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Cathy Jett is the assistant business editor at The Free Lance-Star, and specializes in covering the area's retail scene.

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Barnes & Noble plans more closings

Barnes & Noble’s CEO said Monday that the bookseller plans to continue shrinking its store base as the popularity of e-books expands.

A company spokeswoman wouldn’t say if the new Barnes & Noble store in Central Park shopping center would be among the 20 bricks-and-mortar locations the company expects to shutter annually over the next 10 years.

The Fredericksburg Barnes & Noble store, which held its grand opening last November, was one of two prototype stores opened in 2012. It features a Nook Boutique devoted to the company’s

e-reader.

Mitchell Klipper, who heads New York-based Barnes & Noble’s retail group, said in a Wall Street Journal interview that he expects that the company will have 450 to 500 stores in 10 years. That’s down from the 689 retail stores it currently operates, along with a separate chain of 674 college stores.

Barnes & Noble’s consumer bookstores peaked at 726 in 2008. That figure excludes the now-defunct B. Dalton chain.

Spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating said that Klipper’s remarks do not indicate a change in plans.

“We have historically closed approximately 15 stores per year for the past 10 years,” she said. “Some closings are due to the fact that stores are unprofitable, and others are stores moving to better locations.”

Although Barnes & Noble has, for the most part, stopped opening new stores in the past several years, Keating said the bookseller plans to test several prototypes this year.

“The company’s management is fully committed to the retail concept for the long term,” she said.

In the Wall Street Journal interview, Klipper said he expects that many of the 442 Barnes & Noble leases up for renewal by April 30, 2016, will be renewed. The company has a 10-year lease for its Central Park location, which was previously a Borders store.

Barnes & Noble, the largest traditional U.S. bookstore, has been facing tough competition from online retailers and discounters that sell books, and has been focusing on its Nook tablet, e-book reader and e-book business for growth.

Studies have shown that the e-book will dominate the publishing scene over the next decade, according to David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, LLC, a public relations agency specializing in book publicity for authors and publishers.

“That’s where people are going to be reading their books,” he said in a phone interview from his office in Suwanee, Ga. “Barnes & Noble is trying to anticipate this.”

Johnson said that Barnes & Noble’s bookstores will eventually look more like a Best Buy because they’ll focus on selling a variety of e-readers.

“Whole sections that used to be children’s sections will now be the Nook section and the Kindle section,” he said. “I think they’re going to have to offer e-books on other platforms [than their own.]”

Bookstores will continue to carry a selection of paper books because some people will prefer them. In addition, publishers are still signing agreements with booksellers to bring in major authors for book signings, Johnson said.

“The ones who will be hurt will be the smaller authors, local authors and self-published authors because they will lose their platform,” he said. “The response to that will be more campaigns geared toward social media and blogs to promote their books online.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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