The Barnes & Noble shopping bag spent years promoting a product—the Nook e-reader, an also-ran rival to the Amazon Kindle—that was intended virtually to eliminate the need for bookstore shopping bags. It didn't work. Now B&N has decided to use its shopping bags to emphasize something Amazon.com doesn't offer: bookstores that offer handsome plastic bags.
"You don’t get a shopping bag when you shop online—you get a box," says Glenn Kaplan, Barnes & Noble's creative director. The company distributes more than 90 million bags a year, making the totes one of its most effective advertising campaigns. That's why its latest bags, featuring first pages from a classic work of literature in a florid serif font, signal a return to traditional bookselling roots. After making their debut last month in New York, the redesigned bags will eventually spread across the country.