The nation's three major bookstore chains plan to open roughly 80 new superstores in 2006, a bit more than the 70 outlets opened by Barnes & Noble, Borders and Books-A-Million in 2005.

B&N has the most ambitious plans for next year, with 30 to 35 superstores scheduled to be opened, compared to 27 stores this year, a number that was slightly below the chain's original forecast. B&N's new superstores are bigger than its existing stores, with most occupying 26,000 to 28,000 sq. ft.; some stores will be even more than 30,000 sq. ft., said chief operating officer Mitch Klipper.

And while B&N has dramatically reduced the number of Dalton stores it owns—the company currently operates 141 stores—B&N CEO Steve Riggio said the retailer is not abandoning shopping malls, but is opening larger stores than the old Dalton format. Dalton now accounts for only about 3% of total B&N sales.

Borders will mix new store openings with an extensive remodeling program. The company revamped 100 superstores this year and chairman Greg Josefowicz said it is likely that Borders will remodel more than that in 2006. The final number, as well as the scope of the remodeling, will be determined when results of this year's remodeling are reviewed, Josefowicz said. Borders will continue to "invest appropriately" in mall stores, Josefowicz said, including its program of converting Waldens to Borders Express stores. The company converted 98 Walden outlets to Borders Express this year.

Despite disappointing results abroad this year, the international market "remains worthy of continued investment," Josefowicz said. Borders opened 15 stores overseas this year (including two franchises in Malaysia) and 15 new domestic stores. Josefowicz said next year Borders will open a few more than the 30 new stores it opened in 2005, but that the breakdown between international and domestic openings hasn't yet been determined.

Books-A-Million will open 10 to 12 superstores next year, CEO Sandy Cochran said. Most of the new outlets will be in states on the periphery of BAM's reach, centered in the Southeast, with openings likely in Oklahoma, Texas and Ohio.