Is the Barnes and Noble Membership worth it?

So, is the Barnes and Noble Membership worth it? Well, it depends on you! It currently costs $25 per year. The main benefits are that you get 40% off hardbacks and 10% off just about everything else in the store, and online you get free shipping – generally two days. It is important to emphasize that the general discount doesn’t apply to your online purchases. When I first started looking into it a couple of years ago, I thought there was absolutely no way that it was going to be worth the money. I do almost all of my book buying and reading electronically (and I don’t have a Nook, I’m a Kindle lady) and when I do buy books, I don’t buy hardbacks because I find them difficult to hold.

However, I was tempted by the initial “lots of coupons!” offer, and so I just went for it. I actually had a hard time getting those initial coupons (I can’t remember if I ever did or not), which annoyed me right off the bat, so I kept careful track that year of what I saved with the membership to see if it would end up being a better deal for me or not – and it definitely was. I had been thinking that I’d need to end up spending $250 a year (10% of $250 is the $25 the membership cost) in order to come out ahead, which is not necessarily the case, as you’ll see below.

There ended up being three reasons why the membership works well for me.

  1. Many of the people on my “gift list” for holidays and birthdays are readers. I am of an age where many of my friends and family have babies or young children, and I love giving books to kids. Not just because they’re fun to shop for, either! Also, many of my immediate family members like to get books for Christmas and birthdays. So I still end up buying physical books, just often not for myself, unless you count the books I get for my baby.
  2. Coupons. Being a member means you fairly frequently get emailed coupons. Often they will be 20% off, but I’ve had up to 40% off single items before. If you go into the store, your member discount generally (not always – but it will tell you on the coupon) gives you an additional ten percent off that. (Math side note. If you get 20% off an item, then 10% off that, the total percentage off ends up being 28% off, not 30% off). If everything you bought was using a 20% off coupon, with the 10% member discount, now all you have to buy is $89.29 worth of books in a year to come out ahead (28% of $89.29 is just over $25). Shoot, I can do that without even breaking a sweat.
  3. Free Express Shipping. I care less about the “Express” part than the “Free” part. The “Free” part means that if you see great sales online (which often is the case) you can grab the deals without having your savings eaten up by shipping.  This, combined with the coupons members get, means that I have been able to buy some of the books and movies I’d been wanting for a while for pretty cheap. I bought the Percy Jackson series for under $5 a book, and the Harry Potter series for under $6 a book, and the Lord of the Rings movies for under $5 per movie (though at this point in time, that should be fairly standard), and the Harry Potter set for about $6-$7 per movie, just by waiting for them to go on sale and getting free shipping. A side note about the movies is that I VERY rarely buy them, but now the only place I buy movies is B&N because I can usually get great deals if I’m patient. I’ve also gotten some great deals on board games.

So, in a nutshell, for me it has continued to be worth the $25 a year, because of the three reasons above.

Get a membership here.

What about you? Are you or have you been a Barnes and Noble member? Did you get your money’s worth out of it? Did you stop reading when you saw math?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.


29 thoughts on “Is the Barnes and Noble Membership worth it?

  1. intexplorer says:

    We love our Barnes and Noble membership. I have not made the jump into ebooks yet as I really love the tactile experience of a real book. I love to underline key passages, to dog-ear key pages, and to have the book on my shelf as a testament to our (the book and me) shared reading experience. Also, I can continue to read when the plane is below 10,000′. SO, the tactile experience of browsing in a bookstore and selecting a book (and not paying full price) is part of the value of our B&N membership.

    • lectorsbooks says:

      I love the idea of the shared reading experience! I also enjoy physically handling and reading a paper book (although the thought of dog-earing pages makes me cring a little bit :)), but when I was commuting for work, and now that I’m often reading while holding a baby, the convience factor often wins out for me. I can read an e-book with one hand, but not a paperback. And yes, it annoys me that I have to stop reading during the landing/take off on a plane – it always happens at the most intense moment!

