The appointment of William Lynch as CEO of Barnes & Noble Inc. marks the first time since Len Riggio started the company that a Riggio will not be in charge of the day-to-day operation of the nation's largest bookseller. The Lynch appointment is also further acknowledgment by the Riggios that the future of the company lies in selling more print books online as well as digital content in a variety of formats. In discussing B&N's most recent quarterly results, Steve Riggio, who Lynch is succeeding as CEO, said 2010 will be a watershed year during which B&N will begin its transformation to an e-commerce retailer (PW, Mar. 1).
Lynch, 39, has a technology-rich background. Just before joining B&N in February 2009, he was at HSNi (the home shopping network), where he was executive v-p of marketing and general manager of HSN.com. From 2004 to 2008 he was CEO of gifts.com, a company he cofounded, and was at Palm Inc. from 2000 to 2004, where he was v-p and general manager for e-commerce. During his time at B&N he has learned the book business quickly and has developed business models that benefit everyone, Steve Riggio said. At the recent AAP annual meeting, where he was a featured speaker, Lynch announced plans to bundle e-books with print editions, and said the right price of an e-book is somewhere between $9.99 and $20. And while he supports the move to an agency model to sell e-books in place at five of the six largest trade houses, Lynch told PW B&N will review terms on which it sells e-books from other publishers “on a case-by-case basis.”
During last week's conference call, Len Riggio said that while B&N will be ramping up its digital businesses, it remains committed to physical bookstores, saying that B&N will move into the future on two fronts. Lynch said his emphasis will be to integrate more technology into the stores. Last week, B&N announced its new More in Store program, which will be available for Nook users. Under the program, Nook owners will be able to browse digital editions of a store's entire book collection and will also be able to access exclusive content and special offers. Within a few months, B&N will enable customers to read complete e-books at the stores, allowing them to browse e-books much the same way they browse print books.
Riggio said there are no plans to dramatically shrink the bricks-and-mortar footprint of B&N in the near term and said he doesn't believe bookselling will move completely to online or digital sales. Bookstores remain crucial to selling books and are great gathering places, he said. Lynch called the stores “major assets,” but noted that moving forward, B&N will be using the stores more to market its digital products. The Nook, for example, is now in all trade stores and is being rolled out to more of B&N's college stores. Lynch noted that adding e-books to its print offerings has been positive for B&N. Nook buyers tend to buy more e-books than customers who buy just print books, and while e-book buyers buy fewer print books than they had, they still do buy traditional books. “In the aggregate, they are buying more from us, and that's a good thing,” Lynch said.