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FEBRUARY 4, 2013 12:15AM

Barnes & Noble Should Change Its Name To BookDonalds

Rate: 16 Flag

The other day Barnes and Noble bookstores announced plans to close at least 20 stores a year for the next decade. This news troubles me because it’s the last big chain left - Borders is gone, Waldenbooks is gone, along with lots of others.  Newspapers and news magazines are folding or cutting their budgets, getting smaller. 

Late last year my local paper began hyping its upcoming great new revamp.  It finally happened last week.  The only revamp I noticed is how tiny it’s become; it literally downsized itself.  If it had come in the mailbox instead of the driveway I’d have assumed it was junk mail and thrown it away.  I wonder what's happening to all the news they’re not using.

The writing’s on the wall or more accurately, online: the Internet and e-readers are squeezing out print.  

It’s a depressing state of affairs, especially because a new Taco Bell just opened near me.  Now my town has two of them and I don’t have to drive quite as far to get my son’s cheese quesadillas.  The closest Barnes and Noble however, isn’t as close to me as either Taco Bell.  In fact, it's not close at all.  That seems wrong.  

The new Taco Bell got me thinking about bookstores.  If I had to choose between buying a book and buying a burrito, I’d always choose the book.  I’d rather visit a bookstore than a fast food joint and I’d rather read than eat (although I do love to read and eat.  Also read and talk on the phone, read and watch TV and read and drive.  Reading is like the color black:  it goes with everything.)

Here's what I want to know:  Why are fast food restaurants still so popular while bookstores are dwindling?  I don’t recall ever hearing of a fast food chain announcing it was going to shut down a bunch of locations over ‘x’ number of years.   

The opposite is happening.  Like churches, fast food places are everywhere people are, ready to feed the hungry flocks.  They reassure us of their presence just as McJesus did 2,000 years ago: “When two or three gather on empty stomachs we will be there .”

          Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway, Arby’s, Little Caesar’s, Chik-Fil-A, White Castle, KFC Pizza Hut, Popeyes and more, spanning the country from coast to coast.  And not a bookstore among them.

That’s That's why I think I have an idea that could not only reverse Barnes and Noble’s downward trend but actually revive the entire print industry: Bookstores have to reinvent themselves as fast food restaurants. This is loosely based on the timeworn premise, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."  

The way to do this is to start selling books on buns. Or flatbread or whole wheat bread.   For those who’re counting carbs, serve the book on a bed of lettuce with choice of dressing.   For a Mexican flavor serve it in a taco shell with all the trimmings.  Avoiding gluten?  No problem; try a book on a mound of rice.  How about everyone’s favorite, pizza, where any topping goes.  I thought pineapple and ham on pizza sounded weird (still do) but a book as a pizza topping sounds downright scrumptious. 

Book-on-a stick, book panini, deep-fried book, bacon-wrapped book, book wrap, chili & book, beer battered book, kung pao book; it takes the concept of having it your way to a whole new level.  Of course you don’t actually eat the book (unless you want to - prepared the right way, books taste a lot like chicken).  Ideally you’ll read it but even if you don’t, that’s the genius of book cuisine:  The bulk of your meal goes on your bookshelf, not to your waistline or arteries!

To really secure its comeback though, Barnes and Noble needs a spokesperson like Jared “The Subway Guy” Fogle, the man who lost 245 pounds in a year eating two Subway subs a day.  The hook could be “I lost weight by feeding my head instead of my gut and you can too."

I don’t want any more bookstores to close; I’d love to see the trend reverse itself. I believe fast food books are the answer.  People will read more and improve their health at the same time.  I’m so sure this idea's a winner, I'm thinking of getting in on it by opening a book bakery. My double chocolate chunk bookies are to die for.

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So, this is what we've become...

Why not go fishing?

Bookworms on a hook?
I know this but I don't get it. I have a 12 year old daughter. She is not remotely intellectual and doesn't like academics. However, for a while she read manga and now she reads books without pictures, though on very particular subjects. She nags me to bring her to Barnes & Noble, and she bargains with me as To how many I'll buy her. Our branch is always busy.
[r] Margaret, so enjoyed this. Especially when you ramped it up a notch and gave us such excellent food for thought AND food/book ideas for multi-dimensional devouring. "May I have my classic parmagian, please? Well, take that back -- only the cheesier novels, maybe?

