News

'Heavy book buyers avoiding bookshops' says HC chief

Bricks and mortar bookshops in the United States face a grim future, with the heaviest book buyers choosing to buy digitally, delegates at London Book Fair were told.

Speaking at the 40th anniversary keynote seminar, HarperCollins president and c.e.o. Brian Murray said the number of US e-readers—grown from 15m a year ago to 40m today—was having a disproportionately large effect on the market because they had reached "core" readers, those buying over 12 books a year. He said: “Some of the heaviest book buyers no longer visit bookstores.” He said some e-books had a 50% share of total sales during the first few months, a “watershed” for the trade.

Meanwhile Penguin Group chief executive John Makinson referred to the "decline—and in some parts of the world, the collapse—of physical book retailing".

Responding to their comments, Tim Godfray, chief executive of the Booksellers Association, thought the issue should not be overstated despite high-profile bricks and mortar casualties over the past 12 months. "Over the next few years shops will come under further pressure," he said. "But that's really far away from predicting the death of the bookshop. No way do we see the end of the bookshop, absolutely not, nor the end for the printed book. More people are going to read as a result of digital, and that will include books. Our challenge to make sure booksellers are involved in how those books get to market."

Godfray said the challenge for publishers was to work out how they support the high street, given the need for shop window visibility for books to sell.

Anova chairman Robin Wood said that talking to the North Americans at the fair, he'd found them "as worried as anyone" about the demise of the out-of-centre retailers. "More than one publisher has said to me that it is so different to publish a book where there are no browsers," he added. "In the States, they are waiting to see what will happen with Borders, and without Borders there will be a big gap.”

Emma Hopkin, m.d. of Bloomsbury Children's, said of Murray's statements: "From the vantage point of the UK, I feel we're a long way from [heavy book buyers avoiding bookshops]. But nobody buys anything without digital any more so we're prepared."

LBF Daily: Day 3

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Tim Godfray is right (as always!), the rise of e-books and decline of bricks and mortar should not be overstated. There are too many people in the industry spreading what is to be frank hype and too many CEOs of publishers believing it.

First point, there is actually a recession so I would expect my sales not to be particularly robust (though in fact we were up in our two shops in january and february, down in march).

Second point, are these same CEOs doing enough to promote books as a product? The answer is no. I am sick and tired of reading full page ads about the benefits of the Kindle. For goodness sake for once in their life (if they can't do it to make sensible decisions about distribution), why don't they get together to promote a generic campaign for books. Fight back. Books are cheap, portable, very attractive, can be givenmeasily and thoughtfully, no big deal if you drop them in the bath or on the beach, people like them for god's sake..isn't that a wonderful basis on which to base a marketing strategy. But oh no when I have raised this on many occasions with the people I deal with - the departed Michael Neill or Tim Godfray or whoever - people I think should be leading this initiative, the response is can't be done. Can't be done! It has to be done.

So - publisher CEOs and Bert and Gardners and Waterstones and anyone else with money, stop being so much influenced by your e-gurus, and start promoting the area where 95% of your business is and where 70% will always remain .... yes BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS

Who am I kidding? I rarely have time (since I had children) to browse in bookshops. But I have read eight eBbooks this year since I got my Kindle, which is more than I read in total in the previous six years. Ideally, I would like to support my local bookshop by buying eBooks from it. But until the industry gets together a coherent and inclusive plan that recognises the contribution of all the players, I can only see continued internecine fighting.

As a reader I love the convenience of ebooks, using apps on my smartphone instead of a dedicated reader, its the perfect portable solution. But the books I read are the creative commons licensed books that I can download for free. But if I really want to buy a book, I can't bring myself to pay for a digital file that can be deleted by a long press followed by a short press on my phone, when there is a perfectly good paperback or hardback version available at the same price. You can't get sentimental about a digital file, 'Son, I've had this ebook on my kindle for twenty years. I've read it a hundred times. Now, I really want you to have it and cherish it the way I have.' Just doesn't have the same emotional investment in it, does it?

What happens in the US today will happen here tomorrow. We are no more than 12 months behind the US on book retail trends.

