Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2017 Issue

Dinner, Beer and Wine at a Bookstore? Welcome to Barnes & Noble's Latest Survival Plan


A new Barnes & Noble restaurant (from their website).

Would you like plancha-cooked salmon with whole grain tabbouleh salad & basil dressing with your books? And some Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve Champagne from Reims, France, seems like an appropriate selection from the wine list for salmon. Barnes & Noble has been chasing internet behemoth Amazon for quite awhile now without much success. Now, Amazon has started opening bookstores to complement their online business. Unlike Barnes & Noble, they are smaller, basic stores, offering just books and electronic accompaniments. They don't offer reading rooms, comfortable sofas, pastry and coffee as B&N has for years. Struggling to differentiate itself in a positive way, B&N is testing out going even more upscale, with $23 salmon and $68 per bottle champagne offered in its bookstores. As Michelle Obama used to say, when they go low, we go high.


As they would announce during the Cold War era when interrupting our radio and TV programs with "CONELRAD" warnings of an imminent nuclear attack, "this is just a test." Four locations have been selected: Eastchester, New York (suburbs of the city), Edina, Minnesota (Minneapolis), Folsom, California (think Folsom Prison Blues, or nicer, Sacramento), and Loudoun County, Virginia (Washington). All but the Loudoun County location opened recently, with the latter coming soon.


The conversion isn't easy and not all B&N stores are suitable for it. The dining areas are twice the size of the spaces currently used for coffee and pastries. The store has to have enough room for it to fit. Presumably, a closed kitchen is needed rather than the open bar style serving area with which I am familiar. Some book shoppers might not appreciate the smoke or smell of sizzling salmon. The idea here is to lure in more customers, not drive them away.


Dinner is not the only meal served at B&N. There are sandwiches appropriate for lunch, and breakfast is served until noon. You can get a breakfast burrito for $11. That's a bit pricier than the $3.49 it will cost you for a breakfast burrito at Hardee's, but I'm going to bet it's a fair amount better. The surroundings are certainly classier, and full table service is provided. You don't have to go up to the cashier and wait for someone to call out your name when it's ready. They will bring it to you.


Perhaps most notable about the new B&N restaurants is that they serve alcoholic beverages. Along with the wine list, you can purchase beer. There's no Bud here, let alone Pabst. They don't even carry Sam Adams or Heineken. They are all from local breweries, with clever names like Surly Brewery, Brau Brothers, and Dogfish Head (if it were Salmon Head I'd be concerned they were making it from their left over fish parts).


In the 1990's, Barnes & Noble experienced great success. It's large, comfortable stores, that allowed patrons to slowly look through the selections, read some, socialize with friends, have coffee and snacks, in some locations even listen to live music, proved to be a winning combination. It was the place for book lovers to go. Remember Waldenbooks, or B. Dalton? The smaller, traditional stores were not a match for the atmosphere of a B&N.


However, by the turn of the century, internet giant Amazon was coming at them quickly. Lower prices were their main calling card, along with the convenience of buying at home. And, some who still liked the atmosphere of a B&N, would go there to peruse the new books, and then go home and buy them from Amazon for less. It has taken its toll over the years. Borders, with a similar model, is gone, and many have questioned the long-term viability of B&N's model. For a while, it looked like B&N would challenge Amazon in one major area of technology – e-readers. Their Nook at first made a great run at Amazon's Kindle, but it ended up becoming a money loser, something B&N could ill afford.


So, will this rekindle Barnes & Noble's good fortunes? It strikes me as a long shot. It almost seems as if they are doubling down on yesterday's technology. I always liked shopping malls. You could spend a relaxed afternoon or evening browsing through all kinds of stores and enjoy a meal at the food court. They drove Main Street out of business. The malls had security guards chase away young people, who they felt were in the way of shoppers with bigger wallets. I don't know if they still do this, but I doubt there's much need for the service. Young people are staying away on their own. Malls are dying. The idea of the mall as a place to shop, socialize, and have a meal has become passé. The appeal of a B&N strikes me as similar to that of a mall. I may still like them, but not many younger people do. Doubling down on a mall-type experience may not be the way to reach the younger generation. Not that I have a better plan for B&N, or that I wish them anything but well, but it just doesn't feel right. I hope I'm wrong.


Oh, that plancha-cooked salmon... what is it? A plancha is like a cast iron skillet, only flat and square instead of round. You place it on a barbecue so you can sear the food while still getting that barbecue flavor. Sounds good.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 7. Ritter's unusual sun-dial world map, 1607. Est. $3500 to $4500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 16. Fascinating Japanese satirical map published prior to WWII, 1932. Est. $1400 to $2000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 30. Newton's 2" miniature terrestrial globe, 1833. Est. $3500 to $4500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 318. Braun & Hogenberg's first plan of Moscow in contemporary color, 1575. Est. $2750 to $3500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 346. One of the most decorative 18th century maps of Malta, 1680. Est. $1200 to $1500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 412. The first printed map devoted to the Pacific in full contemporary color, 1589. Est. $8000 to $10000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 425. Rare set of celebrated explorers of the New World, 1592. Est. $1900 to $2300
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 436. Two superb miniature atlases bound in one volume with 98 maps, 1682. Est. $5500 to $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 445. Part IV of de Bry's "Grand Voyages" by Girolamo Benzoni, 1613. Est. $2000 to $2500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 447. Tallis' "History of the United States of America" in six volumes, 1850. Est. $1500 to $1800
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 448. Mallet's miniature military masterpiece, 1672. Est. $1400 to $1700
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Malcolm X, Autograph Letter Signed, from prison, 1950. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Letter from Moses Walker, an enslaved Georgia man, to his mother at another plantation, 1854. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Signed cabinet card of Frederick Douglass, albumen photograph, Boston, circa 1879. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Placard from the Memphis Sanitation Worker's strike, 1968. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b><br><i>The North Star,</i> volume 1, issue 27, Rochester, NY, 1848. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Hand-tinted tintype of John Brown, circa 1860. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster signed & inscribed by Huey Newton, circa 1967. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Album of aerial views of the march on Montgomery, taken by federal troops, 1965. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster for the SNCC, photograph by Danny Lyon featuring John Lewis, circa 1962. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>An Entirely New Romantic Drama, in Three Acts, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called The Frozen Deep,</i> 1857. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Lighthouses and Islands of Ireland, c. 125 drawings, 1867. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Shelley (Lady Jane). Diary, 1853 & 1860. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Scottish Binding.- The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, bound in contemporary brown polished calf decorated with the figure of a Chinese spearman, by ?James Scott of Edinburgh, 1778. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Man Within,</i> first edition, signed by the author, 1929. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Mellan (Claude, 1598-1688). The Holy Face, or the Veil of St Veronica, [c. 1649 and later]. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Desaguliers (John Theophilus). <i>A Dissertation concerning Electricity,</i> W. Innys, and T. Longman, 1742. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Le Jeune (Paul). <i>Relation de se qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'anné 1636 enuoyée au R.Pere Provincial de la Compagnie de Iesus en la Province de France,</i> 1637. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Stumpf (Johann Rudolph). <i>Gemeiner loblicher Eydgnoschafft Stetten, Landen und Völckern Chronicwirdiger thaaten beschreibung, </i> Zurich, Froschauer, 1586. £3,000 to £4,000

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