  2. Beth Hennins says:

    I’ve had a B&N membership for at least 15 years, possibly longer, and have one of the original membership cards. I won’t part with it until it no longer scans! B&N is a great place to find audio books, greeting cards, calendars, travel info, stationary, Christmas cards, and the best place for children’s books. When I’m living overseas, it becomes nearly a one-stop Christmas shopping spree. AND, the B&N discount makes the cafe’s Starbucks coffee less expensive! Buy a membership today!

    • lectorsbooks says:

      15 years, wow! That’s real dedication! I’d forgotten to mention the Starbucks benefit. I don’t drink coffee, so that’s not a perk for me. And B&N does have some beautiful stationery/calendar type things. I got my (completely adorable) calendar for the nursery there.

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  4. Beth Waits says:

    I had a B&N membership for YEARS, and I really loved it/got a lot of use out of it – too much use, in fact. I intentionally let it lapse in grad school so that I would stop impulse buying books that I couldn’t afford. I changed my ways and started going to the public library, A LOT. Now, I don’t buy books unless I have a gift card, because I always think, “no, I shouldn’t…it’s available at the library,” or, “it’s so much cheaper on Amazon,” etc.

    It’s funny that you posted this, because I literally get interrogated by the same cashier on a weekly basis at the local Barnes about why I don’t have a membership card. He’s been working there for about a decade, and, you know, they start to recognize you after 15 years of frequenting the cafe. He’s started to notice my trend of gift-card-only purchases, and he becomes visibly frustrated at “membership question time.” He says (in a rather dejected tone), ” I don’t understand; you’re such an obvious candidate for a membership. I mean, you come in here ALL THE TIME.” (He’s very polite not to mention his membership-quota as a reason, bless him). So now, after I’ve rejected membership on so many occasions (very kindly, I might add, talking at great length about the importance of the public library), this is what happens to me at point-of-sale:

    Instead of, “Would you like a Barnes and Noble membership card today?”

    I get, “Well?…….” followed by a prolonged, pointed, guilt-inducing stare!

    I’m starting to break-down under the pressure, and I think a new B&N membership is in order. Thanks for posting!

    • lectorsbooks says:

      I find the hard sell SO annoying! I’ve started responding to the Target cashiers, “No, thank you, I’m not interested in a Target Credit Card, even though I know it will save me 5% on all of my purchases.” I was actually thinking about getting one until I had a REALLY pushy check out lady, which put me off it entirely. If you do decide to get a membership, just think of it as $25 spent towards maintaining a guilt-free/stress-free checkout. 🙂 Also, just think how far your gift cards will go when you combine member coupons plus membership discount PLUS giftcard! And B&N gift cards are pretty much the best present ever, so congrats on that!

  5. Stori says:

    Ok, you’ve convinced me. I’ll get one. Last week I went to BN, but I changed my mind about buying the books at the last minute. I came home and bought the same books on Amazon for less than half the cost on the store. Maybe if I had bought the membership it would not have been so high. I would much prefer to buy books in store and free shipping on online purchases is always a bonus.

    I had a Nook and I hated it. Then we accidentally left it in a hotel room in Moscow. However that was two years ago, right after they came out so perhaps they have improved on them somewhat. I hear great things about the Kindle, but I usually just use my iPad Nook or Kindle apps. I hate that though since its big and hard on the eyes.

    Side note – I’m feeling a great pressure to leave long comments like all your other followers :). But then again, I’ve always been on the long winded side.

    • lectorsbooks says:

      To show you I practice what I preach, I just got home from BN a couple of hours ago. I got the 10% off member discount plus I had two twenty percent off coupons because I am a member. Some of them would still have been cheaper on Amazon, but I also had the pleasure of wandering the book store and supporting a company that is NOT Amazon, for a change.

