Clicks mean money
12.03.09 | Andrew Crawford
Despite the recession, e-commerce in the UK is expected to grow this year and, obviously, this will be no different for online booksellers too. Indeed, The Book Depository has seen 100% sales growth in the first two months on last year. The reality is that customers are looking for the best deals and us "clicks" are best placed to serve this.
I sometimes feel like I need to apologise for this, especially as the trade is increasingly being more vocal about the margin being given away to consumers, but in the end the book trade only exists to match the writer to the reader in the most efficient manner, and those who facilitate this will win out.
There will be huge changes in how readers will access and consume content over the next 10 years, so the trade should be looking to the future rather than dwelling on the past. Retail price maintenance is dead and will remain so.
As newspapers and the music industry have seen, consumers want content for free and maintaining any price is going to become the real challenge. Moreover, pop over to bitTorrent site, Mininova, and it takes seconds to identify 1,000 e-book novels, all current, that could be downloaded in hours and provide a lifetime of reading. One of the most popular torrents is a collection of 208 medical books: if you were a medical student having to buy 150 books at £75 a pop over seven years would you spend all that money if there was another option? Scared we should be!
As in the high street, even online booksellers are being pushed and customers won't part with their cash unless they feel they are getting a really good deal. As a result our margins are continually being squeezed to keep sales growing as our customers want more pulp for their pound.
It doesn't help that the pound has devalued by 30%. European and US-published books are much more expensive these days. Fortunately, as an international bookseller, we have offset this by selling more UK books overseas where they are a veritable bargain.
If books purchases reflect customer psychology, there has certainly been a shift to home and craft-related books as families start to cocoon in this recession. We have also seen an "awakening" in the sales of Christian titles—does this mean our customers are turning their back on mammon in favour of a spiritual path?
What does this say about the upsurge in vampire romance? Perhaps this is just pure escapism, or is the story of love conquering a vampire's monstrous nature telling us something more?