In his latest New York Times column, Ezra Klein recalls fond childhood memories of spending endless hours in Barnes & Noble. "It wasn't so much a place to buy books as a place to be among them, for as long as you wanted," he writes. But if it sounds like another essay about how behemoth Amazon has destroyed brick-and-mortar bookstores, think again. As it turns out, B&N is doing pretty well these days. "The chain, long in contraction, is expanding for the first time in a decade," writes Klein. That includes plans for 30 new stores. Klein explores how this came to be and interviews B&N chief executive James Daunt, previously credited with reviving the Waterstones chain in the UK.
One component is giving individual stores more autonomy on decisions such as which books to display, the better to fit in to their particular communities. Nor does B&N fear digital books, with Daunt's view that if they get people reading more, that can only benefit his chain and other bookstores. (B&N is revamping its own e-reader, called the Nook.) And what may surprise some is that B&N is now viewed as an "ally," rather than an enemy, of indie bookshops. The chain's "resurgence is a reminder that there is nothing inevitable about its (or any bookstore's) demise," writes Klein. "Great bookstores and libraries still provide something the digital world cannot: a place not just to buy or borrow books, but to be among them." (Read the full piece, or see other Barnes & Noble stories.)