A traditional bookshop selling just books has no future outside of those in large cities and destination towns (e.g the visitor trade). This will mean that a large number of existing shops will close within the next couple of years, and I would expect this to include 100/150 Waterstones stores.

A mixed store must have a longer term future, provided that the non-book part of the mix appeals. Examples include properly set up and run cafes (i.e more like Nero than Greasy Spoon!)or stationery/ newsagents (i.e the WH Smith model provided there is no WH Smith in the locality. I know that Mary Portas and her like tend to mock WHS however they are weathering the current recession reasonably well) or gifts. There must be other examples and as always much depends on location.

So listen to what the US publshers are saying, ignore the false optimism of Tim Godfray (who is not always right!)and get reviewing your business plan today. This leaves the most important matter and that is the cost of doing what is necessary. For a properly set up Cafe to go with your books budget for 50/75k depending the current state of your premises.

Good point Noor. Some marketing savvy, just what the BA needs!

I love your comment "You can't get sentimental about a digital file."

Ebooks are here to stay but the issue is not what you read its where you get the ebooks. We can't let amazon dominate.

I was a publishers' rep for over 30 years so have spent a A LOT of times in bookshops during that time.
I am also a biggish reader, so tended to buy at the shops I visited.

Now retired, I tend to buy my books elsewhere. Chiefly Amazon.

I recently had occasion to check into my back orders with Amazon and found that in the last three years I had placed over 200 orders with them. Price advantage, mainly.

Until their collapse we had a good Borders here in Stockport, and it is interesting to note that since their closure, my online orders have again increased considerably. Chicken and egg.

To sum up, when I had access to a good local bookshop I tended to use them from time to time........although I admit that price often led me to use an online supplier. Now, it's 95% one way.

In all my book buying I have never been even tempted towards e-books. Maybe it's an age thing.

I'm just one book buyer among millions,maybe not even typical,but if there are a lot like me out there then the paper book has a good future, and the bookshops do not.

I'm a heavy book buyer and I have no intention of adopting nasty, souless e-books.

this is soooooo true. books are not dead. e books will not replace books, they will suppliment them and run alongside them.

but where people buy there books will not be high street bookshops. they will buy from the cheapest most convenient place, and I am afraid that is supermarkets for New and Amazon for back list.

i value everyone of my customers who comes in and orders and then comes back to collect, but i am afraid they get less and less each month.

schools are getting better deals direct from publishers than i get myself, and schools with credit cards have as many amazon boxes being delivered as publisher boxes.

my lease is up soon, and i am tossing and turning on signing another. not yet losing money, but with 1 staff member and me she got paid this year - i didnt. (but at least not losing as yet)
to sign another lease i have to let my member of staff go and still might end up having no money left tooo.

back to the point -- bookshops are almost dead - Books are NOT

this is soooooo true. books are not dead. e books will not replace books, they will suppliment them and run alongside them.

but where people buy there books will not be high street bookshops. they will buy from the cheapest most convenient place, and I am afraid that is supermarkets for New and Amazon for back list.

i value everyone of my customers who comes in and orders and then comes back to collect, but i am afraid they get less and less each month.

schools are getting better deals direct from publishers than i get myself, and schools with credit cards have as many amazon boxes being delivered as publisher boxes.

my lease is up soon, and i am tossing and turning on signing another. not yet losing money, but with 1 staff member and me she got paid this year - i didnt. (but at least not losing as yet)
to sign another lease i have to let my member of staff go and still might end up having no money left tooo.

back to the point -- bookshops are almost dead - Books are NOT

Border's isn't folding up entirely. I was relieved to discover the one that lives down the street from me will remain open, but I was told it will be the only one in my county to do so. Talk about your mixed blessing. :/

I've noticed they do have a very large e-reader kiosk that now takes up the middle of the store...

Best. Comment. Yet. This. Year.

Is it not possible for the publishers to make available to the consumer both formats ( e and paper)for one price.
For example: If they buy a book in-store they will get a code to download it too or vice versa.

But about 70% of the reason I've switched to ebooks is that it's so inconvenient for me to get to a bookshop. The one near the office is useless (Waterstones, but staggeringly poorly stocked), there's only a crappy WHS near my home. It's a minimum 25 min trip each way to a decent bookshop from home and since I have small children, that time is a luxury I can't afford at weekends. So the luxury of a one-click instant purchase and the convenience of the Kindle becomes ever more appealing.