      Sorry you hated your Nook! I love my Kindle because it’s one of the really basic ones, no touch screen, just very simple. I’m going to cry when it dies (i.e. when I eventually drop it in the bath – it’s only a matter of time). I get headaches if I spend to long staring at a backlit screen, so if I’m going to be reading for more than thirty minutes or so, I pull out a paper book or my Kindle.

      I wouldn’t feel too much pressure about the length of your comments, you’re keeping up just fine so far. 😀

    • lectorsbooks says:

      I’m not sure what their current offerings are for, but many of the coupons i get are for x% off “one item” which can be used for books, Movies, games, toys, or whatever else. I’ve also seen $x off your total order if greater than a certain amount, and coupons for the in house Starbucks cafe. But as I said, I’m not sure what exactly they’re doing right now. Good luck!

  6. Reads books says:

    I don’t know if anyone is still following this post, but I just happened to run across it when I was searching to see if I could figure out how B&N determines when to send you a 20% off one item coupon. If anyone knows this information, please post!

    I’ve had a B&N membership since Borders (I really miss them) went under. At first my membership had the discount in the store & online, but the online discount was reduced to just free shipping. I used to go to the bookstore all the time, then one day I bought a book that cost forty something dollars in the store. I had a 20% off coupon, so I got a good discount. Or so I thought. I was looking for something on the B&N website & looked up the book I had purchased, & saw that it was being sold for twenty something dollars online. A really big difference. I contacted them about why the big price difference & was told it was because they don’t have to pay overhead for the website that they have to pay for the store. Since then, I pretty much buy all my books online from them. I don’t get the discount, but the books are cheaper & I get free shipping.

    So yes, it’s been worth the $25 for me because of all the free shipping I’ve gotten, but the membership discount is pretty worthless in my opinion, because the books in the store are more expensive than the books online. The only coupons I ever get are the 20% one item ones, & they never send them before Tuesday when the new books are released.

    • lectorsbooks says:

      I don’t know how B&N decides to send the coupons, sorry!

      Do you get their emails? That’s where I sometimes get the more than 20% off ones.

      I do agree, that if it were just the 10% off in stores, it probably wouldn’t be worth it, but the coupons PLUS the 10% off is pretty nice, and then the free shipping, as you mentioned.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      • Reads books says:

        Yes, I get the emails, so I get the 20% off coupons. I don’t think they send them randomly, but I can’t figure out what the trigger is. I think it’s something to do with ordering something, but I could be wrong.

  7. Joe C says:

    I am on the fence about becoming a B&N member. I have 2 small children that I REALLY want them to get into the habit of reading. Also it will allow my wife and I to take the time to read to them.

    I am thinking of buying 2 nooks HD just because it would be easier to hold as well as I think it will grasp their attention much longer. And when they are not using it to read they can play some games and other stuff. My question is, Can the 10% member discount be applied to purchasing the devices as well as any sort of books we may want to buy for the nook?

    • lectorsbooks says:

      Hi, Joe!

      No, it looks like the membership does not extend to Nook or Nook Book purchases. However, if you’re thinking about buying a Nook, I’d look at prices this weekend, as they’re usually pretty discounted for Black Friday. shows all the options and what the prices and discounts are.

      E-readers have their place, but I’d recommend physical books for your kids too. It might help get them interested if you go into the store and make a fun outing out of it where they get to browse and choose their own books (and maybe a treat from the cafe!). If they feel they had input they’ll be more likely to follow through with wanting to read the books. Depending on how old they are, the interactive books such as this is not my dinosaur, or any of the this is not my —- series are really great for holding their attention. I use them with my eleven month old wiggly boy and it’s the first thing he’s been interested in reading.

  8. Michi says:

    Disclosure: I am a Barnes and Noble employee and I work the cash registers so it is one of my main objectives at the register to sell memberships. I looked up this blog because I wanted to understand what customers feel are the pros and cons of our membership to be able to inform and serve you better. Your three reasons why the membership works are spot-on and exactly what I try to convey to each customer.
    I, myself, have a membership even though I do get an employee discount. This is because in some cases, I actually get a better deal!

