As digital alternatives arise, physical processes seem less efficient. This theory certainly has
consequences that extend far beyond the literary community, but these days technology is
becoming the defining factor in how books are published, distributed, bought, lent and sold.
And as digital publishers become more adept at leveraging these innovations, brick-and-mortar
booksellers are nearing a point at which they could have to fight for the very survival of their
The traditional bookstore is doomed by e-readers and online sales of hard copy books. I use the
word “doomed” in the same sense that online digital sales of movies and music have doomed
movie rental stores, movie theatres, and stores that sell albums of music. Doomed does not mean
that these stores will quickly, or ever fully, disappear, but that they have received deadly blows
from Internet competition.
As brick-and-mortar booksellers continue to weather these blows, eBooks have emerged to solve
several post-recession problems plaguing the industry. For starters, eBook publishing is more
cost-effective over the long term and scales much better than print production. After the initial
investment in requisite content conversion and creation tools, books can essentially be printed
More and more people now purchase their books on the Internet since they find it more
convenient. Sector representatives estimate that the online book-selling industry is expanding by
some 30 percent per year in India in line with the ever-increasing number of Internet users,
which currently totals around 27 million. At present 10 percent of total book purchases are
made on the Internet, and this figure is expected to rise.
I do not expect bookstores to rapidly disappear the way the production of silent movies
virtually ceased once talking movies were created. However, I do expect an accelerating decline
in the number of bookstores as many close down due to bankruptcy and excessive losses. Some
bookstores will continue to exist to cater to men and women who like to browse among physical
copies of books, and because some owners of bookstores get great pleasure out of selling and
being surrounded by books. Many bookstores that survive are likely to combine selling hard
copy books with that of other products. For example, university bookstores usually also sell
clothing that have the university logo, computers, greeting cards, snacks and coffee, and other
goods that cater to students and faculty. Other surviving bookstores might combine selling of
hard copy books in physical facilities with online sales of hard copy books, and online sales of
I think the number of retail locations selling books, whether physical or online, will increase.
Assortments will become more specific, and communities will be built around enthusiast
categories. One trend we see in retail is the movement of categories into specific retail verticals,
or purchasing communities. Publishers like F+W create direct-to-consumer verticals, and a new
business model, because of expertise in a category. But don’t forget that a well planned section
in an independent shares characteristic with a vertical.