America’s largest book collection for sale?

You may soon have an opportunity to purchase America’s largest collection of books. The asking price will be steep and you will have to compete with one of Forbes’ “400 Richest Americans.”

Barnes and Noble announced on August 3rd that it is thinking of selling itself. Why? The push may be coming from billionaire Ron Burkle, who likes to buy and sell supermarket chains and is part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s been acquiring stock in Barnes and Noble since 2008, although he is not a majority shareholder.

Most discussions about bookstores eventually head down one conversational aisle: e-books. Burkle is convinced that Barnes and Noble should become - wait for it - a consumer electronics company.  He doesn’t just mean that Barnes and Noble’s e-book reader, NOOK, should compete more heavily with Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad, he feels that Barnes and Noble stores should go all out and become a retailing hydra: selling books, e-book readers and consumer electronics products from Hewlett-Packard. (Think Apple Stores with “Twilight” and Dan Brown novels over near the restroom.)

Burkle has been involved in a nasty proxy lawsuit with the Barnes and Noble board. The Delaware judge overseeing the fight, Vice Chancellor Leo Strine, struck down Burkle’s suit, writing in his ruling, “At bottom, Yucaipa is simply positioning an absurd scenario at best fit for a discussion by a Red Bull fueled group of nerdy second year law school corporate law junkies, who find themselves dateless (big surprise) on yet another Saturday night.”

Ouch.  Talk about being kicked in the nook.

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