Barnes & Noble laying off staff

After a terrible holiday season, Lauren Thomas and Lauren Hirsch report for CNBC, Barnes & Noble without warning laid off an unspecified number of employees on Monday morning.

Barnes & Noble is trimming its staff, laying off lead cashiers, digital leads and other experienced workers in a company-wide clearing, CNBC has learned from sources familiar with the matter...The number of affected workers couldn't immediately be determined. As of April 29 of last year, Barnes & Noble employed about 26,000 people.

The smart thing for Barnes & Noble to do would be to give its employees more control over its stock, to make each store a unique neighborhood hub with plenty of local character, and to create welcoming spaces staffed by well-read employees. Of course, the company will likely do the exact opposite: more corporate control over stores, cost-cutting measures that make the stores feel even more empty, and fewer staff around to make personalized recommendations and to create local flavor.

I worked at Borders as it started its slow, sad corporate decline — you can read my account of that here — and from the outside, this Barnes & Noble news looks very familiar to me. There's always some possibility that Barnes & Noble might be saved, but I wouldn't bet money on it.

It's time for the publishing industry to start figuring out how to thrive without a Barnes & Noble in every corner of the nation. Right now, losing B&N would be disastrous for publishing and for American literature in general; it would move all the power to Amazon, and it would close the only bookstore in many rural communities around the country. If I were one of the big publishers, I would start organizing with independent bookstores — right now — to figure out a way forward together.