In years past, book sellers have relied on people walking into their shops to buy books. But sadly, the numbers of such have been diminishing through the years as we see the rise of online retailers, aided by modern technology, who not only offer physical books but digital books too. This means customers don’t have to leave the comforts of their offices, homes or even beds to purchase a book. The biggest, as we know, is Amazon which offers physical, eBooks and audio books. So, can booksellers afford not to join in?
Well, we have all seen the figures flying about over the past few years, as how eBooks have overtaken the sale of physical books. My last few years visiting the London Book Fair have seen an explosion of companies offering to either create eBooks or sell them for you.
The Digital Zone, as it is called was teeming with seminars/talks about all thing eBooks because quite frankly, that was the direction things were going.
So, I ask again, can booksellers afford not to join in?
To me it seems a no brainer. I have no doubt that independent booksellers are, like myself, passionate about all things books but I can't help but to wonder why the slow uptake? Roger Taholm wrote an article ‘The (Digital) Ups and Downs of UK Independent Bookselling’ regarding the recent UK’s Booksellers Association Conference (Warwick). There was much talk about some of the concerns of booksellers especially regarding the terms offered by the likes of Kobo or Gardners.
Yet, I have to agree with the Booksellers Association president, Patrick Neal, that “selling e-books is a matter of survival”. As an author, self-publisher and aspiring publisher, each title I produce automatically comes with the eBook format (I seem to have skipped over the audio book boom – for now at least) because that’s what the readers are asking for. And if I can't supply them in that format, they might look for another title by someone else. And I loose a sale.
The same is with booksellers too. By having different formats of the same book available, you stand a chance of making a sale in at least one format (or more). I reckon the challenge is in the ‘how’ though I believe where there is a will, there is always a way.
Patrick Neal goes on to say, “I think if we don’t embrace e-books then we are giving customers the opportunity to turn their backs on us. If you’re not convinced by the economic argument for selling e-books, then see it as a marketing and PR opportunity for your business.” Again, I have to say I agree.
So it really is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’. Let’s hope that the partnership between Kobo and the Booksellers Association announced last week will start the ball rolling or perhaps the rumoured Nook/Foyles deal next month.
Personally, I long for the day I can stroll into my local bookshop and get the latest Jodi Picoult offering.
PS: I might have a bit of a wait though as we don’t have a general bookshop in my town :-)