The national book store chain Borders folded in 2011, leaving Barnes & Noble as the undisputed king of Big Huge Chain Bookstores. In that specific industry, B&N has had no competition for the past year and a half. Yet they are preparing to downsize anyhow. The Big Huge Chain Bookstore golden era has passed.

This is not a surprise, of course, what with Amazon and the internet in general threatening to do to the book store industry what it did to the travel agent industry. But the fact that the strongest survivor in the Big Huge Chain Bookstore industry—after more than a year with no competition—could not even manage to maintain its current number of stores is a fairly persuasive sign that the Big Huge Chain Bookstore industry is on a gentle downward slope that will not turn upwards ever again. Take a moment to reminisce upon all the B&N books you dirtied with your grubby hands before not purchasing them. You bear part of the blame for this. From the WSJ:

"In 10 years we'll have 450 to 500 stores," said Mitchell Klipper, chief executive of Barnes & Noble's retail group, in an interview last week. The company operated 689 retail stores as of Jan. 23, along with a separate chain of 674 college stores.

Mr. Klipper said his forecast assumes that the company will close about 20 stores a year over the period.

As recently as 2009, B&N was opening 30 stores per year. In the past five years, we've lived through the very top of the Big Huge Chain Bookstore era, and now we are descending the other side. Sure, book stores will stick around, but your children will never get to experience the real glory days of Barnes & Noble, when you could drive to any little shithole suburb anywhere in this great nation of ours knowing that you'd be able to find a huge warehouse full of books that you could peruse, for free, to your heart's content, secure in the knowledge that nobody would be paying for anything, except the small local book store, which was put out of business long ago.

Oh well.

UPDATE: B&N spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating emails us to add:

"Barnes & Noble has not adjusted its store closing plan whatsoever. The Wall Street Journal article implies that our rate of store closures has changed. We have historically closed approximately 15 stores per year for the past 10 years. Of that number some of the stores are unprofitable while others are relocations to better properties. The numbers reported today by the Wall Street Journal are consistent with analysts' expectations. It should be noted that in 2012, Barnes & Noble opened two new prototype stores and in 2013 plans to test several other prototypes, as well. Barnes & Noble has great real estate in prime locations and the Company's management is fully committed to the retail concept for the long term."

Everyone feel free to purchase Barnes & Noble stock today.

[WSJ. Photo: James Cridland/ Flickr]