Barnes & Noble Shuts Down Third-Party Marketplace For Over A Week, Shrugs

Image courtesy of Colleen AF Venable

BNbacksoonTwenty years ago, you would not have been allowed to set up your own little kiosk in the accessories department at Walmart selling the same sunglasses at slightly lower prices. Yet that’s exactly what e-commerce sites let third-party sellers do, and it usually works smoothly for everyone. Unless you’re a seller on Barnes & Noble’s Marketplace site, which shut down with no warning more than a week ago. Sellers are still locked out.

At the end of June, Barnes & Noble divided itself into two separate companies: its semi-troubled dead-tree book and e-reader business and its money-printing college bookstore division. The split divides the company into one very profitable business, and one that will no longer make the quarterly reports of its former parent company look better than they really are.

The CEO of all of Barnes & Noble, Michael Huseby, is following the textbook division out the door, taking over in September after the new school year starts. His replacement will be the current CEO of Sears Canada.

Now, the Amazon Marketplace is the best-known program like this, but Barnes & Noble has a marketplace too. As long as sellers are reliable, this can be a great transaction for everyone: the sellers’ businesses are visible, and the site is able to expand its inventory without building new warehouses, profiting from the sale through fees.

At the end of June, Barnes & Noble revamped its e-commerce website, and there have been some problems. One of those problems is that sellers in the Marketplace, which the company says lists tens of millions of items, are locked out of their accounts and have been since the end of June. They are understandably unhappy about this.

The other main problem with the new site is that the feature allowing customers to read Nook e-books instantly from a computer isn’t working. It’s one thing to be unable to read a book on your web browser: it’s another to make your living online and have orders and money locked up in a system that doesn’t work, with no estimate for when it will be fixed. Sellers told eCommerceBytes that they’re unable to even look at the inventory they have listed on BN.com, and one says that he has outstanding orders that he can’t process.

Yesterday, a Barnes & Noble spokesperson told eCommerceBytes that the company planned to have the Marketplace up and running today (Wednesday) and that the retailer “launched our bn.com website without Marketplace going live.”

Barnes and Noble Leaves Sellers in the Lurch [eCommerceBytes]