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[video] Can Barnes & Noble Save Retail?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With Amazon.com (AMZN) all but set to make deliveries via drone, it's tough to conceive a retail outfit such as Barnes & Noble (BKS) saving anything.

But hear me out.

While Barnes & Noble might not step to the plate, somebody else, somewhere -- with a significant physical retail presence -- has to do something, anything to salvage the notion of brick-and-mortar commerce.

At this stage, "innovation" in physical retail consists of little more than moving some sales online, taking orders via mobile devices and creating the lamest of lame "store within a store" experiences.

As I marvel ... no, check that ... as I fanboy all over Jeff Bezos, I can't help but think that there has to be somebody else out there with equally as mind-blowing ideas.

After all, Bezos took the place of Apple's (AAPL) Steve Jobs. Or, as iPod gave way to iPhone and iPhone made room for iPad, it's probably more accurate to say Bezos shared space with Jobs.

In any event, while in their own world, Bezos and Jobs were not/are not completely alone. Jack Dorsey created Twitter (TWTR). Mark Zuckerberg conceived Facebook (FB). And Reed Hastings likes to tell people he had the idea for Netflix's (NFLX) original DVD-by-mail concept. There's Elon Musk with everything from PayPal to the eventual hyperloop. Howard Schultz and his team have made Starbucks (SBUX) -- at the end of the evening, a mere coffeehouse -- the envy of a majority of mobile/digital companies.

Bezos. Jobs. Dorsey. Zuck. Hastings (cough, cough). Musk. Schultz.

You mean to tell me that's all we got?

I don't believe for a second there's not a way forward for a company like Barnes & Noble. One that still offers consumers the foundation and, in parts, the core of a solid experience. It doesn't look like there's a way because there's very little, if any, will. And there's no courage to step out and get crazy -- but still run a damn solid business -- the way Bezos has for more than a decade.

Barnes & Noble limps through the motions. As if all they can do is sit in the corner and fend off punches from Amazon. That's the problem. There's nothing inherently wrong with the company's business or even position. It's just that, stunningly, there's no meaningful recognition of the need for profound change. And there's probably a whole slew of internal excuses as to why we can't do this or that.

Yes, when I was in Barnes & Noble I purchased $100 worth of merchandise from Amazon.com. However, the Barnes & Noble experience prompted me to spend the money. The pessimist looks at that and says, You idiot. They put books on shelves like we've been doing for hundreds of years. You call that an experience. You derive hope from that?

Not quite.

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