Home Homepage Feature Story Barnes & Noble’s New “Premium” Membership Is An Insult To Readers

Barnes & Noble’s New “Premium” Membership Is An Insult To Readers

by Tyler Ventura


Popular book retailer Barnes & Noble has always evoked mixed emotions within the reading community, whether it be their takeover of local bookshops or their lack of lesser-known authors on shelves.

Recently, they’ve just added another reason for customers to shop elsewhere.

Barnes & Noble CEO, James Daunt, announced a few weeks ago that the retail chain would be phasing out the company’s current membership plan in favor of a newer one. Members of the current plan are now being informed in-store and online that they must switch or forfeit their memberships entirely when their current periods are up.

Formerly, the $25 membership would get customers 10 percent off in-store purchases, free shipping on their website, exclusive deals and access to events and special birthday offers.

Going from a $25 annual fee to the new $40 fee, one would imagine a mandatory $15 hike up would nearly double the benefits.

Instead, the lackluster new rewards tacked onto the old ones include 10 percent off on their website, a size upgrade at the Barnes & Noble Cafe, a treat at the cafe for your birthday and one tote bag each year.

It’s worth noting that the 10 percent is not available to use on some products such as Nook devices or ebooks and digital content.

Essentially this new membership plan is catering to individuals shopping in-store for physical books and also buying coffee at the cafe. For digital consumers whose interests lie in neither of those two, this “deal” is a hard pass, a clear missed market by Barnes & Noble.

For the rest of us bookworms, however, it becomes an uneven divide.

Many of us enjoy reading print books and while the cafe can be a nice place to relax, not everyone is interested in downing a large vanilla sweet cream cold brew they saved 20 cents on from a medium while they slug through another Colleen Hoover novel.

Not only are a portion of people not keen to buy from the Barnes & Noble Cafe, but some Barnes & Noble locations don’t even have cafes, rendering that aspect of the new membership useless.

As if being required to fully “upgrade” to the $40 membership as opposed to having an option wasn’t enough, getting it now demands credit card information.

In the past, memberships could be purchased in-store with cash so customers wouldn’t have to worry about the looming automatic billing that came with using a credit card. Now they’ve completely taken out this option, hoping that customers forget they’re paying for it so Barnes & Noble can rack up more membership numbers.

The exclusion of keeping the two memberships running parallel and letting customers pick between a tier is the real nail in the coffin. The basis of consumerism hinges on choice and to take that away in favor of forcing a more expensive fee with pitiful recompense is sure to rub people the wrong way.

While the bookseller is launching the free program “Barnes & Noble Rewards” that allows customers a five-dollar credit for every $100 they spend, it feels like a thin bone they’ve thrown to those who’ve enjoyed the current membership for years.

For members, this latest change may be the last straw in their decision to purchase from Barnes & Noble as opposed to other alternatives.

Personal debate on whether the new “premium” is worth the price is sure to vary, but for many, it’s the end of a chapter with their Barnes & Noble memberships.

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