Independent Bookstores Continue To Fall By The Wayside As The Public Embraces Digital

March 8, 20132 Comments
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Barely a day seems to go by without a major high street name being flagged as the latest victim of the recession. But while major brands continue to fold, little is said of the independent stores which have fought for so long against these high street goliaths. It is inevitable that some businesses would fare better than others depending on their specific sector, with independent bookstores in particular struggling to compete with both the credit crunch and the ever-increasing online market. 

Just 1,028 independently owned bookshops remain open in the United Kingdom, with 73 permanently closing their doors in the last year. It should be noted, however, that 39 new stores opened in 2012, as new business owners attempted to buck the trend through their own endeavors. 

The harsh reality is that only the public can assist with keeping independent stores such as these in business, but that level of responsibility can be seen as slightly unfair when the customers themselves are facing exactly the same financial difficulties. In such a tough economic climate, it is only natural to search out the best possible price for every purchase, which has led many to choose online shopping over buying in-store in an effort to compare prices and locate the cheapest deal. While independent stores have to cover overheads such as location costs and staff wages, online retailers such as Amazon have been able to provide the same goods for much lower prices by operating on such a large scale and by infamously utilising tax loopholes. The battle for independent stores to succeed in the long-term has never been further stacked against the smaller players, as the ease of access the internet has provided to instant purchases, often at lower costs, means that in-store browsing is quickly becoming a thing of the past for many. It is not only the overheads and dwindling sales which have affected the book market, however.

One obstacle that has only really arisen in the past few years has been the emergence of eBooks as a mainstream entertainment medium. The popularity of tablets and smartphones has created an entirely new problem for the independent bookstore which only deals in physical copies, as more and more people have strayed from the physical to the digital domain. Some people have completely embraced the digital revolution and the prominence of eBooks, while some prefer to still own a physical copy to keep on their bookshelf and hold while reading. The choice has presented a problem for those who only deal in tangible goods, meaning that stores such as second-hand bookshops have an entirely new market to contend with, which is taking potential customers away. As more people begin to sway towards digital purchases, the future of print looks bleak, although there will long remain those who stand steadfast in their physical preference.

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Thanks to James from Ideal Corporate Solutions for this post.

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  1. Independent bookstores have certainly been squeezed between the combined threats of the recession and the acceleration in online trading, especially as exemplified by Amazon. The UK’s Daily Mail recently spoke of “a retail bloodbath that is turning many areas into ghost towns”. Unfortunately independent bookstores are caught up in the full fury of this major economic change. By contrast the online sector continues to thrive and expand so it must be clear to any business what needs to be done to survive.

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