For those of us that are old enough, we remember a time when the only way to buy a book, a real book made from paper, required a trip to the bookstore. Throughout history, there were countless bookstores and then came along Borders Books and Barnes & Noble. When those two large scale bookstores entered an area, they had the tendency to put smaller booksellers out of business. Smaller retailers couldn’t compete on price nor could they compete in selection. So one by one, the majority of small bookstores closed up shop. Borders and Barnes & Noble reigned supreme as the top players in the bookselling game, competing against one another. Then one day, a guy named Jeff Bezos came along and started selling books on the Internet through a little website called Amazon.com.
The Amazon.com we all know and love (or love and hate) has all the touches of the fairy tale startup success story. It started in a garage by a guy who had an idea and a vision for what was possible. The dominant players (Borders and Barnes & Noble) in the startup’s niche are not worried and seem to take Amazon as more of a funny idea than anything. Slowly but surely, Amazon grows and grows and grows. Fast forward a few years and Amazon starts taking serious market share away from these legacy booksellers. Amazon is dead set on growth and customer acquisition and seemingly runs at 110mph 24/7 and refuses to let up. It’s now becoming clear that the corporate thought processes and strategies (or lack thereof) over at Borders and Barnes & Noble can’t handle the speed of Amazon or the continual spread of ebooks and the Kindle. Then, Borders shuts its doors. Now, all that’s left is Barnes & Noble. The executives over at Barnes & Noble tried reassuring stockholders that everything will be okay and their Nook ebook reading device will start to take back some of the market from the Kindle.
Whelp, it’s 2019 and Barnes & Noble keeps closing stores and the writing on the wall is becoming clearer. They have headed the way of the brick and mortar shops of old (Sears anyone?). It appears that it will be a slow death for them. How slow? That all depends on how quickly (and if) Amazon starts opening their own brick and mortar bookstores. Once that happens, Amazon will meet the needs of those that want the tactical experience of holding and reading a few pages of a book before purchasing, while providing their same low prices. When the dust settles we’ll find only two types of bookstores left; Amazon bookstores and specialty bookstores catering to selective niches.
Moral of the story? No matter how successful you get and how much power you think you have, if you want to maintain your position you must always stay scrappy and push for relentless innovation.