    I would like to add some thoughts to your reasons why it is good to get the membership:
    1. Even though you may not “intend” to spend up to or over $250 in a year on books, toys, games, Starbucks coffee from the BN cafe, etc…most customers do in one way or another. This is especially true for families. It is not just what they spend on their own children or spouses, it is the baby showers, birthday parties, and events that the children attend where it is pretty much required to arrive with a gift. Having a membership saves on these, sometimes, last minute purchases. As a mom and at some time in the future, a grandparent, I know this very well…

    2. The coupons!! First, if you are a non-memeber, you get coupons in your email also, BUT, they usually are say 15% off one item as opposed to the 20% off coupon a member gets. Also, as you have pointed out, if an item is marked 30% off + 20% off coupon + 10% membership = WIN! That is where the membership really works. Customers in the know, will look for these coupons and save that major toy or coffee table book purchase just for these coupon rollouts. I will add, big coupon savings usually come out in November and a couple times a year. As an employee, I never know for sure when the Big Office makes this decision either, so just like any customer, I keep a lookout in my email and snail-mail.

    3. I will also add comments to the free shipping. Members, FREE SHIPPING ALWAYS! Yes, books and other items online are almost always cheaper than in the store and knowing you have a membership with FREE SHIPPING just makes it better.
    Now, here is a huge point I would like you to consider. It is part of the bonus of membership, free shipping and ordering online. I’m switching to some caps for emphasis:

    If you like coming to a real brick and mortar bookstore, getting a cup of coffee, browsing, flipping through a book or magazine, PLEASE DO!!

    If you see a book, toy, game or whatever that you like, go ahead, look it up on you NOOK or KINDLE or IPAD on BN.COM, PLEASE!! We know you do this. We even encourage it in the store. We want you to get the best possible price. Remember, we are customers too! But as you weigh the prices between and please consider this:

    Knowing items are cheaper online and you have access to our stores:
    COME TO OUR STORES! Go to our Customer Service Desk.
    Order the items to be shipped to your home. Remember FREE SHIPPING ALWAYS for members, otherwise it is FREE with a $25 purchase for non-members.
    This means you PREPAY IN THE STORE INSTEAD OF GOING HOME and ordering on you computer or other device.

    By ordering and prepaying in the store, you get:
    If you order online at home or on your device, the store obviously does not get that sale. Then you wonder why the bookstores are closing and you miss them. This way, it is a win for everyone. You get the better price, we get the sale and your community still has a living, breathing bookstore.

    This blog and the following comments were very helpful to me in finding ways to help our customers. I really want our customers to be happy and enjoy their Barnes and Noble experience whether you choose to buy a membership or not. Thanks!

    • lectorsbooks says:

      Wow, thanks for stopping by! There’s a lot of great information here. I love the idea of ordering online from the store!

  9. Tiffany says:

    I just signed up! I realized not too long ago that a membership is definitely worth the cost for as much as I read. Plus B&N has more than just books. I used to think $25 was insane, but I was young and dumb and didn’t use math to figure out what I know now about the B&N membership. Then I jumped on the eReader boat for a couple of years after getting the Nook for my birthday. But I missed physically holding a book in my hands and I missed the new book smell. So I’m back to reading physical books.

    I’m disappointed that it took me this long to finally get a membership, but I am glad I have one now! And your article just inspired me to go Christmas shopping at B&N this year with my new membership. 😉

    Thanks for this!

    • lectorsbooks says:

      Great! I do a lot of Christmas shopping there, too! They often have a “buy $X in gift cards, get $10 in gift cards free”, and I usually do that – I can either shop with the gift cards myself, or give them as presents.

  10. Abby says:

    I don’t buy often and B&N, but the twice a year Criterion disc sales are epic shopathons for me. Between the sale and the member discount. most Criterion titles are $17.99. Only problem is that my store replaces every one I buy with two more copies of the same title. I literally have all the ones they have on the shelf until new ones come out and have to ask them to get older ones explicitly for me. Good news is they give me my 10% when I make them order them, but it’s still a pain. If it were easier to do or I got the discount online, I’d be happier.

