Corporate Eye

A Tale of Two Booksellers

It’s no secret that Borders has been struggling.  Top competitor Barnes & Noble has been a bit savvier (for example, selling off its mall-based stores sooner rather than too late), so it’s in relatively better shape.

But the reality is–traditional bookselling has been hit hard by a variety of economic and cultural factors, and the whole business model is in the midst of a huge, painful, and irreversible shift.  The market for CDs and DVDs, formerly a staple at both chains, is declining rapidly; downloadable books a la Kindle are on the ascendency; and the old, centralized publishing industry is rapidly being overtaken by a diffuse, diverse assortment of alternative publishing strategies.

So what’s the good news?  Not much yet.  But necessity is indeed mothering up some invention in the book world, and that’s a good reason to take a look at the Career sites of the two largest booksellers in America.

It’s fair to say there is no comparison.  B&N is bookish and buttoned up, while Borders is salsa-dancing hot.  Seriously.


Unfortunately, I  couldn’t find out when this design was implemented at Borders, so there’s no way of relating it to their overall business situation or marketing approach.  However, last year Borders took back its online operations from Amazon (after 17 years), and the Careers area may have been updated when the retail site was built.

Also unfortunately–there’s no way of knowing whether Borders gets better/more applicants through its site than B&N.  But for what it’s worth, they’ve done the right things at a fundamental level:  highlighting special opportunities (front-page AARP feature) and culture (front-page diversity feature); offering substantive information on benefits, as well as detailed position descriptions; and providing a seamless search-and-apply process.  (Barnes & Nobles does not have online search and application–listings are outsourced to HotJobs.)

No bells and whistles–videos, Flash, etc., at the Borders site.  A nice look and feel, though, suitable for a book business trying to reinvent itself in the digital age.  I had the impression that job-seekers are being invited along for an interesting adventure.

On the other hand, I definitely prefer the design of the customer-facing pages at Barnes & Noble over Borders.  So one wonders:  Is B&N behind the Careers curve because of complacency?  Do they have something new in the works?  Or . . . ?

To end on a high note, here’s a book-related reward for reading all the way to the end of the post!  A link to Librarians Gone Wild.  Yes, it’s highlights of the Golden Book Cart Drill Championships–and if you need further enticement, I’ll just mention that there are swords involved.

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Cynthia Giles has followed a serpentine career path from academia to publishing to marketing and design to information technology and corporate communications. There’s plenty of detail about this journey at, but briefly--the common theme has been ideas, and how to present them effectively. Along the way, she became an accidental expert on data warehousing and business intelligence, and for the past ten years she has combined corporate contracting with an independent consulting practice that focuses on marketing strategy for smaller businesses and non-profits. Having spent quite a bit of time looking for work, and anywhere from two weeks to two years inside a wide variety of American companies—she has given much thought to what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a great employment fit.