Well, I’m not the only one who was flummoxed by the news. Just look at this headline from the Wall Street Journal:
It still makes sense to me for Amazon to buy Barnes & Noble. Amazon will eventually be surrounded by states imposing taxes on its business, so why not jump ahead of all of them? Barnes & Noble has generally classy stores and could be made into Amazon Stores. Again: FedEx bought Kinko’s, and this would not be any more unusual than that. Just imagine all those customers coming in to see samples of the latest offerings from Zappos!
As it turns out, Liberty Media owns QVC and several other businesses that deal in physical goods. Could Liberty see the wisdom of using all of that Barnes & Noble real estate to provide showcase locations for those businesses?
The insurmountable part of Barnes & Noble are its real estate leases. As print book sales continue to fall, the per-square-foot expense just becomes higher. While B&N has added non-book items like games and stationery (the latter a move right out of Borders past playbook!), those lack the magnetism needed to attract customers. And so far, Barnes & Noble has not seen the wisdom of twisting the arms of print publishers by installing Print On Demand machines. Maybe Liberty Media will. Someone has to slap print publishing to wake it up and force it into the future where there will be far fewer shelves than ever before.
Since last night, it’s been revealed that Liberty wants 70% of Barnes & Noble, not the entire company. That makes this proposal even more odd. Malone must really have some future acquisitions in mind that he sees fitting into this deal — because, right now, as even the Wall Street Journal has stated, on the face of it, it’s just insane.