(You may not feel emotionally attached to a digital file, but I've just been given the new Patrick Rothfuss in pbook. I'm dying to read it, but it's 1000 pages long, and weighs about a kilo. I actually can't remember how I'm supposed to deal with such an impractical object.)

Steve - nice idea but very, very difficult to implement. Giving somone a voucher to buy a paperback when they buy an ebook is much easier than the other way round (but still pretty difficult). Even then probably the best people to do this would be amazon as they're good at selling both - and that's not going to address the issues raised in this article.

Chris, I do not think it would be difficult to set up. It is working in the US of A for Record shops (remember those!) whereby a 'code' is issued on purchase of a LP that enables the purchaser to download the album to their I Pod etc.

@Steve in Nantwich: You mean like we all got a CD voucher with proof of purchase of the album, and those vouchers we got to claim DVDs when we bought a VHS cassette? Absolutely. Publishers should definitely do that for e-books. It's clearly the done thing in the entertainment industry. ***muttering and shaking her head***

Unromantic

One of things I enjoy with my children is taking them to the bookshop - there's something there for both. We are lucky enough to have a largeish town nearby (but still 20-30 minutes to get there) with 2 good bookshops, a Waterstones and a large independent so a visit there is a double win.

But i know everyone's circumstances are different, this might not work for you, it's probably easier as they get older.

(I appreciate what you mean about the Rothfuss, I have it sitting on my shelf and find it daunting but to be honest I'm not sure it's the weight but the sheer length and commitment of time, which an e-reader isn't going to alter)

Somehow dispiriting to learn that the 12 books a year people are now classified as 'heavy' buyers. If they have all gone online, or to digital, and the high street places its hopes in punters who visit bookshops every few months, then the writing really is on the wall. I don't bemoan this. Books will survive. Booksellers will move onto other things. Life goes on.

It's not so much a question of avoiding bookshops as finding them! Where I live in Bedfordshire there are *no* bookshops - not even a WHS. And when I bounced around the idea of opening a bookshop in our nearest town, only about a dozen people showed an interest, despite a half-page feature in the local paper. We have two supermarkets which stock a very limited selection of bestsellers, so no specialist knowledge needed and no local ordering service available.

Somebody find me a local bookshop and I'll gladly support it.

Tim Godfray is right (as always!), the rise of e-books and decline of bricks and mortar should not be overstated. There are too many people in the industry spreading what is to be frank hype and too many CEOs of publishers believing it.

First point, there is actually a recession so I would expect my sales not to be particularly robust (though in fact we were up in our two shops in january and february, down in march).

Second point, are these same CEOs doing enough to promote books as a product? The answer is no. I am sick and tired of reading full page ads about the benefits of the Kindle. For goodness sake for once in their life (if they can't do it to make sensible decisions about distribution), why don't they get together to promote a generic campaign for books. Fight back. Books are cheap, portable, very attractive, can be givenmeasily and thoughtfully, no big deal if you drop them in the bath or on the beach, people like them for god's sake..isn't that a wonderful basis on which to base a marketing strategy. But oh no when I have raised this on many occasions with the people I deal with - the departed Michael Neill or Tim Godfray or whoever - people I think should be leading this initiative, the response is can't be done. Can't be done! It has to be done.

So - publisher CEOs and Bert and Gardners and Waterstones and anyone else with money, stop being so much influenced by your e-gurus, and start promoting the area where 95% of your business is and where 70% will always remain .... yes BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS

Who am I kidding? I rarely have time (since I had children) to browse in bookshops. But I have read eight eBbooks this year since I got my Kindle, which is more than I read in total in the previous six years. Ideally, I would like to support my local bookshop by buying eBooks from it. But until the industry gets together a coherent and inclusive plan that recognises the contribution of all the players, I can only see continued internecine fighting.

