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What Barnes & Noble Can Still Do

TAC’s Gracy Howard has compiled a list of recent advice given to the ailing bookstore chain Barnes & Noble. This stands out to me:

#2. Cultivate your ‘secret sauce’: the serendipitous experience of discovery.
Add opportunity for discovery by using more tables than bookshelves. “Physical discovery is the secret sauce of retailing and publishing.”
– Simon Lipskar, Writers House, Wall Street Journal

Create “a special mix of smart curation and easy browsing” with new-arrival bookshelves and interesting sections, to build the serendipitous experience.
– Virginia Postrel, Bloomberg

I’ll tell you why that clicks with me. The other day I stopped at a B&N in Baton Rouge to check on how well my book was selling (B&N has really been great with Little Way), and I found myself browsing the tables and came across a new popular physics book titled The Universe In The Rearview Mirror. The title caught my eye, because I’m always looking out for science books for my son. I flipped around in it, was charmed by several random passages, and bought the book. Matthew loved it so much he read it in a single night. Big score!

Later, I thought about how, well, serendipitous that was. I would never have come across that book online. Only by browsing. I love browsing in bookstores. Build me a serendipitous experience, and I will come!

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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