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 Maintaining an outdated status quo when selling ebooks in 2013 is something that will put you out of business, fast.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 has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.