May 16, 2021

Media Decoder Blog: Barnes & Noble Said to Put Publishing House Up for Sale

Barnes Noble has put Sterling Publishing up for sale, nearly a decade after it purchased the publishing house, said a person briefed on the matter.

The move is another sign that Barnes Noble, the nation’s largest bookstore chain, has intensified its focus on the digital side of the book business and is willing to shed other assets. Sterling Publishing, based in New York, has imprints focused on nonfiction, children’s books, crafting, cooking and self-help, among others.

Barnes Noble first announced in 2002 that it had purchased Sterling, leaving trade publishers bristling at the notion of competing with the bookseller as a publisher. At the time of the purchase, Sterling had a backlist of 4,500 titles.

Mary Ellen Keating, a spokeswoman for Barnes Noble, declined comment. The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal online.

Peter Wahlstrom, a senior analyst with Morningstar Equity Research, said that Sterling, whose sales are not stated in Barnes Noble’s public filings, was not a core piece of the company’s business.

“They probably don’t have the time to dedicate the resources to it, or they’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Mr. Wahlstrom said. “They need to be very careful where they’re spending their money and I don’t think they’re seeing the benefits of owning a publishing business.”

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