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Barnes & Noble, Inc. is the largest book retailer in the United Statesmarker, operating mainly through its Barnes & Noble Booksellers chain of bookstores headquartered in lower Fifth Avenuemarker in Manhattanmarker. Barnes & Noble is the nation’s top bookseller brand for the sixth year in a row, as determined by a combination of the brand’s performance on familiarity, quality, and purchase intent; the top bookseller in quality for the second year in a row and the number two retailer in trust, according to the EquiTrend Brand Study by Harris Interactive.

The company operates the chain of small "B. Dalton Booksellers" stores in malls.

The company is known for large, upscale retail outlets, many of which contain a café serving Starbucks Coffee, and for competitive discounting of bestsellers. Most stores also sell magazines, newspapers, DVDs, graphic novels, gifts, games, and music. Video games and related items were sold in the company's GameStop retail outlets until October 2004, when the division was spun-off into an independent company.

As of May 21, 2009, the company operated 777 stores in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbiamarker.


Barnes & Noble originated in 1873 when Charles Barnes opened a book-printing business in Wheatonmarker, Illinoismarker. The first true bookstore was set up by his son, William, in partnership with G. Clifford Noble, in 1917 in New York Citymarker. The original bookstore was at 31 West 15th St., and opened during World War I. In 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, the bookstore was moved to its current flagship location on 18th Street & Fifth Avenue.

The business was purchased in 1971 by Leonard Riggio, who oversaw the growth of the business. In 1974, Barnes & Noble became the first bookstore to advertise on TV, and a year later, the company became the first bookseller in America to discount books, by selling New York Times best-selling titles at 40% off the publishers’ list price. During the 1970s and 1980s, Barnes & Noble opened smaller discount stores, which were eventually phased out in favor of larger stores.

They also began to publish their own books to be sold to mail-order customers. These titles were primarily affordable reissues of out-of-print titles, and selling them through mail-order catalogs allowed Barnes & Noble to reach new customers nationwide.

Barnes & Noble continued to expand throughout the 1980s, and in 1987 purchased the primarily shopping mall-based B. Dalton chain from Dayton Hudson. The last B. Dalton stores were slated to close in January 2009. The acquisition of 797 bookstores turned the company into a nationwide retailer, and is today the second-largest online bookseller in the United States. B&N's critics claim that it has contributed to the decline of local and independent booksellers.

In 2002, Leonard Riggio's brother Stephen Riggio was named CEO.

Web site

Before Barnes & Noble created its web site, it sold books directly to customers through mail-order catalogs. It first began selling books online in the late 1980s, but the company’s web site was not launched until May 1997. The site now carries over 1 million titles.


Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue in New York City

Barnes & Noble publishes many of the books it sells, inexpensively reprinting non-copyrighted titles or acquiring the U.S. or English language rights from another publisher. In addition, Barnes & Noble commissions reprint anthologies and omnibus editions using in-house editors.

Barnes & Noble began to publish books during the 1980s, when they started reissuing out-of-print titles. One of these titles, The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Suzette Haden Elgin, has sold over 250,000 copies. The reissued edition of The Columbia History of the World by John Garrity has sold over 1 million copies.

Since then, the company has expanded its publishing operation. This expansion was aided by the company’s acquisition of SparkNotes, an educational website and publishing company. Further expansions of the company’s publishing business include the purchase of how-to publisher Sterling Publishing in 2003 and the launch of Quamut in 2008.

From circa 1992 through early 2003, Barnes & Noble released a series of literary classics for adults and children under the imprint Barnes & Noble Classics Collection. Originally available only in hardcover, most titles came in a black or cream-colored dustjacket edition. In 2003, Barnes & Noble revamped and expanded its line of literature classics, releasing books in hardcover, trade paperback and mass-market editions.

In 2009, Barnes and Noble released an E-book reader called Barnes & Noble nook.


The first store to feature a café serving Starbucks beverages was in Springfield, NJ in 1993. Since then, most stores have been amended or constructed specifically to feature a cafe serving Starbucks beverages, Harney & Sons or Tazo Tea, FIJI Bottled Water, bakery goods from The Cheesecake Factory, candy from Godiva Chocolatiers, sandwiches and other specialty products. Although the cafés are owned and operated by Barnes & Noble, servers follow Starbucks' standards in beverage preparation; the prominent Starbucks logo is sometimes confusing for customers wanting to use Starbucks stored-value cards or the Starbucks Gold Card, which are not accepted (the Barnes & Noble Membership is accepted to receive a discount on any Cafe related good).


In 2004, Barnes & Noble began offering Wi-Fi in the café area of selected stores, using the AT&T FreedomLink network. All 777 stores currently offer Wi-Fi, an effort which was completed in 2006. As of July 27, 2009, Wi-Fi is offered for free to all customers.

Community involvement

Barnes & Noble hires community relations managers to engage in community outreach. The responsibilities of these managers include organizing in-store events, such as author appearances, children’s storytimes and book groups. Community relations managers work closely with local schools and groups for the promotion of literacy and the arts. One of the things that Barnes & Noble does in the community is sponsor a children's summer reading program that promotes literacy and puts over 2 million books into the hands of the children each year. Barnes & Noble also hosts bookfairs which raise funds for schools and libraries. The company also hosts an annual holiday book drive to collect books for disadvantaged children. 1.16 million books were collected and distributed in 2007.To promote nationwide literacy among 1st to 6th graders and encourage more reading during the summer, Barnes & Noble has implemented a summer challenge where if children read 8 books and write about their reading, Barnes & Noble will give the readers a free book.

Steve Riggio, CEO

Steve Riggio is CEO of Barnes & Noble, Inc. He is also vice chairman of the company and served on the board of directors. Riggio began his career at Barnes & Noble in 1975 after graduating from Brooklyn College. After getting his start in the buying and merchandising departments, he became general manager and vice president of the company’s direct mail division. He held this position from 1981 to 1987. Riggio became executive vice president of merchandising in 1987. Then, in 1995, he was appointed chief operating officer. He was appointed CEO in January 2003. In addition to his career at Barnes & Noble, Riggio serves on the board of directors of the National Book Foundation, Association for the Help of Retarded Children and the National Down Syndrome Society. According to, in 2007 Riggio’s salary is $786,358 a year. He also earns $2,323,942 in other long-term compensation, for a grand yearly total of $3,110,480.

College bookstores

Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, Inc. was a privately held company, headquartered in Basking Ridge, NJmarker, controlled by Barnes & Noble's chairman which operates bookstores at more than 600 institutions of higher education. The college chain is the owner of the Barnes & Noble trademarks, which are licensed without charge to the general bookselling chain.

Barnes & Noble College Booksellers also operates the self-proclaimed "world's largest bookstore," located on Fifth Avenuemarker and 18th Street in New York City. This flagship store carries a large variety of textbooks, medical books, and medical supplies in addition to the various trade titles carried at Barnes & Noble, Inc. stores.

Barnes & Noble college bookstores accept Barnes & Noble gift cards and store-value cards.

On 2009-08-10, Barnes & Noble agreed to buy Barnes & Noble College Booksellers for $596 Million.


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