With each new technological innovation that becomes mainstream, the end of bookselling is predicted. I’m confident it’s not going to happen. To remain relevant, bookshops must re-invent themselves - but they won't disappear.
Current Market: A Tale of Resilience
The rise of Amazon express shipping options and the challenges posed by Covid-19 lockdowns have undeniably tested the mettle of physical bookstores. However, despite these obstacles, the number of bookshops is on the rise in both the UK and the US. Moreover, the print book industry itself is experiencing growth. WordsRated reports that print book sales in the US have surged by nearly 100 million copies compared to pre-pandemic levels.
In 2022, a staggering 789 million copies of printed books were sold in the US, marking the second-highest sales figure in the 21st century, following the record-breaking year of 2021 (843 million copies).
While contending with a cost of living crisis, including escalating rent and utility bills, bookshops are also grappling with inflation in paper and printing costs. Nevertheless, customers continue to flock to these physical sanctuaries, yearning for the unique browsing experience that bookshops proudly offer.
A Flourishing Ecosystem: A Fresh Wave of Specialist Bookshops
Amidst the pandemic, a fresh wave of specialist bookshops tailored to specific communities has emerged, captivating readers worldwide. Examples include Manhattan's Yu and Me Books, which showcases immigrant stories, and East London's The Common Press, a dynamic LGBTQ+ hybrid space encompassing a bookshop, café, podcast studio, and versatile rooms hosting activities ranging from Bollywood dance classes to book signings.
This new model of hybrid book stores is proving immensely successful, with a busy event schedule. The concept of these ventures transcends mere bookselling, fostering inclusion and sharing while being vibrant community hubs.
The Power of Human Connection
In 2022, Amazon closed its own bookstores, previously intended to compete with local businesses by boosting its online offer and Kindle device. The failure of these stores can be attributed to the absence of human recommendations—a crucial aspect that customers crave in their neighborhood bookshops. Kindle's suggestions and random Amazon reviews pale in comparison to the serendipitous experience of browsing guided by passionate booksellers, who are willing to embrace a bookseller's salary to share their love for books.
#booktok: Tiktok Subculture Creating a Literary Revolution
Welcome to the captivating world of #BookTok, an engrossing online community on TikTok with a staggering 114 billion views and counting. Here, readers come together to share reviews, recommendations, and book-related content on a global scale. Recognizing the significance of this movement, librarians and bookshops have joined the platform to connect with young readers in their preferred digital domain. Booksellers leverage trending sounds and dance challenges to promote their book collections, expand their follower base, and raise brand awareness.
According to a recent study by the Publishers Association, BookTok has been instrumental in igniting a love for reading among 59% of 16 to 25 year olds, with 55% relying on #BookTok for recommendations, two-thirds being inspired to explore books they wouldn't have otherwise, and one-third discovering authors from diverse cultures through the platform.
In addition to the reading experience, the shopping destination also holds significance, as BookTok's aesthetic videos and word-of-mouth recommendations have contributed to a resurgence of in-store book shopping.
The Bottom Line
Specialized bookshops that focus on specific communities and offer more than just books! Bookshops like these become vibrant community hubs that foster inclusion, sharing, and engagement, which results in more book sales and consumer engagement.
I predict that successful bookstores will adopt a more personal and specialized approach, targeting specific interest groups and niche communities. Each bookstore will have its own unique character and style, attracting like-minded individuals who resonate with its idiosyncrasies. These distinct stores will cater to niche audiences, reflecting the particular passions and histories of their locals.
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