Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The most important development in 60 years?

It may be true that the majority of books are bought in bricks and mortar stores, but a survey in the Irish Independent conducted by the Frankfurt Book Fair reveals that online book selling is believed to be the most important development in book selling for the past 60 years. A further survey by Nielson confirms that books outsell every other product bought online.

Online book selling is an industry that is thriving in Ireland, as Brona Looby, marketing manager of Easons says "this is an area that has seen phenomenal growth, particularly this year". She estimates the surge in growth at well over 100 per cent and goes on to say "It's an area that's growing faster in Ireland all the time as more and more people become aware". Easons are so excited by this surge in their online business that they are planning a major online marketing campaign for the second half of this year. They are not alone.

Other businesses such as ABE books, a pioneer of the "online marketplace" concept championed by Amazon who bought the business at the end of last year, where books are listed by hundreds of small independent sellers, with ABE processing their payments, has been their business boom in the 13 years since launch. At their inception, two million books were listed on their site, today that figure has grown to 110 million.

The biggest advantage of online buying for consumers is of course price, but also availability. Bricks and mortar stores cannot compete with an online store that lists every single book in print, and many that are not. Book stores can in theory order any book that has an ISBN, but tracking it down is not always that easy - the publisher has to have an account with one of the wholesalers that the store obtains their stock from - and not all small presses, and in particular self publishers do. Contract this with the world of Amazon and ABE where small presses and private individuals including authors themselves can sell their books direct to the public, supplying them very often within 24 hours. This is particularly beneficial for those who live in rural areas and do not have access to bricks and mortar stores without travelling a considerable distance.

Online selling is particularly suited to non fiction, as buyers can search for topics of interest and order there and then. The real battle is though fought over the best selling fiction titles, with the online retailers falling over themselves to better the prices of the chains, who compete with incentives such as three for two, and loyalty card schemes.

I must admit that I tend to shop for books myself this way, buying fiction titles in the bricks and mortar stores and non fiction online, where it is easier to search for and obtain information on such titles, and where there is much greater availability at often better prices.

Another advantage of online selling is of course the ability to reach other markets overseas that would be impossible through bricks and mortar stores alone. When I think back to the books that I have sold to people overseas, they have all come about because of the Internet - through the usual online retailers, through my own website and to those whom I have met through other means - most commonly online forums and social networking sites. In fact if it wasn't for the Internet then I wouldn't be published at all, as this is how I found my publisher, through searching for information on print on demand.

No comments: