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Serendipity and Samples Can Save Barnes & Noble

July 15 (Bloomberg) -- Turmoil at Barnes & Noble Inc., where Chief Executive Officer William Lynch resigned last week after the company posted an unexpectedly large loss in the quarter ended April 30, has people in the publishing industry worried. “We’re all forced to ask: What would the book discovery environment look like without Barnes & Noble?” writes Rich Fahle, a former Borders executive who runs a marketing agency for authors.

The question zeroes in on a growing problem for the U.S. book industry. Although readers increasingly purchase books online, they still rely on physical bookstores to discover what to buy. In-store displays are the most common way, after personal recommendations, that frequent buyers find new books, accounting for about 20 percent of purchases, according to a survey by the Codex Group. Yet brick-and-mortar stores are disappearing, as customers defect to the convenience and, in many cases, lower prices of Amazon.com Inc.