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Can Barnes and Noble Replace the School Book Fair?

The Barnes and Noble Kids' Book Hangout is trying to compete with the Scholastic Book Fair.

Flickr/SarahBrowning

If you liked reading as a kid, no doubt you’ll remember dashing as fast as your little legs could carry you to the Scholastic Book Fair. It was like Christmas morning for any avid reader. You could walk with an entire stack of Scholastic’s newest offerings or the classics.

Since the 1970s, Scholastic has been bringing Book Fairs to schools around the country. Now, Barnes & Noble is encroaching on the dominant children’s publisher’s turf with the Barnes & Noble Kids’ Book Hangout. It rolled out last year nationwide in Barnes & Noble stores and got kids from grades 1-6 to play games, talk about books, buy the latest releases and win advanced copies through giveaways in their stores.

Unlike Scholastic’s book fairs, Barnes & Noble has the advantage of showing and selling books from multiple publishers. The last remaining major bookstore chain is offering discounts on The Cardboard Kingdom, 5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior, The Last Kids on Earth and the Cosmic, Squirm and Monstrous Devices in their stores and online.

But Barnes & Noble is encumbered by the fact that they have to remain in their stores. Scholastic has more than 120,000 fairs a year at schools across the country. They bring the books to the kids rather than parents having to bring their kids to the local Barnes & Noble.

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And instead of lasting a few days or a week, Barnes & Noble’s Kids’ Book Hangout happens seasonally. This fall it’s on October 20th and starts at 2 p.m. nationwide. If you miss it, you’re out of luck. At Barnes & Noble’s first Kids’ Book Hangout about 10,000 children attended.

The bookseller has been struggling in the past three years, competing with both Amazon and the rise of independent bookstores, which was detailed in a story in The New York Times in August. This is Barnes & Noble’s most recent attempt to get people into its stores and rack up some sales.