Online Bookstores over Physical Ones? - ZorbaBooks

Online Bookstores over Physical Ones?

It is no secret that book shops, for the past few years, have been battling a monstrous competitor, e-commerce giants, but more specifically, their category dedicated to selling books. More and more readers have been turning to online websites to buy their paperbacks owing to a large selection and large discounts provided by sellers. 

The trend, however, has started a new discourse, one related to the monopoly of the online realm within the publishing industry and what the future holds for physical stores. The pandemic too, has not been very kind to retail stores, giving an additional boost to the online sector. But, many continue to cite the emotional value that a physical store holds, heightened by  the touch of a paper, the smell of ink and the environment, bustling with fellow book lovers. It is everything that ecommerce cannot provide. Not even in a virtual metaverse. The discourse has also gradually reeled in the disappearance of libraries in the public sphere. 

Naturally, the current discussion has forced many to deliberate upon the future of books and analyze existing consumer trends. These studies are important for readers, but vital for writers. Because these upcoming patterns suggest changes in what and how readers consume their content and what you, an author, should expect for your book.

Book and EBooks

One of the central reasons as to why online stores have garnered such mainstream presence is due to ebooks. Physical stores are still unable to answer consumer demands for  ebooks. Online stores, on the other hand, offer everything from paperbacks, hardcovers, ebooks and audiobooks. The formats available on e-commerce remain unchallenged.

Hence, ecommerce giants are not only catering to an exclusive tech-savvy population but also targeting those who prefer the traditional ink-on-paper format and even those who don’t prefer to read at all. But at the same time, many have proposed that the disconnect online stores create with their inability to replicate human connections and physical experiences, is one major reason why they cannot completely replace physical stores. 

However, post-pandemic times have seen some interesting figures come into the picture. Many have suggested that the increase in physical store sales can be temporary, a result of reminiscence that might’ve forged within people following the isolation of lockdowns. In any case, what remains true is the fact that the consumption patterns are going through some major changes and that online stores are seeing a consumer base like never before. Below is a look at the current numbers that gives us an insight as to what the situation currently looks like. 

The Numbers and Figures

Something to consider before taking numbers at their face value is the situation that shapes them. The increase in online stores has been gradual but consistent, booming in recent years but COVID-19 had a severe effect, shaping physical and online sales for the upcoming year. But, even before the pandemic hit us, the discussion was vast and avid. Ecommerce giants have long since tried to establish a monopoly over the industry and to a certain extent they’re even winning, prompting activists and scholars to raise alarm bells on the disappearance of indie bookstores. 

The pandemic forced many bookstores to be shut for months causing a severe loss to not just authors but also bookstore owners. Instead, ebooks and audiobooks saw a humongous surge. Work from home model was an important factor in this phenomenon. On the other hand, physical bookstores saw a decline of 90% in their average sales. 

Come 2021, the world is gradually opening up again and physical bookstores see a surge of 39%. The offline world, it seemed prevailed, although for a short while. The nostalgia and need for human contact and the physical shopping experience played a huge role. But as the ‘normalcy’ sets in, it is visibly becoming harder for physical stores to sustain this surge in customers. 

In bigger cities, online bookstores have formed a strong grip on the industry. Publishers are more than just willing to give them early releases and reel them in the marketing process. The trend, many physical store owners have said, effectively works against them. This, in addition to complaints by owners about the inefficient distribution system in the country, and the relative neglect of stores situated in less urbanized areas.  

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Yashika Tanwar