As a reader I love the convenience of ebooks, using apps on my smartphone instead of a dedicated reader, its the perfect portable solution. But the books I read are the creative commons licensed books that I can download for free. But if I really want to buy a book, I can't bring myself to pay for a digital file that can be deleted by a long press followed by a short press on my phone, when there is a perfectly good paperback or hardback version available at the same price. You can't get sentimental about a digital file, 'Son, I've had this ebook on my kindle for twenty years. I've read it a hundred times. Now, I really want you to have it and cherish it the way I have.' Just doesn't have the same emotional investment in it, does it?

Good point Noor. Some marketing savvy, just what the BA needs!

I love your comment "You can't get sentimental about a digital file."

Ebooks are here to stay but the issue is not what you read its where you get the ebooks. We can't let amazon dominate.

Best. Comment. Yet. This. Year.

What happens in the US today will happen here tomorrow. We are no more than 12 months behind the US on book retail trends.

A traditional bookshop selling just books has no future outside of those in large cities and destination towns (e.g the visitor trade). This will mean that a large number of existing shops will close within the next couple of years, and I would expect this to include 100/150 Waterstones stores.

A mixed store must have a longer term future, provided that the non-book part of the mix appeals. Examples include properly set up and run cafes (i.e more like Nero than Greasy Spoon!)or stationery/ newsagents (i.e the WH Smith model provided there is no WH Smith in the locality. I know that Mary Portas and her like tend to mock WHS however they are weathering the current recession reasonably well) or gifts. There must be other examples and as always much depends on location.

So listen to what the US publshers are saying, ignore the false optimism of Tim Godfray (who is not always right!)and get reviewing your business plan today. This leaves the most important matter and that is the cost of doing what is necessary. For a properly set up Cafe to go with your books budget for 50/75k depending the current state of your premises.

I was a publishers' rep for over 30 years so have spent a A LOT of times in bookshops during that time.
I am also a biggish reader, so tended to buy at the shops I visited.

Now retired, I tend to buy my books elsewhere. Chiefly Amazon.

I recently had occasion to check into my back orders with Amazon and found that in the last three years I had placed over 200 orders with them. Price advantage, mainly.

Until their collapse we had a good Borders here in Stockport, and it is interesting to note that since their closure, my online orders have again increased considerably. Chicken and egg.

To sum up, when I had access to a good local bookshop I tended to use them from time to time........although I admit that price often led me to use an online supplier. Now, it's 95% one way.

In all my book buying I have never been even tempted towards e-books. Maybe it's an age thing.

I'm just one book buyer among millions,maybe not even typical,but if there are a lot like me out there then the paper book has a good future, and the bookshops do not.

this is soooooo true. books are not dead. e books will not replace books, they will suppliment them and run alongside them.

but where people buy there books will not be high street bookshops. they will buy from the cheapest most convenient place, and I am afraid that is supermarkets for New and Amazon for back list.

i value everyone of my customers who comes in and orders and then comes back to collect, but i am afraid they get less and less each month.

schools are getting better deals direct from publishers than i get myself, and schools with credit cards have as many amazon boxes being delivered as publisher boxes.

my lease is up soon, and i am tossing and turning on signing another. not yet losing money, but with 1 staff member and me she got paid this year - i didnt. (but at least not losing as yet)
to sign another lease i have to let my member of staff go and still might end up having no money left tooo.

back to the point -- bookshops are almost dead - Books are NOT

I'm a heavy book buyer and I have no intention of adopting nasty, souless e-books.

this is soooooo true. books are not dead. e books will not replace books, they will suppliment them and run alongside them.

but where people buy there books will not be high street bookshops. they will buy from the cheapest most convenient place, and I am afraid that is supermarkets for New and Amazon for back list.

i value everyone of my customers who comes in and orders and then comes back to collect, but i am afraid they get less and less each month.

schools are getting better deals direct from publishers than i get myself, and schools with credit cards have as many amazon boxes being delivered as publisher boxes.

my lease is up soon, and i am tossing and turning on signing another. not yet losing money, but with 1 staff member and me she got paid this year - i didnt. (but at least not losing as yet)
to sign another lease i have to let my member of staff go and still might end up having no money left tooo.

back to the point -- bookshops are almost dead - Books are NOT

Border's isn't folding up entirely. I was relieved to discover the one that lives down the street from me will remain open, but I was told it will be the only one in my county to do so. Talk about your mixed blessing. :/

I've noticed they do have a very large e-reader kiosk that now takes up the middle of the store...