Did you see You've Got Mail? How the big bad B&N type bookstores pushed the little guy bookstores out of business. Karma?

B&N pushed out Borders. Now B&N's turn.

Now, I treat my closest B&N (may it please make at least this first cut) like a library and living room, and skim many books as I sip my lattes. I figure I don't buy most of the books I skim, but I sure shell out for that high priced coffee.

Glad I caught this. Amazon and kindle have put B&N and the nook out of business or pushed them onto that slippery slope.

Thanks for the humor and the consciousness raising! I will revisit B&N this week. Also, occasionally they have great deals on Brit DVDs, my big weakness. What will I do without that???? Probably save some money.

best, libby
You might be on to something. It could start with just some subtle name changes: Starbuck Books, Taco Books, Little Caesar's Books....
The irony is.the big book chains put the indies out of business, now thy are disappearing and the indies are coming back. I always try to support the merchants in our community because they give back so much more to the community. The big box guys just exploit until their margins drop then they are gone taking the jobs eith them. R
Clever Ms M... The new trend is cured meat and I bet you will agree with me a cured book would last forever. I'd rather get a celiac attack from a good book than a piece of bread. At least it would have pleasant memories.

This was a Whooper of a post and you are the Chick-fil-A of writers.

Say "hi" to your kids Big Mac and Egg McMuffin for me, K?
The commenter above should certainly not quit her day job to pursue a career in comedy.
And I've trademarked the name "BookDonalds" for a grass-roots movement to arrest all men with silly-looking combovers -- I own the domain name as well. My attorney will be contacting you.
and the commenter above this needs to worry less about my sense of humor and more about how stupid he looks to be still wearing a mullet.

BTW, cheat on your wife lately, dude?
Yep, last week and later this week -- thanks for asking.

When did you lose your job as an accountant? You seem to be all over cyberspace during extremely-busy tax season.
ok ok break it up....back on topic, I think it is the drive thru windows that lure people in. Maybe that could work for a book store. They would give you the book you deserve. Great post! Thanks.
Ironies abound: Downtown Boston has lost a Borders and a Barnes & Noble in the past 5-6 years and now has no large free-standing bookstore selling current titles, but two used book shops with rare book collections are still in business. They rent less expensive space in out of the way places (a church basement, for example). They didn't have the high overhead of the chains.

That's a neat way to describe a reader - a bookworm on a hook!


My branch usually seems busy too although they're near OSU. Last year though, they did cut back their hours. My kids used to love the bookstore too, especially the kiddy area. They'll still go with me but I have to buy them something. Which I generally don't mind doing.


Funny, I used to boycott B&N for the smaller outfits; there was a store I really liked locally called Nickleby's that was then bought by B&N. I also preferred Little Professor. Now I'm worried about B&N shutting down. Yes I did see You've Got Mail. I know, I know, you can chalk it up to karma or business or dog eat dog. Or what comes around goes Blockbuster is going out of business; I used to resent Blockbuster for what they did to the other video stores. Now I'm upset about Blockbuster.


Starbooks, maybe? Booker King? Bookway?

Not doing it for me; just making me hungry. Now you see why I didn't offer any alternate names in my post. I do like Taco Book though; it's much more inviting than Taco Hell which is what I call it. Of them all, that's the one I like the least. Pure rotgut in my opinion. But my kids love it.


I agree about supporting local businesses. There are no book merchants in my community, not even a Half-Price Books. And now that grocery stores and the big box stores have reading sections, that can't have helped either.


What about book jerky. Freeze-dried books. Book smoothies. Or instant books - just add milk or water and you've got a nutritious, balanced meal for the reader on the go.

Do books contain gluten, do you think?
I totally enjoyed reading this.

You are a "whooper" yourself and also kind of a woofer. And a tweeter. I will say hi to my kids after I figure out which is which.


I don't recall Amy ever claiming she was going to pursue a career in comedy. No feather-ruffling, please.

As for BookDonalds - I never thought about The Donald. Darn. I didn't like my first title; this was the 2nd one and it was only slightly better. Call off your attorney; it's all yours.

Amy, Joisey,

Hairstyles, relationship issues, accounting, job loss, tax preparation - there are good books on all these subjects and more at your local book seller's. Or for free at the library. I suggest you both pay a visit to one or the other (but not to each other).


