Independent publishers should increase efforts to connect directly with their customers, according to director of The Futures Company Andrew Curry, as indies highlighted retail pressures as one of the strongest changes to the market over the next five years.
Speaking ahead of his keynote speech, delivered to delegates at the Independent Publishers Guild's Conference this morning [10th March] at Heythrop Hotel, Chipping Norton, Curry pointed to the results of the organisation's survey conducted for the event.
It found 71% of IPG members surveyed felt that supermarkets could eventually drive specialist booksellers out of business. The topic of Amazon divided respondents, with 50% agreeing that the online giant has been a force for good in the publishing sector, and 21% disagreeing.
Half of the respondents thought that publishers were "adapting well to the challenges of producing electronic titles". Almost half (48%) felt that free content online was hampering their business, with 38% disagreeing.
Curry said, along with the recession, indies expressed worries about the "high street situation and about Waterstone's in part". He said: "From talking to interviewees, the mood seemed to be that there is probably room for 100 profitable stores in a chain-bookselling, Waterstone's-type model, and we are way above that at the moment."
He said that for independent publishers operating in a niche area of interest, it was vital to connect to customers, and build a presence as a brand within the community, using social networking and digital publishing in order to reach customers more directly.
He added: "When you look at the overall trends [in the publishing industry], they are quite depressing, but when you look at the details, there are certainly some great opportunities."