The Future of eBooks – The Death of the Online eBook Store


Independent bookstores are on the ropes and simply cannot compete in today’s marketplace with Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. During the last year, Books on Board, The Book Depository, Bookland, Fictionwise, BeWrite Books, jManga, and many more have shut their doors. These stores have mainly closed due to a lack of innovation, poor business sense, and competition from the major stores. In the next few years, we will just have the big players left as the industry continues to consolidate.

The main reason indie bookstores are failing is because of the lack of innovation. If you take a look at the homepages of any of the sites that have went out business during the last few years, you will notice a major trend. Their overall designs have hardly ever changed since they first launched and most have a poor user interface. Searching is woeful and being able to intuitively find what you are looking for is an exercise in futility. These companies have never revised their sites or invested in proper searching algorithms or adopted new technology to appeal to today’s discerning customer. Maintaining an outdated status quo when selling ebooks in 2013 is something that will put you out of business, fast.

Indie bookstore and self-publishing giant Smashwords finds that an older template and design is actually beneficial. The company has thousands of self-published authors hawking their wares and distributing their titles to all of the big bookstores. Instead of relying on your own internal system to exclusively push sales, Smashwords does the smart thing and makes agreements with Apple to have its Indie Breakout Books segment in many international markets. Most of the failed stores only sold books through their HTML websites.

Most Indie Bookstores are dying because they are not bringing their books to the customers. The vast majority of book lovers are no longer buying content through the web and are instead relying on apps for iOS and Android. Investment into dedicated apps imperative, and is something none of these stores attempted. Tablets are outselling PC’s and by the end of this year, digital books will outsell print. There is no shortage of people willing to spend money on ebooks, but if you are not reaching your target audience, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Indie bookseller websites are less about just selling books in the traditional sense, and more about reaching the largest audience you can. There is room in the industry for smaller players, but they have to be savvy. Opening up a Facebook Book Store, developing apps, making a HTML5 reading app to run in parallel with your purchased content, cloud storage, and social media remain viable. A static WEB 1.0 website is not enough to sell books anymore.

It seems that when ebooks got big, it was a gold rush. Many companies like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple were starting to make a copious amount of money. Hundreds of other sites came along and wanted to capitalize on the hot new trend, while doing very little work. While the big players continued to innovate, the small fish started to find their pond had become an ocean.

Michael Kozlowski (5209 Posts)

Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about electronic readers and technology for the last four years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the Huffington Post, CNET and more. Michael frequently travels to international events such as IFA, Computex, CES, Book Expo and a myriad of others. If you have any questions about any of his articles, please send an email to

  • MaskedHypocrite

    “The main reason indie bookstores are failing is because of the lack of innovation.”

    No, not really. You can generally change which shops you patronize based on current convenience, prices, or just a whim, without consequence. Online, however, you have to maintain accounts with each shop and your library ends up split between several different places. It’s a hassle, especially if you buy from a small fry and it goes out of business, so people gravitate to the largest, best-known, most stable online shops with the larger selections.

  • Lori Fan

    Huh? What is this article about? The first sentence says: “Independent bookstores are on the ropes.” The common interpretation of “independent bookstores” is independent bricks-and-mortar stores (which, by the way, contrary to your headline, are making a comeback in a big way). So are you talking about the websites of indie bricks-and-mortar stores? I guess not. Or maybe.

    Then you mention Book Depository, WHICH HAS NOT CLOSED. They were purchased by Amazon. But they’re still operating, and still very successful. Yes, they did have a brief and pathetic try at selling e-books, which they gave up long ago. But their primary business has always been physical books. So you’re not writing about online independent sellers of paper books.

    Then what the heck are you writing about? Independendent E-BOOK ONLY retailers? If so, then please specify in your piece (not just in the headline), and stick to e-book retailers only. Otherwise, as with your pronouncement about Book Depository, this article is a confusing hodge-podge of information.

  • Daniel Wolk

    I think indie e-booksellers can only survive if they find a niche to distinguish themselves from amazon, barnes and noble, etc. You cannot beat the big sellers with the most popular books. An indie store needs to find some specialty products they can sell cheaper than the big stores and draw more attention to them. For example, I do think there is a market (small, but stable) for scholarly works. Until now, nobody is doing a good job of selling scholarly books. Of course you would have to work out some deal with scholarly publishers and advertise in academic journals and at academic conferences. The big stores are NOT doing that.

  • Good E-Reader

    I agree! Digital Cook Books are also an untapped niche. I would love to see more interactive ones, with video showing how to cook it, along with recipes.

  • Theresa M. Moore

    “These stores have mainly closed due to a lack of innovation, poor business sense, and competition from the major stores. In the next few years, we will just have the big players left as the industry continues to consolidate.” And therein lies the rub. Your own site posts a huge banner ad promoting “millions of free ebooks” to readers, exascerbating the problem. The Site Which Shall Not Be Named will not be the only site left standing as many readers are returning to the bookstores in droves, and many authors are beginning to sell from their own sites instead of sticking with any of the big online stores. You won’t find my ebooks there, as I closed my account last year, and I distribute with Smashwords because I have to. Authors need to eat, too, and as the conglomerates slowly edge out the smaller fish, they will starve for content because of our innovation. My site offers my books and their digital mates side by side and on the front page, while the biggies make it very hard to find anything quickly. I really don’t know what you mean by lack of innovation. You have not been looking hard enough.

  • Edea Krammer

    One thing for surely the first is always the hard part. Clearly eBooks nowadays are ascending and earning its popularity by efficiency demands. I know it maybe because for some reason but one thing that turns my head on that a slowing of the progress is not a reducing of the sales– eventually, basic math means that the rate of growth has got to slow eventually.