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Barnes & Noble's Musical Chairs Game Leaves Clues for Investors

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- With all the changes in the C-suites at Barnes & Noble (BKS - Get Report), investors can kiss goodbye hopes of improvement in the next earnings report unless the book seller can pull a Yahoo! (YHOO) or Zynga (ZNGA) and attract a star-level executive.

Business-card makers stay active with CFO Michael Huseby taking over as president of Barnes & Noble and CEO of Nook media and Controller Allen Lindstrom is the new CFO. Mitchell Klipper, CEO of Barnes & Noble Retail, and Huseby report to Leonard Riggio the largest shareholder and company chairman.

One image that comes to mind thinking about Klipper's burden of reporting retail performance to Chairman Riggio is a "Star Wars" scene when a Galactic Empire general reports a failure to Darth Vader. Fortunately, Klipper isn't concerned Riggio can choke someone through mind control.

In all fairness, it's impressive how Barnes & Noble retail is reinventing itself and changing itsproduct offering. Toys and other seemingly non-related products that can now be found inside the retail stores are not a complete solution, but the company is rightly focusing on the demographic walking inside the doors.

Although the net number of stores is declining, at least the company is identifying locations with earnings potential. For shareholders, it's a much better place to be than simply closing stores and no hope of making a profit anywhere. It's not enough, though, and as content consumption demand moves from physical books to digital downloads, the margins for both retail and online will compress.

Investors considering buying shares should ask themselves first, would I rather slam my head with my keyboard or directly compete with Amazon (AMZN) for book sales? Either way you're likely to need aspirin soon.

I wrote an article after Barnes & Noble reported earnings titled "Surviving Barnes & Noble in an Amazon World". Amazon doesn't care if it makes money, Amazon's objective is to increase market share. It's an awkward situation for smaller competitors and will remain depressed until Amazon focuses on margins instead of revenue.

While pulling the plug on the color Nook and dropping the price in the U.K. to clear the devices off the shelves (likely warehouse and retail), Amazon decided it was a nifty idea to discount the Kindle in the U.S., U.K., and the rest of Europe. When Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and BlackBerry (BBRY) clearance-priced sales to push their overstocked tablets out the door, people rushed to buy them.
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