As we stand on the cusp of another huge autumn selling season for our trade, I am optimistic, albeit cautiously, for the future. This year, I am honoured to be able to build on the legacy of Books Are My Bag and there are some really exciting plans for BAMB in October. We want to highlight that books are more than just consumer products, they are cultural artefacts; and bookshops are more than just retailers, they are cultural oases at the heart of communities.
There is no doubt that too many bookshops have closed in recent years, but the decline in print book sales is reducing and we have had a small flurry of new bookshop openings this summer. The BA has over 3,700 bookselling members in the UK and Ireland, and nearly 1,000 of those are indies.
Competition within the UK bookselling industry is intense, and I believe that part of the reason for the resurgence of the British bookshop is that this competition has forced booksellers to be inventive, innovative and ingenious. They are creating a resurgent bookselling sector.
However, the BA must be vigilant to ensure that competition within our industry is fair and that we have a diverse marketplace, so that customers have the freedom to buy books from a wide variety of booksellers, be they online or physical.
Currently, Amazon is estimated to account for around 90% of all e-book sales in the UK. This, obviously, is of concern to competing booksellers, but one company having such market power cannot be good for consumers in the longer term. I think I speak on behalf of all booksellers when I say that we do not want Amazon’s growing competitive advantage to stifle a diverse marketplace.
We must ensure that there is dynamic, effective and fair competition within the book trade so that customers have the widest possible choice of book retailers to choose from, and the talent of our booksellers can truly shine.
I look forward to meeting as many booksellers as possible at the BA Conference in Warwick but, if you are unable to attend, please accept my very best wishes for a busy, stress-free and profitable autumn of bookselling.
The BA Conference takes place on 21st and 22nd September. To register, visit www.booksellers.org.uk/baconference