Is it not possible for the publishers to make available to the consumer both formats ( e and paper)for one price.
For example: If they buy a book in-store they will get a code to download it too or vice versa.

But about 70% of the reason I've switched to ebooks is that it's so inconvenient for me to get to a bookshop. The one near the office is useless (Waterstones, but staggeringly poorly stocked), there's only a crappy WHS near my home. It's a minimum 25 min trip each way to a decent bookshop from home and since I have small children, that time is a luxury I can't afford at weekends. So the luxury of a one-click instant purchase and the convenience of the Kindle becomes ever more appealing.

(You may not feel emotionally attached to a digital file, but I've just been given the new Patrick Rothfuss in pbook. I'm dying to read it, but it's 1000 pages long, and weighs about a kilo. I actually can't remember how I'm supposed to deal with such an impractical object.)

Unromantic

One of things I enjoy with my children is taking them to the bookshop - there's something there for both. We are lucky enough to have a largeish town nearby (but still 20-30 minutes to get there) with 2 good bookshops, a Waterstones and a large independent so a visit there is a double win.

But i know everyone's circumstances are different, this might not work for you, it's probably easier as they get older.

(I appreciate what you mean about the Rothfuss, I have it sitting on my shelf and find it daunting but to be honest I'm not sure it's the weight but the sheer length and commitment of time, which an e-reader isn't going to alter)

Steve - nice idea but very, very difficult to implement. Giving somone a voucher to buy a paperback when they buy an ebook is much easier than the other way round (but still pretty difficult). Even then probably the best people to do this would be amazon as they're good at selling both - and that's not going to address the issues raised in this article.

Chris, I do not think it would be difficult to set up. It is working in the US of A for Record shops (remember those!) whereby a 'code' is issued on purchase of a LP that enables the purchaser to download the album to their I Pod etc.

@Steve in Nantwich: You mean like we all got a CD voucher with proof of purchase of the album, and those vouchers we got to claim DVDs when we bought a VHS cassette? Absolutely. Publishers should definitely do that for e-books. It's clearly the done thing in the entertainment industry. ***muttering and shaking her head***

Somehow dispiriting to learn that the 12 books a year people are now classified as 'heavy' buyers. If they have all gone online, or to digital, and the high street places its hopes in punters who visit bookshops every few months, then the writing really is on the wall. I don't bemoan this. Books will survive. Booksellers will move onto other things. Life goes on.

It's not so much a question of avoiding bookshops as finding them! Where I live in Bedfordshire there are *no* bookshops - not even a WHS. And when I bounced around the idea of opening a bookshop in our nearest town, only about a dozen people showed an interest, despite a half-page feature in the local paper. We have two supermarkets which stock a very limited selection of bestsellers, so no specialist knowledge needed and no local ordering service available.

Somebody find me a local bookshop and I'll gladly support it.

I'm trying to work out if the long term trend here is for things to get better or worse. I know we're told that the past 20 years or so have been especially good (in terms of good bookshops being accessible) with the implication that sooner or later they are bound to go back to how they were before.

But. When I was growing up in the 70s/80s in mid Cheshire, the nearest town had - and I can't remember if they overlapped - two decent bookshops, as well as a WH Smith. There was a small, single shop unit sized one and a stationers (can't remember the name) that both had much better selections than WHS - I must still have dozens of books I got from both. Further afield I used to go on the train to Willshaws in Manchester, and there were some good bookshops in Chester: I remember that at one of them I got load of books of O level past papers so that would have been 1983 or 1984. This was before Waterstones etc (or before it got anywhere near us). So my perception then was that there was a lot of choice available, even in just the smaller shops - possibly more so than now.

It is not so much that Bookshops are being REJECTED , it is worse than that ,they are being NEGLECTED. That indicates a wandering off of the punters to buy books through other means or not buy them at all . Clearly for the E book converts downloading is so much more convenient .The fact is that the rate of adoption of E books is faster than established thinking can accommodate , and it is accelerating .

