Have Online Stores Changed Books Forever
A short while ago, Borders – previously one of Australia’s biggest book franchises – announced that it would be filing for bankruptcy. As well as the resultant staff cuts and job losses for hundreds of people, this measure really got us thinking about what this means for the good old printed book. Has it had its day?
In an email to shareholders and loyal customers announcing the company’s financial situation, Borders Australia’s Managing Director Adrian Jones said that Borders needed to be restructured ‘in order to compete in what has become a global marketplace for book readers’.
Indeed, the globalised nature of the book world – and the popularity of online book retailers such as amazon.com – has definitely changed the way in which people buy and enjoy printed books.
It’s typically so much cheaper to buy books online and from overseas, even when delivery costs are taken into account, that it’s no small wonder huge volumes of people are deserting actual walk-in book stores like Borders, Dymmocks and Angus & Robertson.
Another very significant factor in the demise of the bookstore has been the gradual change in the way we consume information.
First of all, there’s the fact that we’ve become incredibly impatient as consumers – and as readers. Thanks to online technology and TV, our attention spans are much shorter than they were, say, 30 years ago. We’re wired for fast, furious consumption of information, in bite-sized chunks. This doesn’t leave much time for absorbing long, detailed books.
Plus, the advent of technologies like e-readers, ipads and tablets, means that there are different ways to consuming books rather cuddling up with a rustic, printed novel.
An article on BookBee.net says that a major problem for Borders was that they didn’t take this trend into account soon enough – claiming ‘Borders was very late in the game to get onboard the ebook bandwagon, a long way behind Barnes & Noble, and their Nook.’
The same article compares the modern scenario with books to what happened to the music industry a decade ago, saying: ‘anyone else get the same feeling that you go 8-10 years ago when music monoliths were shrinking and merging under a similar digital paradigm shift?’
So where do we go from here? Is there hope for the book?
The answer, in our opinion, is yes. Most definitely. Books are inspiring things that will con-tinue to be enjoyed by generations.
However, we predict three key changes.
- Online book stores will thrive. Regardless of whether they’re here or overseas, it appears that online book stores are doing extremely well and will continue to do so. Without the overheads of rent and expansive staff numbers, online stores are able to undercut on price – which is going to continue to attract customers. In fact, in July last year, according to an article on the ABC News website, Borders in the US launched an online electronic book store to challenge Amazon, Apple and Barnes and Noble in the fast-growing market for digital books.
- More self-publishers will start selling books online. Got an idea for a book – but can’t find a publisher – or a distributor? These days, it’s easy to do it yourself. If you can find a cost effective printer and can easily set up the mechanism on your website (which Big Click can help you with), you can sell your own book, or books, over the internet.
- E-readers will gain popularity. According to the previously mentioned article on BookBee.net, Borders’ situation is actually helping encourage the demise of the printed book – claiming ‘… news like this [Borders’ bankruptcy] gets picked up and repeated around the world, outside the techie, geek world…. This starts to get peo-ple who don’t know what an ebook is, or haven’t even considered buying a Kindle, to start to understand that there is an alternative to paper books…’
It’s also reassuring to see that Borders haven’t yet closed their doors. In fact, their U.S. CEO Mike Edwards is also very optimistic about the future – saying that he hoped the company would emerge from the process ‘as a stronger and more vibrant book seller’.
All in all, whether or not the printed book remains a popular commodity – or whether it is replaced almost entirely by its digital equivalent remains to be seen.
What do you think? Where do you buy your books these days?