Reading the writing on the wall

Marc Sidwell
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WHEN two-thirds of visitors to bookshops admit to using them as little more than Amazon showrooms, the stores’ business model needs to change or die.

The world of publishing shouldn’t need to be told that it is an industry being shaken to its foundation, but it does seem to have a curious reluctance to accept the realities and adapt. Some may still choose to read these numbers as proof that bookshops remain a valued discovery mechanism.

However, there isn’t really a discovery problem for readers that makes bookshops indispensable: online communities and specialist blogs, not to mention algorithms like Amazon’s, are getting better and better at the job every day.

Relative to the alternatives, what bookstores really have is a pricing problem. And the high fixed costs of bricks and mortar combined with cheap ebooks and Amazon’s low margins make it hard to discover any easy way out.