I gave it a lot of thought and decided to ignore the drive-thru, Zanelle. I figured Chipotle doesn't have a drive-thru and they seem to do just fine.


What a shame, about the big stores and in a large city like Boston - kind of surprising. I was just reading about a Manhattan B&N that suddenly closed its doors. If they can't survive in places like Boston & NY then what are their chances in smaller markets?

A. Walrond,

Thank you; I enjoyed writing it but I worry bookstores are going to go the way of video stores someday.
Mixed feelings here. I too bemoan the shrinking number of bookstores but as I do most of my reading online, and the hardcopy reading is pretty much my daily newspaper, The Economist and the New Yorker, bookstores don't make much off me. Maybe they should try something wacky as you propose. "Would you like fries with your Franzen?"
I'll take some Grits with my First Edition of "Gone With The Wind" - hold the Gravy for Rhett! R
I am sad too. I know of a few that closed. It is one of my favorite places. I am sure there will always be areas where book stores will never close. R

I suppose it's inevitable that more reading is going to be done online than not, especially since content is usually free. I don't always buy anything when I'm in a bookstore; I just like hanging around, the atmosphere, etc. so they don't always make money off me. Fries with your Franzen - ha! How about: "Care to supersize your Sarte?" "Want to add some onion rings to your Lardner?" "Today's special: Have another Shade of Gray for tree-fitty."


Make mine cheese with a splash of Tabasco!


I'm sure there'll always be bookstores, just not many of the big fancy ones that have been prevalent for so long. They're one of my favorite places too, along with the library. I'd rather go to a bookstore than the mall; in fact, when the malls had bookstores, that's where I'd usually end up.
hey maggie,hate to bring the bad news but bookstores gone the way
of the , uh,, wooly mammoth. damn sis gimmes a gift certificate for
B and n . aint yet used it cuz nothng there i want.

used to be a hugh philosophy selection. a boy could grab some hegel or whitehead. no more. philosophy is "philosophy of seinfeld" or
"philsophy of madmen" arg.

anyway i got me a kindle and dear friend, i am gonna suck everything i can outof it. i have made the momentous transition.

i wannna sit on the beach with the complete works of uh , whitehead in my gadget,sorry. for did not whitehead (and dylan) foresee this?


Education is the acquisition of the art of the utilisation of knowledge.
For successful education there must always be a certain freshness in the knowledge dealt with. It must be either new in itself or invested with some novelty of application to the new world of new times. Knowledge does not keep any better than fish. You may be dealing with knowledge of the old species, with some old truth; but somehow it must come to the students, as it were, just drawn out of the sea and with the freshness of its immediate importance.

there you go.

dylan? that venal old freak says

We live in a political world
Where mercy walks the plank,
Life is in mirrors, death disappears
Up the steps into the nearest bank
only place left is the used places . i went to one in the grand ritzy town of west hartford, ct. saw some damn books screaming to be my own,

alas no$

"I’d rather visit a bookstore than a fast food joint and I’d rather read than eat (although I do love to read and eat. Also read and talk on the phone, read and watch TV and read and drive. Reading is like the color black: it goes with everything.)"

sure does. get ye a kindle. seriously.

If you can't find a book?! at Barnes and Noble, how about a new CD? Or a calendar. Journal. A bunch of magazines. Some nice pens & bookmarks. A manly tote. A coffee travel mug. Candy. Can you use it in the Starbucks that seems to be in most B&Ns?

I'm afraid instead of convincing me to get a Kindle all you've done is made me hungry for fish. And speaking of fish, I think an e-reader is to books what a goldfish is to dogs. You want a pet? Get a nice goldfish! Sorry but for me reading a book is also a physical experience. I like holding it in my hands. I like to periodically stop and bury my nose in it and inhale the scent. If I really like it I pretend I wrote it and picture what it would look like with my name on it. If it's used I think about the other people who held it before I did. I like the way a bunch of books looks when they're stacked on a table.

Can you do that with your Kindle?
In our little town, the indie bookstore Twice Told Tales shut its doors for good a couple of months ago, while, almost simultaneously, just down the street, a new, really nice used bookstore opened. The owners are retirees who seem to not be short of finances and have the store as something to do and because they love books. I suspect this store - the best kind, actually - will last.
If you did a piece tomorrow on how this had actually happened, I would not be surprised. The good news is that the independents (from what I hear, could be wrong) seem to be doing better.