Yes! Can you dig it? Father fires son. Son sues father. Wins. Uses money to ride crest of aging America to greater wealth. (Research what happened to dear old Pops). (Where is son today?). Great imagination fodder. Now, if we can work a 20'ish vampire into it....
But if B&N folds, the indies will still be dead and we'll be left with Amazon, Wal Mart and Borders running the show. Borders isn't going to last much longer, either. I don't think we want to see WalMart and Amazon locked in a two-way race to the bottom on pricing, but that's what's likely to happen. I love a good independent bookseller, but if the last ten years were tough for them, the next ten are going to be much worse, and it won't be because of B&N or Borders.
If the two big ones fold, there will be more Indies again.
I doubt it. They still won't be able to compete on price or inventory with Amazon. And if ebooks continue to grab market share at anything like the current rate, all bets are off for any book seller who can't offer a broad range of ebooks AND make up for loss leader ebook pricing with profit from ereader devices.
There's another factor about independents that I've noticed over the course of years in marketing and newspapers - and this applies to bookstore owners, mechanics, car audio installers, and just about any other business endeavor.
While the independent may be fantastic at the work they do - they can love and know more about books than anyone, or be the best auto body mechanic on the planet - that does not translate to business success because it does not translate to knowledge and expertise at running a business. I have found too often, they go toe-to-toe with whatever big box store is in their market - and they lose those fights.
I have seen some very ill-informed decisions made by independents and a simple unwillingness to take a look at what makes other independents in the same industry a success.
Now, like you and everyone here, I love a good independent bookstore too. My all-time favorite remains Murder by the Book in Houston - anytime I go there, I drop $300 or more. A more general store - Burke's Book Store in Memphis - is another favorite. Or Sherlock's in Lebanon, TN.
I believe there is an underlying emotional feeling. We like the independents (be they publishers or booksellers) because they do what they do out of love for authors and books. We attack large retailers and major publishers because they do what they do with a keen focus on profits, which forces business decisions we don't like and may seem contrary to how we believe a bookstore or publisher should operate.
Neither is right or wrong, but there are two points I'll concede:
1) The big ones could treat authors with a little more professionalism.
2) Love is great but it doesn't pay the bills.
Murder by the Book, Sherlock's and Burke's don't survive only because they love books or their excellent treatment of authors. They survive because they've taken their passion for books and authors and combined it with a sustainable and flexible business model that allows them to compete in spite of the big stores, a challenged economy and changing reading habits, rather than against the big stores.
Now, a comment in defense of the big guys. There are good things that have come out of the desire to sell more books - and never forget B&N, Borders, Amazon, and the major publishers want to sell more books to make more profits.
They've developed e-readers and various distribution models. They continue to work on these things - things many of us like and use.
And at the same time, I've spent literally thousands of dollars with independent booksellers (and small publishers at book festivals), and not one has handed me a classic for free, like I can get through my Nook.
There are a lot of reasons independent stores (in all industries) fail. But I've seen too many succeed in the shadow of Walmart, Target, B&N, Best Buy and other big boxes to put exclusive blame on those goliaths.
I feel what you're saying but B&N brought this on themselves. When publishers sold out and started letting the chain stores make all the decisions, that's why most of this is happening. Plus it's just the sign of the times and technology. A lot of retail stores won't be around in the future. Look at Circuit City. I wouldn't be surprised if Best Buy will bite the dust too one day. Barnes and Noble might not go away completely but not sure if they will still have their retail stores. If they are bought out and those stores aren't bringing in money, they have to do something. A few months ago I read an article where B&N was thinking of selling less books and more of other things like more movies, games and other things. They saw the writing on the wall then but didn't wanna admit that online sales and ebook sales were starting to hurt.
I respect how you feel about B&N, Jon. I really do and I like that compassion you have for them but they didn't care about the authors after a while. That's who bookstores started screwing the most. Bookstores used to be the author's friend years ago, not just the publishers. They could care less about the writer and the pubs were in the bookstores' pockets.
It reminds me of the mob if you look at it. But no I could care less about B&N being around. Maybe another bookstore chain might come around and be better with how they treat authors but the whole thing is if you can't get folks in the stores, then that's the problem. I also doubt a lot of people care either because if they did they'd be shopping in the stores and B&N wouldn't be in trouble in the first place. So obviously they've lost support from their biggest concern which are customers and readers. Some people say, "I love the bookstores and I love going in them and getting coffee." But they don't even go! These are the same folks who order online like everyone else. So obviously it was more important to get the discounts than it was to stand by the bookstores.
Actually the demise of B&N might be the opening salvo for the demise of the 'corporate mindset' in the book/publishing business. Bigger does not necessarily equate better. Maybe gigantic national chains trying to sustain its 4% marginal growth per year simple cannot be guaranteed Perhaps an indie renassiance might happen. I saw an article the other day celebrating the rise in new indie bookstore openings in NYC in the last year.