The old take:
Book superstores such as Barnes & Noble cause risk-averse publishers to double down on celebrity authors and surefire hits.
In a world without Barnes & Noble, risk-averse publishers will double down on celebrity authors and surefire hits.
The first of the two is my memory, the latter of the two is a quotation. I found this claim, by author Alex Shephard, interesting:
Big-name authors, like Malcolm Gladwell or James Patterson, will probably be fine. So too will writers who specialize in romance, science fiction, manga, and commercial fiction—genres with devoted audiences, who have already gravitated to Amazon’s low prices. But Barnes & Noble is essential to publishers of literary fiction—the so-called “serious” works that get nominated for Pulitzers and National Book Awards. Without the initial orders Barnes & Noble places, and the visibility its shelves provide, breakout hits by relative unknowns—books like Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See or Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven—will suffer.
Could it be that without book superstores fewer books will be sold, but a higher percentage of those sold will be read?