  11. Kerry Stanton says:

    OK. I wouldn’t normally chime in, but since the comments here are largely positive regarding the B&N membership, I figured I’d thrown in my counter point. It really irks me that they charge for their loyalty program. I realize it’s a good business strategy – the fact that you have to pony up money up front is an added incentive for buying from B&N. You don’t want to feel like you’ve “wasted” your membership fee, after all. However, it’s that very strategy that bugs me and drives me to 1) not join and 2) deliberately shop elsewhere for as good/better a deal that didn’t force me to pay to join their membership program.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t cut off my nose to spite my face. I still buy from B&N if they have the best deal, or an item I can’t find elsewhere. And when the cashier asks me to join, I never lecture them, but I do tell them I’m happy to leave a phone number if anyone does want to discuss why. Frankly, as a brick-and-mortar store, they’ve got some serious competitive challenges to figure out, and with or without these paid memberships to provide incentive to shoppers, if they don’t come up with something better, those stores are going to go the way of Borders within a few years…

    (And a hint, from past experience – voluntarily paying higher prices there because you like the atmosphere, or want to “save” them won’t help, and when they’re gone, you’ll just be poorer for having done it).

    • lectorsbooks says:

      A great counterpoint. For many people paying for the membership won’t be worth it, and it’s important to not to spend more money there just because you’ve already paid for the membership. I still find it to be worth it, mostly for the free shipping combined with the coupons they send out to members. It probably won’t be worth it for my family once we are out of the stage where our friends and family have young kids, as I save a lot of money (even after paying for the membership) on books and movies I get as presents.

  12. Vung Nguyen says:

    I discovered that the $25 membership fee doesn’t worth it as I do not spend enough at Barnes & Nobel. Make sure to op-out of the automatic renewal…I found out the hard way when they renew my membership without my knowledge. I called to cancel my membership and hopefully to get a refund, and was informed that they can only refund via the credit card account that they have on their system. Unfortunately I canceled my credit card account 2 weeks before so I was unable to obtain a refund.

  13. Nicolas says:

    I’m an employee at B&N and I just want throw out there that you start saving money at around $200 (less than a book month, a drink a week, or a DVD or CD a month) instead of $250 because of tax. We do not charge tax for the initial membership and we take off the discount before we add on tax so we save you extra (not all items do this like bibles which are tax free). Also if you use the coupons when we send them (we do often, especially through email) savings start at $80 a year.

  14. Hayden says:

    Has anyone bought this membership just for their board games. That is what I plan on doing. I just want to know some other people’s results.

  15. CathyVergison says:

    I got a Barnes and Noble membership for Christmas. Every time I go to use it, I get a hassle. I’ve talked to 3 supervisors. The first one implied that I was trying to do something underhanded. She said she would fix the problem on a one time occasion. I went to her boss. She promised it was fixed on two occasions. The last excuse was that they put Ann Arbor in as my name. How ridiculous. I have a call in to her boss. We’ll see what he does. It’ the middle of August and my card still does not work right.

  16. Pete says:

    Nicolas, when you say you save us extra because you take off the discount first, then add tax, that’s not actually true. In fact, the discount is the same either way. If you buy a book for, say, $20, then take off 25%, that’s $15, taxed at 10%, the total is $16.50. Take the same price and tax it first, up to $22.00, and then take off 25%, you still get $16.50. Try it with any price, discount, or tax rate. It’s the same eithet way. Pete

  17. Lorette Teal says:

    This is several YEARS after your original but caught me just when a B&N renewal was automatically withdrawn from my checking that I’d forgotten I had. Your post reminded me how much I loved going to BN and how relaxing it had been before life stressors had their way! Think I’ll keep
    the membership. Much cheaper than
    joining membrrship with prozac!

    joining membership with prozac. (Only
    partially LOL)

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