with GlowLight. Lynch noted that 38 percent of reading is done in bed, often at night when a spouse or partner is trying to sleep. To address this problem, Barnes & Noble developed the NOOK Simple Touch with GlowLight to enable people to happily read at night without disrupting anyone else.