The end of booksellers. Long live, uh, Wal-mart?

Iain Dale writes that the continuing consolidation in the British bookselling business — which has long-since happened here — means:

The only way publishers can give this discount is to concentrate their efforts on bestsellers and to put all their marketing resources behind comparatively few books. The publishing sector has reflected its bookselling counterpart and seen many smaller publishing houses gobbled up by the bigger ones, as they struggle to compete. In turn this has meant fewer books being publishing and a contraction in range. So although the consumer wins on cover price, it loses out on choice. Some independent booksellers don’t even bother to sell Harry Potter books because Tesco is selling it more cheaply than the bookseller can buy it from the publisher. It’s not uncommon to see small independent booksellers piling up their supermarket trollies down at Asda, looking slightly sheepish as they do so. This is because the publisher gives Asda a 60-65% discount, while the small bookseller will get 40% if he’s lucky. And on top of that Asda is likely to sell the book as a loss leader.

Amazon offers a standard 30-40% discount on most non-academic titles, so it has been able to establish a dominant market position in online bookselling. It has been so successful that 80% of people who buy anything online, buy from Amazon at some point. So there’s the background – now for the prediction. I foresee that within ten years the independent bookshop will have disappeared from our town centres, all bar a few retired individuals who have got money to throw down the drain. Even second hand bookshops are disappearing at a fair old rate, as most people now buy their used books through Abebooks.

All the more reason for all the more writing to come online. [via Clive Davis]

  • Jimmy

    You may look forward to the day when anything and everything is online, but I for one will miss the pleasure of walking through a bookstore, looking through each title, and sometimes finding a book I’d never heard of. Some of my favorites have been discovered this way. Although, I am a bit of a hypocrite since most of my new books are purchased from Amazon.

  • Eric Strobes

    Is it true that “in turn this has meant fewer books being publishing and a contraction in range”?

    I thought that one of the peculiarities of the book industry was that the number of books published has grown faster than the number of books sold in both the UK and US.

    Does one of your readers have an authoritative source for this – apart from a Conservative politician railing against market forces (always a joy to watch)?

  • Jim S

    The probable survivors are specialty stores. Good stores that have staff extremely knowledgable in a field such as mysteries or science fiction have the best chance of survival in the long run.