Why Is Barnes & Noble So Expensive? (11 Reasons Why)

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Oberon Copeland

Oberon Copeland is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, with a degree in economics and HR.

At the mention of Barnes & Noble, we tend to think of big stores with an equally massive selection of books, as well as the mind-numbingly high prices on its product offerings.

While it can’t be denied that Barnes & Noble products are expensive, it begs the question, “why is Barnes & Noble so expensive?” Here’s what I found!

Why Is Barnes & Noble So Expensive?

Barnes & Noble is expensive because the company’s available on multiple channels such as physical stores and online stores. Additionally, Barnes & Noble carries a large selection of books and other related products. Furthermore, Barnes & Noble strongly prioritizes its relationship with customers, providing excellent customer service, book-themed events, and a membership program.

Keep reading to learn more about Barnes & Noble, from its large selection of goods to its membership program!

1. Physical Stores In Prime Locations

Real estate doesn’t often come to mind when thinking about books, but this is one of the reasons why Barnes & Noble sells its books for such high prices.

For example, there are about 600 physical Barnes & Noble locations across the US, and several of these can be found in key locations.

So, with Barnes & Noble stores being found in shopping districts like 5th Avenue in New York City and The Grove in Los Angeles, it’s no surprise that it spends a lot of money on real estate alone.

As such, this business expense gets carried over to consumers, resulting in high prices for the retailer’s product offerings.

2. Barnes & Noble Products Are Available Online

In addition to Barnes & Noble’s brick-and-mortar locations, the retailer also runs an e-Commerce platform.

On this platform,  readers can purchase both physical and digital copies of the products in Barnes & Noble’s catalog.

So, Barnes & Noble’s website undoubtedly incurs high operational and maintenance costs to provide an enjoyable online shopping experience up to par with shopping in its physical stores.

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Therefore, this further plays a role in the pricing of Barnes & Noble products, as it takes a dedicated team of people to keep the platform up and running.

3. Knowledgeable Associates Are Available In Store

Barnes & Noble allows workers to discuss their reading choices with customers through “Staff Picks” and other channels.

In turn, each store has an information booth staffed by experienced employees who can provide informed answers to customers about the store’s inventory.

Additionally, specialists throughout the store work with specific needs, such as classics and contemporary books, to ensure that customer service expectations are met.

What’s more, these extra touches add value to the entire process, and Barnes & Noble offers them to ensure a great experience that will encourage customers to return.

Further, this has shown that readers are happy to pay more in exchange for this service, which plays into Barnes & Noble’s high prices.

4. Large Selection Of Books & Other Titles Available

Barnes & Noble products are expensive because the company stocks a large selection of books and other publications.

For example, with over 1,000,000 titles available in both its online and physical stores, Barnes & Noble is one of the few retailers that carry such a massive inventory of products.

Therefore, since Barnes & Noble offers such an extensive catalog of reading material, it can charge high prices.

5. Appealing To Readers Of Every Genre

5. Appealing To Readers Of Every Genre

In line with the above reason, having a large selection of books and other publications can be expensive because it captures the attention of more readers with different literary preferences.

In recent years, Barnes & Noble has largely expanded its collection of graphic novels and even acquired more copies of titles that have gone viral on TikTok.

Furthermore, there are other initiatives that Barnes & Noble has taken to tap unusual markets, such as groups looking for a place for entertainment, like book signings and readings.

That said, these events are undoubtedly great for bringing people in, but it also contributes to the hefty sum we pay for Barnes & Noble’s product offerings.

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6. Events Are Held Regularly To Attract More Patrons

Barnes & Noble goes to great lengths to help its communities.

Moreover, it may be as simple as a table operated by a local charity, such as a literacy council, where the organization can wrap customer-purchased gifts in exchange for donations.

Additionally, regular book readings for children in the children’s book department, book signings by local authors, or visits by touring national authors are other examples of events.

Also, Barnes and Noble’s change to a virtual format for similar events during the pandemic was critical in allowing it to provide more options by expanding the range of products.

Further, organizing such activities helps Barnes & Noble connect with the community in ways that benefit its customers.

7. Large Selection Of Peripheral Products To Purchase

In addition to Barnes & Noble’s extensive catalog of reading materials, you can find a wide array of products that are related to books.

For example, some of these products include things like stationery and various greeting cards for all occasions, as well as other forms of media like music and films.

Carrying these goods and books demand more marketing and knowledgeable staff, which results in higher pricing for Barnes & Noble.

8. Strong Ties With Both Readers And Authors

Barnes & Noble aims to create exceptional bookselling and book-buying experiences rather than merely selling books.

That said, it’s clear that Barnes & Noble aims to meet the needs of its readers, and it also makes an effort to connect authors and readers in a meaningful way that meets both their needs.

Further, the attention paid to booksellers requires efforts that boost both the expense of conducting business and the cost to customers who want to own the books they enjoy.

9. The Proliferation Of Barnes & Noble Cafés And Restaurants

Barnes & Noble recognizes some people are looking for a place to settle down after a long day of browsing through the vast collection of books and other products.

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To address this, Barnes & Noble has been offering coffee and pastries in its in-house cafés since the 1990s.

Furthermore, in 2016 the retailer announced that it would expand its current food and drink selection by opening in-store restaurants and bars to increase foot traffic into its physical stores.

Therefore, having cafés and restaurants within each store is undoubtedly a good business decision, making the product offerings pricey.

10. Nook E-Reader Makes Reading Convenient

E-books and e-readers are among the products listed on Barnes & Noble’s website.

That said, offering readers e-books in addition to physical books is undoubtedly difficult for a traditional bookseller.

However, doing so successfully speaks volumes about Barnes & Noble’s priority to stay competitive and profitable.

11. Barnes & Noble Membership Program

Barnes & Noble also offers a membership wherein readers can receive discounts and free shipping on purchases for an annual fee.

This way, the retailer can create value with patrons who opt-in to their membership, thus making them more willing to pay high prices for Barnes & Noble’s products.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why books are so expensive, why Grammarly is so expensive, and why Course Hero is so expensive.


There are several reasons why Barnes & Noble products are expensive, and these mainly revolve around its multi-channel approach to selling books and related items.

Additionally, a strong emphasis on its relationship with customers and authors contributes to Barnes & Noble’s high prices.

As such, it is only natural that Barnes & Noble is more expensive than other book retailers.


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