Riggio was trying to say that, whatever becomes of books as physical objects in this new age of digital distribution, he is certain people will still pay for the pleasure of reading. Assuming he’s right, the more pertinent question is whether they will be spending their money at a Barnes & Noble.
The Barnes & Noble ($BKS) story reminds me of those pictures where they show a big fish swallowing a small fish only to be itself swallowed up by an even bigger one. Barnes & Noble founder Len Riggio built the largest bookseller on earth by putting thousands of mom & pops under his sword across the country; now he himself is facing his own possible destruction from the twin threats of shareholder activist Ron Burkle and the disintermediation of the digital age.
New York Magazine gives it all the saga treatment this week in a story loaded with juicy quotes, discussions about the future of content delivery and the reasons why sometimes a man just wants to pull a book down off the shelf and not read it from a plastic screen.