Bad news is good news for Barnes & Noble

Different rules apply when reporting about big business, particularly those enterprises suffering from the ups and downs of the economy. Take, for example, Barnes & Noble – the nation’s largest traditional bookseller.

The New York-based retailer is reporting first quarter numbers, and in some arenas the spin being attached to the figures indicates good news.

One person’s glad tidings are another’s ill fortune. Barnes & Noble executives are pointing to the demise of their chief traditional competitor Borders Group in anticipating an increase in business later in the year. By this season’s holiday shopping period, all Borders stores will have been shuttered for good.

It may be good news for Barnes & Noble specifically, but the bankruptcy liquidation of Borders hardly bodes well for those in the big box book industry. Specifically – that’s B&N. There aren’t many others in the same league.

The loss of a significant competitor isn’t the big news, though. Executives are all smiles over the first quarter numbers, which indicate that losses aren’t as bad as anticipated. The net loss was $56.6-million, compared to the $62.5-million loss for the same period last year.

Losses in excess of $50-million for a business quarter.

Small business owners wonder how that sort of money just slips away day-by-day until three months have passed and – ooops! Fifty-million dollars is gone.

The other ironic detail about the big business bookseller is the enthusiastic promotion of its electronic reading device and anticipated sales. A $204-million dollar outside investment has allowed B&N to focus on selling plastic reading devices that download electronic files of books. The Nook is expected to offset the declining traditional book sales. Barnes & Noble – the nation’s largest traditional bookseller is optimistic, anticipating selling electronic files to replace its fading customer base.

Across the board, sales at Barnes & Noble stores were down for the period, and revenues were less than anticipated.

Still – as the big corporations go – it was a good quarter.

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