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The History of Barnes & Noble

In 1873, Charles M. Barnes started a book business from his home in Wheaton, Illinois. Then in 1917, his son, William, moved to New York and together with G. Clifford Noble, he established Barnes & Noble. They opened what would later become their first store on Fifth Avenue at 18th Street in New York City at the height of the Great Depression. The store soon developed a reputation for excellence and sold a variety of titles, including general trade books, academic tomes, and medical textbooks. In 1971, bookseller Leonard Riggio acquired the Barnes & Noble name as well as the flagship store in Manhattan and merged these assets with his own bookselling business. In just a few years, Riggio grew the Barnes & Noble store on Fifth Avenue into “The World’s Largest Bookstore” carrying 150,000 trade titles and textbooks. During the 1970s and 1980s, Riggio made numerous acquisitions, the largest of which occurred when Barnes & Noble acquired B. Dalton Bookseller’s 797 retail bookstores in 1987. The massive acquisition made Barnes & Noble a nationwide retailer overnight and catapulted the chain into being the second-largest bookseller in the United States. In the 1990s, Riggio came up with the concept of the “superstore” and began selling music, educational toys, games, and gifts alongside a wide selection of book titles; his stores were also set up to provide a “warm, comfortable, and spacious atmosphere.” In 1993, Barnes & Noble became a publicly traded company and in 1997, the bookseller added an e-commerce website, In 2001, Barnes & Noble purchased and in 2003, Barnes & Noble acquired Sterling Publishing. Barnes & Noble entered the e-book market in 2009 with the launch of its NOOK e-readers, although they have recently been discontinued. In 2011, Barnes & Noble purchased Borders and Waldenbooks. In 2016, Barnes & Noble began testing out a new model in select stores that involved a more contemporary floor plan with books at the center, more food and beverage options, and expanded, comfortable seating options for customers. In 2019, Barnes & Noble was acquired by Elliott Advisors (UK) Limited and taken private. Today, Barnes & Noble remains a top book retailer in the United States and maintains locations in all 50 states.

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