David, -OXFAM bookshop OLNEY , great bargains great range , only bookshop in OLNEY , this is the future ??

yes, the Oxfam Bookshop in Olney is brilliant and surely the way for the future of bookshops. out of print books also available and at a damn fine price.

Oxfam? Damn fine price? So they should be - they get their stock for nothing, they have reduced rates and rent, their staff are volunteers and apparently they STILL only make 18% net profit.
Imagine what it must be like to have to PAY for your stock, PAY full rent and rates, PAY for staff...
Is it any wonder that indies are going under?

Of course, the publishers are totally blinkered to what is going to happen in the next 2-5 years (maybe less). Just look at the uptake in ebooks in the USA - now outstripping sales of trade paperbacks.

Rumour over on Twitter is that Waterstone's will announce 100 stores closures tomorrow. Devastating if true.

Another example of the oracle of truth that is twitter

Why aren't we trying harder to do this. resice

I just checked and I bought 25 books from Amazon about 12 from the British Heart Foundation and RSPCA shops and about 6 from a discount book shop in the last 12 months.

I would love to have bought them all from an Independent book seller but sadly would only have been able to buy about a third to half of what I did buy.

I used to see something I wanted in the local branch of Borders and would probably buy it online thus contributing to the decline of Borders in the UK~although I frequently bought their reduced books.

I think newspapers are suffering too from online access although I would love to know whether the Times is making much money from it's online site after retreating behind a paywall.~ I never visit them now!

Since the launch of the i newspaper at 20pence~ an absolute bargain~ I buy it almost every day I can and have switched to the Independent at weekends and I find I still read all the news online too across lots of sites.
Is there anything in that model that could be taken onboard?

As I am semi retired I find that I still want a decent lifestyle that I had whilst we were working full time but to get it I have to shop around and get what I want at the cheapest price~ ebay etc.

I take onboard all the comments about staffing and rates and rent etc but if the price was only slighter cheaper then RRP, would more be sold?
best of luck to all the small independents though!~I think you are going to need it!

Most of us have grown up enjoying the feel of a book in hand and not the handheld ebook reader. But, the main point is not what form the book comes in, it is really that new generations as well as the old continue to enjoy reading.

Technology is a part of our every day life and it is not going away. Reading the classics on a handheld ebook reader is still a classic, correct? http://www.elektroread.com

Most of us have grown up enjoying the feel of a book in hand and not the handheld ebook reader. But, the main point is not what form the book comes in, it is really that new generations as well as the old continue to enjoy reading.

Technology is a part of our every day life and it is not going away. Reading the classics on a handheld ebook reader is still a classic, correct? http://www.elektroread.com

"Reading the classics on a handheld ebook reader is still a classic"

I'm really not sure. Or it is and it isn't. Looking back I seem to have read most classics as Penguin paperbacks, and there was a bit of ritual to it: saving the money, going to the shop and choosing or ordering, reading the introduction first, then - finally! - the text, with all the footnotes. I just can't see downloading something in a trice (probably free but with no intro or notes) as quite the same - though clearly in some ways, it is.

I am not really surprised. I read an awful lot, but it was actually bad experiences with high street book shops that drove me to consider a kindle.

Book shops seem to be chasing some imaginary demographic, one that wants an endless stream of ghost written Top Gear/X-Factor/Z-list celeb books. Unfortunately, those books are generally bought as gifts, not bought by readers, thus the market is a lot smaller.

By cramming shops with this lowest common denominator fare, it makes it impossible for those of us looking for the next good read- you know, the readers, the customers.

What's more, if you can find something worth reading, beyond the glossy rows of grinning hardback Clarksons, it's often listed at full suggested retail price, adding insult to injury.

This is what pushed me to a Kindle- book shops ceasing to sell books effectively. I used to be very keen on patronising bricks and mortar book shops, feeling that they were carrying out an important function, and part of a proud tradition. However, no longer, I feel no more emotional attachment to them than a branch of Tesco with especially bored staff.

"It's not me, it's you"

Amen. Summed up nicely.

Well said. The Kindle is convenient, works anywhere and does what it says on the tin. Bookshops have forgotten intelligent readers.