The Baron Of Books

Barnes & Noble's Leonard Riggio says his megastores have "liberated" a hidebound industry. If smaller rivals perish, so be it

As Leonard S. Riggio, chief executive of Barnes & Noble Inc, tours his chain's newest outpost, near Atlanta, no detail escapes his notice. He proudly points to features he championed, from cathedral ceilings designed to bring a feeling of grandeur to bookbuying to handpainted signs meant to make the store look less corporate. Passing the public bathroom, he can't resist a swipe at the detractors who said they'd become a pit stop for cabdrivers--of which his father was one. That kind of marketing savvy combined with a willingness to break the rules have helped make Riggio, 57, one of the most powerful and controversial figures in the book world.

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